Chionanthus virginicus, or American fringe tree, is a deciduous tree or shrub native to the Southeastern United States. In late spring to early summer the tree is covered with clusters of lacy white, slightly fragrant flowers, creating a stunning focal point in the landscape. Chionanthus is dioecious, meaning there are both male and female trees. The male trees have the showier flowers, but do not produce the dark purple berries in fall. These berries are edible for birds and other wildlife. I have read articles suggesting they can be pickled for human consumption, like olives, though I have never tried it and am not recommending it. Like olive trees, Chionanthus is a member of the family Oleaceae. There is evidence that the bark and roots of C. virginicus are useful in treating disorders of the liver and gall bladder and commercial homeopathic remedies are available, although again, I am not recommending it. There is NO evidence that tinctures of C. virginicus are effective in treating COVID-19, no matter who tells you!
Over the past five years, American fringe trees have faced attacks by the emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis. While this is certainly a concern, an ongoing study by Wright State University gives hope that Chionanthus might fare better than ash trees in terms of susceptibility to the beetle. There is evidence that ornamental plantings are not targeted like dense wild populations of fringe trees. Also, trees that are healthy and well cared for are much less likely to be infested.
C. virginicus thrives in rich, moist woods and hillsides. There are numerous specimens at Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello, and it was apparently one of his favorite trees. In the landscape, they do best in full sun to partial shade and they love heat and humidity. They are best grown as a multi-stemmed tree or large shrub and will reach a final height of 20 feet with a canopy spread of 15-20 feet. Chionanthus seldom need pruning and are naturally somewhat slow growing. They do well in urban settings, although perhaps not as a street tree. I say this for two reasons. First, they will not tolerate prolonged drought. Secondly, they are so beautiful while in bloom, I fear they would distract drivers. I can literally see myself trying to take a drive-by video or selfie and ending up in the ditch — or worse. Anyway, you’ve been warned. Seriously though, Chionanthus are beautiful trees, and I wish they were more available to American gardeners.
Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. firstname.lastname@example.org
Supercharge your strategic thinking
Departments - Tip Jar
Master these three core strategic disciplines to elevate your tactical thinking and become more valuable to your business.
Maybe the better question to be asking is “Are you strategic?”
How often have you overheard a group talking about a leader and saying, “She/he just doesn’t get it”? Come to think of it, are your colleagues or subordinates asking that same question about you?
Well, are you tactical or strategic? Does it even matter? A survey conducted with 400 talent management leaders found that the No. 1 most-valued skill in leaders today is strategic thinking. Unfortunately, research with 154 companies found that only three out of every 10 managers are strategic.
So, yes, the ability to think strategically is essential. The real question is how can you continually hone your strategic thinking skills to thrive in today’s ever-changing business landscape?
The fact is most managers are now required to be more successful with fewer resources.
All managers have resources — time, talent and capital — to varying degrees within their organizations. So, technically, all managers are strategists. The reality, however, is that not all managers are good strategists. Herein lies the pearl of great opportunity: the deeper you can dive into the business and resurface with strategic insights, the more valuable you’ll become to your organization.
Strategic thinking is defined as the generation of business insights on a continual basis to achieve competitive advantage. Strategic thinking is different than strategic planning. Strategic planning is the channeling of business insights into an action plan to achieve goals and objectives. A key distinction between strategic thinking and strategic planning is that the former occurs on a regular basis, as part of our daily activities, while the latter occurs periodically (quarterly, semi-annually or annually). Strategic thinking is using a new lens to view the business. It’s not about adding more work. It’s about enhancing the view of the work and improving one’s ability to perform it.
To maximize your resources and profitably grow the business on a consistent basis, there are three disciplines of strategic thinking you can develop to continually ground your business in solid strategy.
Acumen: generating key business insights.
Allocation: focusing resources through trade-offs.
Action: executing strategy to achieve goals.
One of the interesting paradoxes of strategy is that to elevate one’s thinking to see “the big picture,” one must first dive below the surface of the issues to uncover insight. A strategic insight is an idea that combines two or more pieces of information to create new value.
One of the reasons most people don’t enjoy strategic planning is because the plans don’t contain any new thinking. They are repeating Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity by doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. A key premise in business is that new growth comes from new thinking. Carve out time for you and your team to sit down and strategically think about the business, using the group’s insights to identify new approaches to the business.
While it’s one thing to have a neatly written strategy on paper, the truth is the actual or realized strategy of an organization is a result of the resource allocation decisions made by managers each day. Therefore, it is critical to have a firm understanding of resource allocation and how to maximize its potential for your organization. With multi-billion-dollar companies going through bankruptcy on a regular basis, it’s obvious in today’s market that having the most resources guarantees nothing. It’s how we allocate resources that truly matters.
The definition of strategy begins with “The intelligent allocation of resources...” Resource allocation is at the core of strategy. Discussions of strategy boil down to how to allocate limited resources to maximize business potential. Where are you currently investing your resources — time, talent, budget — and are they focused on your goals and strategies? While everyone has a to-do list, only the best managers also have a not-to-do list. Remember that great strategy is as much about what you choose not to do as it is about what you choose to do.
How often has your team invested time in developing a plan for the year, only to see that plan slip by the wayside once the fire drills begin? Fire drills come in the form of customer complaints, competitor activity and internal issues that are urgent, but not important. The key is to let these fire drills flame out and stay committed to the plan you’ve developed by focusing on your priorities, not the flavor-of-the-month tactics.
The most important level of strategy is not corporate, business unit, or functional group — it’s you. The individual level is where strategy is actually created. Unfortunately, 90% of directors and vice presidents have never had any learning and development opportunities on strategic thinking.
The good news is that by developing the three disciplines of strategic thinking, you can elevate yourself from tactical to strategic. The better news is that in doing so, not only will you become more valuable to your organization, you’ll separate yourself and your business from the competition.
So, one last time, do you get it?
Rich Horwath is a New York Times bestselling author on strategy, including “StrategyMan vs. The Anti-Strategy Squad: Using Strategic Thinking to Defeat Bad Strategy and Save Your Plan.” He’s also CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute. www.StrategySkills.com
Supplement - State of the Market: Insect Control Report Market Research
See our exclusive research on how growers across North America are stopping insect invasions at their operations.
In April, NurseryManagement magazine conducted a survey to learn how growers across North America administer pest management plans, budget for insect control, scout for pests and much more. Our survey of more than 200 growers found which methods growers prefer and how they manage controls programs. Read on for more insights in insect management.
Editor’s note: Due to rounding, not all percentages add up to 100.
Supplement - State of the Market: Insect Control Report Resistance Management
Take a proactive approach to risk management when it comes to nursery and greenhouse pests.
Dealing with pest pressures isn’t exclusive to treating and scouting during production. It’s also critical at shipping time to ensure growers are selling the healthiest plants and complying with state or national regulatory issues. There are two programs designed to help the industry stay in compliance, better monitor pest risks and prepare plans that help with accountability: The Systems Approach to Nursery Certification (SANC) and Plant Sentry.
SANC reduces pest risk associated with plant stock by identifying and dealing with pest hazards at all stages in production.
The foundation of SANC involves risk management: Preventing problems from coming into the nursery; monitoring and scouting crops; accurately diagnosing pests and diseases; addressing problems and documenting them; and performing audits to avoid shipping pests and pathogens. SANC requires growers to identify critical control points, which are specific steps in the process where procedures can be applied to most efficiently manage risk.
SANC is a voluntary, audit-based program. It’s a three-way partnership involving the National Plant Board, various parts of the green industry and USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service. Certification is based on how plants are produced rather than exclusively on how those plants look at the time of a single inspection.
Kim Lovelace-Young, president and general manager at Forrest Keeling, describes SANC as a “streamlined process for collaboration” between growers and state regulators.
Systems approaches look at potential hazards throughout the production and handling processes — what can go wrong, where — and points where proactive measures can be applied, like sanitation, a diagnostic test or a treatment.
SANC standards require:
Certified plant material is free from quarantine pests based on regulatory compliance agreements.
Non-quarantine plant materials have been actively scouted, problems mitigated and eliminated using effective methods responsibly.
Plants have been grown in a management system that prevents and minimizes plant pest risk.
Ensure the integrity of the SANC program is preserved through plant material traceability records, staff training, documenting/taking corrective actions and completing multiple annual internal and external audits.
Once a grower is accepted into the program, there are several basic steps to complete. First is the risk assessment where potential pest pathways are identified, best management practices (BMPs) for preventive approaches are addressed and mitigation strategies are discussed.
Next, a grower develops a SANC manual in which a plan addresses the identified pest risks and keeps records of what is done. When this is complete, growers must train their staff to ensure BMPs are used throughout each level of the facility system. Then the manual is approved by the state and representatives of the National Plant Board to make sure the facility meets SANC standards on a consistent basis. Next the grower implements the components listed in the manual followed by multiple internal audits. Finally, the external audit is administered, which entails a systems audit and a surveillance audit.
Once the BMPs are in place and being consistently implemented, SANC has the potential to reduce pest control costs due to improved pest management. It may also result in reducing shipping inspection and certification costs.
Because it’s a flexible program, it supports a range of plant production systems, whether large or small, as well as niche and specialty growers. It prevents the introduction and spread of pests, pathogens and weeds. The manuals and BMPs help increase communication between facility staff.
“We found that we were doing a lot of these practices anyway, and the SANC program helped us document it and add recordkeeping into what we were already doing,” Lovelace-Young says. “We have a facility manual and a best management plan now in writing, whereas before, we were doing most of these things, but it wasn’t documented. Now that it’s documented, it’s a management tool for us.”
Forrest Keeling didn’t need to add staff to oversee the SANC program.
“It did require quite a bit of time to develop the facility manual and the best management plan, but now that it’s in place, it’s saving us a lot of time and confusion on who’s responsible for what. It’s very much an organizational guide for us,” she adds.
Risk management tool
Compliance is complicated. Each state has its own rules and regulations to prevent inbound shipments of regulated pests, diseased plants, and invasive plants. If a pest is federally quarantined, it is also governed by additional federal regulations that manage interstate movement.
Plant Sentry is a regulatory risk management tool designed to ensure that wholesale, retail and e-commerce vendors grow and ship only plants that are fully compliant with all federal and state regulations and restrictions.
“The Plant Sentry regulatory risk management tool saves countless hours in managing and understanding all federal and state rules,” says Jeff Dinslage, president and CEO of Plant Sentry. “The tool helps monitor revolving inventory against ever-changing regulations, which can stop problems before they start by being proactive in ensuring you comply with the myriad of state and federal regulations. By using this tool, you can save labor hours, increase sales, protect your company’s reputation and limit the risk of liability.”
First, you supply your inventory, in whatever format you can, and the locations you ship to and from. From there, Plant Sentry audits each plant in your system and identifies the state and federal regulations for pests, diseases, and invasive species for your plants and shipping locations. Once complete, you will have access to your database of plants and any shipping restrictions through the Plant Sentry web portal. You will receive a suggested compliance list for each plant article that may need to be resolved. This list will tell you why a plant may not be shippable to a particular state. You will receive this information in a simple alert telling you a reason: pest, disease or invasive plant. This analysis helps prevent the accidental shipment of a possibly threatening plant.
In addition to mitigating risk, Plant Sentry can also help you enter new markets, including ones you may have considered off-limits.
Nature Hills Nursery, an online plant source that offers trees, shrubs and perennials nationwide, developed Plant Sentry to improve its own e-commerce process. They wanted to develop a nationwide database that could be programmed to be easily updated as regulations change. Now they’ve made that tool available to the entire green industry.
“As a partner/shipper for Nature Hills Nursery, one of the first adoptees of Plant Sentry, Loma Vista Nursery is committed to healthy plants through every step of the production and distribution processes,” says Lyndsi Oestmann, president of Loma Vista Nursery. “The shipping guidance and compliance program works hand-in-glove with Loma Vista Nursery’s SANC certification — further reducing pest risks and supporting our company’s commitment to growing healthy plants for independent garden centers, landscape contractors and wholesale distributors.”
The emergency mitigation support and verification checks provided by Plant Sentry can ensure proper documentation of growers’ compliance — so they don’t get burned.
The Plant Sentry software is continuously updated, and you can check real-time regulation status by doing verification checks at multiple points in the production, sales and shipping process.
There is a monthly subscription fee that is calculated based on the number of potential compliant scenarios.
Advertorial: Managing mealybugs
Supplement - State of the market: Insect control report
Bayer’s senior technical service representative shares the best practices for mealybug maintenance.
Mealybugs are one of many insect pests that are a pain in a grower’s pockets. But Aaron Palmateer, Bayer’s senior technical service representative, sheds light on making mealybugs more manageable.
As a former ornamentals specialist at the University of Florida, Palmateer has gained extensive experience in providing pest and disease management recommendations for ornamental producers and landscape professionals. His education includes a bachelor’s and master’s degree in plant and soil science from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, along with a doctorate in plant pathology from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. He also served as the director of the Tropical Research Education Center, a plant diagnostic facility at the University of Florida.
“I wanted to discuss mealybugs because that seems to be the hottest issue right now,” Palmateer says. “One of the things I’ve been doing since we’ve been grounded and not traveling is keeping in touch with growers all over the U.S., figuring out what the hottest issue is and what the biggest challenges are, and mealybugs seems to be a reoccurring issue.”
The first word Palmateer uses to describe mealybugs is “hitchhiker,” and jokes that growers tend to blame Florida because, according to him, the more “common and problematic” mealybugs are citrus mealybugs that favor warmer climates, and are often found on shipments from the state. And because they often bury themselves in the plant, they are hard to scout for.
“Mealybugs are notorious hitchhikers because they’re able to get into the nooks and crannies of the plant,” he says. “You’ve got mealybugs that are problematic and infect roots and you’ve got mealybugs that go to all portions of the plant. But of course, when they’re on the roots, it’s a really big challenge because growers may not see them and they’re easily overlooked.”
According to Palmateer, mealybugs can also migrate from roots onto other portions of plants and make homes on petiole branches and leaf axles. And in plants like hibiscus, they can get under the calyx.
“When they’re in these hard-to-see areas like the lower stems underneath the leaves or branches and leaf axles, they can just stay there and remain hidden, which is kind of one of the biggest challenges,” he says. “They’re hard to spot and when that happens, you get a small population and just before you know it, they start to explode.”
While all insect pests cause damage, a high population of mealybugs results in spot development, dieback and defoliation. But Palmateer says their notorious marks are plant stunting, tissue yellowing and mold.
“Most of these piercing sucking insects have symptoms that are pretty similar,” he says. “But I think that the biggest thing with mealybugs is that in higher populations, plant stunting and what we call chlorosis (yellowing) is often attributed to their feeding damage. In certain cases, like with other sucking insect pests such as aphids, leafhoppers and whiteflies, you oftentimes see what’s called sooty mold. That’s a black fungus that moves in because of the honeydew. Sucking insects excrete a sweet sugary substance as they ingest large quantities of sap from a plant. So in a really high population, you can also see black sooty mold develop which is not a plant pathogen; it’s just mold growing on the plant surface where honeydew deposits accumulate.”
All this reduces the aesthetic quality of the plant, and in some cases, the sugar will attract ants, he says.
While the citrus mealybug is one of the most common, Palmateer says there are other types that also like tropical conditions such as the longtailed mealybug, obscure mealybug and madeira mealybug.
“The longtailed mealybug has this long waxy filament that protrudes from the end of the abdomen, and it looks like it’s got these long tails. The obscure mealybug is really short and has these white waxy filaments around it, but it looks much smaller in size,” Palmateer says. “And then you’ve got the citrus mealybug, which lacks any of the waxy filament altogether and has a gray stripe that extends the length of the body.”
The madeira mealybug has two dark strips on the body and is about 3 millimeters long. “So, they vary in look and definitely vary in shape and size.”
Managing mealybugs can be a hassle due to the confusion surrounding their name. Palmateer says while mealybugs are a scale, not all scales are mealybugs and some insecticides are for one or the other. But Palmateer says Bayer’s newest insecticide, Altus®, is “highly active on scales, including mealybugs” and has been a “tremendous product.”
He also says the insecticide is systemic, which allows the product to move in a translaminar motion when spraying, meaning it can be absorbed by the leaves, move to the petioles and into the stems.
Another application method, according to Palmateer, is by drenching the plants, which allows the product to move upward in the xylem — the water conducting tissue.
“The systemic role of the product makes it easy for controlling mealybugs because it’s going to move throughout the entire part of the plant,” Palmateer says. “So if you’re spraying, you may not be able to actively target some of the nooks and crannies of the plant, but rest assured that product’s being taken up internally and it’s moving throughout the plant. Wherever the water is moving, that active is going to get to the feeding sites or those insects. “
Palmateer also says that Altus® is not a neonicotinoid, which is good for growers who are growing plants for big-box stores due to its pollinator-friendly element.
Another insecticide Bayer has is Kontos®, which moves bi-directionally in the plant.
“Kontos® gets into the sieve tubes of the plant, so it can even move downward in the phloem,” he says. “For example, most systemic insecticides are xylem-systemic and the xylem tissue moves upward and outward. Whereas when you spray with Kontos®, you can have a root mealybug, spray with Kontos® and it’ll actually move downward and get into the roots. That’s almost unheard of when it comes to insecticides. But I think one of the really important things for growers or applicators to understand is, when they use Kontos®, it works best as a preventative application because it works based on ingestion.”
Palmateer says the active has to get into the plant so the mealybugs ingest it while feeding. He also says that while Altus® does have contact activity, both insecticides work best as preventatives and should be applied as such.
“It’s important that growers understand, especially with some of this newer chemistry, that they need to be more proactive and take preventative action. They’re going to have a much better experience with the product if they treat a healthy plant before the pest population comes.”
While Palmateer is an advocate for Bayer products, he says that growers should get in the habit of rotating insecticides so they do not create insecticide resistance. But the properties in Bayer’s ornamental insecticides make it easier to attack and maintain the mealybug population, he says.
“The systemic chemistry [of these products] is really nice when it comes to controlling mealybugs and these are examples of what Bayer has that does so.”