August 2015 Issue #68

At its National Symposium last week the Perennial Plant Association bestowed its highest honor, the Award of Merit, on Oliver "Buzz" Babikow, brother of ECG's founder.

It's a biggie, a sort of Lifetime Achievement award. Previous winners read like a Who's Who of current and classic perennial culture: Alan and Adrian Bloom, Klaus Jelitto, Kurt Bluemel, Nebraska's famous Fleming brothers, Wolfgang Oehme, and more. The complete list is here:

The award is richly deserved for Buzz's many contributions to perennial horticulture as we know it. Applying annual propagation techniques to hardy plants revolutionized the industry, fueling the perennial renaissance of the 1980s and beyond. So, from Emerald Coast Growers to "Uncle Buzz": Congratulations. Well done. Thanks also to the PPA Board of Directors, especially PPA Treasurer Beth Engle of SHS Griffin, who first added Buzz's name to a list of very deserving nominees.

New construction at two of our Panhandle locations brings better ways & means to propagate and bulk your grass and perennial liners. By year's end, we'll have over half a million square feet of greenhouse space - which certainly doesn't make us a megagrower or even a particularly large grower, but it's come gradually, in manageable, incremental stages. And it's a pretty healthy increase from the less than 10,000 square feet we started with nearly 25 years ago.

If Mt. Cuba Center invites you to an Open House, go. This DuPont estate turned public garden, dedicated to native plant research, is a Brandywine Valley gem. They know how to play host, too: Sipping local craft beer and nibbling hors d'oeuvres at the Phlox, Baptisia, and Carex trials open house was tough work, but hey, somebody had to do it. Last month, Al Mueller and I bore that burden. No, don't thank us. Just doing our job.
Party or no party, it's a beautiful place to tour. Visiting hours are restricted, so check before you go at, where you'll find trial results & ratings on five genera. Full disclosure: it's actually in DE, not PA.

Siriusly, who let the dog days out?
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the dog star, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major ("great dog") added its heat to that of the sun to make this time of year hotter. Silly ancients! We now know, of course, that scorching August weather is caused by zombies. And possibly spiders.
Stuff that stops traffic at our trade show booths
Lewisia: In flower, it's impossible to overlook this under-appreciated Native Wonder. Used throughout Europe for small flowering pots, it deserves wider use in America.

Succulents are still sizzlin' at retail and in commercial plantings. It's not just drought that has us pumping them out, although that unfortunate fact is a factor. It's mostly that they're so versatile and easy to grow! Go on, take that two-week vacation: Your Sedum, Sempervivum and Delosperma will wait patiently for your return.

Festuca: At the PPA New Plants Forum, Bobbie Schwartz declared 'Cool as Ice' to be "a vast improvement" over other blue fescues. That's a bit of a stretch, but it IS well worth a look if you have issues with heat tolerance in this popular genus. 
HORTISCOPE: Zodiac on wry
Leo: Each year when this sweaty month arrives, you leave Virgo a mere week and snag the lion's share of days for yourself. It's who you are and it's how you roll. All hail the King of the Zodiac. But Your Majesty, can you please do something about your breath? Maybe floss with a rabbit or two?

Warm Season Grasses: It's a good time to pot the Chasmanthium, Erianthus, Miscanthus, Panicum, Pennisetum and Schizachyrium you'll need next year. Give them a head start, and they'll finish with a flourish for 2016 sales.

Early-Flowering Perennials: Same principle with Aquilegia, Dianthus, Phlox divaricata and Phlox subulata: Don't make the plant do everything next spring. Build some size on 'em now, and they'll already have a firm foundation next year.

The aforementioned PPA Symposium in Baltimore was an excellent week of talks, tours and fun, as attendees can attest. What? You missed it? Don't repeat that mistake next year, when we convene in Minneapolis. Seriously, or Siriusly: The PPA is the place to be if you're in the hardy plant business, which you must be or you wouldn't still be reading this screed, right?This Symposium was a true bittersweet event for Yours Truly: It was my last meeting as a Board of Directors member. If you've worked backstage for a trade association, you know the feeling. When your term is up, you're glad that new minds and hands are taking up the mantle; but you'll miss the camaraderie, the sense of achievement, and (let's be honest) the few perks that come with the gig. 
My PPA experience started at the Symposium in Baltimore in 1987, and I haven't missed one since. So enter it NOW in your Outlook calendar, smart phone or little black book: August 1-5, 2016. At last count, Minnesotans had about as many milking cows as we have square feet: half a million. Come smell their dairy air! 


John Friel  
Marketing Manager    
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