December 17, 2008

Winning Consumer Dollars

This is not an article on horticulture joining forces for a “Got Milk?” campaign. Those activities look like they are taking shape … maybe? In the meantime, we decided to focus on showing how to make an impact at the local level where the shovel hits the dirt. First, the numbers: The average U.S. consumer spent $46,409 in 2005 after taxes, and most of this went to housing, transportation and food. About $12,000 was left for discretionary items, and that’s what we are competing for. Discretionary spending is pretty interesting. Consider the average U.S. consumer spends $2,634 on food away from home, $426 on alcohol, $1,886 on apparel, $2,388 on entertainment, $126 on reading materials, $319 on tobacco and $5,204 on personal insurance and pensions. Forty years ago, spending more on going out to dinner than clothing would have been shocking. Today’s Americans are dressed down and casual. Are they […]

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December 17, 2008

Hines Sale Moves Forward

Black Diamond Capital Management LLC will be purchasing Hines Horticulture, bringing one of the nation’s largest growing operations out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The asset purchase agreement was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware this week. Based in Irvine, Calif., Hines has seven facilities spanning 4,000 acres of outdoor and greenhouse production in Arizona, California, Texas and Oregon. Hines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August and Black Diamond was secured early on to be the lead bidder during the bankruptcy sale process. No other bidders came forward with a better offer. The sale price has not been revealed yet. Based in Lake Forest, Ill., Black Diamond is a privately held alternative asset management firm that manages about $5.4 billion in assets across hedge funds, control distressed/private equity funds and collateralized loan obligation vehicles. According to Stuart Erickson, managing director of Miller Buckfire […]

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December 17, 2008

Plastics Feeling The Pinch At Myers

Myers Industries will be closing three manufacturing facilities and streamlining much of its production, the company announced today. Only one of the three facilities closing is located in the United States. The U.S. facility is located in Sparks, Nev., and it produces nursery containers and other horticultural products. It is expected to close by March. The other two facilities are located in Canada–one in Surrey, British Columbia; the other in Brantford, Ontario–and they’re also expected to close in 2009. The three closures combined are expected to result in a loss of about 200 jobs, and production will now be distributed among five remaining manufacturing locations. John C. Orr, president and CEO of Myers Industries offered these thoughts in a news release: “After a thorough review, it was determined that this realignment will strengthen the competitive position of our lawn and garden brands by consolidating to strategic locations where we can […]

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December 17, 2008

State Of The Industry: A Search For Quality

In ornamental floriculture, we have learned how to manipulate plant growth through scientific research and have the ability to produce great plants at reasonable costs. We use short days, long days, supplement lighting, soil testing, water testing, tissue culture, biotechnology and plant growth regulators (PGRs), just to mention a few of the tools available to produce superior plants. The purpose of all the available tools for plant production is to provide products that will ensure the consumer can purchase plants they can be successful with and the plant manufacturers can control their cost of production. It seems as though in some cases, these tools are only used for the benefit of the manufacturer with little concern for the results the consumer might achieve. As an avid gardener, I have purchased plants that looked good on the retail shelf, planted them and then found out they would not grow. They didn’t […]

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December 17, 2008

State Of The Industry: The Independent Garden Center In Unchartered Waters

Most years at about this time, if you were to ask a garden center owner about his or her expectations for the coming season, you could pretty much predict the response: “Well, as long as we have good weekend weather in the spring I think we’ll do all right.” But ask that same question as 2008 turns to 2009 and the answer isn’t quite so predictable. Because nothing in today’s economic conditions seems predictable. Some retailers are surprisingly optimistic about 2009. Others are holding their breath while keeping a close eye on Wall Street and a tight grip on their checkbooks. And everyone wants to know where their customers will be on that first warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in April. Prepare To Succeed–Or You Won’t For many garden centers, the script for spring may already be written. Success this season could have less to do with what’s going to happen, […]

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December 17, 2008

Production Tips For Top Performers: Lavandula Stoechas

Figures 1a and b. The flowers of Spanish lavender or L. stoechas have showy, whimsical bracts on top of the inflorescence, reminiscent of bunny ears. Few plants can match the romantic appeal of lavender. The silvery foliage and drifts of flowers are lovely in their own right but are also evocative of old-world charm and idyllic sun-drenched Mediterranean settings. Lavender plants are surely one of the best choices to line a sunny garden path, where brushing against them as you pass will release that classic scent. In a container garden, people can enjoy the fragrance and spiked inflorescences up close. Lavender is produced commercially for its essential oil, valued in perfumes and also has some medicinal and culinary uses. In floriculture, lavender is a desirable and popular part of both the herb and ornamental segments of the market. Lavenders are also a very practical choice for modern gardeners since they […]

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: Building A Collective Voice

We’ve all heard about the need for one unified message the industry could deliver to consumers, and several organizations are already on the right track promoting the benefits of the crops you grow. Here’s a breakdown of a few industry organizations and the specific messages they’ve been delivering lately. America In Bloom Last year, 30 U.S. communities participated in America In Bloom (AIB), the national grassroots community enhancement program that engages communities in a friendly beautification competition each year. Nearly 160 communities have been involved in the program since the organization was founded in 2001, and several cities have made their participation in America In Bloom a regular affair. Many times, in fact, communities enter the competition after a neighboring community has already done so. The benefits, AIB finds, are economical, environmental and in the human lifestyle. Next year’s annual symposium and awards gala will be held in Hershey, Pa. […]

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: A Snapshot

         

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: Rising To Challenges

Kicking off the year, we’ve identified the top 10 challenges growers are facing and the opportunities and strategies that come with them. 1) Profitability–Financial standing and banking relationships will be critical this year as lines of credit tighten up. Growers who rely on lines of credit for cashflow in between seasons may be in a precarious position if they have deep debts. We anticipate brokers, distributors and vendors will be pressured to help keep grower customers afloat in between seasons with extended payment terms, which will also put the supply chain at risk financially. The growers who will be best prepared to weather rising input and overhead costs will have low debt and have made investments in technologies that will lower their labor and energy costs. Smaller growers who are highly specialized or seasonal with low overhead should be nimble enough to adjust, too. Precise, high-quality production will be key […]

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December 16, 2008

Talking Shop: Maximizing Space

For more than 10 years, growers at Four Star Greenhouse in Carleton, Mich., have finished many spring crops outdoors, beginning in early April, with tremendous success. A wide array of container crops are finished outdoors, including 4.5-quart, 1-gallon and 13-, 18-, 10- and 12-inch containers and hanging baskets. Four Star feels its spring crops grown outdoors produce a high-quality finished container that can equal or rival those grown indoors, no matter how high tech and high quality the greenhouse structure may be. With the higher light levels, cooler temperatures and natural air movement provided by the outdoor areas, plants specifically selected for growing outdoors tend to finish fuller, tighter and have better branching and higher bud counts than identical containers grown in the greenhouse. A Little More Roomy By using these outdoor areas for growing on crops, not only is quality maintained, or in many cases improved, but also additional […]

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: Branding In Action

What does it take to be a king or queen of branding? Well, a great product for starters. Beyond that starting point, you’ll need a meaningful message and a forum to relay that message. A few plant brands are setting the bar high in our industry and designing the templates for getting messages across to consumers. Here’s a glance at what these brands have been up to lately, and what they’ve done to position themselves as leaders. Hort Couture The original idea for this brand was to create a program for independent retailers with high-fashion design and marketing, as well as high-quality plants. But Hort Couture has taken off in such a short time and is easily recognizable now because of a strategic marketing campaign that’s positioned the brand as the one that does plants with style. This year, Hort Couture hosted its first Dressed For Success display contest for […]

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December 16, 2008

Manipulating Crop Fertilization For Better Pest Management

Reducing fertilization is one solution to decelerating pest population growth rate and increasing the effectiveness of pest control. Carlos Bográn, associate professor and Extension specialist at Texas A&M University, will lead a discussion on manipulating crop fertilization at the 25th annual Pest Management Conference presented by Society of American Florists and Greenhouse Grower, and he shared a couple of thoughts about the topic with us. What are some of the benefits growers should know about reducing crop fertilization? “Optimizing fertilizer use to match the plant/product requirements for the specific production system and market will have multiple advantages for growers, including reduction of production costs, reduction of environmental pollution risks and enhanced efficacy of chemical and biological pest control.” OK, reduced costs and environmental impacts are logical benefits. But in a nutshell, how does reduced fertilization impact pest control? “Insect pest populations respond positively to increases in plant nutrition. Excess of […]

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December 16, 2008

An Icon Is Gone

Dr. Henry Marcellus Cathey died on Oct. 8, 2008 after 79 years here on earth. His life is a great contribution not only to ornamental horticulture but to our whole society. In the past few years, there have been many articles, notes and blogs describing his many accomplishments to our industry and the general public. But all the information written about Dr. Cathey is well known and shows the great depth of knowledge and skill he had in the fields of science, communications, consumers and people. So rather than repeat his accomplishments, I would like to share several stories that show how Dr. Cathey was an icon in our industry. Marc Cathey–The Mentor When I was working on my Ph.D. thesis on plant nutrition of ‘Better Times’ roses, my adviser, Dr. Ernest Bergman, and I decided to research the effects of 16 essential plant elements on the yield of this […]

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December 16, 2008

Constant Variables

Some growers were raised into it, and for some, their customers demand it from them. But for Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm, going organic was more like an epiphany. Traven vividly remembers the moment that forced him to rethink his approach as a grower: After delivering herbs to a customer, Traven recalls standing around chatting with the buyer and watching what the customers were doing with the herbs. “The first thing they do is rub them and then sniff their hands. Second, they start picking the leaves off the plants and start chewing them.” This struck a nerve with Traven. “Every instinct I had was screaming at me to yell ‘No, don’t do that! This came out of my greenhouse. You don’t want to eat this.’” Think about what you ingest. Fertilizers are used in herbs, vegetables and edible ornamentals. They are something you can’t just wash off in […]

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December 16, 2008

Sifting Through Labor Issues

Mas Labor’s Libby Whitley As federal agencies, labor recruiters and employer agents gathered in Dallas at the end of October to discuss the H-2 visa programs, a renowned labor expert offered her thoughts on the demand for temporary non-immigrant labor and outlined the ways employers can hire reliable workers in a difficult economy. Libby Whitley, president of MasLabor, is actively involved in legislative and regulatory matters affecting both the H-2A agricultural and H-2B non-agricultural seasonal labor programs. She was the only employers’ agent invited by federal officials to speak at the second annual H-2 forum held Oct. 28-29, 2008. Most of Whitley’s career has been devoted to labor issues, from work in Congress and the White House, to handling legislative matters for the American Farm Bureau and running the national Council of Agricultural Employers. A no-nonsense businesswoman, Whitley sees overreaching government intrusion and confusing, often contradictory regulations, as the greatest […]

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December 16, 2008

2009 State Of The Industry Report

If you stop to think about the developments our industry has seen over the past couple of years, your head will spin. There’s been plenty of change lately but through it all, your goals as growers have remained the same: You still strive to produce quality plants in the most efficient manner possible, and all the while turning a nice profit. Lately, though, profitability has been more of an uncertainty than a guarantee. There’s no room for error in production anymore. And with the current state of the economy, while some growers see the opportunity to invest in their businesses and push ahead, others are nervously pulling back into wait-and-see mode. Despite all this turmoil, however, there’s reason to be upbeat. Greenhouse Grower’s 2009 State of the Industry report looks at all these challenges and focuses on actions growers can take in the new year. We went to a panel […]

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December 16, 2008

Understanding Plant Nutrition: Managing Media EC

High fertilizer levels can be too much of a good thing, leading to excess growth, nutrient toxicity and potential runoff of nutrients into the environment. Conversely, low fertilizer levels can lead to nutrient deficiency symptoms. A basic goal for a nutrition program is to supply nutrients to the crop within an acceptable range for healthy and controlled growth. One way to ensure that nutrients are being supplied at adequate levels is with a soil test. So long as your irrigation water has salt concentrations within an acceptable range and you use a balanced fertilizer containing both macro- and micronutrients that doesn’t contain a lot of useless salts (like sodium or chloride), then there is a good relationship between the nutritional status of the root medium, and the media electrical conductivity (EC) measured using common soil testing methods (Table 1). This last article of our series discusses how to manage media […]

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December 16, 2008

Online Only: Complete Industry Pulse Survey Responses

We surveyed readers to create a profile of the typical greenhouse grower in 2009 and to gauge the current state of the market. Here are the complete findings from our 250 respondents. Which of the following best describes your business? Wholesale grower, finished plants    32%    Grower/retailer    32%    Wholesale grower, young plants (plugs & liners) 8% Wholesale grower, finished & young plants    16% Other 12% What percent of the plants you grow was sold through each of the following outlets in 2008? Mass merchandiser (e.g. Wal-Mart,Target)     11.63    Home improvement chains (e.g. The Home Depot, Lowe’s)11.54   Supermarkets         8.92    Independent garden centers    45.83       Own retail operation         57.43   Where is your business located? Northeastern U.S.20.8%   Midwestern U.S.    29.2%   Southeastern U.S. 20.0%   Southwestern U.S. 6.0%   Western U.S.    16.8%   International    7.2%   How long has your greenhouse operation been in business? 5 years or less    14.0%   6 to 10 years    8.6%   11 to 15 […]

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December 15, 2008

Ones To Watch: Matt Mart

As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 25th anniversary, we’ve been profiling people we expect to shape the industry for the better over the next 25 years. Now in its 25th and final week online, our Ones To Watch series concludes with Matt Mart of Amerinova Age – 37 His Job – Matt is executive director at Amerinova, a EuroAmerican plant licensing company that helps market varieties. Fresh Thinking – A huge part of EuroAmerican’s business philosophy is new product development. Matt says to keep an eye on the succulent market and low water-use plants. “Invest in new products and programs,” he says. “Learn from the ‘old,’ but don’t hang on to it. Accept that we in horticulture are like any other business with its pluses and minuses.” Twenty-Five Years From Now – The industry will be consolidated globally. “As wealth shifts, so will markets,” Matt says. “New products will continue to […]

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December 15, 2008

BenchPress Profile: Kasey Cronquist

Since joining the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) in October 2007, Kasey Cronquist has spearheaded an aggressive public affairs program targeting lawmakers in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. He led a historic grower-exporter relations tour to Colombia, allowing growers to experience the production dynamics of California’s largest overseas competitor. Be sure to check out Cronquist’s blog. What are a couple of projects or initiatives you’ve tackled for CCFC of which you’re particularly proud? “We organized that trip to Colombia and it was unique in that it hadn’t been done before by the commission. We decided this type of networking among industry people would be very important. We are a competitive industry, but there are also opportunities of cooperation and synergy that can be built. The trip to Colombia was an example of that. “We wound up going down there and learning about their growing techniques, and I think one of […]

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