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

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

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

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 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

Proven Winners Taking Action Against Illegal Propagators

Occasionally, you’ll read about growers who’ve been caught propagating cuttings illegally. But in many cases, those growers may get away with a slap on the wrist. Proven Winners North America takes a different approach. In the most recent year alone, Proven Winners, through Royalty Administration International (RAI), caught 137 growers illegally propagating its plants. And it is taking even more aggressive steps in the coming year to protect its breeders and the integrity of the industry. Since 2000, Proven Winners has levied assessments of more than $1 million against illegal propagators. To discourage illegal propagation, Proven Winners recently increased its illegal propagation fine from $1 to $2 per cutting. And RAI, an organization providing patent and royalty enforcement support to Proven Winners North America, flower breeders and other plant marketers, will be increasing the number of grower visits it makes with better territorial management and the hiring of additional field […]

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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

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 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

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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