Plantpeddler, the young plant breeder located just off the beaten path in Cresco, Iowa, hosted its annual Variety Day on August 6, welcoming approximately 400 industry participants from 17 states to the Corn Belt to check out the results of owners Mike and Rachel Gooder & co.’s summer trials. The event showcased nearly 1,500 varieties of vegetative annuals in large containers, hanging baskets and beds from a global array of breeders, according to Plantpeddler.
Photos by Matthew Grassi

Besides celebrating its 41st birthday at the event – COVID-19 limited the amount of celebrating Gooder and his operation could undertake for the Year 40 occasion last year – the festivities also included an ISO sticking robot demonstration. Plantpeddler added three ISO robots to its plant sticking arsenal, deploying them first this past winter to stick some of its Trixi hanging basket mixes and multi-planted plugs. The operation is already seeing sticking accuracy rates on average of 80%-90% on its 72-cell trays.

The agenda also featured a very enlightening panel discussion dubbed the “Titans of Horticulture,” which featured industry executives from DÜmmen Orange, Syngenta Flowers, BFG Supply Co. and Ball Horticultural.

“We had a very positive bounce this season, and that’s mostly due to the 20 million new gardeners that started buying everything plant-related that they could get their hands on in 2021,” owner Mike Gooder, told the assembled crowd. “It’s so important that we embrace those new gardeners and continue to build on that momentum.”

Plant pricing, and how to raise prices without alienating the new gardener set, was one of many topics the panel explored over the hour of back-and-forth dialogue. DÜmmen Orange’s president of North America, Keith Cable, had one of my favorite quotes from that discussion: “Don’t be the guy who goes bust in a boom.” Indeed, Keith.

Gooder also discussed the “unbelievable supply chain disruptions” due to COVID-19 that nobody – not even his own operation – was immune from. The assembled “Titans of Horticulture” came to a consensus that those issues are likely here to stay for some time, unfortunately. Their advice: invest in partnerships and network, network, network so that you’ve got a good supplier relationship when the supply chain flips on its head.

Of course, the main objective of the day was to check out all the latest and greatest varieties Gooder and his team have been trialing in Cresco over the past few months. The upper Midwest was pretty dry overall throughout the growing season, so it was interesting to see which plants fared well under those conditions.

Check out this awesome YouTube coverage that PlantPeddler recently uploaded.

Photos by Matthew Grassi