Issue #138 June 2021
June 2021
What a Difference a Year Makes... and Doesn’t

Growers are always looking ahead and counting backwards, from finished goal date to mandatory start date. And checking the rear-view is always a good idea, whether you’re plotting a business plan, playing Let’s Beat Last Year! or driving the Interstate. But don’t get obsessed with the mirror: There’s a reason the windshield is bigger.
DOWN ON THE FARMS
Florida
A year ago, This Space waxed enthusiastic about our New Catalog!!! This year? Ditto! The 2021-2022 version will be coming soon – i.e., next month, as usual -- to a mailbox near you. As usual, we’ve added a great variety of great varieties – over 50 brand spankin’ new, minty-fresh line items, including three genera not in our current book. And unlike last year, it looks like we’ll be able to hand it out at Cultivate ’21 in Columbus next month! For more on what’s new, see What’s New!!! below. 
Pennsylvania
ECG North is where we grow our cool-season grasses, like Festuca ‘Cool as Ice’, ready as I type, and like a new batch of Bouteloua ‘Blonde Ambition’ coming due later this very month. Don’t wait for that high-demand item to hit the “Trays Now” column on Availability! It tends to get gobbled up before it gets there.
Festuca ‘Cool as Ice’
Bouteloua ‘Blonde Ambition’
It's time again to remind you of two things: (1) Customers in or near the MidAtlantic region can pick up at Lancaster, PA and pay no freight on liners, wherever they were grown. And (B) When you come to pick up, take a stroll through our trial garden for a sneak peek at future offerings. 
The ECG Trial Gardens in Lancaster, PA
ROCK STAR 
Our Rock Star award honors ECG employees who demonstrate a sustained high level of performance and inspire others. This month’s winner: Assistant grower Luis Villarreal.

If there’s a common thread connecting our Rock Star winners, it’s this: They all have a “Can do” attitude, and a “Whatever it takes” work ethic. Luis is no exception.
Our April champion scored a first: He was praised by a peer for worn-out teeth -- not in his smile, but on the equipment he works to its limits, tirelessly trimming and maintaining our crops and fields. 

Luis first came to ECG in 2005. He lives onsite at our Pensacola location with his wife and two daughters, allowing him to keep an eye on things and to handle many off-hours tasks in and around the greenhouses – a win-win. Here’s what his peers had to say about him.

“I nominate Luis Villarreal this month. He is always available for onsite, after-hours assistance. He has been there to help with off-schedule truck unloads and as a crucial helper for greenhouse covering.”

“I choose Luis Villarreal because he is always working hard, watering and trimming, and is always here taking care of the plants.”

“Luis Villarreal has shown great attitude and willingness to take care of anything that needs to be done. He takes on many plant care projects on his own and provides great support, location checks and communication, on weekends and around the clock. He’s worn out many teeth on the gas shears keeping the lower houses and field grasses maintained!”

“What can you say about Luis? When you need someone you can rely on, he’s your man.”

Congratulations, Luis, and our sincere thanks for a job, or rather multiple jobs, well done! You rock!
WHAT'S NEW!!! 
This Space lacks space to brag about all 50+ newcomers, so feast your eyes on a few highlights:

Schizachyrium Shining Star (‘ECGSS’) PPAF: This brightly variegated “little bluestem” is our own selection/introduction. Several years of observation in FL and PA proves it’ll thrive in very different climates and soils. Catch a Shining Star!
Schizachyrium Shining Star
Artemisia gmelinii SunFern Arcadia PPAF & SunFern Olympia PPAF: An interesting newcomer to the popular wormwood genus, A. gmellinii is a herbaceous perennial that looks like an evergreen shrub.
Height 14 – 18”. Hardy in Zones 4 – 9.
SunFernArcadia
SunFernOlympia
Echinacea ‘Yellow Rainbow Marcella’ PPAF: The latest addition to the nifty, compact, heavy-flowering Butterfly series. 
Echinacea ‘Yellow Rainbow Marcella’
FOREVER YOUNG
When a valuable, long-term team member calls it a career, it always brings mixed emotions. This month, we congratulate Gwen Young, perennial production supervisor, on her retirement, and we thank her, sincerely, for more than two decades of dedicated service to Emerald Coast Growers.

Gwen Young came on board in 1999, when ECG purchased the greenhouses where she worked. Quickly parlaying her horticultural experience to meet new challenges in perennial production, Gwen oversaw the care and proper planting of both in-house cuttings and incoming URCs.

When we consolidated production into a new, larger range in 2019, she helped smooth the transition. A change in location isn’t simply a matter of moving material. The modern facility created an opportunity for more efficient, streamlined product flow, which Gwen helped establish. She received a loyalty appreciation award that year.

“We will miss Gwen’s presence around the greenhouses.” said President Paul Babikow. “We all wish her nothing but happiness in her retirement years.”
TRAY BON!
Platycodon grandiflora ‘Astra Blue’ “Balloon Flower”

Here’s a plant that’s fun for all ages. Growers and gardeners love the cornflower blue hue, as close to true blue as a perennial gets. And your customers’ customers’ kids will love popping the inflated buds of this cheerful sun/shade tolerant border beauty.

Don’t stop ‘em, let ‘em pop ‘em! Having fun in the garden helps bring them back. A few burst buds is a small price to pay for new gardeners. Think of it as a tiny investment in the green industry’s future.

‘Astra Blue’ features oversized blooms and a low, compact habit. It’s a fine addition to the front edge or second row of the garden, and equally effective in mixed containers. With a little dead-heading, flowering lasts up to two months! Height: 8 – 10”. Hardy in Zones 4 – 9.
The Game of the Name:

The botanical name is rooted in two Greek words: Platys, broad, and kodon, bell. The ancient Greeks had no word for “balloon,” since that now-familiar toy’s invention lay centuries in the future. So grow a cool perennial, grow a toy, grow a gardener! Pop all you want. We’ll sow more.
EPILOGUE
The cracked, murky rear-view view that was 2020 bears a singular distinction: Life-wise, it’s a year we want to forget. Business-wise, it’s one we’d love to reiterate. Stuck at home, quarantining (i.e., stir-crazy) people turned to the earth, to the garden. The green industry was there for them, keeping body and soul serene and well-nourished. Hard times are good times for growers, because we’re a source of solace in hard times.

We were here helping you help your customers, helping you reach those record sales figures. And we’ll be here to help you replicate and even (dare we say it?) top them – just as we’ve been for over 30 years.

Here’s to better times dawning. See you next month.
John Friel jf
John Friel
Marketing Manager