Uncommon vigor

Uncommon vigor

Inside the development of the Primo Heuchera series.

April 13, 2017
Conner Howard

Now boasting three acclaimed varieties, the PrimoTM Heuchera series by Walters Gardens and Proven Winners is known for its intense array of colors, mounded habits and vigorous foliage.

PrimoTM ‘Wild Rose,’ new for 2017/2018, boasts vibrant leaves of rosy purple and thrives in shade to part shade, while attracting butterflies and hummingbirds and resisting deer. The leaves of PrimoTM ‘Black Pearl’ are a shiny jet black with purple undersides and white flowers on top. PrimoTM ‘Pretty Pistachio’ produces chartreuse leaves in spring, which turn lime green in summer.

The Walters Gardens team explained some of the goals behind the Primo series and the challenges involved in building the new perennial collection. Creative Director Christa Steenwyk says the PrimoTM Heuchera series got its start when customers complained of a lack of heucheras that could overwinter without losing vigor. There was a demand for heucheras with better garden performance.

“We’re kind of big landscape people, so we want heuchera that would perform well in the garden,” Steenwyk says. “When they’re more vigorous, they tend to be bigger plants, and we could have left them in the DolceTM Series, because that was the existing series of heuchera from Proven Winners, but we really wanted to send the message that these were actually significantly larger than their counterparts. Not to say the Dolce Series does not perform in the landscape, but [PrimoTM varieties] are especially vigorous heuchera.”

Versatility and convenience were also intended goals of the PrimoTM Heuchera varieties, Steenwyk says.

“These heucheras aren’t three feet by three feet, they’re just a nice landscape size,” she says. “I really like a plant that you can plant and it has impact. At the same time, we were thinking that when landscapers are designing for commercial landscape purposes, they’re not going to choose a small heuchera. They’re going to choose a larger heuchera, that’s what they’re looking for. I think there are a lot of different uses.”

Karin Walters, marketing director with Walters Gardens, says that when breeding for the PrimoTM Heuchera series, size was a primary concern.

“There are a couple different directions you can go in with heuchera breeding,” Walters says. “You can either go really small, you can go massive, and you can go for flowering performance. Ideally, you could do all three. When we went for the PrimoTM series, we were introducing larger and larger heuchera to get those bigger, more vigorous plants until we got something that we were really satisfied with.”

Walters adds that PrimoTM ‘Black Pearl,’ the first of the series to be introduced, became a template of sorts for the other varieties. Steenwyk says Walters Gardens breeders were able to expand on the strengths of ‘Black Pearl’ to craft a series of larger and more vigorous heuchera.

“It’s like [‘Black Pearl’] inspired [the PrimoTM series],” Steenwyk says. “We selected Black Pearl because it was a large plant, it was super vigorous, it has larger leaves. It was something special that we knew we had to market differently.”

Once the PrimoTM series was complete and ready to hit the market, members of the Walters Gardens team knew they had to be creative to effectively get the word out about the collection.

“We could have just settled for the same old ‘put it out in the catalog and hoped people would catch on,’ but we really wanted people to passionately believe in ‘Black Pearl,’” Walters says. “Since it’s Proven Winners, it was selected as the perennial of the year for 2018, so that means we’re going to put some special effort in advertising it and really talking about it with growers and featuring it in a lot of magazines.”

“Sending sample plants out to garden writers, trying to get plants into every public garden possible – we’re just going the whole nine yards when it comes to ‘Black Pearl’ because we want to prove to people that it’s not just like every other black heuchera on the market,” Steenwyk adds. This is truly better.”

For more perennial solutions and inspiration for your business, visit www.waltersgardens.com.