Boxes of beauty!

It’s that time again…
Little boxes full of little plants have started arriving from all points in the United States. As editors, the plant companies like to send us new varieties to try out in our home gardens so we can give them feedback on how well they grow in the area.

New from Skagit Gardens

New from Skagit Gardens, coreopsis 'Coloropsis Salsa'

Yesterday, the first shipments came to the office.
From Greenheart Farms, a miniature rose called ‘Sorcerer’.
From Skagit Gardens, a wealth of little starts: dianthus ‘Scent First Passion Pink’; euphorbia ‘Ruby Glow’; dicentra ‘Burning Hearts’, one of my personal favorites ever; coreopsis ‘Big Bang Cosmic Eye’; and coreopsis ‘Coloropsis Salsa’ and ‘Coloropsis Jive’, new introductions at this year’s California Spring Trials.

I know more are on the way.

In previous seasons, I’ve had to surrender my little guys to other co-workers — I didn’t have anywhere to put them! — but this year is different. I now have some window box planters and plenty of space just outside my apartment building to tinker and toil in the soil. Really looking forward to it!

Here’s hoping my thumb turns just a little green…


Stirring the Pot?

The following post is solely the opinion of Managing Editor Paige Worthy and does not reflect the position of Lawn & Garden Retailer magazine as a whole.

So, I wrote a story for our May issue about Groupon, a collective buying program that lets businesses offer thousands of potential customers a great deal to come in and try out their business. Read up for a moment, then come on back and check this out.

I posted a link to the piece on Facebook yesterday — I’m proud of the writing and think this is an important new business idea for garden centers to know about — and it really struck a chord with one of my friends, who owns a garden center near Rochester, N.Y.:
Give me a break. I can’t seem to look past the thought; the only way to get traffic in the store is to create a 50% off sale. Especially if you are the “best of the best” in your town.
We take advantage of these type of giveaways at our local restaurants. It doesn’t mean we would eat there more regularly without the give away. In fact we don’t … until there is another offer. It just means if they allow me to pay $25 and get $50 in food; why not. Cuts down the grocery…um I mean gardening bill. And they are right, I don’t spend but a few cents more than I have to in order to get my full $50 worth of Thai dumplings…
But really now…this is not a good (Profitable) business practice. It only reinforces that now not only will GCs put their plants on sale at 50% off at the end of the year; they can be suckered into doing it at the height of their season with a new coupon…Oh and I have to pay a % fee out of my 50%. Doesn’t that help make the margins tank.
Ok..I’m done..the rant is over, I’m going to bed and dream a profitable dream. Now go put one dislike in the other column for me.

Well, all right. I’m happy to generate any sort of dialogue with the stories in our magazine, of course. Because that means people are reading and thinking about these things — great news!
But yikes.

By the way, this comment comes from someone I consider to be incredibly tech savvy. He’s doing a lot of fun things for his business with Facebook and Twitter, and I believe he’s having some degree of success with it, too. (Though, like most hort businesses I follow, this garden center’s activity seems to have dropped off considerably now that the garden centers’ peak season has begun…)

So, I’ll now comment on his comment.
Continue Reading »

Back from Cali!

Now that the California Spring Trials are over, it’s time to give some other parts of the world a chance to shine!

Our editorial director, Tim, is in Wisconsin for the beginning of this week, visiting growers and retailers and working on the cover story for our June issue of Big Grower.

Next week, Tim and I will be in Las Vegas for the National Hardware Show. Lawn & Garden Retailer is the official publication sponsor of the Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Living segment of the show, and we’re teaming up with some of our expert industry friends to educate attendees. Tim will be leading a roundtable discussion on displays that mix green goods and hard goods, with panelists from Dramm Corp., Conrad Fafard, Inc. and Syngenta Flowers who will share their expertise and some great examples.
I’m proud to share the stage with two amazing experts in the horticultural field who also happen to be pretty amazing businesspeople:
The first is Kim Bird, VP of Marketing for Calloway’s Nursery, our 2010 Merchandiser of the Year. She’ll be talking about Calloway’s multistore merchandising strategy, which has a big emphasis on plants — check out our feature on them from our February 2010 issue — as well as how the stores use social media to draw customers to their events and raise awareness in general.
The second is Kelly Norris, who I had the pleasure of meeting at last year’s Garden Writers Association Symposium in Raleigh, N.C. He spoke then on how to cater to the younger, upcoming generations of gardeners — and loved his energy and approach. When we were brainstorming topics for our Hardware Show presentations, I knew he’d be perfect to capture the attention of attendees wandering the floor. He’ll be talking about how retailers can get in touch with their younger customers — it’s going to be a smash.

Then, later this month, I take off for my Garden Getaway Tour. I’ll be traveling with a group of Master Gardeners and their friends and family from Orange County, Calif. Stay tuned for more on that later this week…this deserves a post all on its own!

We love your comments — what did you think of the Spring Trials coverage? What would you like to see here on the blog?

As always, you can keep up with the Lawn & Garden Retailer staff here on the blog, as well as the following:

Spring Trials: Day Six

Golden State Bulb Growers

Callafornia Callas

What a perfect way to start the day! Admiring gorgeous calla lilies! We started our Thursday morning in Moss Landing, where Tom Lukens took us through the Golden State Bulb Growers trials. The calla lily is definitely one of my absolute favorites, so I always look forward to this stop. I loved the way they packaged their new varieties, focusing more on merchandising. They showed the many ways callas could be dressed up at retail for every season.

Pacific Plug & Liner

Comparison trials at PP&L with Ryan Hall

It’s always nice to see the comparison trials at Pacific Plug & Liner. This year, Ryan Hall displayed two separate trials: ipomoea and lavender. Ipomoea has been a huge trend in our industry the past few years, and it was great to see all the different varieties side by side. Be on the lookout for Ryan’s article in GPN, where he will explain the results of his ipomoea trials.

We also got to check out all the new varieties introduced by the various Agrexco companies. Hishtil had some very unique plants on display, as well as some tasty herbs. I really liked this double-flowered petunia introduced by Cohen.

Syngenta Flowers

Decorative mums at Syngenta Flowers

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Syngenta Flowers location in Gilroy was the amazing mum display. Faith Savage told us that some of the big box retailers were extremely impressed with the potential mums will have in the garden center. Rather than going by “pot mums,” Faith is now referring to them as “decorative mums.” The folks at Syngenta dressed up the mums spectacularly; I wanted to take them all home with me!

Color theory

Another display that really caught our attention was Syngenta’s Color Theory. They had merchandising vignettes organized by color. They showed how easy it can be to merchandise hard and live goods together using similar colors. And speaking of color, have you seen Syngenta’s new orange marigold? I have never seen a marigold so bold, it’s no surprise it was a recipient of an All-American Selections award this year.

If you’d like to see even more photos of our trip along the California coast, please check out our Flickr page. One more day to go, then it’s back home to Chicago!

American Takii

Jasmina with Bonnie Marquardt

Yesterday morning we drove two and a half hours north to Salinas, where Bonnie Marquardt of American Takii gave us a wonderful tour through all the varieties Takii, Sahin and Global Flowers are offering. Takii added two new colors two its gerbera Royal series, making it even more complete. They truly are remarkable plants, with an impressive range of colors, number of stems per plant and large flower size. Takii also added a new dark-leafed canna to its collection; I’ve never seen anything like it! It was also very interesting to see OHP’s trials at the Takii site. Their display showed the various effects of PGRs on Takii’s products.


Greenex Kalanchoe

The folks at Speedling could not have chosen a better theme this year: One-Stop World Tour. We got to see all the new varieties from Hem Genetics, Greenex, Schoneveld, Plant Source International, Thompson & Morgan and ABZ Seeds. I absolutely fell in love with Greenex’s kalanchoe collection. The vibrant colors and large flowers were outstanding. Thompson & Morgan had a variegated Cat Grass on display, which sparked some interest among visitors to their trial site. And keeping along with the trend of using edibles in mixed containers, ABZ Seeds had a delightful presentation of strawberries at its trial stop.

Aside from admiring all the gorgeous plants, we got to chat with Gerry Giorgio of MasterTag about all the new programs his company is unveiling. The new Snap Tag is a product that stemmed from MasterTag’s consumer research, in which they discovered that 62% of gardeners want to keep their tags for reference and 66% want to use them in the garden. Now they can do both!

I can’t believe this week is almost over. It feels like it just began! If you want to stay up-to-date once the Spring Trials are over, please visit www.CaliforniaSpringTrials.com where we will be posting even more photos and updates in the coming weeks.


Floranova's mixed container

We were introduced to Floranova’s Vegetalis line at last year’s trials, and this year they showed some really interesting new varieties, including this uniquely colored tomato. It starts off as a striped tomato and grows to solid color as it matures. I was impressed with Floranova’s garden displays; they really wanted to emphasize how the consumer should be putting these varieties to use. These new veggies will look great in large mixed patio planters, like the one pictured above.

Greenheart Farms

Left to right: Frank Zaunscherb, Bob Bellew, Tim Hodson, Alicia Wells, Kim Sammartino, Steve Carver, Michael Geary, Brian McLaughlin, Jasmina Radjevic

This year Greenheart Farms is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a bang. We were welcomed to their trial location with fresh wood-fired pizza and a trip down memory lane. They displayed photos and descriptions showing where Greenheart Farms started and how it has evolved over the years. As always, they had some gorgeous new roses on display. On our way out, we were lucky to bump into our pals at OFA. That’s really one of my favorite things about this week-long trip. Running into old friends and catching up. We had to stop and take advantage of the photo op.


'Magnum White Blush'

Dümmen trialed at a brand new location this year: Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo. Visitors were able to check out all the new flowers, and indulge in a wine tasting afterwards. There were quite a few new introductions this year, but the one that really caught our attention was the new Magnum series of New Guinea impatiens. The flowers are huge, and the colors looked great.

If you want to check out even more photos we’ve been snapping along the way, please go to our Flickr page. We’ve been updating the photos daily and have so much to share with you!


Dahlia 'Lucky Love'

First stop Monday morning was GroLink in Oxnard. Walt King gave us a tour through all the new varieties GroLink is introducing for 2011. We were extremely impressed with the new dahlia Lucky series. They are very versatile and have a unique color selection. My personal favorite new variety was the new pereskia ‘Lemon Vine’, which is in the cactus family but not a succulent! I think it would make a phenomenal indoor plant. This year, GreenFuse joined GroLink at their location. Steve Jones took us through all the new programs and color additions, including the new Sweet Georgia ipomoea series.



Our next stop was in Santa Paula where we caught up with Mark Schermer and Reinoud Hagen of Fides North America. They continue to push the Dahlinova Hypnotica series. New colors include several intriguing bicolor selections that caught our attention immediately. They put a great amount of effort into their displays, including an expertly designed fall “Back to School” design. Love the vivid colors!

Ball Horticultural Co.

petunia 'Black Velvet'

Right down the road, we made our final stop at Ball’s Shoppes on Main. They continue to make a name for themselves as a “one stop shop” offering edibles, perennials, three-in-one liners, and vegetative and seed annuals through their various brands. One of the most unique new varieties we’ve seen so far has got to be petunia ‘Black Velvet’. Although it looks amazing on its own, it’ll look great paired with any color. Believe me, this photo does not do it justice. Kim and I were excited to see the Burpee display, where they are now introducing salad mixes. Yum! We also got to finally see PanAm’s new multipelleted seed program, Fuseables. I look forward to seeing where this innovation will take us.