Valentine’s Day

For some, Valentine’s Day is a day is greeted with enthusiasm. For others, angst might be a better description. For the latter, take a deep breath. We’ve been helping people choose that perfect gift for 55 years. In that time, we’ve picked up a few tips that may help rid the day of anxiety and replace it with anticipation.

Valentine’s day is an opportunity to tell our sweethearts and loved ones just how much they are loved. Gifts and cards are merely tokens of our affection for one another. Chances are, your sweetie would be thrilled just to have your undivided attention for awhile. After all, the best part about Valentine’s Day is the also the simplest, sharing your love.

First things, first. The easiest way to enjoy the day is to plan ahead. Most of the anxiety occurs when we procrastinate. Make a list of those you wish to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. My list includes parents, sisters, brother, children and some family members I don’t often get to visit, and my sweetheart, too.

Second, decide how you are going to honor these people on this special day. For my siblings, parents and out of town family members, I like to make a point of calling and actually talking with them. No texts. No e-mails. No tweets or online messages. A real conversation, about what’s happening in their lives is as much a gift to me as it is thoughtful to them.

Gifts for your sweetheart should be thoughtful, with care to what you know they will enjoy. For instance, giving flowers and plants is traditional. A little thought about favorite flowers or colors makes it extra special. My mother, for instance, prefers plants over cut flowers because she can enjoy them for a long period of time. Her favorite color is blue, so a blue pot or blue bow tailors the gift to her tastes. Have fun with your gift giving. Perhaps a cactus planter with a note that says “I’m stuck on you” would make your sweetheart smile.  With that in mind, here are a few ideas.

front: cyclamen, fragrant fairy primrose, kalanchoe, purple shamrock, narcissus, shamrock              rear: campanula, cineraria, tulips, Stargazer lily
Assorted succulents
Boxed mugs, insert a Starbuck’s gift card and/ or a gift card for her favorite shoe store.
Light up the night for the light of your life. (yes, I know it’s corny) These glass butterfly night lights come in several colors.
Floral cuff bracelets, each flower represents a birthday month and is engraved on the back.
Encourage a little relaxation with specially designed, aromatherapy bath salts. Add a few candles and a note that you’ll take care of the kids.





What’s in Store for Spring 2015?

If you’ve ever visited the garden center this time of year, you know you can find plenty of personal assistance. We feel a bit like the Maytag repairman at times. While the surface looks vastly more calm than it does in May, the undercurrent is moving swiftly to meet deadlines for planning and ordering seeds, cuttings, tubers, bulbs and corms for 2015.  We attend trade shows and visit several trial gardens during this time of year.  They are a vital part of the process of providing you with the best plants and gardening products available.

One of the great joys of late summer is the opportunity to visit the   annual trial gardens. Growers and plant propagators send countless rooted cuttings and seed samples to the College of Agricultural Sciences at CSU. Dr. Klett, with his team of students and Master Gardeners go to work growing these samples so we can see how they perform in our Colorado climate. Universities and many businesses across the country participate in such trials, providing the industry with an overall performance review of each of these new introductions. They are often planted, side by side, with plants considered to be the current top performers.  This provides a direct comparison between varieties.  Last week, many representatives from our industry made the annual pilgrimage to the trial gardens at CSU, to evaluate the plants that propagators hope we will add to our plant production for spring of 2015.


CSU Trial Garden

What do we look for in a plant? I suppose it’s something like judging a dog show.  We look for the best examples of what that type of plant should be in the garden.  We look for qualities that indicate it will be a good performer in our high plains climate and those that suggest they will do well at higher elevations, too.  It’s not easy to be quite that selective, sometimes.  There are so many pretty plants, it takes a bit of self discipline to avoid distraction from our purpose.

Two new petunia introductions for spring of 2015, Berry Velour and Red Velour
Two new petunia introductions for spring of 2015, Berry Velour and Red Velour

Next year may very well be the “Year of the Petunia”.  Some years we see a concentration of new introductions of one particular plant or another.  2015 promises to provide us with some incredible new petunias.   There are more new petunias than I could count.  Below is just one of the more promising varieties.

Petunia Sanguna Radiant Rose
Petunia Sanguna Radiant Rose

Geranium Glitterati Ice Queen is one of the best new plants for 2015.  It’s stunningly bright white and green foliage is a standout on its own.  The bright red blooms are the icing on the cake, or geranium, in this case.  Variegated geraniums of old weren’t the most prolific bloomers but Ice Queen is the polar opposite, producing scads of bold blooms.   It’s spreading habit makes it an excellent choice for container gardens, larger hanging baskets and wherever you may need substantial coverage in border plantings.

Geranium Glitterati Ice Queen
Geranium Glitterati Ice Queen

Coleus are a favorite, here at Echter’s.  We’re always on the hunt for new, beautiful foliage to dress up the garden.  We look for sturdy stems, the ability to adapt from shade to partial sun, firm foliage that doesn’t flop in the first breeze, colors that don’t fade and resistance to disease.  Coleosaurus is one of the more exciting introductions for 2015.

Coleus Coleosaurus
Coleus Coleosaurus

If you’ve been a longtime fan of impatiens, you probably already know about the disease that has been a bit of a challenge to them in recent years.  Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM) can defoliate a group of Busy Lizzys within a week.  IDM affects only the traditional Impatiens walleriana.  It does not affect New Guinea Impatiens.  There are treatments that can be used if you want to stick to the traditional impatiens, but it may be worth giving some of the New Guinea types a try.  Since the risk of IDM became apparent, plant breeders have been racing to provide us with alternatives.  Bounce and Big Bounce impatiens are the result of such efforts.  They provide the flower count of traditional wallerianas while being resistant to IDM.


Interspecific Impatiens Big Bounce Lavender

Look for some stunning new verbenas next season, too.  Newer introductions have amazingly vivid colors and large bloom clusters.  We look for vivid colors that don’t fade, sturdy stems that don’t break easily in the wind, habits that make them good companions in hanging baskets and planters, and disease resistance.

Verbena Wicked Great Grape
Verbena Wicked Great Grape

We can’t give away all the surprises for 2015.  When spring arrives, look for more information about new plant introductions for annuals and perennials.  If you have some plants on your wishlist, we’d love to hear from you.  Leave us a comment or share your list with us on Facebook.

The trial gardens at CSU are open to the public and we encourage you to visit there sometime.  They can be found at 1401 Remington Street in Fort Collins.