NEWS on the GROW By Catherine Evans

Darwin Plants Offers New Marketing Program

Darwin Plants introduces a new branding and marketingprogram, Distinctly-Different, for new and unusual perennials. Special pottags, bencher talkers/cards and posters will be provided to promote the plants,along with a dedicated Web site that provides customers with extensiveinformation about plants in the program, including growing tips from thehybridiser and the opportunity to take part in discussions. The program isdesigned to appeal to gardening enthusiasts interested in new and unusualvarieties.

Coming to retail in spring 2004, Distinctly-Different willinitially be comprised of 15 varieties. These will be reviewed annually andchanged according to their suitability to the program. In order to qualify asDistinctly-Different, plants will have to have at least one uniquecharacteristic and be available in limited quantities.

The 2004 selections include :

Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Summer Sorbet’ Heuchera’Swirling Fantasy’

Delphinium ‘Coral Sunset’ Hosta’Christmas Candy’

Delphinium ‘Delft Blue’ Ligularia’Laternchen’

Echinacea purpurea ‘Razzmatazz’ Phlox’Fancy Feelings’

Echinacea purpurea ‘Vintage Wine’ Phlox’Goldmine’

Euphorbia ‘Mini Martini’ Phlox’Natural Feelings’

Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ Tradescantia’Pink Chablis’

Geum ‘Flames of Passion’

The Web site,, will be onlinein time for the start of the spring 2004 sales period. It will provideopportunities for browsers to post their own comments to published articles,and purchasers of Distinctly-Different varieties will be able to register theirplant’s serial number, enabling them to be listed on the sight as adistributor.

New Gene Could Produce Drought-Resistant Plants

Purdue University researchers may have found a gene thatwill help with the creation of drought-resistant plants. This gene controlsproduction of a plant’s outermost protective coating. Scientists have clonedthe gene, called WAX2; it was discovered as a fast-wilting mutant ofarabidopsis, a plant used commonly in experimentation.

The gene is directly associated with the synthesis of thecuticle, protective layer and contained waxes, of the plant. The mutatedarabidopsis gene has a different cuticle structure than is found in theunmutated gene. Researchers believe that if they can alter the new gene theymight be able to produce a cuticle much thicker and more rigid, making it lesspermeable to water loss, allowing plants to be able to survive in droughtconditions.

Currently, the research results are positive. However,researchers are still in the learning stages, meaning it will take some timebefore the results tell whether the gene will be successful or not.

NENA Gets a New President

Jeff Huntington, co-owner of Pleasant View Gardens, Loudon,N.H., was recently named president of the New England Nursery Association(NENA). Huntington was first elected as the New Hampshire Representative to theboard of NENA in 1983 and is also the former NENA Treasurer.Huntington has also worked on the StateAssociation Leadership and New England Nursery and Landscape CertificationCouncil and is the chair of the Summer Expo 2003 committee.

Huntington participates in the New Hampshire Plant GrowersAssociation (NHPGA) and the ANLA, where he helped bring the annual nationalconvention to Boston for 2003. He has also been instrumental in serving as aliaison between the NHPGA and the University of New Hampshire CooperativeExtension Service.

Huntington and his family are heavily involved in runningthe family’s greenhouse business, Pleasant View Gardens. Pleasant View Gardensis a producer of Proven Winners and Proven Selections young plants, as well asa supplier of finished plants.

Companies Discuss Clean Stock Programs

Members of the Geranium Bacterial Disease ControlInitiative, who represent Ball FloraPlant, Fischer USA, Goldsmith Plants andOglevee, recently had a two-day meeting with USDA APHIS to discuss a permanentclean stock program for their plants. The program would allow inspecting andcertifying geranium cuttings from overseas production sites. This program wasoriginally initiated in April 2002, but the efforts to develop the program weredelayed by the quarantine and eradication efforts of the recent Ralstoniainfestation. Currently, SAF and ANLA are lobbying members of Congress forfinancial assistance for growers that are forced to destroy plant materialaffected by diseases.

Agriculture Summary Includes Floriculture

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has recentlyreleased the 2002 Floriculture Crops Summary results, stating that the totalcrop value for wholesale for growers with $10,000 or more in sales is estimatedat approximately $4.9 billion, which is up 2 percent from 2001.

According to the summary, California is the leadingproduction state, with crops valued at $962 million ? with a decrease of4 percent from 2001. However, Florida makes up the 4 percent decline with $877million in wholesale. Florida and California account for 38 percent of thetotal value. Other states in the running are Michigan, Texas and Ohio; alongwith California and Florida, they make up approximately $2.6 billion, which is54 percent of the total value.

The number of growers for 2002 was at 10,216, which is 8percent less than 2001 at 11,081. The amount of growers with sales of $100,000or more decreased to 4,612 from 4,738 in 2001. Growing operations with reportedsales of $20,000-49,999 increased while all other-size groups decreased.

The total growing area for 2002is reported to be at 911 million sq.ft., making it 1 percentless than 2001. Greenhouse space for 2002 accounts for 58 percent of the totalcovered area with 531 million sq.ft., which is close to the same estimates fromthe previous year. However, plastic film structures are up 1 percent, to 368million sq.ft.; fiberglass and other rigid plastic covers are down 5 percent;and glass greenhouse areas are also down 1 percent compared to 2001. Shade andtemporary cover constitute the remaining 380 million sq.ft. of covered area,down 3 percent. Open ground totals are 36,906 acres, increasing 4 percent overthe 2001 total.

It should be remembered that these numbers represent onlypart of the total U.S. floriculture industry, as surveys are not distributed inall 50 states.

New Aphid Found in Florida

Lance Osborne, an entomologist at the University ofFlorida/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, reports a new Asianspecies of aphid discovered on Ficus sp. in March 2003. The aphid is aGreenidea ficicola Takahashi, Family Aphididae. The new aphid was identified bySusan Halbert (Division of Plant Industry at the University of Florida).

One of the identifying characteristics of this aphid is longsiphunculi (cornicles), which are the tubular structures on each side of theabdominal tergum V or VI. Currently, there is not enough information on thepest to draw any conclusions about its significance in the industry. However,according to Osborne, with the recent introduction of pink hibiscus mealybugand a few other insects that are more damaging, preliminary readings on theaphid do not seem to be a major issue in the industry. For more information, goto the University of Florida’s Pest Alert Web site at:

ANLA Heads Up Letter Writing Campaign

More than 80 organizations representing labor-intensiveagriculture operations across the country came together to send a letter toHouse Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), urging his supportfor comprehensive and bipartisan reform of the U.S. agricultural labor policy.People signing the letter represent the U.S. producers of fruits, vegetables,grain, fiber, poultry and livestock, dairy, nursery and greenhouse, turfgrassand Christmas tree crops.

Approximately 70 percent of these industries’ labor forcesis working in the United States without proper work authorization, according toBob Vice, past president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers andco-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR). Vise alsoadds, “To make matters worse, the 50-year-old ‘H-2A’ agricultural guestworker program is inefficient, unpredictable and unaffordable, which deprivesproducers of a functional way to source legal workers when insufficientdomestic workers are available to meet seasonal needs.”

A coalition of agricultural groups has been working withfarm worker representatives over the past few years to come up with acomprehensive bipartisan approach to reforming the ç labor problem. Thecoalition is now seeking leadership and cooperation from members of Congress toenact legislation that would achieve some objectives. Included in the new modelis giving experienced agricultural workers who pose no security threat aone-time opportunity to become documented and earn permanent resident statusover a period of 3-6 years. This would require workers to commit to future workin agriculture as a condition to eventual permanent legal status.

Hicks Nurseries Ranks 71

As Hicks Nurseries marks its 150th anniversary this year,Family Business magazine announced that the Westbury, N.Y., business is the71st oldest family company in the United States and surpassed by only threeothers in the New York metropolitan area. (The others include : Contigroup,global agribusiness; Henry W. T. Mali and Company, billiards fabrics; and Mager& Gougelman, manufacturers of artificial eyes and limbs.)

The magazine compiled a list of 102 companies that haveremained owned and operated by the same family since at least 1865, and in somecases back as far as the early 17th century. All have operated for at leastfive generations, and some have a lot more behind them. Hicks Nurseries is inits sixth generation of family ownership, with Stephen Hicks as the currentvice president of operations.

International Horti Fair Adds to 2003 Show

Extra activities and new pavilions are expected to increasethe attractiveness of the International Horti Fair to be held November 5-8 inAmsterdam. In 2002, 55,000 people attended the show, and 40 percent of themcame from more than 50 countries.

One of the new activities for 2003 is the InternationalCongress on Greenhouse Technologies, Horticulture and Floriculture. Thistwo-day congress aims particularly at foreign entrepreneurs in horticulture.The first day of the session will be focused on the greenhouse technologyaspect in different climatic zones in the world. The second day will entail twosessions about floriculture and horticulture with an emphasis on marketingstrategies that are used to put products and services on the market.

Another new project has to do with additions to the House ofPlants. The exhibit will include a number of new plants. On the first day ofthe show, there will be an Innovation Award, granted by an international panel,given to the most promising novelties entered.

The Horti Fair is expecting a strong year for 2003, judgingfrom the current amount of registrations that have been coming in. A number ofpeople from the packing companies in ornamental plant cultivation, theassociated supply industry and trade, and the technology sector of the industryare already showing a strong presence in the registration tallies.

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