Photos courtesy of Spring
Meadow Nursery

Spring Meadow Nursery is eager to roll out the latest innovations to dazzle growers and garden centers alike, and that’s no exception when it comes to its newest Proven Winners® ColorChoice® Hydrangea paniculata collection.

Timothy Kane, inventory/marketing manager at Prides Corner Farms in Lebanon, Connecticut, is sure the three new H. paniculata varieties, Fire Light Tidbit™, Limelight Prime™ and Quick Fire Fab™, will be a hit among consumers.

Kane shared some of the new improvements that hydrangea enthusiasts can expect from the new varieties. Hydrangea Limelight Prime™ (pictured) is more compact than its Limelight™ predecessor and, according to Kane, has darker foliage, stronger stems, and a more useful, upright, form. Limelight Prime™ hydrangea also maintains its green flower color longer, as well as displays better flower color when the blooms age to deep pink. He notes that Quick Fire Fab™ is still an early bloomer, but is more compact with larger, fuller blooms that emerge green and age to pink from the bottom up. Firelight Tidbit™ is a heavy bloomer with large flowers on a dwarf, bun-shaped habit. The rounded blooms emerge light green-white and age to pink. Kane says all have something really big to bring to the table.

“2021 is going to be a big year for new Hydrangea paniculata releases. Proven Winners® ColorChoice® is introducing three new varieties and we're going to roll out a fair amount,” he says. “We really think it's going to be great.”

The new varieties are improvements on their predecessors, and Kane considers these new shrubs to be “the next generation” of the paniculata line. Early access to new plants is something that Spring Meadow reserves for their high-volume, licensed growers.

“We’re Gold Key growers, so we’re given the first opportunity to get these plants before a lot of other growers, and it’s a great thing to have this exclusivity,” he says.

According to Kane, when a small number of growers can hit the market first with new varieties, it gives them a competitive edge. But they have to agree to grow enough plants to provide adequate supply. As a licensed grower for the brand, Prides’ has permission to propagate the hydrangeas, which they will do in the future, but for the first go-around they purchased liners from Spring Meadow.

“We planted thousands of these earlier in the spring, and they are doing exceedingly well,” he says.

Spring Meadow’s marketing for the three new varieties began with an announcement at Cultivate’20 Virtual and will continue to ramp up as the season progresses. All efforts directing growers and garden retailers to its Gold Key growers for supply.

“We've been promoting these plants since the beginning of the year, even though we were not going to be selling them until next spring. We just wanted to give people the heads up about these great new plants,” Kane says. “They're really going to complement what people are already handling at their garden centers.”

Kane says the lasting familiarity and the beauty of the variety is what keeps customers — and growers — interested in hydrangeas.

“It's one of those plants that really resonates with the gardener. I mean, it's instantly recognizable, and I think sometimes people measure their gardening season against these plants and look forward to them blooming at a particular time,” he says.

He also notes that they are easy to grow, which helps draw in the customers. Kane says the lasting popularity also has everything to do with consistent consumer and retailer demand.

“The fact of the matter is, people that run garden centers — a lot of times — buy plants they like and hope that the consumer buys them,” he says. “But in the case of the hydrangea, they're buying plants because the consumer knows them, and they want to buy them.”

Kane notes that, while there are many different plants out there, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® plants are a high-performance, premium product, and Prides Corner Farms prices them as such (as do garden centers) which means better profit margins for all.

“Proven Winners® ColorChoice® is the biggest brand we sell and quite honestly it’s because they continue to come up with great plants like this and the marketplace continues to support that. That's important for growers like us — and for retailers — because it gives us an opportunity to make more money on the plants all the way through the chain,” he says.

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