It’s time to plan for spring production. Where should you begin? There’s so much to think about, and so many factors to consider. Do you feel a headache coming on? Put down the aspirin and keep reading for a five-step approach to less painful plant ordering.
1. Get ‘Em While They’re Hot
Start with what worked well this year. What had the best sell-through? Which items sold out completely? Secure those varieties first to ensure the quantities and ship weeks you need most. At the same time, review the items that were flat or down in sales, adjusting your 2015 plan accordingly to minimize your losses and make room for more top sellers.
2. Discover The Next Big Thing
Once you’ve taken care of your current must-haves, turn your attention to new varieties. Breeders are continuously upgrading their genetics for better performance and more efficient production. We’re also seeing plenty of all-new breeding breakthroughs including New Guinea impatiens from seed (Divine from PanAmerican Seed and Florific from Syngenta Flowers) and Kabloom seed calibrachoa from PanAmerican Seed.
Of the hundreds of new varieties for 2015, what has caught your eye? At a minimum, book trial quantities of a few introductions that excite you and fit your product mix. Today’s new variety could be tomorrow’s blockbuster, as we saw with Syngenta Flowers’ Calliope geranium several years ago. Consumers often enjoy discovering something new and different at the garden center and show their appreciation by becoming (or remaining) loyal customers.
3. Fill In The Blanks
Next, consider potential gaps in your product mix. What might be missing? Fruits, vegetables and herbs are hot right now. Be sure these categories are represented in your programs. Think, also, about using them as season extenders. Fall-fruiting items such as late-season raspberries are interesting additions to the home garden; interest in kale is fairly widespread. Cool-season vegetables can work well for both early spring and fall harvests.
In addition to adding new product categories, look for gaps in your existing programs. Is there room to broaden your offer? Take phlox as an example: P. subulata, P. divaricate and P. paniculata all flower at different times, extending your sales window and staggering color peaks in the home perennial garden. The same is true for varieties of iris and peony. Interest peaks when an item is in bloom; be ready with an offering that covers varying bloom times so you’re armed with color whenever the surge hits.
4. Consider The Combos
Now is also the ideal time to plan your mixed containers. If you develop your own custom combo recipes, try mixing perennials and annuals together. Consumers can enjoy the combination during the spring and summer months, then transplant perennial components into the landscape in the fall — some extra bang for their buck. Some varieties of miscanthus, such as ‘Morning Light,’ are well-suited as vertical elements and help keep combos looking great into autumn.
If you use designer mix programs, take full advantage of the ease and efficiency these programs provide. Again, you’ll want to consider what’s working for you now — and what, among the many new mixes for 2015, might captivate your customers. Do they prefer the upscale look of monochromatic mixes? Consider Kwik Kombos The Red Carpet Mix or new Confetti Garden Glossy Grape. Is your sell-through better with bright, high-contrast designs? In that case, try Confetti Garden Waterbury or Kwik Kombos Sour Patch Mix, both new for 2015.
5. Book Now, Beat The Rush
Connect early with your broker sales representative to work through your needs and wants for 2015. Booking early is your best bet to stock up on the basics and secure a spot near the front of the line for limited-availability items, particularly new varieties. It’s also prime time to boost your profit margins by way of early order discounts (EODs). Your broker sales rep is a terrific resource for program development and variety selection, as well, look to him or her for advice on what’s hot and what’s not.