I went to a garden seminar today where a guest speaker introduced the ‘newest’ and ‘hottest’ perennials to be introduced this year. Each one was touted to be better than a previous cultivar, which amazingly to me, was the hottest new cultivar on the market just a few years ago.
Breeders have basically, in large part, become slaves to marketers. I mean just how many purple or bronze heucheras do we really need. Don’t get me wrong, some cultivars can be improved upon. If a plant tends to be floppy perhaps it could be bred to be more upright. If it is too tall, a dwarf variety may be nice. Introducing a totally new colour palette increases the flexibility we can have in our landscape. However to a large extent perennial breeders are breeding just to make sales and appeal to our desire to keep up with the latest hot trend. In effect, plants are now being marketed like fashion.
My other complaint is that many of these cultivars are being pushed to market before being fully tested. Many plants are now introduced with tags that warn you the hardiness data may not be accurate. Or my favourite — if it is not hardy in your garden treat like an annual. Now talk about a way to boost sales!
While for many years I too applied a just gotta have it method to plant shopping, I am now much more aware and cautious with my choices. Unless there is a real apparent difference, splitting the ‘old’ variety in my garden will more than likely do just as well.