. . . with pretty little packages all in a row

More and more of you may notice that the perennials and annuals you buy are more compact in the cell packs and pots. This is due to a recent rise in the use of plant growth regulators (PGR). I am not sure what the long-term effects of these will be but I refuse to use them in my productions. I think these growth retardants give you, the consumer, a false impression of how the plants will perform in your garden. Recently I found Tricyrtis hirta being sold in 5?h pots that were only a few inches tall yet blooming. Yes, they look wonderful in these tight bun-shaped plants. But little does the consumer know that when the chemicals that control their growth no longer are in control, they will revert to their normal habit. Currently there are fairly heated discussions in the plant production industries regarding their use. The following is a comment in one of trade journals by Todd Davis, Editor of Nursery Management & Production, October 2001.
Let’s say a customer buys one of these plants, puts it in her yard and it looks great. Now fast forward a month or so. The flowers are gone and the plant hasn’t grown any. The customer reads on the tag the plant should grow 2 feet high, but it’s nowhere near that. They begin adding fertilizer regularly in attempts to generate some growth, but that doesn’t work. In the end, they probably over fertilize and kill it.

We’re also giving a false impression of what these plants really looks like. Let’s say this person’s plant lives through winter. In spring it’s going to come back and be its old gangly self again and the customer’s going to wonder what they did wrong.       

Forcing perennials is one thing, but this is another. Tricking plants to bloom a month or so early never really bothered me because I don’t think most consumers care. I think they will care, however, when their plant don’t grow or when they reveal their true, un-PGR-ed selves. To sum it all up, `It’s the pretty package we look for first’. If that is how you continue to shop for plants, I firmly believe you will be more and more disappointed. I try to keep chemical use in my nursery at a minimum. We would rather have a few chewed leaves then apply chemicals everywhere to control everything. My nursery is located next to the beautiful marshlands on the east side of McFarland. I don’t wish to pollute this beautiful area with heavy uses of PGRs and other chemicals. Ask the nursery if they use PGRs or any other chemicals on their plants. Then you can make an informed decision on what and if you buy.

originally published 2002 V16 #1

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