Last Saturday, Tonkadale hosted the Annual, Annual Spectacular.  As the title states in the name, we do this every year, and every year I consider this seminar a year in review.  Annuals are my jam!

So,  How do we select our annuals?  Mary, our greenhouse manager, and I travel the world, the Midwest and back to trial gardens, grower trials and trade shows as we lust after plants in trade magazines and catalogs and try next season’s varieties at our growing range.  These are the characteristics we are looking for:

  • Trend colors.
  • Plant habit.
  • Disease resistance.
  • Color (apparently we sell color!)
  • Series uniformity.
  • Bloom size.
  • Behavior in a container.
  • Proven success in the garden.
  • Plants that will survive our cool springs and hot humid summers and last and last until the snow flies (for it will again!)

Tonkadale is known for our world-famous hanging basket combinations for sun and shade!  And guess what goes in them: you got it – annuals!  Mary mixes and matches the latest and the greatest sun and shade bloomers along with their complementary leafy friends to offer you the best in the biz.  No humility when it comes to these babies!

These are the Gardens we love to visit:

Where do we grow our annuals?  Glad you asked!  We have a growing range located in Breckenridge, MN.  It’s situated where the river runs north and also, the latitude allows for an extra hour of daylight.  Specs: 1.5 acres of growing space, manager year-round, and a crew of eight or so employees.

What’s new at Tonkadale other than the annual offerings?

New growing soil (we grow in it, you still buy Tonka Terra) which includes a biofungicide – a naturally occurring strain of Bacillus pumilus.  This bacterium enhances plant growth and combats harmful root rot organisms such as Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizotonia.  Our new grower soil also contains mycorrhizae. This is actually a species of fungus and considered a biological growth enhancer that colonizes the root system, improving disease resistance and enhancing nutrient availability by extending the root system of the plant.  It’s a surface area thing as well as a symbiotic relationship.  Just to be clear, this soil is what we grow our plant material in.

New IPM strategy (integrated pest management), which includes the use of biopesticides. These are certain types of pesticides derived from natural materials such as plants, bacteria, fungi and certain minerals. For example, canola oil and baking soda have pesticidal applications and are considered a biopesticide.  This is something you could make at home.  We use potassium bicarbonate, neem oil, mineral and others with names that are hard to pronounce.

Our second strategy is the use of beneficial insects.  These are good bugs that go after bad bugs and they do a really good job.  These are some of our favorite goodies:

  • Spidex – Phytoseiulus persimilis – goes after all stages of two-spotted spider mites.
  • Entonem – Steinernema feltiae – a beneficial nematode that goes after shore flies, fungus gnats and thrip larvae.
  • Enermix – Encarsia formosa + Eretmocerus eremicus, a parasitic wasp that goes after whitefly eggs.
  • Swirski mite – goes after thrip larvae and many stages of whitefly.
  • Thripx – Neoseiulus cucumeris – goes after thrip larvae and broad mite.

The advantages of this new approach are many:

  • This is what our customers are asking for.
  • We are concerned for our pollinators’ health and safety.
  • These methods are safer for our employees and customers and can be performed during regular working hours.
  • Less record keeping, administration of safety protocol so we have time to be creative!

Now on with the show!


Beautiful stuff, right?!  But one more thing.  Our responsibility is to make gardening approachable and to  recruit the next generation of gardeners through keeping up with trends, community events and education.  How can you help in this endeavor?

Up next!

See us at Room and Board on April 22 from 10:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. for spring container design demonstrations in their wonderfully modern planters.  I heard something about donuts too!

Tonkadale will exhibit outdoor planters at the Minneapolis Institute of Art for their annual Art in Bloom at the MIA event, which runs April 27 – 30!

Mark your calendars for Pollinator Day 2017: Sunday, July 30  10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.



New logo for Tonkadale Greenhouse