When downy mildew wreaked havoc on impatiens six years ago, it didn’t make a difference what type of impatiens retailers offered. Downy mildew was relentless, and it got so bad at English Gardens that the IGC had to refund its customers when the plants started failing, says Frank Janosz, co-owner and vice president of purchasing.
“We didn’t sell impatiens up until this coming year. I didn’t want to have my customers be exposed to a garden failure, and to me, it all starts with the product that I make available to them,” Janosz says.
In the spring of 2019, PanAmerican Seed introduced the disease-resistant Beacon Impatiens, and Janosz jumped at the chance to try them out. After testing sample seed packets with staff and local growers, the seeds yielded fantastic results for the Michigan-based IGC.
“I was going to make Beacon Impatiens kind of like our poster child for impatiens, because out of all the impatiens that were out there, Ball and PanAm were the only ones that could make the statement that their variety was indeed downy mildew-resistant. Nobody else could really make that claim,” Janosz says.
Janosz put them into production and had a grower plant them in “super packs,” which contain the equivalent of six 3- to 4-inch plants in one package. For the Beacon Impatiens, Janosz placed them in 6-inch super packs, and says the PanAmerican Seed team was instrumental in their marketability of the impatiens. He says PanAm’s team was especially helpful when it came time to promote the new product. He also trained his staff on the new variety as well.
“We have a calendar that we put out every year and I asked Ball if they would like to support the calendar, which they wanted to, and we put Beacon Impatiens on the front cover. We also did a shopping bag with Beacon Impatiens on it and proceeded to tell the customers the story,” Janosz says.
English Gardens also sent emails about the new variety in March — around the same the coronavirus hit.
“Even though COVID came along and disrupted things a little bit, in the meantime, we were reaching out to customers and told them that sooner or later we will get back open and we will have this brand new, fantastic variety called ‘Beacon Impatiens,’” Janosz says.
English Gardens put full confidence behind the product, and Janosz says his results have aligned with the company’s claims, and it is indeed downy mildew resistant — something that boosted profitability.
“When we honored all those claims six years ago, it was a significant dollar amount that came back. And the margin dollars of profitability on impatiens for that year were negative because they just didn’t hold up. So now it’s simply out that they do hold up and the customers are not bringing them back. They’re still raving about them,” Janosz says.
He says he plans to sell more in 2021 as customer demand was incredibly high in 2020. He looks forward to the addition of new colors to the lineup, which is a thorough process that some takes time to unveil.
“They want to make sure that all the different colors that they offer would also stand the test of time with downy mildew,” Janosz says. “I’m excited about that. I think it’s a great program. It certainly can add profitability to garden centers around the country.”