The Rise of the Mixes

PAN Matrix Amber Mix 0001
Pansy Matrix Amber Mix shows the modern trend of “restricted palette” mixes 

Over the past five years we’ve noticed more mixes climbing into our Top Ten rankings. It used to be we’d see one here and there, but now they show up regularly, across different genera like Vinca, Pansy, Impatiens, Calibrachoa, Coleus, and Viola. We don’t think this reflects a dumbing down of people’s taste, but rather an increased sophistication of both suppliers and buyers. 

First of all, let’s be clear: we’re discussing mixes and not combinations. While combinations use plants across different genera, mixes usually stick to the same series within the same species, although exceptions do exist. As a result, a mix is purely about color tastes because, culturally, the components are all the same plant. Mixes of old used seven or eight colors and that look still holds its place—think Viola Sorbet Mix or Impatiens Utopia Mix. When the look we want is festive, party, or celebration that multicolor explosion works well, but not if we’re going for understated—and that particular look used to be the only mix we saw in the channel.

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Viola Sorbet Mix—the older “every color you can” style of mix is still popular

Today the trend is to use just three or four related colors in a themed mix—like the yellows and white of Pansy Buttered Popcorn. This concept is especially important in high traffic areas where people walk or drive by the garden rather than stay seated in it. Our brains cannot handle a large number of colors at once, especially at a high rate of speed, and instead the images get translated into busy or cluttered or chaos. To figure the display out, the brain mashes it all together as noise or just ignores the image entirely. It’s no surprise that professionals like Dean Beamus of Syngenta, when he designed the walking gardens of Walt Disney World, reacted against the riot of color and argued for a more limited, more focused palette which resulted in a greater impact much faster.

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Impatiens Dazzler Merlot Mix—a subtle base of two reds with a bright white for contrast

Over time, the person in charge of mixes at Syngenta listened and the company started shipping subtler color blends. These sold well, so Syngenta broadened their selection and other vendors started following suit. Nowadays, the toned-down mix is simply the thing to do. This is all well and good, but the suppliers are just half of the story; changes occurred among the buyers, as well.

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Calibrachoa MixMaster Sundance is a more sophisticated, well balanced blend of colors

It is important to know that the mixes we grow come from three sources:

-Supplier Mixes: These are remade mixes made by our vendors. We select the ones we like the best.

-Diefenbacher Mixes: We know the local market pretty well, so we design additional mixes to suit the local tastes and needs.

-Custom Mixes: Companies bring us their custom designs, usually landscapers. We grow out their signature mix in 1801L trays and sell those trays only to that customer.

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Coleus Wizard Mix turns that chaotic Coleus into an easy display

Notice the last category—Custom Mixes. Those are buyer-driven designs. It turns out that the industry has a common problem: good help is hard to find. Deploying a crew, or several of them, usually means uneven skill levels. As a result, mono-color gardens are popular because it’s less likely someone will make a mistake with just one color. Good mixes raise the bar by deploying a more sophisticated look without taxing any one individual to get it right. Also, hand mixing three colors in the field takes time, whereas a three-color mix unrolls like a lush, pre-fab carpet. Beginners like a mix because it’s an easy route to a great look, and professionals like mixes because of the simplicity, the reliability and the cost savings.

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Pansy Delta Pure Color Mix uses clear faces with strong differences between the colors

In fact, some more advanced companies have turned to the mix as a competitive advantage. They approach us because they have developed a signature look that they want to deploy consistently. We grow out their custom-designed mix and sell it only to them, so they get a look unique to their company; a high quality deployment because we grow it in a single tray; and extra labor savings because those trays assemble quickly into any shape they need.

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Impatiens Tango Mix looks busy but it actually has a unifying color palette

Combined, the subtle and custom trends are driving the sales of mixes upward. On the supply side, mixes are less chaotic, more elegant, and more appealing. On the demand side, mixes have become the favorite means to deploy a signature look as a private label brand, both reliably and efficiently. Mixes are not the old crutches they used to be—they’ve become sophisticated instruments that professionals should put into their toolbox of possible solutions.

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Diefenbacher Greenhouses is a supplier of annuals and creative green goods. We sell directly to Garden Centers and Landscapers in the Cincinnati Area. 

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