This year's Ohio Florists' Association trade
show was, as usual, a mind-boggling mix of new crops and production technology.
The educational program was stuffed with great speakers, and I admire anyone
who can attend this event, walk the show and attend the educational programs
without being reduced to a twitching mass of over-stimulated nerve endings.
This is a great show to see almost everything in our industry on display.
However, after seeing so many booths it really takes something different to catch
my eye and make me stop to really study what is being displayed.
This year there were a couple of booths with something
really different and off the map in terms of crops. Okay, I'll admit it
-- these are two crops we are working on in Florida, and I found out
someone had already beaten us to the punch! This is great news, because these
wonderful plants -- Lachenalia and Scutellaria -- hold excellent
potential to become high-profit specialty items that are not difficult to
Vosbol international's booth at Ohio show was full of
only one crop: a little-known and completely underused flowering bulb. I had
heard of Lachenalia for years, but this was the first time I had actually seen
it in flower and available for commercial production, and I think it offers a
great market niche for U.S. growers.
Lachenalia are from the cool regions of South Africa and
resemble the Dutch hyacinth in flower shape and form, but are quite different
and really striking. If you are looking for a flowering bulb that your
customers will never have seen before that is both exotic and extremely
colorful, this crop might just be for you.
Unlike the typical spring bulbs we force every year, this
crop does not need the long cooling periods of the Dutch hyacinth. In fact,
with proper scheduling this bulb can be produced right through summer as long
as the nights remain cool in your production facility. If you have been
avoiding bulb production because of the equipment needed to do it right, you might
consider this crop, which can be grown on benchtops from planting to sale.
The flowers, resembling the better-known Dutch hybrid
hyacinth, are not as stiff or solid in texture, and the individual flowers hang
slightly downward and do not flare like the Dutch types. These are not as
fragrant as Dutch hyacinth either, so don?t expect that strong perfume
when the plants flower. Cultivars come in jeweled tones of yellow, orange, red
and a bright purple to blue. The foliage is spotted or striped with purple tones,
and the whole effect is very exotic. Plants range in size from 6-12 inches and
leaves are from 6-10 inches in length.
The 'African Beauty' series, from Vosbol,
currently has eight colors. The most vigorous are the yellow and gold-toned
flowers, but look for those that have purple markings and purple-toned buds, as
they are more striking on the shelf or bench. Yellow-flowering forms include
'Fransie', 'Namakwa', 'Ronina' and
'Romaud'. Golden-toned hybrids like 'Rolina' and
'Romelia' have buds in purple to red tones that open gold.
Red-flowered 'Robijn' is very striking, but the show-stopper is the
blue-purple-toned 'Rupert' (although this cultivar is also not
quite as strong as the yellow cultivars).
For frost-free regions, these bulbs can also be grown
outdoors and perform beautifully in sunny, protected locations. They will
eventually settle into a winter flowering pattern, although flowering will
always be a little difficult to predict. They are still a definite option for
specialty landscape use as well.
This group of plants is going to be a huge crop someday.
They are much like snapdragons, but with much greater heat tolerance, an equal
variety of colors and forms, and species produced by either seed or cuttings
for the commercial market. Skull cap, the common name for this group, is not
exactly an encouraging title, but it has to do with the shape of the flower and
nothing more threatening than that. This genus of plants is also growing in
popularity as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments. With the boost
Echinacea got from herbal uses, there is potential for this group to come on
There are a lot of different Scutellaria on the market,
although you will have to look fairly hard to find them. They are available in
specialty seed catalogs, from native plant suppliers, and very few have made it
into the commercial market. Below is a short list of different skull caps you
may want to try out in your nursery.
Seed-produced types. Look in specialty seed catalogs for
Scutellaria baicalensis (pale blue to deep blue flowers) and Scutellaria
'Oriental Sun' (bright yellow spikes of half-inch flowers). Also,
never underestimate your local wildflower or native plant suppliers for annual
varieties that are best-suited to your area.
Vegetative types. The most common hybrids I have seen are
'Purple and Pink Fountains', two trailing forms with intense purple
or fuchsia-pink blooms. They are great mixed container plants and also make
good hanging basket plants. Another great skull cap is Scutellaria formosana,
which has gray-green foliage with royal blue, 1-inch flowers on 3- to 6-inch
spikes. It is evergreen in frost-free climates, and hardy to USDA Zone 6B.
Another vegetative type that was on display in the Greenex booth
at the OFA trade show was Scutellaria costa-ricana. This is a plant we have
been working with in Florida because it is a hardy perennial in USDA Zones 9B
and higher and because of its incredible flowering potted plant potential.
Instead of a long, thin spike of flowers, this Scutellaria holds the spike
straight up, and it is shaped like a small torch. My description of this plant
has always been that it looks like someone lit the tips of the stems on fire
when it is in flower. The 1- to 1.5-inch flowers are packed into a 4- to 5-inch
spike with each flower changing to orange or yellow at the tip, just like a lit
match. This is a really great plant and can be grown in either a 5- to 6-inch
pot as a flowering crop (that can be planted outside for the rest of the
season), or produced as a 4-inch color item for use in mixed containers or sale
as a specialty annual.
The best part about what Greenex was offering is that there
has only been one color of this species available up until now. The new
releases come in a range of colors, from white ('Flamingo') to
yellow-orange ('Flame'), deep orange ('Barbarry') and
red ('Scarlett'), all with dark green foliage and a good branching
I think this crop has potential for spring and summer color
production, and also into other seasons as a flowering potted plant. I have
been able to flower the crop in winter in Florida. I highly recommend you give
this one a try!
The Ohio Short Course trade show never fails to impress with