Dr. Steven Still to Retire, PPA Symposium and Can you Diagnose This?

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News and commentary for the perennial market GrowerTalks MagazineGreen Profit Magazine

Friday, August 11, 2017

Paul Pilon Subscribe
Perennial Pulse

What's Going On Here?
Farewell Dr. Still
PPA Awards
PPA Tours
Perennial Trials Deadline
Upcoming Events
The Answer Is ...
Managing This Problem

What’s Going on Here?

It’s been a while since we’ve played our little diagnostic game of “What’s Going on Here?” The rules are easy. I show you an image like this one:


Unspecified Phlox paniculata cultivar.

Sometimes I offer a clue, but in this case, I’ve only provided the type of perennial the symptoms are occurring on. Then you get to use your vast knowledge and experience to determine the cause of the symptoms in the image. Sounds like fun, right? Well, let’s give it a try. What’s going on here?

Read on to see if you’re right and how to manage this problem. 

Farewell Dr. Still

Dr. Steven Still celebrates his retirement with the Perennial Diva Stephanie Cohen (who was celebrating her birthday) at the 2017 Perennial Plant Symposium in Denver.

Thirty-five years after brainstorming and co-founding the Perennial Plant Association, Dr. Steven Still is set to retire from his role as Executive Director on September 30, 2017 and has organized his last Perennial Plant Symposium (the 35th if you’re wondering), which was held last month in Denver, Colorado.

Dr. Still and his family have certainly had a positive influence on the awareness and promotion of perennials over the years. He’s touched the lives of so many and truly deserves to pass the torch to other passionate perennial enthusiasts and enjoy his retirement. I’d like to personally thank Dr. Still for his vision and contributions and wish him the best as he enters then next chapter (or should I say next adventures) of his great life.

I look forward to seeing Dr. Still as an "attendee" at future events or perhaps even a botanical garden somewhere. Enjoy, Dr. Still!  

PPA Awards

I attended the Perennial Plant Symposium last month and thought I’d share a few of the highlights from my time there.

Each year, the PPA offers several prestigious awards. Here are the 2017 winners:

Retail Award 
Phoenix Perennials in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Gary Lewis

Garden Media Award
Ruth Rogers Clausen of Clausen Associates in Easton, Maryland

Grower Award


Cavano’s Perennials in Kingsville, Maryland
Accepted by Ferenc Kiss and Taylor Pilker 

International Contributor Award
Marco van Noort of Marco van Noort Breeding in Warmond, the Netherlands

Young Professional Award
Jared Hughes of Groovy Plants Ranch in Marengo, Ohio

PPA Award of Merit


Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries in Tigard, Oregon

Service Award
Mike Heger of Ambergate Horticultural Consulting in Waconia, Minnesota

Academic Award
Dr. Chad Miller of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas

Winners for landscape designs in several categories and several scholarships were also awarded at the Symposium.

PPA Tours

    Little Valley Wholesale Nursery

 WelbCountry Fair Garden Center/Welby Gardens

One of my favorite activities is attending the various tours the PPA Symposium has to offer. This year, I attended the Grower Tour, which included tours of seven facilities in the Denver area. The locations of this tour were: Little Valley Nursery, Greenhouse Growing System, Country Fair/Welby Gardens, Center Greenhouse, Welby Garden - Main Facility, Creek Side Gardens and the Denver Botanical Gardens at Chatfield Farms. These stops included wholesale perennial production sites, retail locations, container trials of annuals and perennials, industrial hemp production and botanical gardens. It was a long, but worthwhile, day. 

Perennial Trials Deadline

If you introduce new perennials to the market, consider entering your upcoming introductions in the AAS (All-America Selections) Trials. I know historically you’ve only thought about AAS for their annual or bedding plant trials. Although that statement may have been true in the past, they now have great programs for trialing perennials.

  1. The Herbaceous Perennial Trials evaluate plant performance and overwintering survival for three seasons. There are 24 trial sites in 22 states and provinces.
  2. The Ornamentals from Seed Trials has largely been geared for annual bedding plants, but now includes first-year flowering perennials. There are 47 Ornamental Seed Trial Grounds Located in 30 states and provinces.
  3. The Ornamentals from Vegetative Cuttings Trials are similar to the Ornamentals from Seed Trials, but are geared towards vegetative items, including first-year flowering perennials. Currently, there are 18 trial grounds in 15 states and provinces devoted to the vegetative ornamentals trials.

 The deadline for next year’s entrants is fast approaching -- September 1, 2017, in fact. Find entry forms here and further details about the AAS Trials.

If you’re interested in submitting one of your great perennials into either the Ornamental Seed or Ornamental Vegetative Trials, the deadline is November 1, 2017. Send your entrant or questions to Jenny Boxell at jboxell@aaswinners.com.

Non-flowering perennials (ornamentals), such as heuchera and other perennials like ornamental grasses, can be entered in the ornaments trials. Perhaps your genetics can be the first ever AAS winner in its class!

The AAS entries are “Tested Nationally & Proven Locally” so consumers can be assured of superior garden performance when planting AAS winners. The first Herbaceous Perennial Trial winner(s) will be announced in 2019.  

Upcoming Events

Perennial Inspiration and Concepts

For this year’s Northeastern Regional Symposium, the Perennial Plant Association has teamed up with the Massachusetts Horticultural Society to offer a one day symposium entitled, “Perennial Inspirations and Concepts.” There will be several sessions by five authors, presenters and creative plantsman from across the country. Here's a synopsis of what will be covered:

  • "Container Design Trends and the Best New Container Varieties" presented by Barbara Pierson - White Flower Farm
  • "Planting the Year-Round Pollinator Garden" presented by Karen Bussolini – Lifelong Organic Gardener and Lover of Nature
  • "Succulent Love" presented by Katherine Tracey - Avant Gardens
  • "Designing a Meadow Garden with New England Native Plants" presented by Rebecca Lindemeyr – Linden L.A.N.D. Group
  • "Perennial Herbs and Vegetables to Inspire 5 Senses" presented by Hannah Traggis – Massachusetts Horticultural Society

This symposium is being held on September 8, 2017 at Mass Hort’s Horticultural Center in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Lunch and exploring the gardens is included. Get registration and event info here.

Keeping Those Dratted Diseases Out of Your Crops


It’s been a wet year for parts of the country, so it’s a good time to learn more about managing diseases from leading industry experts like Margery Daughtrey – Cornell University and others. On Thursday, September 21, 2017, UConn Extension, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, CAES and the Risk Management Agency/USDA will be hosting a one-day educational program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Check out this informative program:

  • "USDA Crop Insurance Options to Manage Farm Risk" -- Joseph Bonelli,  UConn Extension 
  • "How to Interpret Signs and Symptoms Caused by Diseases and Disorders" -- Ann Gould, Rutgers University
  • "Getting to the Root of the Problem" -- Ann Gould, Rutgers University
  • "Managing Maniacal Mildews, Both Powdery and Downy" -- Margery Daughtrey, Cornell University, LIHREC  and Emma Wallace, USDA-ARS Visiting Scientist, ORISE ARS Research Participation Program
  • "Using Disease Management Tools -- Getting the Most out of Fungicides and Biologicals: Choices and Rotations" -- Margery Daughtrey, LIHREC
  • "How Nutrition Can Affect Contagious Plant Diseases" -- Wade Elmer, CES
  • "The Plant Doctors Are In to Answer Your Questions"

Pesticide recertification credits are available. Get registration and program info here. Lunch is included. Feel free to contact Leanne Pundt, Uconn Extension, by phone at (860) 626-6855 or email Leanne.pundt@uconn.edu if you have questions about this event. 

The Answer is …

Here is another image showing an overview of the symptoms on the Phlox paniculata.


If you suspect the symptom is being caused by iron deficiency due to high pH, you're correct and can be proud of yourself for your diagnostic prowess.

This is a pretty severe case of iron deficiency. Usually the symptoms of moderate iron deficiencies are interveinal chlorosis of the upper foliage. However, in severe cases, the upper leaves appear completely yellow or appears bleached out or white as seen in the first image at the top of this newsletter. 

Managing This Problem

Before you apply iron to correct this deficiency, it’s important to understand why this is occurring. There are several factors leading to iron deficiencies, including high pH, saturated root zones, low soil temperatures and damaged root systems, such as from root rot pathogens. When you suspect iron deficiency, always check the health of the roots and measure the pH of the soil. High pH is most often the culprit.

When the pH of the growing mix rises above 6.5, iron is less available for uptake. Remember this image showing the solubility or availability of many nutrients at various pHs.

 When the pH rises above 6.5, certain micronutrients -- particularly boron, copper, iron, manganese and zinc -- become difficult for plants to uptake (not available). Some plants are more prone to iron deficiencies than others.

The most effective means of correcting this problem is to lower the pH by injecting acid into the irrigation water to lower the soil pH to below 6.4. Most perennials perform quite well when the pH of the growing mix is maintained between 5.8 and 6.3. If supplemental iron is necessary, I prefer to drench the plants with 22 ppm chelated red iron. Only apply supplemental iron once to avoid iron toxicity once the pH returns to more optimal levels.

Don’t just apply iron to correct this deficiency; remember high pH or poor root health are usually the cause of this problem. Addressing the cause of the deficiency is a better approach than masking the problem with supplemental iron. 

I hope you enjoyed reading this edition of Perennial Pulse. I'd love to hear how your summer is going and what challenges you've been facing. Feel free to email me (ppilon@ballpublishing.com) an update of your season, any comments you'd like to share, future article ideas or just to say hello.

Thanks for reading.

Take care,

Paul Pilon
Perennial Pulse

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