Sunday, May 27, 2018

How to create the next Pilea peperomioides?

Pilea peperomioides

           The Chinese Money Plant came out of nowhere.  It is the equivalent of a country song hitting the top ten.    Every song that is produced is expected to be a hit, but no one can predict if a new song will be the most popular.

            A few growers caught on to the wave of demand for Pilea peperomioides.  Were they lucky to grab the limited supply and put effort into keeping the ball rolling?  Well, you can make your own luck.

            The Pilea that looks like a Peperomia is a legitimate easy to grow houseplant.  After the boom, there won’t be a bust.  It will take its place in the assortment of standard houseplants.

            Can a grower create a purposeful viral demand for a new plant?  No.

            Seldom has there been this bottom-up demand for a plant that was not even being produced in the United States.

            So, let’s get serious about creating the next Pilea peperomioides.
           
            To me, the most logical unknown plant is Peperomia polybotrya, ‘Owl Eye’.  It’s mentioned in the Pilea discussion as similar and is often confused with each other.

            Guess what?  There is no supply.  At least no big numbers that are required to support a new viral demand.

            Peperomia polybotrya is a very attractive foliage houseplant.  It has large shiny oval leaves with a pronounced omphalodium (navel), with radiating lines.  Thus, the appearance of ‘Owl Eyes”.  (No, I never knew the word ‘omphalodium’ or what it means)

            Conventional vegetative propagation could supply local demand, if it exists.  There will be sales by association with the Chinese Money Plant.  There can not be run away sales because there will be no supply.

            Enter tissue culture.  If someone commits time, money and effort into a tissue culture project, then infinite supply is possible.  But if ‘Owl Eye’ never leaves the bottom of the hit charts, it will be folly.

      

Peperomia polybotrya



Friday, May 25, 2018

I'm World Famous Again!

Buy your ticket now !


          Come to Madcap & Co, Lancaster, PA to learn about new and interesting houseplants.

          Learn more and Buy your ticket here:





Sunday, April 22, 2018

And What Do You Do?

Kevin Cohn




            When we meet someone new and try to get past the awkward dance of what to say, we look for neutral ground.  After a few minutes, it’s usually safe to ask: “And what do you do?”

            When it’s my turn, I’ve always said: “I’m in the greenhouse business, I grow plants for sale.”  The first part has always been misleading because it sounds like I sell greenhouses, so I added the plants.  It’s matter-of-fact and not that interesting.
           
            I ran into a TED talk that presented that we should start our answer to—what do you do, with “I help….”

            “I help Garden Centers find interesting ‘Mini’ plants.”

            This usually leads to follow up questions like: “How do you do that?” or ‘What kind of plants?”

            If this meeting is with the Garden Center houseplant buyer, I can go deeper.

            I have a collection of foliage houseplants that are not commonly available.  They are selected to be suitable for Miniature Gardens and Terrariums.

            But we know that 90% of ‘Mini’ plants sold are not used in a Miniature Garden or Terrarium.  They are grown as a windowsill plant or moved into a bigger pot as a houseplant ---often put into a decorative container.

            And what do you do?




Sunday, April 15, 2018

Let's make a better Lipstick Plant

The Classic Lipstick Plant


     The classic Lipstick Plant that everybody has heard of with lipstick tube red flowers could be better.

         The goal of purposeful plant breeding is to create something new and hopefully better for the World to enjoy.

          I’ve been asked how today’s plants compare with 50-year old varieties.  That’s easy --- the plants are better.  Professional plant breeders have taken road-side weeds and selected them into flowering wonders.

       Amateur plant breeders have created exceptional improvements in the Plant World, also.  These dedicated hobbyists are amateur, but only in that they are not paid.

            All of the Aeschynanthus hybrids have been made by amateurs.

         I have a project for all to consider.  Flowering of A. lobbianus is unreliable.  What if it could be converted to a day-length sensitive plant like A. ‘Big Apple’?

         At least one of the parents of ‘Big Apple’ (micranthus X humilis) must be a long day plant.  We cross these species with lobbianus and select for large tubular red flowers and the seedling that is long-day.

            Is this feasible?  I don’t know yet.

            Perhaps others can speculate?





'Big Apple' is a major new commercial crop

A. 'Big Apple' -Award winner, DAVS, Oct 7, 2017


           Aeschynanthus ‘Big Apple’ has become an overnight success.  They are available in every garden center, every supermarket plant department and every big box store as plant of the week.

            I’ve missed April Fool’s Day, but it could happen.

            With my discovery that this unknown flowering houseplant is a long-day to flower plant, it can be programmed to flower every week of the year – guaranteed.            

Why won’t it happen?  Because nobody will do it.

There are fewer pot plant growers than there used to be and thus fewer specialist liner producers promoting flowering plants like ‘Big Apple’.

There are a few things to test, like post-harvest reliability --- will the flowers hang on in shipping?

            It will be fun to see if I can flower 200 4” pots of this interesting, unknown hybrid, ‘Big Apple’. 





Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why does A. 'Big Apple' Flower?

A. 'Big Apple'  with every shoot budded
A. 'Big Apple' with buds set - April



Why does A. ‘Big Apple’ flower?

Aeschynanthus ‘Big Apple’ is not commonly grown in commercial horticulture.

Strike that --- it’s never seen.

The hybrid ( micranthus x humilis) is very colorful when in flower with red tubular flowers in clusters on an upright plant.  Aeschynanthus is a Genus with many species and hybrids of all sizes and shapes. And we know that flowering is variety specific.

            The one that everyone knows as the Lipstick plant is still sought after with its bright red flowers.

            ‘Big Apple’s flowers are much smaller, but a cluster of them is impressive.

            What makes ‘Big Apple’ flower?

            From our production of ‘Big apple’, I now know the trigger for bud-set and flowering.

            It is a long-day plant.

            We see small buds on every shoot now in April.  So, they were probably starting in March when the day length started to get longer.  We should see open flowers by May and continuous flowering though the Summer.

A day-length sensitive plant has its benefits to a commercial grower.  Vegetative growth and flowering can be programmed --- flowering is not random, it’s predictable.

So here it is.  Propagate in the Fall, pinch and build plant in the Winter.  Get buds in April, flower in May/June----- Guaranteed. 

So, what’s a hobby grower to do?  If it’s a windowsill houseplant, don’t expect flowers in the Winter.  Wait till Spring and Summer.

If you grow under florescent lights, understand that you can manipulate flowering with the number of hours of lights-on.  8-10 hours for growth, then 14-16 hours for setting bud.  I would expect once the buds are set they will open no matter what the day-length is.

A.    ‘Big Apple’ ---- A long-day plant.

Who knew?





Saturday, March 31, 2018

How many customers are enough?

Kevin Cohn



When I started in the greenhouse business and struggled to establish new customers, I was stunned by the sign at Witmer’s Greenhouse -----

            “We are accepting NO new customers”

            It was the boom days in the 70’s and 80’s when plant shops were popping up on every street corner.  Suddenly, houseplants were the ‘In’ thing. Suddenly, everybody was interested in collecting plants.  Suddenly, collectors cared about plant names and what was the newest variety?

            When I questioned the sign, I was told that the owners at Witmer’s decided that it was too important not to take care of their existing customers ---- the ones that bought for years.  They couldn’t jeopardize their loyal customers for the sake of the new upstarts.

            My na├»ve thinking was just grow more plants and satisfy everyone. But, expansion is not a causal undertaking.  What happens when the upstarts disappear?

            And, of course, they did disappear---- after a number of years.  The flash-in the-pan burned out.

            Houseplants are coming back, there is no question.  I get inquires every week for our ‘Mini’ plants.  I’m happy to open new accounts.
           
            But, what will be the set of circumstances when we ask:

                        “How many customers are enough?”




Monday, March 5, 2018

Chinese Money Plant for Sale...

Chinese Money Plant


          The Chinese Money Plant, Pilea peperomioides, is available for sale at Meadowbrook Farms retail area at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

          This plant is in high demand and elusive.  Don't miss your chance to snag one.








This made my day...





          These nice words came to me from Susan Sturdee______



     "Just wanted to let you know that your plants are fantastic and are making me very happy. I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show and found your plants at the Meadowbrook Farms display and I bought gesneriads and a creeping Peperomia and a few others. Can't say enough of the quality, size and price. I will look forward to finding your plants from now on. Thank you!"





Sunday, February 25, 2018

As seen at Longwood Gardens...

Primulina 'Rachel' in Longwood Gardens conservatory 



  Primulina are invading Longwood Gardens, one at a time.

            This is the first sighting of Primulina ‘Rachel’ on display near the door to the tall foliage house.  Specimen plants show up randomly throughout the conservatory.

            Nice to see that P. ‘Rachel’ is worthy.


            Primulina are often for sale in the Longwood Plant Shop.



Sunday, February 18, 2018

Can you tell the difference?

Primulina 'Silver Frosted Jade' - comparison
Top --- 'Silver Frosted Jade'  - Leaf propagations from a silver mutation of yunguensis


Bottom --- yungfuensis - Leaf propagations from the original yungfuensis


          So far, I see no difference?

          Is this a chimera?


Will I have to start studying the botany of chimeras?  And studying the propagation of chimeral plants?

          It's too soon to say.  Hopefully, the top plants will grow out with silver leaves.










Saturday, February 17, 2018

I agree with Bill and Melinda Gates, O. T.

Grandma listens

          Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter and it contains a huge slam at President Trump and his policies. Here are some excerpts:
"For decades the United States has been a leader in the fight against disease and poverty abroad. These efforts save lives. They also create U.S. jobs. And they make Americans more secure by making poor countries more stable and stopping disease outbreaks before they become pandemics. The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry [but] President Trump proposed severe cuts to foreign aid."

 "The America First worldview concerns me. It's not that the United States shouldn't look out for its people. The question is how best to do that. My view is that engaging with the world has proven over time to benefit everyone, including Americans, more than withdrawing does. Even if we measured everything the government did only by how much it helped American citizens, global engagement would still be a smart investment."



"The duties of the president of the United States is to role model American values in the world. I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets. Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country's spirit. The president has a responsibility to set a good example and empower all Americans through his statements and his policies."

          I am an optimist.  Bill and Melinda Gates are optimists.

          Please click on "their annual letter" above to remind yourself that the World can be a better place.  And that America is already a great country.



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Worth Repeating

Where do good ideas come from?



Story # 123, O T,
                    
            Where do good ideas come from?

            When a new product or service shows up, the common reaction is one of two things --- A.  Why didn’t I think of that? or  B. I had that idea years ago.

            I’ve said before that there are only two parts to work ---- deciding what to do and doing it.   But what to do?

            SethGodin has the answer to “Where do good ideas come from?”  They come from bad ideas.  Try many things and improve the ones that work.

            JamesAltucher gives out advice freely and you can latch on to anything you like.  One of his recommended tricks is to write down 20 ideas a day ---- Good or bad.  At the end of a year you would have thousands of ideas collected.  Maybe there are some good ones worth trying among them.

            SteveBlank teaches how to run a start-up business.  His simple revelation is that a start-up in not a small version of a big business.  He preaches that you must get out of the building and ask customers about your product to see if it is what they really want.

            Humans are very poor at predicting the future.  That’s why nobody can pick the business ideas that will work.  Apparently, smart venture capitalists bet on losing ideas every day and hope the few winners compensate for the losses.


            The only thing that we know for sure is that ideas are a ‘dime a dozen’ and only execution can prove them right or wrong.


     How can you update this story from 3 years ago?

                    Start small, start now!




Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Asian Violets have Cool Sophisticated Leaves.

Primulina 'Hisuke' with cool sophisticated leaves.

Marketing for everybody.

         “Asian Violets are like African Violets, but Better”.  I thought that this saying was perfect.  But not so.

         I’ve been working on a marketing workshop with Seth Godin, a Genius logical thinker.  Seth argues that “better” says nothing.  Every product is better, but in fact, consumers don’t all buy your better plants.  They buy what they consider important to them.

         In a discussion group, a woman offered her view:

     Why not just “Asian violets are African violets for sophisticated people”?

     You may be onto something by thinking about marketing to people with a more sophisticated sense of aesthetics. I imagine walking into a friend’s apartment, rolling my eyes at her African violets, and thinking,      “You’re smarter than that, dammit!”


            I told her that I laughed out loud.  Since I have friends that grow African Violets, I hadn’t considered that African Violets are not up with the times.

         I think that Asian Violets (Primulina) have a more sophisticated look and that may be the distinction to separate them from African Violets.  Violets are the leading flowering houseplant in the World.  That is not likely to change any time soon.


         “Asian Violets are like African Violets, but with cool sophisticated leaves.”



Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' - Perfectly Grown

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' perfectly grown by Judy White

Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’ is an amazing plant.  You can follow the history by reading through my blog stories.

Today, celebrate the success of my friend, Judy, who has grown this plant for three years at her kitchen window.  Yes, it has flowered out occasionally with a brown top, but with patience, it resprouts from the tuber and gives you this.

Could everybody do this?  No.  You must pay attention and water once in a while.


As she should be, she is proud of her success.  As a grower and promoter of ‘Li’l Georgie’, it is inspiration for trying to re-establish production. This plant is too good to not see it available to everyone.


The other Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' grown by Judy



Friday, January 5, 2018

The Anniversary Issue...

Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants


My anniversary story is early this year.   I usually miss the date, so here it is now.

            This blog started April 8, 2012 --- soon to be six years ago.  Thank you, Google.

            I’ve reread many of the stories.  Many are irrelevant or time sensitive (fleeting).  Some are actually very good.

            My form is a picture and some words about a single idea.  My inspiration is Seth Godin, who has had a daily story over 7,000 times.  Only a genius can do that.

            That first post said: “My target reader will be, first of all, me.”  This has taken the pressure off.

            Forcing yourself to write an idea is so much more exacting that a bunch of jumbled thoughts.


            I should have started sooner.



Monday, January 1, 2018

This is too important not to repeat,,,

Another Historic Day for Primulina

EIGC Booth - Primulina will be a common houseplant !

            History by definition is everything that has happened previously.   The significance of events is what people remember.  Ancient history is mostly guesswork and only comes to life if some enterprising author weaves a story from fuzzy facts.

            Computers with infinite storage have changed that.  Now, every event will be recorded forever.  The only thing left is:  ‘Does it matter?’ and ‘Does anybody care?’

            On July 26, 2016, Ellen Wells reported on Asian Violets (Primulina) as a possible new houseplant.  The original story inTropical Topics is copied here:


Gary’s “Next Big Thing”
I keep asking about what folks think will be the “next big thing,” the next tillandsia or succulent trend. “Asian violets,” says Gary Hunter of Gary’s Specialty Plants in Drumore, Pennsylvania. Gary is in the miniature plant business and is a regional grower of small houseplants. His biggest business with small plants is through Longwood Gardens’ plant shop, where they sell hundreds of mini plants each week, all year long.
Gary’s latest project is working with these Asian violets, the common name for Primulina, a genus in the Gesneriad family. “Primulina are like African violets, but better,” writes Gary. “Primulina species and hybrids have been in the hobby world for years but have never been grown commercially.” The reason, he continues, is that these plants take up to a year to flower, eliminating them as a commercially viable flowering plant. “What I was missing was that they could be sold as a small, variegated foliage plant in 6.5-cm pots and fit with our assortment.”



That's Primulina Loki pictured above. Precious! Gary likes these Asian violets so much that he believes they’ll become as popular as African violets, if not more so. Not convinced? Check them out yourself at next week’s Eastern IGC Show at the Valley Forge Casino Resort outside of Philadelphia, where Gary will have a booth. Or check out Gary’s BLOG, which is full of great information.



            The significance is that this is the first known reference to Primulina in a commercial horticultural trade magazine.


         The commercial barrier has been broken and has been recorded here as a historic event.  The facts are preserved.


UPDATE...

Still, nobody cares.  But Asian Violets are too important to ignore.

            We have enough good species and hybrids to start.  If we can move Primulina from a minor, minor-crop to a major, minor-crop, they will be a success.

            In rereading this quote by Ellen Wells, it jumps out at me as suspect.

            “Gary likes these Asian Violets so much that he believes they’ll become as popular as African violets, if not more so.”

            Almost every African violet grower, amateur or pro, just laughs at that.

            I’m confident that I’m right.  The future will decide.