NEWS on the GROW By Catherine Evans

Perennial Plant of the Year Named

The Perennial Plant Association has named Athyriumniponicum ‘Pictum’ as the 2004 PerennialPlant of the Year.

This low-maintenance Japanese painted fern is a showy fern forshade gardens. It is popular because of its hardiness nearly everywhere in theUnited States, except for the desert and the northern areas of USDA Zone 3.Pictum grows 18 inches tall and can make a clump more then 2 feet wide when itmultiplies. It produces 12- to 18-inch fronds that are a light shade ofmetallic silver gray with a hint of red and blue. It prefers partial to fullshade and works best in combination planters and landscape beds.

This fern needs a well-drained, compost-rich soil and flourisheswhere moisture and humidity abound. The best frond color results in lightshade. The colors are more intense in the spring or in cooler temperatures orclimates such as the Northwest. This fern is extremely reliable when grown inthe proper conditions. Its colorful foliage should be vibrant from early springuntil frost, when it will go dormant and reemerge in the spring.

The Perennial Plant of the Year was initiated in 1990. Eachyear, PPA members select a perennial that is suitable for a wide range ofclimate types, requires minimal maintenance, is easily propagated and exhibitsmulti-seasonal interest.

For more information visit You canalso find production information by Paul Pilon in the September 2003 issue ofGPN.

Lawn & Garden Retailer and GCA Launch Retail Pack Trial Tour

Two of the industry’s leading advocates have joined forcesto offer independent garden centers the unique opportunity to view new plantmaterials and be in the forefront of bringing these new products to theconsumer. “The Inaugural Lawn & Garden Retailer/Garden Centers ofAmerica Pack Trial Tour” is the first of its kind to be offered to GardenCenters of America (GCA) members. Lawn & Garden Retailer is the sisterpublication of GPN.

Every spring, the California coast from San Diego to SanFrancisco comes alive with open houses hosted by major plant breeders in theUnited States and Europe. Known to growers as the California Pack Trials, thisevent has become the main venue for commercial growers to view the newest inplant offerings and breeder-sponsored marketing initiatives.

This exclusive tour now gives independent garden centers theopportunity to see and decide for themselves which new plant varieties theywant to offer in their garden centers in the future.

Running from March 30-April 2, 2004, this GCA member-onlytour is limited to 50 independent garden center representatives. The bus tourwill begin with a visit to Proven Winners in Bonsall, Calif., and end at TheFlower Fields in Gilroy, Calif., with approximately five additional breederstops in between. Additional information about the tour will follow. For moreinformation, contact the GCA at (888) 648-6463.

Mum Partnership Turns Heads

Ball Seed Company has reached an agreement with Royal VanZanten, LLC to be the exclusive licensee of all CBA and Cleangro-bredchrysanthemum varieties formerly produced by Royal Van Zanten in North America.Ball Seed will assume all responsibilities for cutting production, distributionand marketing activities for these varieties. In addition, Ball Seed hasobtained long-term exclusivity in the United States and Canada for new andexisting varieties from CBA and Cleangro.

Milgro Newcastle, Inc., Newcastle, Utah, will now produceunrooted cuttings of all Ball Seed mum varieties. Milgro is a family-ownedcompany with more than 23 years of establishment.

Ball Seed and Milgro are currently in the process oftransferring all mum cutting production from the former Royal Van Zantenfacility in Nipomo, Calif., to the Milgro facility. The transfer is expected tobe complete by March 1, 2004.

GPN CEO Passes Away

Halbert “Hal” Scranton Gillette, 81, chairman ofthe board and CEO of Scranton Gillette Communications, parent company of GPN,died November 22, 2003, at his home in Lake Forest, Ill. after a long battlewith prostate cancer.

Born in Chicago, Ill., June 29, 1922, the son of EdwardScranton Gillette and Claribel Reed Thornton was raised in Chicago andWinnetka, Ill.

Mr. Gillette attended The Chicago Latin School and graduatedfrom the Philips Exeter Academy. In 1944 he graduated from MassachusettsInstitute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering and business.

He was commissioned to the U.S. Navy 1944-1946 and served inthe U.S. mainland during World War II and in the Naval Reserves.

He was chairman of the board and CEO of Scranton GilletteCommunications, Inc., which specializes in trade magazines and was founded in1906 by his grandfather. Mr. Gillette started as a salesman for GillettePublishing in 1947. In 1960, two-thirds of Gillette Publishing Co. was sold toReuben H. Donnelley, which then merged with Dun & Bradstreet. Mr. Gillettealso moved to Donnelley/Dun & Bradstreet as a publisher and a vicepresident. In 1970, he rejoined his father’s firm, then Scranton PublishingCompany, and shortly become president of the firm, which was renamed ScrantonGillette Communications.

Mr. Gillette served as past president of the ChicagoBusiness Papers Association, as well as on the board of several insurance companies.He was the former Chairman of the Board of Occidental Life Insurance.

He served as alderman in Lake Forest, Ill., from 1979-1986and on the Public Safety and Waterfront committees. He was co-chairman of thecommittee that oversaw the creation of the city’s current beachfront.

Mr. Gillette was the husband of Karla Ann Spiel Gillette;father of Anne, Susan, James, Halbert and Edward; and grandfather of Alexander,Madeline, Carolyn, Julia and Isabelle.

Darwin Plants Renames Brand

The previously announced brand launch from Dutch perennialsexporter Darwin Plants, “Distinctly-Different,” has now been re-namedDarwin PlantSpotters.

Due to hit retail stores in Spring 2004, the DarwinPlantSpotters label will appear on up to 15 varieties of perennials, eachselected for its unique qualities and limited availability. Every plant soldcomes with an individually numbered certificate of authenticity and anintroduction to the hybridizer who discovered it.

In addition to this, the brand’s Web site,, will go live at the end of March 2004 and will serve asa comprehensive guide to the program. Detailed growing advice; history of howthe plants came into being; and hybridiser biographies will be featuredalongside the latest news stories about new plants being discovered, with manyopportunities for consumers to post their own comments and swap ideas withother gardening enthusiasts from around the world. Darwin PlantSpotterslaunches simultaneously in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom andRepublic of Ireland, but the Web site will be accessible worldwide. For moreinformation go to

FloraStar Adds to Board of Directors

At a recent planning meeting held in West Chicago, Ill., theFloraStar Board of Directors made the decision to expand the board to 15directors. The five newest members of the board of directors are as follows:

* JimBarrett, professor with the University of Florida’s (Gainesville, Fla.)Environmental Horticulture Department since 1978. Barrett has published morethan 250 articles and book chapters on research and production recommendations.His teaching activities include courses in greenhouse operations, advanced cropproduction and crop physiology. He is also GPN’s consulting editor.

* DrewEffron is the business manager for Syngenta Seeds — S&G Flowers— Downers Grove, Ill. Drew has extensive knowledge of both products andthe industry gained not only from employment but also his affiliations withANLA, Garden Writers of America and OFA.

* BobHumm is the broker support manager for the Western region for Yoder Brothers,Inc., Barberton, Ohio. He joined Yoder after 12 years as a professional grower.During his years with Yoder, he has helped develop the Yoder TradeWindsHibiscus brand and is serving as a member of The Flower Fields brand.

* GeoffNeedham is the founder of PlantHaven, Inc., Santa Barbara, Calif., anindependent licensing and marketing agency that manages the introduction of newvarieties of patented garden and landscape plants to North America and overseasfor plant breeders worldwide.

* MarkWilson, Ball FloraPlant, West Chicago, Ill., is involved with the company’sproduct evaluation teams. He is a graduate of University of Florida and hasextensive trialing knowledge. Mark has strong industry and product knowledgeand, at one time, was the youngest judge for All America Selections when heworked for Sakata Seed.

Fire Destroys Floral Warehouse

A four-alarm fire destroyed a floral warehouse in Nicetown,Pa., on December 3, ruining everything in the building and causing a commuterrail line to shut down for a while.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the fire broke out a little after 1 p.m. at thePennock Wholesale Florist warehouse, which is a major supplier for Philadelphiaflorists. According to the Executive Fire Chief, no one was injured.

By approximately 2:30 p.m., there were more than 100firefighters on the scene. As of press time, officials had no determination ofwhat caused the fire, but it was successfully under control a little after 3p.m.

Also according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, few customerswere inside the warehouse when the incident happened because the wholesaler isat its busiest early in the morning.

Pennock has 14 wholesale flower-sales branches on the EastCoast. The owner estimates that this facility sold approximately 40 percent ofthe flowers for sale by Philadelphia florists.

Industry Leader Meets President

Gary Mangum from Bell Nursery, Burtonville, Princess Anneand Suderville, Md., was invited to participate in a chat with President Bushwhile he was visiting a Baltimore area Home Depot store. The discussioninvolved the economy and how it is affecting our industry.

Mangum was asked, along with a select few other people, toconverse with President Bush on stage and camera at a local Home Depot Store.The other members of the panel included Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli, AlisonAnderson (a merchandising manager for Bell Nursery), a local homebuilder, twoHome Depot store managers and a Home Depot employee.

Mangum and the other members made some positive pointsrelated to the industry and how things will be played out for them in thefuture. All of the panel members spoke about their business/jobs and how theyfeel about the economy in general.

Bell Nursery members were able to get a chance to speak tothe president one-on-one about some of the issues as well for about 15 minutesprior to the event on December 5.

Even with the hefty snowstorm in the East, the plants (andthe president) still came in on time, and the poinsettias that were shippedfrom Bell Nurseries to adorn the stage made it through Secret Service withflying colors.

Suntory Sings the Blues

Suntory Ltd. has decided to purchase Australian bioventureFlorigene in order to develop blue carnations. The company is buying 97.1percent of Florigene from its parent company Nufarm Ltd. in hopes to boost itsresearch capabilities.

In 1995, Florigene scientists successfully implanted the “BlueGene,” from a petunia into carnations, creating the very first blue rangecarnation.

Currently, a large amount of the most popular flower species(roses, carnations, gerberas and chrysanthemums) lack the “Blue Gene”to produce any type of blue hues including mauves, blues and purples.

Florigene has annual sales of approximately $2.1 million. In1990 Florigene and Suntory joined forces to develop a blue rose; however, theyhave yet to produce any.

MasterTag Partners with Clarity Connect

Clarity Connect, Inc. (CCI) recently announced that it hasentered into an agreement to develop a new, interactive Web site for MasterTag,Inc. The new site will be maintained by MasterTag and will utilize severalClarity Console content management tools.

The new site will incorporate the MasterTag Label Creatorapplication that allows customers to select various plant tag options andsubmit orders online.

Commenting on the selection of CCI, Gerry Giorgio, creativedirector at MasterTag said, “We worked with Clarity Connect in the past tojointly provide merchandising solutions for companies such as Walter’s Gardensand Grow Native!, a program of the Missouri Department of Conservation. When itwas time to select our Web site developer, CCI was an easy choice. They knowthe industry, and their Web site content management tools make it easy for ourmarketing staff to maintain the site. CCI’s project management system andmethodology are first rate.”

Programs Reduce Illegal Immigration

A study conducted by the National Foundation for AmericanPolicy (NFAP) shows that a functional agricultural guest worker program thatenjoys wide use among employers benefits the entire nation through asignificant reduction in illegal immigration. Examining records from animmigration program that allowed Mexican workers to enter the United States towork in agriculture from 1942-1964, the study clearly refutes immigrationopponent claims that guest worker programs promote illegal immigration.

The study reports the information by identifying a95-percent drop in illegal immigrant apprehensions after the program becamewidely used. An even more shocking fact was shown that apprehensions of illegalimmigrant workers rose 1,000 percent in the years following the end of theprogram.

Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR)supports pending legislation known as the “AGJobs Bill” (S. 1645 andH.R. 3142). This bill is an agreement among worker advocates, agriculturalemployers and labor unions concerned about immigration reform. It streamlineslabor acquisition processing, bases wages on market conditions and grants legalprotections to ensure workers are not exploited. AGJobs also includes a pathfor illegal workers to come out of the shadows and earn permanent legal statusthrough future work and lawful behavior. For more information, go to

Energy Crisis 2003

Energy Bill: Working Out the Kinks

Things are heating up on Capitol Hill over thesoon-to-be-passed Energy Bill. In an effort to help add resources and effectivealternatives to the current energy crisis, the Bush administration recentlyannounced that it is considering a number of options for ending the currentcongressional dispute over methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a controversialgasoline fuel additive that contaminates underground drinking water supplies,and will try to pass a $31 billion energy bill early next year, according toReuters.

In the final days before the winter recess, the Senate putthe bill on hold because of a provision that would protect oil companies thatmake MTBE from lawsuits. Members blocked the vote because they feared the billwould unfairly protect the producers of MTBE, according to Reuters. Currently,a number of states are working on phasing out the additive because there havebeen a number of lawsuits regarding the topic.

The administration is trying to find ways to remedy thisproblem in order to get successful passage of the bill when Congress returns inlate January. The House has already passed the bill, so it is now left in thehands of the Senate.

The bill was two votes shy of passing in late November, notbeing able to get the necessary 60 votes from the 100-member Senate to end thedebate on the legislation and take a final vote.

There are still a number of concerns regarding the bill,including the high price of the energy bill, which includes around $25 billionin tax breaks and incentives for increased production of oil, natural gas,coal, nuclear power and renewable energy.

However, in another recent Reuters report, the GOP Leader ispredicting that the bill will pass without a need to strip out vital provisionslike ethanol incentives and power grid reliability.

Look for more updates in the coming months on how this billis doing.

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Catherine Evans

Catherine Evans is an associate editor of GPN.

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