Friday, March 06, 2015

Lindsey Getz

Free-lance writer based in Royersford, Pa.


Worth the work


While consumers want low-maintenance plants, they still have appreciation for a beautiful bloom that needs attention.

February 24, 2015

Annuals pack a serious punch when it comes to boosting curb appeal and adding interest. For many, the bright colors and the stunning blooms make it worth the investment in these one-season flowers. In fact, it seems that cost has become even less of a factor as we go into a new year. The latest trends seem to focus on maintenance, sustainability and beauty. We spoke to some growers and greenhouses nationwide to get their take on what’s going to be popular in 2015.

The maintenance factor.

Nationwide, a big trend has been low-maintenance landscapes. Regardless of the region, growers say that hardy flowers, which tend to do well with the minimal maintenance, have been increasing in popularity.

Stacy Collins, owner and grower at Collins Cove Greenhouse, says that in her region, North Vernon, Ind., the interest in low-maintenance flowers will likely give the calibrachoa a big boost for 2015.

Besides its versatility and availability in a wide range of vibrant colors, this flower is also very low maintenance and requires no dead heading, which is seen as a big benefit.

She says this annual will be the big up-and-comer, possibly even surpassing the larger bloom petunias which have always been the most popular flower in years past.

“When I use calibrachoa in our planters with all different fillers it extends a warm welcome to my customers’ landscapes,” Collins says. “They are very hardy so they can take the cool nights that we have here in the early spring in Indiana.”

“Ease of care and low maintenance are really important factors in flower purchases,” adds Laura Hess, owner of Hickory Grove in Calicoon, N.Y., which wholesales exclusively to a local garden center.

“Drought-resistant and deer-resistant are also trends that are not going away any time soon. People seem to want a beautiful landscape but, when possible, prefer one that they don’t have to work extra hard to maintain. The bottom line is that people are busy and anything that can save them time is going to be popular.”


What you’re buying

We asked almost 150 growers and greenhouses about the buying habits of landscapers in 2014 and 2015. Pentunias were the favorite last year, and should be again in 2015. In fact, the top three plants in 2014 are expected to reign supreme in 2015, though impatiens are expected to hop pansys in 2015 and coleus will crack the top five this year. Respondents were surprised to see more contractors didn’t buy gerberas and marigolds, and even though impatiens were popular, respondents thought they should have been more popular.


Beautiful blooms.

Even so, it does seem that there are still plenty of times that beauty can trump the maintenance factor.

In Chester, N.Y. Chris Ruigrok, a partner with A.D.R Bulbs, says that tulips continue to be the most popular annual in bulbs despite the persistent issues with deer that might be required to have them. He says this is true not only in his region, but across the country.

“We find that people are willing to deal with the inconveniences associated with controlling the deer, such as spraying or fencing, in exchange for the vibrant colors that tulips provide,” Ruigrok says. “But increasingly we are finding tulips being planted in urban areas and inner cities where deer don’t pose a problem.”

Ruigrok says that tulips remain the highest grossing bulb and he doesn’t see that changing. “Tulips come in every color scheme imaginable and nothing pops in a landscape quite like them,” Ruigrok says.

In the South, Tina Clark believes beauty is a critical factor in annual flower purchases. The manager of Carolina Garden World in Spartanburg, S.C. says that begonias are a big hit and she sees that trend carrying into 2015.

“We grow them and bring them in and we still can’t keep them in stock,” Clark says.

“Between landscapers and homeowners buying direct, we find that they are incredibly popular and I don’t see that changing in the new year.”

Clark believes the popularity is related to their beauty. “They are so gorgeous and they keep growing and growing. While other flowers are finishing out their season, begonias stay full and beautiful. There’s no doubt they’re the ‘it’ flower around here. I am certain they’re popular in many other parts of the country but because of our climate, I think they do particularly well in this region.”

Factoring cost.

When it comes to truly beautiful flowers or just the right selection for a landscape, cost may also be less of a factor than once before.

Homeowners and commercial clients are at a point where they’re willing to invest in their landscape again. According to Patti Pfeifer, program manager for the finished program at Center Greenhouse, cost is typically no longer the driving factor in annual selection.

“In Denver and the front range area we have found a big demand for impatiens and walleriana substitutes,” Pfeifer says.

“We have seen strong sales for the sunpatiens, begonias and coleus. Even with the bigger price tag on these items compared to seed impatiens, landscapers are incorporating them in their designs.”

Pfeifer says in her region, main pack items are also sold in big numbers and she sees that trend carrying into 2015.

“Salvias, farinacea and summer jewels, petunias, marigolds and zinnias are always strong sellers for commercial landscape jobs,” she says. “Rudbeckia hirta varieties have also been very popular for their taller, bright back of the border use.”

Getting creative.

While it’s easy to get attached to certain annuals, opting for all of the same flowers or the same design each year is an easy way to get stuck in a rut.

Clark says her best advice to landscapers is to try something new. “As we kick off a new season, don’t be afraid of getting something new and trying it,” Clark says. “It’s good to be different. Most clients don’t want their yard looking exactly like the next one. Throw in a new annual in your plant bed or try a different combination. Annuals give you the opportunity to add interest. Have a little fun with it.”

“If you can get the client excited about it, it’s a sell,” Hess adds.

“People are always going to be interested in flowers that are hardy or that are low maintenance. But if you have something truly beautiful and you get passionate about that, they’ll likely feel the same way.”


The author is a freelancer based in Philadelphia.

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