May 2015 Issue #65  Managing Spring - by John Friel 

MAY 2015

"What to leave in, what to leave out." 
 - Bob Seger, Against the Wind

Bob wasn't writing about plant catalogs, but he could have been. It's a balancing act we all perform each year, separating keepers from expendables. Which plants surpassed expectations? Which were duds? It's like managing a baseball team, auditioning rookies and sadly sending veterans to the showers. And just like baseball, a grower's choices have to be made on the dead run in the madness of spring.





The wheels are turning for our 2015-'16 catalog. Hard decisions are being made: What to bring in, what to kick out? How many Carex, Coreopsis, Echinacea and Heuchera varieties can the market bear? What lovely lucky plant will be this year's cover girl? Another tough call: January 2016 will mark our 25th year in business. So do we start the party in the catalog now under construction, since it will be in effect on that magical date, or do we wait til next July to fête our silver anniversary? What would you do?  


In his alleged spare time, Nick is reinventing our trial garden, creating shaded space for plants that resent full sun. As you can see on our availability, we grow a ton of Carex varieties, many of which prefer the dark side. Those are the first residents, to be joined soon by Hosta being evaluated for possible introduction.

Inside, seedlings and divisions - Heuchera, Festuca, Campanula and more -- are gathering pace, filling out trays for your future production. Asclepias is waking up from deep dormancy, yawning and scratching, ready for a new season.

Clock-wise from top-left - Carex 'Everest', Carex 'Everillo', Festuca 'Elijah Blue', Festuca 'Cool As Ice'


In spring a hungry gardener's fancy turns to growing one's own pesto Genovese, that magical aromatic green goo of the gods. My garlic, planted in November, is up about 8". Basil seeds will soon be gently tucked into the ground nearby. I have no cows or sheep and no wish to milk either. Our local flora lacks the proper Pinus species and is conspicuously lacking in Olea europaea. Ergo, I outsource cheeses, pine nuts and olive oil. But garlic and basil? That I can do. Mangia!





Acorus gramineus: The best little grass that's not


Not what? Not a true grass, i.e., not in the family Poaceae. It's an orphan. Heartless taxonomists ripped "sweet flag" from the loving arms of Araceae (aroids) and banished it to its own lonely clan, Acoraceae, leaving our three sibling varieties --'Oborozuki', 'Variegatus' and 'Pusillus Minimus Aureus' -- to huddle together for warmth and comfort. Won't you give these cute little monocots a home? They're well-behaved, eager to please and versatile enough to handle a multitude of sites from sun to shade, in border or container. Please help. Don't make us put their pictures on milk cartons. 



Acorus g. 'Pusillus Minimus Aureus'
Acorus g. 'Pusillus Minimus Aureus'






   A scan of the schedule for Cultivate '15 yields just one (1) educational session focused on perennials. That's ONE, as in barely more than zero. Perennials will be peripheral to a handful of presentations on fertilizers, LED lights and such, but real perennial plant talks? One.


   Now, that one is a good one, "Perennials and Grasses for Green Infrastructure," starring the lovely and talented Claudia West. But at the premier US hort event, that's pretty short shrift for the steadiest green growth sector.


   Admit it. You need more of a perennial fix than that. Mark your calendar for July 27 - August 1, when the Perennial Plant Association's National Symposium convenes with over twenty (20) perennial-centric presentations, including Claudia. And on the day that's open to civilians, a.k.a. the gardening public, you get six (6) more speakers, including the lovely and talented Dr. Alan Armitage.


   If THAT'S not enough, you greedy thing, there's the New Plants Forum, a trade show, tours for growers, designers and retailers, private and public gardens, dinner at Cylburn Arboretum, water taxis, and the chance to hobnob with the perennial industry's A Team from all over the US and beyond. Yes! Perennials are global!


   We're not for one (1) nanosecond suggesting you blow off Cultivate '15. We'll be there. Please visit us in Booth Nineteen Oh Five (1905). But if perennials are your thing, it says here, li'l ol' PPA in Baltimore will feed your need better than the Big Show in Columbus. For details and registration:



Zodiac on wry

Taurus: You're a household name: Your eponymous Ford sedan has sold in the tens of millions for 30 years. When a Taurus drives a Taurus, do they become a Gemini?

Gemini: A car was named for you, too: a tiny, tinny Isuzu. Can you tell us which of the following astrological badges are NOT real automobiles? Dodge Aries, Ford Scorpio, GTM Libra, Lamborghini Leo, Microcar Virgo, Porsche Pisces, Saab Sagittarius. Take your best shot and
win a prize!


Speaking of prizes, Jeri Zerbel of Caras Nursery in Missoula, MT is our March winner. Jeri's entry was picked seemingly at random from readers who submitted correct answers to our German/English translation quiz, so Jeri gets enough ECG logo loot to have a picnic. To all who played: Danke! 






Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokovo', 2015 Perennial Plant of the Year

This vigorous hybrid brings a rare blend of beauty and toughness to sunny or partly shaded borders. Discovered in the mountains of Croatia, 'Biokovo' produces a profusion of white flowers with pale pink veins. Fall paints the foliage in striking reds and oranges. Just 6 - 8" tall, it's a natural front-of-border or edging choice. Like its 25 PPOY predecessors, it'll prove its worth in the garden and the marketplace. Royalty-free, it's available now in trays of 50, with more coming in June and July. For more:

Geranium xcantabrigiense 'Biokovo'
Geranium xcantabrigiense 'Biokovo'


Baseball managers have it easy. If a team consisted of 900 players instead of 9, they'd have to conquer whole new levels of complexity when making out their lineup. Of course, if I were running the Phillies this year, it'd be an easy call: Dealer takes 9. Clean house and start from scratch. How much worse could it get?
John Friel






John Friel  

Marketing Manager 

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