Green. It’s the New…Green.

“Green flowers are in! We can’t get enough!” These were the words of an upscale florist from Tulsa, Oklahoma at the 2004 ASCFG South & Central Regional Meeting. We heard the same from our keynote speaker at the National Conference in Orlando. Designers even create great-sounding words like ‘chartreuse’ to describe the common green.
    
Green branches, leatherleaf ferns (Rumohra adiantiformis), the green version of Queen Anne’s lace (Ammi visnaga), bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis), Bupleurum rotundifolium, and Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ are just a few great examples. Specialty cut flower growers are specialists for niche markets. Here are two crops to fill your need to be different.
    
Callistephus chinensis  ‘Hulk’

Growers participating in the 2005 ASCFG Seed Trial, watch out for this item. It is in your package and you will be the first ones to actually grow it in North America. Last year, you saw the official introduction of zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Lime’. What a success story for a zinnia.
    
The height is 18-21″/ 45-54 cm, depending on growing and climatic conditions. The crop is very uniform in the field. The sturdy stems have excellent basal branching, making it a good filler for exotic flower arrangements and extraordinary consumer bouquets. Its growth habit also will make it very suitable for larger containers and cut gardens. The sepals form a dense crown around the greenish-yellow center. The needle type petals build a pincushion-like flower head. Harvest 6-10 stems/ plant. Expect long vase life.
    
Germinate seeds in 7-14 days at 70 (21C). Do not cover seeds, because light may improve germination percentage and uniformity. In stage II of the plug culture, grow at 68-70F/ 20-21C) for 7 days; fertilize lightly with 50-75 ppm nitrogen. Keep the salt levels in your media below 0.75 EC. 21 days in stage III follow at 65-68F/ 18-20C and 100-150 ppm nitrogen weekly. Stage IV lasts 7 days at 60-62F/ 15-17C and one fertilizer application. Transplant into the field or greenhouse/ hoophouse 4-6 weeks after sowing.
    
From emergence, seedlings need 14-16 hour days to develop stems. Otherwise, asters flower short and make just a good pot crop. When growing under short-day conditions, use supplemental lighting to extend the day to 14-16 hours. 4 hours night interruptions are possible. Therefore, asters are great for hoophouses or greenhouses to extend your seasons. A string of ordinary light bulbs with cheap aluminum reflectors are commonly used. Field production in summer is possible without supplemental light, harvesting in early fall.
    
Scout your area for annual leafhopper migrations. Eliminating leafhoppers and keeping your growing areas free of weeds should reduce aster yellows. Keep growing media and fields moderately dry to reduce wilt caused by Fusarium and Verticillium.

Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant Lime’

This new green zinnia is actually an example of the great cooperation between growers, researchers, and the allied industry within the ASCFG. Members requested breeder try to match a green zinnia to the high quality, popular series of dahlia-flowering ‘Benary’s Giants’. This was not an easy task in this color. This color is a little bit shorter than the others. The germination is genetically lower, but the breeder will continue to match this color better to the series. In the meantime, you have the improved green zinnia you were looking for.
    
Sow seeds either directly into the field (1 oz/ 200 linear feet) after the last frost date or use plugs. Transplanting plugs will give you an early start into the season.  Germinate at 70-72F/ 21-22C. In stage II, reduce to 68-70/ 20-21C for 5-7 days and don’t fertilize. In the 7-10 days of stage III, you can reduce temperatures to 65-68C/ 18-20C. Fertilization of 100-150 ppm calcium nitrate in a well-balanced formula is recommended. After 10-14 days, lower temperatures to Stage IV levels of 62-65F/17-18C. Temperatures below 60F/ 15C delay flowering and might result in smaller, single flowers as we observed in the Midwest in the cold August last year. Flower quality improves as light levels, temperature and daylength increases. Fertilize weekly with 200 ppm of nitrate in a well-balanced formula.  Crop time is 8-9 weeks. In the south, production under light shade has improved the crop quality. Postharvest can be improved by keeping zinnias out of the cooler. Temperatures below 39F/ 4C are not recommended. Research by the team at North Carolina State University led by Dr. John M. Dole and published in the January 2003 Quarterly shows vase life up to 23.5 days in deionized water. Impressive 19 days were achieved in just hydrating solution.

For further information, please contact Rudolf Sterkel at (815) 895-6705 or [email protected] Ask your favorite seed or plug supplier for availability.