Fall Conferences, Farwest Winners and Scholarships

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News and commentary for the nursery & landscape market GrowerTalks MagazineGreen Profit Magazine

Friday, September 08, 2017

Nursery & Landscape Insider

IPPS Conferences in OR, MI, and TX
Landscapes 2017 Conference
Farwest People’s Choice Awards
One Day to Apply for HRI Scholarships!
WOTUS Confusion
Lean Flow – Is It for You?
Cardinalflower Rocks
Notes from the Edge of Sanity

IPPS – Eastern, Southern and Western Region Conferences

By far my favorite trips of the year are to International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS) conferences, no matter what region of North America it may be (one day I'll go international). I enjoy them because they mix formal talks on a wide variety of topics with fantastic tours of growing operations and public/private gardens. This year, the IPPS-Eastern Region meeting will be held from October 11-14 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Next up will be the IPPS-Western Region meeting from October 17-20 in Wilsonville, Oregon. Last up will be the IPPS-Southern Region meetings from October 28 – November 1 in Dallas, Texas.

In 2013, I was able to host the IPPS-Southern Region of North America Meeting. One of the most entertaining parts was the plant auction, which can get a bit rowdy considering there's a bar in the room.
III was a

What I suggest is you put the three regions in a hat, pull out a name and make your reservations. You won’t be disappointed!  

Landscapes 2017 Conference

Just as impressive as the IPPS meetings, but squarely in the realm of landscape contracting, is the Landscapes 2017 meeting, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. This year’s event is from October 18-20 and features an impressive and diverse lineup of speakers and subjects. What I like about this conference is that there's something for all levels of a landscape business, from CEO/owner to a crew member. So it's often worth the cost to take a crew (or five) to the show, as it will improve your business from bottom to top.


Unfortunately, I can’t go this year due to a prior commitment, yet if I could, the one session that I wouldn’t miss (even with a hangover) is the Thursday, October 19 Power Session (9:45-11:15 a.m.) with Roger Phelps of Stihl, Inc. I’ve seen him speak many times as part of the National Association of Landscape Professionals Student Career Days and can legitimately say that if you're not inspired by his message, you are likely due a visit to a mortician.

And if you’re reading this Roger, thanks for supporting NALP Student Career Days!  

Farwest People’s Choice Awards

If you attended Farwest a few weeks ago, hopefully you were able to see and vote on your favorite new cultivars that were on display. I always find it interesting to read the People’s Choice Awards because the “people” are the buyers! The People’s Choice Awards also rarely match up with the “expert judges” and it makes me wonder who actually wields the most expertness (yes – I made that word up for you). I say you – the people – are most knowledgeable of all!

Anyhow, this year’s People’s Choice Awards include three outstanding plants! Since I was given permission to plagiarize the Farwest press release, I will hand it over to them to describe the winners.

Black Diamond Purely Purple Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) was chosen for the People’s Choice Best in Show award. Bred by Jim Berry of J. Berry Nursery. An aesthetic standout with dramatic dark foliage and stunning purple blooms. Performs in the most challenging landscapes due to its sun and drought tolerance. Can be pruned to tree form, shrub form, perennial form and is stunning as an annual in a patio container or landscape for Zones 5 and below. (Editor’s note… I think Zone 5 is a stretch and Zone 6 is more reasonable.) It features black foliage from spring until first frost, along with masses of purple blooms from early summer until frost. Takes full sun and is drought tolerant once established. Intermediate habit with a mature height of 10- to 12-ft. tall and width of 8 ft.

Black Diamond Purely Purple Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indicaBlack Diamond Purely Purple Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica #18 Li PPAF)  Black Diamond Purely Purple Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica #18 Li PPAF)   

In addition to the People’s Choice Best in Show Award, two People’s Choice Awards of Merit were also announced as a result of the voting:

Strait-Laced Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Developed by Ken Tobutt and Fiona Wilson in the United Kingdom (insert Monty Python reference here) and introduced by Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs. An amazing narrow, upright cultivar that takes up only a few square feet of ground. Feathery black foliage covers broomstick-straight stems that shoot upward in a narrow column. Early summer brings hundreds of pink flowers to contrast with the leaves. Hardy and easy to grow. Columnar habit offers many landscape uses. Dead wood should be removed in early spring. Any errant shoots can be pruned out to the ground as needed. Plant in full sun for best color and shape. Not recommended for warm climates. Grows in part sun to sun. Grows 6- to 8-ft. tall and 3- to 4 -ft. wide.

Strait-Laced Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) . Elderberry (Sambucus nigra SNR1292 USPPAF)  

Hydrangea macrophylla Miss Saori. Bred by Ryoji Irie from Japan and introduced by Concept Plants. Presented as a debutant at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, winning “2014 Chelsea Plant of the Year” because of its vivid colors and special qualities. Double-petaled, sterile flowers have deep-rose margins. This color softens to white in the center and forms a nice contrast with the dark foliage that turns burgundy in spring and autumn. Miss Saori has a long flowering period that starts in June. Flowers even on first-year wood. Ideal location is in full sun or semi-shade. Beautiful in borders or containers, but also excellent as a cut flower. Matures to 40-in. tall and wide. Available as 4-in. liners from Silver Falls Nursery.

Hydrangea macrophylla Miss Saori.   

More information on the winners and all of the New Varieties Showcase selections is available at www.FarwestShow.com

One Day Left to Apply for HRI Scholarships!

With the tight turnaround, I debated putting this one in. However, we have many student subscribers and I want you to know about this scholarship opportunity for not only 2017, but future years. After all, a little free money is worth making a notation on your 2018 calendar.


Scholarships totaling $18,500 for the 2017-2018 school year are made possible by seven special Horticultural Research Institute endowment funds that aid students who are seeking a lifelong career in horticulture. HRI and its member firms consider graduating students in horticulture to be the lifeblood of the green industry. The scholarship application and pre-requisite information are available on the Horticultural Research Institute website. Available scholarships include:

  1. The Timothy S. and Palmer W. Bigelow, Jr. (one, $3,000 scholarship available)
  2. The Usrey Family Scholarship (one, $1,000 scholarship available)
  3. The Bryan A. Champion Memorial Scholarship (one, $1,000 scholarship available)
  4. The Susie & Bruce Usrey Scholarship (one, $500 scholarship available)
  5. The Spring Meadow Scholarship (three, $3,500 scholarships available)
  6. The "Muggets" Scholarship (one, $1,500 scholarship available)
  7. The Carville M. Akehurst Memorial Scholarship (one, $1,000 scholarship available). 

WOTUS Confusion

I’ve had a lot of calls in my day job as a University of Georgia Extension Specialist regarding the ongoing Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) comment period. Most people are calling in a panic because they think that the WOTUS regulations proposed by the Obama administration (actually the EPA during the Obama presidency) have been reinstated. In fact, the comment period relates to the EPA receding the WOTUS regulations proposed by the Obama administration EPA, essentially rolling back (or recodification in EPA-speak) to “the old regulations.” Basically, every time the EPA changes a rule, they allow a public comment period. So essentially, don’t panic, nothing new is being enacted with regard to WOTUS. Carry on.

But you also may want to comment, and if so, you can do that here

Lean Flow – Is It for You?

You may have heard about this trend called “lean flow” – it’s not the latest diet craze, I promise you. However, it's a trendy term that's long been used in manufacturing to improve profitability by increasing efficiency. It’s also a term that I often describe to landscape contractors and/or growers who ask the question, “How do I increase profits as costs increase and revenues remain flat?” Well, the only way I'm aware of is to become more efficient or find a new cash crop.

Initially, when Toyota (yes – Toyota) started the lean flow philosophy, it centered on reducing lead time and inventory to improve cash flow and the ratio of expenditures to revenue. Then it grew to include work-flow management to create the most efficient manufacturing process possible per labor dollar spent. Now it also includes determining what technologies can be used to increase productivity, often with the express purpose of reducing “human labor” in the process. In fact, there are dozens of examples of “lean flow” strategies in a landscape contracting or nursery business that result in greater efficiencies, and therefore, improve profits. Most of these efficiencies revolve around:

  • For the nursery producers, how to reduce labor hours per unit (plant) produced? Stated another way, how do you reduce “touches” of a plant?
  • For landscape contractors, how do you minimize time spent on a jobsite?
  • How do you identify “waste,” especially in inputs and materials?
  • How do you identify products or services that you provide that your customers don’t care about and don’t want to pay for?

Obviously, there's a lot more to lean flow, but I found a couple of good examples of lean flow that you can read through. The first is a synopsis written by Scott Epps of Hoffman Nursery for Texas A&M and the second is a great article written by George Taninecz for HighGrove Partners. For many of you, the year is slowly winding down and you're beginning to think of ways to become more profitable in 2018. You may want to consider this whole lean flow craze … and lose a few pounds before the holidays, too.   

Cardinalflower Rocks

Lobelia cardinalis, or Cardinalflower, is one of those plants that isn’t grown more because it’s difficult to find in the marketplace and a plant that many consumers find difficult to grow well. Why it’s tough to find, I have no idea, because in my garden this time of year it's the plant that hummingbirds go MMA over. In fact, Sunday I saw two ruby-throated hummingbirds go to the ground and roll around over this plant.

From a grower perspective, it isn’t difficult to grow either, although it's typically late to flower, and therefore, misses “spring sales.” I think a little marketing could overcome that. After all, it’s native to all but seven U.S. states and the three westernmost Canadian Provinces – and resides in northern Mexico. And it’ll hang tough in most of Central Europe and Asia.


On the consumer side, it's a plant that many people “love to death.” Its best location is in a well-drained, but moist, soil (it’s native to riverbanks) that receives full sun. Fertilizer will cause it to stretch and flop, so the best thing you can do for success is this: plant it in a moist location, mulch it well and (think New Jersey) “forget about it”! My care for cardinalflower in my landscape is to throw mulch over it while dormant in the winter. Otherwise, our relationship relies on it bringing me joy while I contribute minimal effort.

I know, ladies, it’s a typical husband of a plant.  

Our Wild and Wacky World—Notes from the Edge of Sanity

In almost every agriculture-based newsletter I read, and on every news channel I watch or listen to, I hear about ways to assist victims of natural or civil disasters. I know we all understand the importance of helping those in need – as reflected in J.J. Watt’s amazing feat. We've seen the bond of humanity break the impasses that makes us “different” in Texas. We see it as the fires rage in the Pacific Northwest. We'll see it again in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the coming days. We give our time, talents and treasure without question in times of societal need.

But what do we do when the great need passes? Do we still give on a less (potentially) gratifying scale? Do we volunteer at FFA or 4-H horticultural events? Do we install that school garden and teach kids the joys of gardening? Do we find ways to help those employees who may work hard, but have tough circumstances? Do we tell people how much we appreciate them?

Food for thought … because the need for assistance and appreciation never ends … it just ebbs and flows in magnitude. The little acts, especially those that grant others a love of nature, will nurture our field of horticulture far into the future. It will also bring us joy. 

Live authentic,

Matthew Chappell
Nursery & Landscape Insider


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