Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How "Green" and Sustainable is our Green Industry?

The Topic of the Day at the Mobley Plant Farm Open House Sept. 28 was that Green Industry practitioners really ought to show leadership in adopting sustainable practices, and they invited some great speakers and had terrific demos and workshops to examine this point. As a working definition for sustainability, “Meeting the current needs without eliminating the potential for the future to meet theirs” was used.

Dr. Allan Armitage emphasized “the right plant in the right place” concept, naming plant favorites from his UGA Test Gardens that withstand the local climate without pampering. Sustainability is not a fad but is here to stay, he noted, citing trends including color, containers, low maintenance and recycling. He is a big proponent of Mobley Greensleeves, a paper sleeve surrounding a ball of growing mix that eliminates the need for plastic pots, is faster to plant, saves labor costs and biodegrades in the soil. He called them “sausages” of potting mix (they are bottomless) and said he’s used them successfully in the test gardens for five years. Mobley people go the extra mile to pick up and reuse/recycle the trays they use to deliver Greensleeves plants to their customers.

Another company demonstrating CSR is Garden Debut(R)'s parent company, Greenleaf Nursery Company in Oklahoma, an industry leader with a long history of good environmental stewardship. Their voluntary water recycling program and comprehensive eco-friendly fertilization and insect-management systems received third-party validation and awards from the U.S. EPA: Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention Award, the Sierra Club: Earth Care Award and the Environmental Leadership Award from the Southern Nursery Association, all for forward-thinking and voluntary action.

At the open house Dr. Richard Ludwig quoted a study from about 18 months ago showing 46% of landscape customers have zero interest in sustainability; 26% are green washed (green in theory but will not change any behaviors) and 6% will use green practices if they are cheaper or easier than current behavior. This leaves only 20% who actually make an effort to be green and only 2% advocates who have changed their lives based on principles of sustainability.

As an industry, Ludwig continued, we create artificial environments. Despite that hurdle, the new goal is to make them functional; environmentally friendly; cost effective; visually pleasing; and profitable. He urged landscapers/retailers/designers to provide a better customer experience by educating clients to invest in their landscapes, to lower energy costs by smart plant placement, to save water through irrigation technology, and so forth, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and trust. Only then will customers be open to redirection on the matter of sustainable procedures and organic products, which may be a tad more expensive but are better for the community overall.

At the recent 2010 Garden Writers Association annual symposium in Dallas, Keynote Speaker Kierstin De West had discovered a different and more hopeful perspective. De West’s SHIFT Report was based on 5,000 responses from across North America, and she found that people are starting to make lifestyle and purchasing decisions based on integrity and social responsibility. When people feel connected to the community their sustainable behavior increases. I know we are all hopeful that this research predicts the future.

I won a homemade pumpkin pie at Mobley's Open House, so I feel pretty connected. Let me hear what you are doing to connect with your community! 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Plant Introductions and the First Day of Autumn

The golden Harvest Moon last night was an excellent introduction to the first day of Fall. Although it’s now officially a new season, our weather has not broken and temperatures continue in the mid-nineties, still with no rain. Faced with this sort of challenge, it’s time to revert to catalogs in air conditioning and the new plant introductions appearing in the garden magazines. Garden Debut® will be offering some beautiful new woody ornamentals in Spring 2011, and we’ll hear more about them soon.

As a preview, there is Merlot Redbud, with dark, wine-red merlot-colored leaves and a delightful parentage that enables it to beat this continuing heat and drought. Merlot is the offspring of Forest Pansy Redbud crossed with Cercis canadensis ‘Texensis’! The first parent contributes the dark leaf color, intensified in Merlot, while the second adds a thickness and drought resistance to smaller leaves, enabling this plant to withstand hot dry conditions without a ripple.

Then there is Admiration Barberry, a showstopper with a blaze of orange-red foliage with yellow margins adding plentiful color to the garden pallet. Garden Debut® says this dwarf has a broad, upright growth habit reaching only 12-15 inches tall in 4 years. And though it is a Japanese Barberry, it is non-flowering and therefore there are no worries on spreading by seed.

A host of new plants are in the lineup, all of them thoroughly tested; be sure to visit the website and the Garden Debut® Facebook page for daily news and previews.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Container Plantings Designed for Fall

Summer annuals have had it, and it’s time to revv up my containers for a fall show. This year I’m adding a bright yellow cushion mum, yellow-chartreuse creeping jenny and a few little ornamental gourds to a container that already holds Nanina for height, a dwarf juniper and some trailing Asiatic jasmine.

After pulling out and composting the annuals, I add fresh potting mix where the root balls formerly grew. For continued growt h of the woodies already growing, I space three plant food spikes evenly around the container and push them down the sides. This adds nutrients to pot bound plants. To keep mold and bacteria from attacking the ornamental gourds I’m setting them on some cork I had left from lining my kitchen cupboards.

I plan to set this container next to a big pumpkin on the front porch, and hope my entranceway will be the cutest on the block through Thanksgiving, when I'll prepare another arrangement to go through winter.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meet & Greet Gardeners, Landscapers, Writers, Designers & Architects

This week I’m headed to an annual conference in Dallas, Tx. Sept. 10-14; to the Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium. Each year GWA travels to a different city, and I expect Dallas will be pretty warm! I’ve been attending on and off for years, so I’m looking forward to seeing about 500 of my closest writer and photographer friends again. The meeting is filled with networking, several tracks of lectures and classes from which to choose, photography sessions, garden tours and public gardens. The Trade Show is always a great treat, and exhibitors bring their newest tools, seeds, books, plants and inventions to share with those that communicate them to the public.

Exhibiting at GWA for the first time, Garden Debut® will be representing a consortium of plant breeders, nurserymen and growers dedicated to the introduction and marketing of new and improved plant varieties for the landscape. They’ll be bringing new plants for 2010 and some not yet released that are slated to appear in 2011. A knowledgeable Rep will be on hand to answer questions. See you at booth #219.

At the very same time, Garden Debut® will be represented at the American Society of Landscape Architects Meeting & Expo held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C. and filled with 6,000+ Landscape Architects from around the world. Workshops, classes, tours and field sessions fill the program.  Tell Jim Thompson from Garden Debut® “Hi” if you go.

September is an extremely busy month for Garden Debut® because the Association of Professional Landscape Designers will hold their 2010 International Design Conference in Dallas Sept. 27-Oct 1 and once again Garden Debut® will exhibit new plants and landscape solutions at that meeting.

Garden Debut® will have information about and examples of new plants already in the 2010 marketplace, as well as plants scheduled for release next year. This is an exciting time in history for the nursery business; with genetics, tissue culture and advances in propagation there are many new and exciting cultivars being evaluated. These plants offer longer blooming seasons, brighter and richer colors, better cold hardiness, variegated leaves, improved fall color or even reduced maintenance. 

Come and see what
Garden Debut® has planned for the market with Predictable Quality and superior new plant introductions.


Kokomo Sunset Daylily 2010
Snow Flurries Black Gum 2011

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Unusual Variegated-Leaf Shade Tree: Snow Flurries™ Black Gum

 An easy-grow native shade tree in the Dogwood Family, Snow Flurries™ Black Gum is a real attention-getter and selected for its unbeatable summer color, rare in the world of shade trees. Snow Flurries™ has attractive white-edged variegated leaves! The generous white margins surround green centers. Overall, the variegated leaves are narrower and smaller than the species, turning a ruddy color early in fall.

This Garden Debut® introduction is easy-care and trouble-free. Snow Flurries™ is adaptable to an extremely wide variety of soil moisture conditions, from poorly drained soils and low spots subject to periodic flooding, wet, acid bottomlands, through garden soils, to dry sites, aided by its deep tap root. One of its
common names, swamp tupelo, is derived from the Native American Creek ito opilwa, meaning swamp tree. Its growth habit is vigorous reaching 30 - 40 feet with gracefully draped lower limbs creating an oval form.  It’s Cold Hardy to – 20 to -30° F. (Zone 4 - 9), and full sun exposure is recommended, but it will grow in part shade.

The genus Nyssa is highly sought after by bee keepers because the multitudes of small flowers of Snow Flurries™ are a great nectar source and attract honey bees, providing excellent bee and butterfly forage and resulting in prized Black Gum or “Tupelo” honey. The honey has a special taste and is non-crystallizing.

Small, dark bluish black, football-shaped fruits are a favorite of birds and wildlife in August - October, and do not stain decks or paving. Black Gum is an important species for non-suburban wildlife of North America: wood ducks, wild turkeys, robins, foxes, and black bears depend on the dark blue fruit as a source of food in the fall.

Black gum has tough wood suitable for tool handles, flooring and railroad cross-ties, while veneer is made from larger trees. Another common name is ‘Pioneer’s Toothbrush’ because broken twigs produce a fibrous bundle of woody strands and were used as tooth brushes.

In landscapes Snow Flurries™ Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica 'Grechrist') is an attention-getting specimen, excellent native shade tree, adaptable to wet soils. Its clean, variegated leaves are untroubled by pests and disease problems. It is native to wet soils and adaptable to periodic flooding, but grows readily in a wide variety of soils with pH levels of 5-8.

Contact Garden Debut to get a license to propagate and /or sell patented plant parts.