In the field of independent garden center management, most of us consider Mother’s Day to be one of the peaks of our sales year in terms of revenue and traffic. With so much emphasis on Mother’s Day in our business, it can be easy to overlook the holiday’s commercial counterpart: Father’s Day. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Father’s Day survey, planned spending on Father’s Day in the U.S. was expected to reach a record high of $15.5 billion in 2017. Although restaurant outings topped the charts as the most popular gift category for Father’s Day, garden centers shouldn’t ignore the spending in gardening/home improvement supplies ($0.9 billion) and tools/appliances ($0.8 billion) categories.
Rabbit With Lotus Leaf Bird Feeder
Let the birds in your garden know that some bunny loves them with SPI Home’s Rabbit with Lotus Leaf Bird Feeder (Item 34662). The bird feeder measures 12.5 inches high, 10.5 inches wide with a 9-inch diameter, and was hand sculpted and cast in aluminum. Visit SPI Home’s website to see an extensive selection of garden and home décor.
Parrot Bamboo Chime
This hand-painted, hand-carved parrot offers the soothing sound of bamboo chiming in the breeze. Bamboo gives our Asli Arts wind chimes a mellow, musical and enchanting sound unlike any other wind chime. Woodstock Chimes are made by craftsmen of Bali and Vietnam. Each piece is individually hand-carved and hand-crafted. Coconut and bamboo are used to make these instruments of nature. Each chime is hand-toned by musicians. Testing the sound of each tube, the musician-craftsmen create chimes that sound as good as they look. By hand-toning each tube and selecting a range of sizes, each chime produces a unique melody.
In the six days of the California Spring Trials, there’s always more to share than we can fit into one issue. In the May edition of Garden Center, we published a roundup of new plants, marketing ideas and more we encountered during the event (See it at bit.ly/2tpOoMW). While the trials typically showcase annuals, many breeders take the opportunity to also put their best perennials in the limelight. “Perennials are rapidly becoming a very interesting product class for growers, retailers, landscapers,” Mike Klopmeyer of Darwin Perennials told us. This month, we hone in on some of the new perennials we saw this year.
Darwin Perennials introduced 19 new perennials this year, including two new armerias in the Dreameria series. Sweet Dreams (pictured above) and Daydream flower through the summer and fall, and will overwinter to Zone 6. Rose Marvel (pictured above), a new Salvia nemorosa in the Marvel family, boasts large flowers, hardiness to zone 4, and a longer flowering window than other Salvia nemorosas on the market. Its dark bracts make it an attractive plant even when after flowering. Learn more about these and other new introductions in this video: bit.ly/2u2Ia3x
The most popular perennial at the Proven Winners stop this year was Primo ‘Wild Rose’ heuchera, due to its vigorous habit, large size and vibrant, eye-catching color that stays through the seasons. Christa Steenwyk shows off this variety and two other popular perennial introductions in this video: bit.ly/2tpPk3U
Last year, Dümmen Orange debuted a new perennial combination program, with plants that are bred to time together, are daylength neutral and early flowering. This year, the company added several new varieties to the program, including coreopsis Moonswirl (pictured above), that can be mixed and matched for a dynamic combination. Find out more here: bit.ly/2u2s5uM
At the GroLink stop, PlantHaven thought outside of the pot for its display of Aguja ‘Black Scallop,” which is usually seen as a groundcover. At Spring Trials, ‘Black Scallop’ was turned into ball-shaped topiaries, which Robert Bett, president of PlantHaven, said looked like something out of Dr. Seuss. This variety was a new addition to PlantHaven’s Icon program, a collection of older industry favorites. Attendees were also excited about a Corydalis on display, Hillier ‘Porcelain Blue.’ Its vibrant and fragrant aqua-blue flowers bloom nonstop throughout the summer and fall. Check out more from PlantHaven here: bit.ly/2toiXmL
Terra Nova Nurseries
At the Windmill Nursery stop, Terra Nova took a consumer approach to grouping and displaying its perennials. New and previous introductions with similar characteristics were set up in displays that highlighted their respective qualities and solutions like water-wise, ease for landscaping use and attractiveness to pollinators. To see some of the highlights from each area, watch this video: bit.ly/2un209l
Pacific Plug & Liner
At Pacific Plug & Liner, we were actually surrounded by perennials at “Camp Perennial,” PP&L’s name for its stop this year. Attendees were “campers” and could collect merit badges as they visited each “campsite” where different perennials were showcased.
The Weed Dragon propane torch kit is perfect for naturally controlling weeds around the home, in gardens or in the yard. It also works great to eliminate the freeze/thaw effect on those winter days. When the sidewalk or driveway has been cleared, use the Weed Dragon to first melt the thin layer of snow, second sweep the moisture to the side and third continue to dry the affected area, eliminating the freeze/thaw effect.
State of the Heart MatMate
Studio M’s new State of the Heart program introduces a unique personalization element to the popular state-themed trend. Retailers can customize garden flags and mats by choosing a state, one of 22 color combinations, and placement of the heart (via zip code). Garden flags can also be customized with the name of any city or state.
After labor, heating costs are the largest production item for most growers. New technology, energy efficiency measures and alternate fuels can help to reduce this cost. Heating system technology is continually evolving with new products coming onto the market each year. With fuel prices changing frequently, growers need to evaluate the many options available before making a decision on purchasing new or upgrading existing equipment.
Heating system upgrade
A starting point is age. A furnace or boiler that is more than 10 years old is a good candidate for repair or upgrade. It depends somewhat on how much use it has had and whether regular maintenance has been provided. Repair and replacement parts are generally available for these units.
Efficiency testing of a furnace or boiler involves a simple 10-minute procedure and, if done on a regular basis, can indicate when problems are beginning to occur. Records of temperature and carbon dioxide levels of the flue gases taken at weekly intervals may indicate that carbon is building up on the heat surfaces or air leaks are developing in the combustion chamber.
Before the heating season begins, the furnace or boiler should be cleaned and serviced. The burner blast tube, fan housing and blower wheel should be free of dirt. Leaks into the combustion chamber, especially joints between cast iron boiler sections and around the fire door, should be sealed. The oil filter should also be replaced and carbon removed from heat-transfer surfaces. Manufacturers’ recommendations should be followed in replacing the nozzle and in adjusting the ignition electrodes. A new burner may also be the best option.
On gas burners, servicing consists of cleaning the orifice, the burner, the heat-transfer surfaces and the controls. Gas valves are checked for operation and leaks. Gas pressure is adjusted for the type of fuel used. The pilot light or ignition system is cleaned, soot is removed and the fan and limit controls are checked for safety. Worn parts should be replaced.
Heating system replacement
A furnace or boiler should be replaced when it is no longer safe, when it has an efficiency of less than 70 percent or when its emissions are more than 10 percent above recommended EPA standards.
New oil-fired furnaces and boilers have an efficiency of about 85 percent and new gas ones can get up to 96 percent. This increase in efficiency over existing equipment can go a long way toward paying for the new unit. The condensing unit heater or boiler is a good choice due to its higher efficiency.
Changing to a different fuel can also result in a good payback. Expansion of natural gas service areas is allowing growers to change to a lower-cost fuel. Be aware that if you only operate on a seasonal basis, that you may have to pay the monthly service charge during the summer for having the gas available. Gas costs tend to increase during the winter when the residential use is greatest.
When selecting equipment for a gutter-connected greenhouse or multiple freestanding greenhouses, consider installing a central boiler system. This provides many options, including easy distribution of heat through water to air heaters, sidewall fin piping or root zone radiation. For individual hoop houses that are operated mainly during the fall and spring growing season, hot air furnaces or unit heaters are still the best choice in most cases as the heating system does not require draining for the winter. Air circulation is needed with both systems to provide uniform temperature.
Another option that should be considered is the heat storage buffer tank. Hot water from the boiler is circulated through a heat exchanger to heat the water in the buffer tank. At night when heat is needed, the hot water from the tank is circulated through the heat pipes or unit heaters in the greenhouse. This system will allow a smaller boiler to be installed as it can be operated continuously day and night. Wood and coal-fired boilers work particularly well with a buffer tank as they absorb the variable heat output from the combustion process, which is not as easy to control as with fossil fuels.
Design and installation of a new system should be guided by a professional that is familiar with greenhouse conditions and environment control. You should also expect startup training and maintenance instructions.
John is an agricultural engineer, an emeritus extension professor at the University of Connecticut and a regular contributor to sister publication Greenhouse Management. He is an author, consultant and certified technical service provider doing greenhouse energy audits for USDA grant programs in New England. email@example.com