Sunday, August 25, 2013

Top Ten Plant Introductions Over the Years

A recent trade publication, Today's Garden Center magazine, named the top 10 most influential plant varieties.  Having been in this business for more years than I care to admit, it did get me thinking. What plants have I seen at the garden center that have made a big impact on how we grow and sell plants? Following is my own list.

  1. New Guinea Impatiens first entered my radar in the seventies. Here was an impatiens-like plant that handled a bit more sun. The variegated leaves meant that the plant had interest even when it was not blooming. They have been much improved over the years and have even replaced 'regular' impatiens in many gardens this year.
    New Guinea impatiens do well in sun or shade
  2. Knock-Out roses have taken over most of the rose market in recent years for good reason; they are relatively low-maintenance plants with a great blooming capacity. I think we may be overusing them and bypassing some of the many roses that offer remarkable fragrance, bigger, better flowers and a never ending color palette.
    Knock-Out roses displayed within our nursery area
  3. Million Bells calibrachoa was a much needed plant as the container gardening craze took over a few years back. Though a little tricky for growers at first, gardeners had great success with this plant with mini petunia-like flowers. Within a few years, hundreds of varieties of calibrachoas were introduced by plant breeders and they remain some of our customers' favorite plants. 
    Calibrachoas shown in plant trials in southern Pennsylvania
  4. Dragon Wing begonias have become another of our favorite plants. Beginning gardeners love them because they're about fool-proof, giving novices much needed confidence as they get to know plants. Dragon Wings will take full sun, almost full shade and anything in between. The Dragon Wing begonia is often recommended by our staff when gardeners aren't sure of their garden's location in sun or shade.
     Dragon Wing begonias are always a winner
  5. Wave Petunias, beginning with Purple Wave, raised the bar for what landscapers could deliver in commercial properties by offering an annual that could be planted relatively far apart to fill in quickly offering tons of color all summer. New introductions have kept the Wave brand fresh. Landscapers did become over dependent on them for a time and have begun to rotate other annuals in to their gardens to keep beds healthy from year to year. Home gardeners love to use Wave petunias in containers as well as in the ground.  Other varieties of petunias have filled in with bold, bright colors as well. 
     Raspberry Blast has proven to be a popular petunia variety
  6. Sunlover coleus give gardens color, height and reliability. Every year our greenhouse staff discusses (argues) over which varieties we should carry as there are so many cool colors available. I wish we had a bigger greenhouse to carry all of our favorites.
    Molten Lava was an early favorite in the sun-loving coleus wars
  7. Lysimachia (Creeping Jenny), isn't a new plant but it has been re-purposed to be a wonderful 'spiller' for container gardens. It, along with Marguerite sweet potato vine, has become a remarkable seller for our gardeners looking for form and function. The chartreuse color is a winner too!

    Chartreuse varieties of sweet potato vine are the most popular
  8. I'm going to cheat here a bit to suggest two perennials for shade that have been bred to be stars in the border garden. Heucheras and hellebores now have phenomenal varieties for gardeners. In late winter, we have bench after bench of the hellebores; by mid-summer and fall, heucheras fill the tables. Hellebores are deer-resistant too, which is great for our region.
    Benches of colorful heuchera
  9. Homestead purple verbena has been around for some time. It's only been the last two decades that we have started to see other verbenas that were much improved in color and flowering.  We have carried Aztec verbenas for years, in shades of purple, red, pink, white, coral, peach and many other colors. 
    We judge the best verbena series for our garden center
  10. Echinaceas (coneflowers) are another perennial that has been bred in many terrific colors and flower forms. New varieties are often sturdier, more compact, with blooms lasting much longer than earlier varieties. 
    Echinacea 'Secret Romance'
What are some of your favorite "new" plants in your garden? Please feel free to comment and/or leave photos of your top picks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Valley View Farms' Ravens Zone

Every day is Christmas for a lot of us at the store, as new merchandise comes in daily in all of our departments. But, the enthusiasm for "What's in the box?" definitely goes up a notch when the Ravens gear arrives.
Super Bowl Champs
 Our Garden and Christmas shops both bring in much of the fun collectible items now located towards the back of our store. With bragging rights for our World Champion Ravens, many are looking for a little bit of memorabilia to add to their family rooms, man caves or other game -watching locales around the house.

This is just the beginning...more to come

My own kitchen cabinets house a Ravens and Orioles mug and some commemorative glasses. I'm sure I'll be adding to the collection. Maybe a mini-keg?

Hot coffee or cold beverage of choice

You'll notice in the background that we do have some Orioles items. And, as for that black and gold stuff back there, I know nothing!

Here's hoping that the Baltimore home teams do well this year.