Mother's Day, More on GE Petunias, Margie on Mildew, RIP Michael Sr.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Chris Beytes Subscribe
Acres Online
Mother's Day: Unreal to dismal
- Note the deep colors
- The season thus far
Webinar: Mildew Madness
GE petunia update
RIP Michael Vukelich Sr.
Ball Colegrave's Summer Show
Neonics on Butterfly Bush?
Finally ...

Mother’s Day: “Unreal” for some, “dismal” and “meh” for others

Mother’s Day 2017 is in the books, and for many of you it’s also in the record books. The overall score for the weekend was 7.8 for the U.S. and 8.3 for Canada—solid, but not quite as strong as 2016, which was 8.3/8.4. The previous year, 2015, was especially good in Canada. The scores were 8.2/9.4.

Still, I can’t recall so many folks sending in scores above 10—10+, 11, 12, 15. Of course, I record those as 10—of which I received 48, out of 132 total ratings, or 36% (from 43 states and 9 provinces). Not the highest percentage of perfect scores I’ve ever seen, but it’s a good number that about matches last year. I think Mother’s Day 2015 set the record with 102 10s out of 176 responses, (58%).

As much as I love those 10s, I hated to see so many 3s, 4s and 5s on what should be your biggest weekend of the year. Rain and cold hit much of the East, Northeast and Northwest, leaving you wet and miserable. It was feast or famine.

Here’s the map:


Note the deep colors

Note the deep colors indicating high scores across the Midwest, Mountains and Plains. Those regions scored 9.4, 9.9 and 9.9 respectively. Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Utah sent only perfect scores. Illinois respondents sent me eight straight 10s and one 8.3 (the average of 10, 10 and 5 for Friday-Sunday) for a score of 9.8. Colorado (9.8), Michigan (9.8) and Minnesota (9.8) were nearly flawless. Ohio was 9.4, with 10s, 9s and a 7.

It was the East Coast (5.1) and New England (5.9) that were the trouble spots. Maryland scored 3.5, New Jersey 4.5, New York 4.0. Pennsylvania was an interesting mixed bag, with scores ranging from 4 to 10. (A big state like Pennsylvania with various climates will often yield results like this.) The highest score anyone sent from New England was 7; most responses were 4, 5 or 6.

The West (8.3), Northwest (8.1) and South (7.9) performed as we’d like to see. Some folks had stellar weekends; for others it was good but not great, but it could have been worse.

When it comes to comments, some of you were a bit reticent. Here are my three favorite one-liners from the weekend (followed by the score and the state/province):

“Unreal.” (10, MN)
“Dismal.” (5, BC)
“Meh.” (5, NC)

The season overall thus far

The real challenge now is that we’re running out of spring weekends—five, if you go all the way to the end of June. We have the three-day weekends of Victoria Day in Canada this weekend and Memorial Day in the States the following weekend to look forward to.

In general, I’m hearing that after a few good early weekends, the weather got tough, and now many of you are hoping just to be flat to last year—and that’s if the weather is on your side. However, I’ve met some retailers here in Chicagoland who are up—way up—over last year.

What are you experience at your business? Weigh in HERE.

Webinar: Margery Daughtrey on Mildew Madness

Mark your calendar for next Wednesday, May 24, when I’ll be hosting a free webinar with the lovable and dynamic Margery Daughtrey, who will wax poetic on the topic “Mildew Madness: Powdery Mildew vs. Your Crops.”

Powdery mildew is a perennial problem … and it can certainly mess up your annuals, too! Guest expert Margery Daughtrey, Senior Research Associate at Cornell’s Long Island Research & Extension Center, will explain the difference between powdery mildews and downy mildews, and how this difference affects disease management in flower production. She’ll show an array of symptoms, some of which would really fool you, and talk about strategies for managing these diseases with fungicides. In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • The difference between PM and DM
  • How PM can be overlooked if you’re not careful
  • The likely hosts of PM in the industry today
  • What management strategies are appropriate for PM, and why

This webinar will resonate with growers of hydrangea, gerbera, rosemary, begonia, calibrachoa and many, many other crops.

Again, our webinar is Wednesday, May 24. Time is 1 p.m. Eastern/Noon Central. As usual, I’ll be your host, so you know it will be fast-paced, informative and fun.

A special thanks to our sponsor, BASF, for putting the “free” in free webinar.

Sign up at

Genetically engineered petunia update

There’s little new to report since the last Acres Online on the ongoing topic of those genetically engineered petunias that the European and North American industries are dealing with (I haven’t heard anything from other markets yet). The USDA has made an official statement which you can read HERE. It basically restates what I told you last time, but without the history stuff. The one change is that the new USDA list of petunias is shorter than the one I published, but it also contains these varieties, which were not on the earlier list:

Trilogy Mango
Trilogy ’76 Mix
Fortunia Early Orange
Hells Bells Improved
Sweetunia Orange Flash

However, I do not believe that clears the varieties from the previous list. These are varieties that USDA has tested and confirmed. Testing of other varieties is ongoing. The petunias on the previous list were confirmed by European authorities. I’d still follow the instructions from your breeder or distributor about how to handle any implicated petunias you may have.

There’s one line in the USDA statement you want to be careful with: “Retailers, growers and breeders are being asked to voluntarily withdraw GE petunias from distribution.” The word “voluntarily” doesn’t mean that disposing of the plants is optional. It means the industry as a whole is doing this withdrawal voluntarily, as opposed to being ordered to by USDA. USDA has basically said to breeders, “You take care of this issue properly, and we won’t have to.”

The last thing USDA states is that “Consumers who may have purchased GE petunias need take no action, as the petunias are not considered to pose a risk to human health or the environment.” Many of you have questioned why the big deal over a genetically engineered petunia? “We don’t eat them,” you point out. “And USDA says they’re harmless. So why do we have to dump them?”

It’s not a matter of safety, it’s a matter of rules: To be sold in the U.S., a GE product must first be granted nonregulated status by the USDA. Since nobody knew these petunias were GE, nobody petitioned USDA for said status. Hence we’re in violation of their rules. Breeders and distributors, along with AmericanHort, are working hard with the USDA to resolve the problem, and they’re asking for your help and cooperation.

If I learn more that’s pertinent to you, I’ll share it next time.

In memoriam: Michael Vukelich Sr.

I just learned from Color Spot Chairman Jerry Halamuda that the founder of the California nursery that eventually became Color Spot, Michael Vukelich Sr., has passed away. He was 87. His son, Michael Jr., founder of Color Spot with Jerry, passed away in 2011 from cancer at the age of 61.

Michael Sr. got into the nursery business in 1950 when he founded M.V. Nursery, which eventually grew into a West Coast powerhouse. Michael was a pioneer in chain store sales, recognizing early on that supermarkets drew a high volume of shoppers. He was also a pioneer in plant displays and rolling racks, building his own display racks that he set up for free for customers. He even offered to keep them stocked—a forerunner to today’s service programs. Unfortunately, he was forced to file for bankruptcy in the early ’80s. That was when his son came into the picture, leasing the business from the bank and renaming it Color Spot.

Said Jerry Halamuda of his close friend and former business partner, “His 65-plus year career in the nursery industry positively and significantly impacted every part of the operational, distribution and marketing segment of the business. The industry has lost a great icon and industry leader.”

Ball Colegrave’s Summer Showcase

If you’d like an excuse to visit England this summer (or the Oxfordshire countryside, if you’re already in England), why not drop in on Ball Colegrave’s annual Summer Showcase, slated for Monday, July 10 to Friday, July 28. The three-week extravaganza will feature:

- Over 200 new plant varieties for 2018
- Colour (not color, colour!) themed “Trends” gardens offering inspirational plant combinations and retail solutions
- Pergola “Garden Room” displays of market-leading patio plant varieties
- 700 experimental annual and perennials—your potential new varieties of the future
- Perennial gardens
- Trade exhibitor displays of pots, containers and retail merchandising solutions
- and a shade canopy for relaxing while enjoying your complimentary packed lunch

You can get a sneak peak on YouTube at

Book online at

Neonics on butterfly bush brings negative publicity

It’s one thing to use neonics for general pest management—as a grower, I put out lots of preventative systemics in my day on my potted crops—but why would you put them on a plant called “butterfly bush,” which consumers very often buy specifically to attract butterflies to their garden? And why would you do so and then label that plant as having been treated with neonics?

The average consumer may not notice. But when a garden club member spots said plant in her local store, she will report it to the local Master Gardeners, and all the local and national Garden Club chapters and members. That’s just what happened down in New Orleans recently, with this garden club member’s alarm being spread to garden clubs all across the country.

Unfortunately, asclepias is prone to every common insect we have, including aphids, thrips, leafminers scale and caterpillars, so a systemic seems like a good solution for battling them. But what about alternatives?

I asked our resident perennial expert, Paul Pilon, for some advice on controlling pests on butterfly bush without resorting to systemics. Here’s what he suggested:

In natural predators:
Aphelinus abdominalis - Parasitic wasp
Aphidius colemani - Parasitic wasp
Aphidius erviss - Parasitic wasp
Aphidoletes aphidimyza - Predatory midge
Chrysopa (Green Lacewing) - Predator
(lady bugs can also be used)

In biological control agents:
Isaria fumosorosea (Paecilomyces fumosoroseus) - Mycoinsecticide (Preferal)
Beauveria bassiana - Mycoinsecticide (BotaniGard/Mycotrol)
Chromobacterium substugae (Achromocil) - Bioinsecticide (Grandevo)
Azadirachtin - Insect Growth Regulator (Aza-Direct, Azatin, Ornazin)
Potassium salts of fatty acids - Insecticidal soap (M-Pede)

In traditional chemistries*:
Endeavor (pymetrozine) and Aria (flonicamid) - translaminar - lasts about 30 days.
Kontos (spirotetramat)
Avid (abemectin)

*Although effective, these products might not be suitable for asclepias as they are translaminar and get into the leaves (provides some residual).

Says Paul, “If I had to spray asclepias for aphids, I’d probably use insecticidal soap mixed with a pyrethroid such as Talstar (bifentrhin) or Decathlon (cyfluthrin). However, this would wipe out beneficials, if they are being used.”

I’m not publishing this as strict cultural instructions, but rather to make you aware of the potential problem and let you know there are alternatives. Be sure to follow any label instructions. And check with your pest management expert for firm recommendations. But do try your best not to give our pollinator-loving customers a reason to fear our pollinator-attracting plants.

Finally ...

I don’t have a Netflix subscription, but I’m just about the only one who doesn’t. So I got excited when I read the email subject line “Netflix for Bedding.” Golly, they must be launching a gardening show or something, I thought. Maybe I need to subscribe!

So I opened the email and what did I find? A promotion for a new subscription service that sends you organic bath and bed linens in 6-, 12- or 24-month cycles.

Good grief!

See you next time!

Chris sig

Chris Beytes
GrowerTalks and Green Profit

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