Ball Colegrave addresses 2017 bedding issues and looks ahead to 2018

Marketing manager Stuart Lowen says the industry has dealt with GM and moved on from decade-old downy mildew problems and gardeners are "spolit for choice" with growers buoyant following a strong sales season in 2017.

Lowen said at Ball's summer showcase at its trials near Banbury (10-28 July), following the GM orange petunia scare that hit the industry this spring: "All the companies have been notified of varieities that have the gene and have reacted to that and taken them out of catalogues and off sale. It has affected plants that you wouldn't normally associate with the orange but we have ben notified about all the varieities and are taking a responsible attitude.

"It has not affected many products for us but there is a possibility it might knock back development work already in place with some breeding companies.

"But gardeners are spolit for choice. For instance with the Kerley series of New Wave colours.

"The keen gardener isn’t as aware of it as horticulturists. Some reation oin garden centres but the bedding industry in the sopring ios moving so fast and there is so much choice andf the home gardener is desperate for colour they are going into the garden centre and not necessarily thinking of those sorts of issues. It's not the food industry, it's a self-destruct product and it's been identified and dealt with."

On another scare that hit the industry, back in 2008, and has damaged sales of busy lizzies because of downy mildew outbreaks ever since, he said: "I do garden club talks and keen gardeners are aware of the disease as something that has been killing of impatiens. But as soon as busy lizzies go into garden centres they sell so quickly. Demand is very much still there but the disease is still apparent. Sales if impatiens are significantly lower than they were before-a fraction of the original.

He says "everything" has replaced them, including dahlia, lobelia, begonia. "Nothing does what they could do, but they fill the vacuum." he says the replacements have brought a fresh look and that New Guinea impatiens, particularly Divine, which looks like a busy lizzy has helped fill the gap.

Lowen added: "This year has been a great season for the industry, the weather worked in our favour.

"If I was a grower I’d try to make the most of the season with additional top up sales. That’s why we got into Jumbo 40 plugs to plug gaps."

On price, he said there remains two types of shopper, the bargain hunter and the millennial shopper who buys on impulse and looks for a solution. 

And on novetlies, he said Petunia 'Baby Doll' sits alongside the recent bug hit Petunia 'Night Sky' which has had an impact with its splash effect. 'Baby Doll' is more compact than Night Sky so doesn’t need its PGR treatment.

Lowen said: "There has been amazing interest in Night Sky. It's not a one season plant, garden centres are getting repeat sales which is fantastic. It has sold hundreds of thousands and has been a very successful novelty for the industry."

He added that "we’re waiting for the ‘new Night Sky’- the next big product."

Lowen says novelties do create additional sales, for instance Petunia Amore 'Queen of Hearts': "With Night Sky they have a nice story to tell which creates a lot of good consumer press and a draw to the garden centre for that product."

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