It’s Meeting Season

Just flew in from Miami and boy are my arms tired – rim shot.  Seriously, I just returned for the annual meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) in Miami.  Always good to wander the halls and renew old acquaintances and take in the latest in Hort science.  Judging by the posters and talks here are some of the hot topics at this year’s ASHS meeting.

Horticultural applications of Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are receiving a lot of attention these days.  There are a couple of reasons for this. One, costs of LEDs are decreasing as manufacturing becomes more efficient.  Two, LED’s can be built to generate specific wavelengths of lights.  As many folks learned in biology, plants only use specific wavelengths during photosynthesis.  Therefore LED’s can be used to only produce the light energy that plants need for photosynthesis – this can greatly increase energy efficiency.  Aslo, incandescent light bulbs are being phased out of production.  Old fashioned bulbs are not very efficient (they yield about 10% of energy used as light) but the light they do produce is effective for things like phot- period lighting (i.e., daylight extension for greenhouse crops).  Since LED’s can be designed to reproduce the same wavelengths using much less energy, they may ultimately be a good substitute for incandescent bulbs.

High tunnels

Lots of interest these days in ‘high tunnels’ for fruit and vegetable production.  These are not full-blown greenhouses but simply tall hoop-house structures big enough to grow fruit trees inside.  One of the main benefits is season extension; allowing fruit or vegetable harvests earlier or later in the season than would be possible otherwise.  This is especially important when we consider the local food movement for colder climates.  There are also other, less obvious, benefits such as eliminating cracking of cherries due to rainfall.

Sensor-based irrigation systems

A hot topic, especially for the nursery crowd.  There have been rapid advances in the reliability of capacitance probes and while costs are decreasing.  In addition, there have been advances in wireless control systems.  There are still challenges for nursery growers that have to deal with a diverse array of crop types and container sizes but researchers are definitely on the path of developing sensor-based systems that will automatically turn irrigation on and off in response to real-time soil moisture measurements.  This will help to optimize plant growth while minimizing potential leaching of nutrients and chemicals.   

New and/or interesting plants/stuff

Worst post title, ever. Sorry. 

Attended the bazillionth annual OFA "The Association For Horticulture Professionals" Short Course in Columbus, Ohio last week. It’s a huge 1500-booth trade show with educational session featuring 150+ speakers. Of which I was one.  The focus used to be strictly floriculture, but has expanded to include some woodies plus lots of garden center items and marketing options. This a "wholesale" show – attendees are mostly growers who purchase propagative materials to grow on and sell to consumers.  It’s always interesting to see what’s out there…here’s a few things that caught my attention:

Sedum ‘Maestro’ from Proven Winners. They’re expanding their perennial offerings a bit, and this looks yummy.  Dark foliage and very intriguing bud/flower color combo:

Every company has loads of petunia and calibrachoa in every shade imaginable. Some new introductions are notable for their subtle, almost vintage shades.  All of these would be fun for combination planters:

‘Glow Mocca’ from the Dutch firm Florensis, now a partner with Ball Horticulture. Closest thing to a black and white petunia (or any flower, for that matter) I’ve seen.  So new it’s not in a catalog. This little photo doesn’t do them justice.

‘Suncatcher Vintage Rose’ from Ball FloraPlant.  I’m not a pink petunia person (certainly wouldn’t admit to it, anyway) but the soft rose shades and neat, small flowers were lovely.

Weird lighting in their booth makes this Ball introduction ‘Pink Suncatcher’ much more yellow than it really is – more of a straw yellow with pinkish margins.

Enough with the subtle:

This new Ecke/Dummen poinsettia didn’t catch my eyes as much as claw them out.  ‘Luv U Pink’ is indeed screaming pink, which sounds gross but actually looked pretty cool with some of lime green decor around it (kind of preppy). The distinctive small overlapping bracts are because it’s not a straight-up poinsettia, rather a hybrid with some other Euphorbia species (secret recipe!).

This fluffy ornamental kale ‘Glamour Red’ is from American Takii – an AAS award winner, grown from seed. You  just want to grab it and floof the foliage with both hands. Or maybe that was just me.  Proof that kale can be both glamorous AND delicious…

More floofiness: Dianthus ‘Green Ball.’  From Ball, of course.  An apetalous mutant for every garden!

In the "stuff" department, saw the usual assortment of greenhouse equipment, garden center supplies, etc. with one notable exception: the infiltrations of Fairies. Fairy Garden decor was everywhere.  I must have missed this memo:

Hardscaping including pavers and fences; patio furniture, trellises, etc. At least you don’t need a truckload of gravel and an entire weekend to lay a fairy patio.

Fairy plants. Especially selected for…teensyness? There really was no rhyme or reason. Just a different (and named) fairy on each tag (collect ’em all!).  My Little Pony meets Horticulture.

Here’s a completed fairy garden. That’s a container of Fairy Dust on the table. I think it’s the same as stripper glitter, just in a much smaller jar.  Missing from this tableaux? Two tiny martini glasses.

Hope you enjoyed your brief whirl through the tradeshow!