Handpicked for You™

Having never been a fan of “plant guarantees”, there is a new idea on the horizon that I feel will help bridge the gap of a plant’s success, one that the customer and merchant are so desperately looking for. Acknowledging that there is an overabundance of new plants being thrust into the market place, Handpicked for You® (HPFY®) is a new idea that is now out of its embryonic stages.
Handpicked for You® is a Trust Mark, reassuring the customer that their plant selection will be successful in their garden. The idea, much the same way Good Housekeeping and UL (Underwriters Laboratories) test their products and certify them to be trusted, HPFY® is assuring gardeners that these plants, in fact, stand out from the overwhelming choices in the market place. This is an independent collaboration of retailers, growers and breeders put in motion by some of the country’s top growers. The group, SynRG™, includes five wholesale nurseries: New Jersey’s Overdevest Nurseries, Virginia’s Saunders Brothers, Ohio’s Willoway Nurseries, Connecticut’s Prides Corner Farms and Ontario’s Sheridan Nurseries. The goal for all of them is, quite simply, to show their continued dedication to the independent garden center. Out to identify and introduce the absolute best, tested and most trusted new plants in the industry, this is not another new branding program. Rather a certification program that buyers can depend on. It positions the IGC (independent garden center) as your trusted plant experts all the while overcoming the consumer’s apprehension associated with their overwhelming choices today. Many of us in the industry identify with the sometimes redundancy of plant material and can only imagine the confusion, at times, customers have.
The selection criteria not only amounts to plants performing well, it goes beyond that. Plants are being tested regionally for their success and older varieties are not exempt from this list of winners. The core performance criteria identify low maintenance plants, those with foliage and bloom interest, heat and cold tolerance, disease resistance, non-invasive, and ease of producing to name just a few. Trialing plant material in all settings, production, landscape and retail, the goal is to identify the best of the best and help everyone garden with confidence. Interestingly and appropriately, certain plant material may receive the HPFY® certification in one state and not another. Why, because crape myrtle simply doesn’t perform as well in the north as it does in the south. However, “new genetics are the adrenalin of our industry”, says Ed Overdevest, president of Overdevest Nurseries (www.nurserymag.com) and perhaps new varieties of Lagerstroemia, that are “hardier”, are on the horizon?
One of the top growers in our country, Saunders Brothers, is trialing a group of plants that everyone in New Jersey and beyond should be grateful for… boxwood! Significant efforts are underway to try and selectively “breed out”, if you will, boxwood blight and leaf miner. The combined efforts and knowledge of Saunders Brothers and Kelly Ivor, previously with North Carolina State University and now Cal Poly, their research speaks directly to the most significant issues facing boxwood today. Additionally, SynRG™ is working towards marketing virtually sterile forms of Barberry, a contentious topic in the industry today. An exclusive marketing agreement between SynRG™ and Mark Brand, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Connecticut, Storrs may help resurrect Barberry sales now prohibited in many states.
So, by now you should be asking which plants have already made the list? There are a number of “Tried & True” plants many of you will be familiar with. ‘Green Velvet’ Boxwood, ‘Ivory Halo’ Redtwig Dogwood, ‘Nikko’ Deutzia, Siberian Cypress and ‘Magic Carpet’ Spiraea are just a few of my personal favorites that have made the list. I’m sure everyone will also be happy to know that ‘Green Giant’ Arborvitae also made the list given its recent, and much deserved, rise to stardom. Herbaceous plants are not to be outdone, a few of the best include: ‘Visions’ Astilbe, ‘Jack Frost’ Brunnera, the ever architectural grass ‘Karl Foerster’, ‘All Gold’ Japanese Forest Grass, ‘Patriot’ Hosta and ‘Rocketman’ Russian Sage all affirm my beliefs.
As for the latest and greatest varieties to make the list, 2018 should be the inaugural year for HPFY® and retail sales. For now, a select group of garden centers are testing the waters with Certified Handpicked for You™ tags. Information is being collected, and tests are being done; both on the shelf in garden centers and in the garden beds of consumers. Sustainability and success are the primary goals for HPFY® and perhaps this new era in plant marketing will blur the lines of success and guarantees.