NEWS on the GROW

January 22, 2004 - 12:32

Perennial Plant of the Year Named

The Perennial Plant Association has named Athyrium
niponicum
'Pictum' as the 2004 Perennial
Plant of the Year.

This low-maintenance Japanese painted fern is a showy fern for
shade gardens. It is popular because of its hardiness nearly everywhere in the
United 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 it
multiplies. It produces 12- to 18-inch fronds that are a light shade of
metallic silver gray with a hint of red and blue. It prefers partial to full
shade and works best in combination planters and landscape beds.

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

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

For more information visit www.perennialplant.org. You can
also find production information by Paul Pilon in the September 2003 issue of
GPN.

Lawn & Garden Retailer and GCA Launch Retail Pack Trial Tour

Two of the industry's leading advocates have joined forces
to offer independent garden centers the unique opportunity to view new plant
materials and be in the forefront of bringing these new products to the
consumer. "The Inaugural Lawn & Garden Retailer/Garden Centers of
America Pack Trial Tour" is the first of its kind to be offered to Garden
Centers of America (GCA) members. Lawn & Garden Retailer is the sister
publication of GPN.

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

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

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

Mum Partnership Turns Heads

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

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

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

GPN CEO Passes Away

Halbert "Hal" Scranton Gillette, 81, chairman of
the 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 battle
with prostate cancer.

Born in Chicago, Ill., June 29, 1922, the son of Edward
Scranton Gillette and Claribel Reed Thornton was raised in Chicago and
Winnetka, Ill.

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

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

He was chairman of the board and CEO of Scranton Gillette
Communications, Inc., which specializes in trade magazines and was founded in
1906 by his grandfather. Mr. Gillette started as a salesman for Gillette
Publishing in 1947. In 1960, two-thirds of Gillette Publishing Co. was sold to
Reuben H. Donnelley, which then merged with Dun & Bradstreet. Mr. Gillette
also moved to Donnelley/Dun & Bradstreet as a publisher and a vice
president. In 1970, he rejoined his father's firm, then Scranton Publishing
Company, and shortly become president of the firm, which was renamed Scranton
Gillette Communications.

Mr. Gillette served as past president of the Chicago
Business 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 1979-1986
and on the Public Safety and Waterfront committees. He was co-chairman of the
committee 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 perennials
exporter Darwin Plants, "Distinctly-Different," has now been re-named
Darwin PlantSpotters.

Due to hit retail stores in Spring 2004, the Darwin
PlantSpotters label will appear on up to 15 varieties of perennials, each
selected for its unique qualities and limited availability. Every plant sold
comes with an individually numbered certificate of authenticity and an
introduction to the hybridizer who discovered it.

In addition to this, the brand's Web site,
www.plantspotters.com, will go live at the end of March 2004 and will serve as
a comprehensive guide to the program. Detailed growing advice; history of how
the plants came into being; and hybridiser biographies will be featured
alongside the latest news stories about new plants being discovered, with many
opportunities for consumers to post their own comments and swap ideas with
other gardening enthusiasts from around the world. Darwin PlantSpotters
launches simultaneously in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and
Republic of Ireland, but the Web site will be accessible worldwide. For more
information go to www.darwinplants.com.

FloraStar Adds to Board of Directors

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

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

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

*                     Bob
Humm 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 TradeWinds
Hibiscus brand and is serving as a member of The Flower Fields brand.

*                     Geoff
Needham is the founder of PlantHaven, Inc., Santa Barbara, Calif., an
independent licensing and marketing agency that manages the introduction of new
varieties of patented garden and landscape plants to North America and overseas
for plant breeders worldwide.

*                     Mark
Wilson, Ball FloraPlant, West Chicago, Ill., is involved with the company's
product evaluation teams. He is a graduate of University of Florida and has
extensive trialing knowledge. Mark has strong industry and product knowledge
and, at one time, was the youngest judge for All America Selections when he
worked 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 commuter
rail line to shut down for a while.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer style='font-style:normal'>, the fire broke out a little after 1 p.m. at the
Pennock Wholesale Florist warehouse, which is a major supplier for Philadelphia
florists. According to the Executive Fire Chief, no one was injured.

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

Also according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, few customers
were inside the warehouse when the incident happened because the wholesaler is
at its busiest early in the morning.

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

Industry Leader Meets President

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

Mangum was asked, along with a select few other people, to
converse 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, Alison
Anderson (a merchandising manager for Bell Nursery), a local homebuilder, two
Home Depot store managers and a Home Depot employee.

Mangum and the other members made some positive points
related to the industry and how things will be played out for them in the
future. All of the panel members spoke about their business/jobs and how they
feel about the economy in general.

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

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

Suntory Sings the Blues

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

In 1995, Florigene scientists successfully implanted the "Blue
Gene," from a petunia into carnations, creating the very first blue range
carnation.

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. In
1990 Florigene and Suntory joined forces to develop a blue rose; however, they
have yet to produce any.

MasterTag Partners with Clarity Connect

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

The new site will incorporate the MasterTag Label Creator
application that allows customers to select various plant tag options and
submit orders online.

Commenting on the selection of CCI, Gerry Giorgio, creative
director at MasterTag said, "We worked with Clarity Connect in the past to
jointly provide merchandising solutions for companies such as Walter's Gardens
and Grow Native!, a program of the Missouri Department of Conservation. When it
was time to select our Web site developer, CCI was an easy choice. They know
the industry, and their Web site content management tools make it easy for our
marketing staff to maintain the site. CCI's project management system and
methodology are first rate."

Programs Reduce Illegal Immigration

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

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

Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR)
supports pending legislation known as the "AGJobs Bill" (S. 1645 and
H.R. 3142). This bill is an agreement among worker advocates, agricultural
employers and labor unions concerned about immigration reform. It streamlines
labor acquisition processing, bases wages on market conditions and grants legal
protections to ensure workers are not exploited. AGJobs also includes a path
for illegal workers to come out of the shadows and earn permanent legal status
through future work and lawful behavior. For more information, go to href="http://www.anla.org/">www.anla.org.

Energy Crisis 2003

Energy Bill: Working Out the Kinks 

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

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

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

The bill was two votes shy of passing in late November, not
being able to get the necessary 60 votes from the 100-member Senate to end the
debate 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 billion
in 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 is
predicting that the bill will pass without a need to strip out vital provisions
like ethanol incentives and power grid reliability.

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

About The Author

Catherine Evans is an associate editor of GPN.

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