Endless Summer, the hydrangea that became a household name and acted as a catalyst to make Bailey Nurseries the multi-platform company it is today, started out humbly. It was a the sport of a forgotten mail-order Hydrangea macrophylla that Bailey’s grower Vern Black noticed in his neighbor’s yard. It famously had blooms on both new and old growth, Endless Summer’s revolutionary characteristic.
Black took a cutting and began propagating it in Bailey’s development program in 1998. Soon after, Dr. Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia, was touring Bailey Nurseries and was floored by the new plant. He arranged for the operation to ship cuttings to his team in Georgia, followed by years of testing for stability and performance in both St. Paul, Minn., and Athens, Ga.
Bailey Nurseries realized it had a game-changing plant. The Bailey family and their marketing team began crafting a campaign that would ultimately transform the grower — and the green industry.
How To Launch A Remarkable Plant
The Bailey team realized early on that Endless Summer had far too much potential to be given the usual new variety launch.
Instead, it took several steps:
1. Developed a network of partner growers. If Bailey was going to invest in a massive marketing campaign, it had to make sure there were enough plants to meet demand. Its Minnesota location had a math problem. There was a limit to how many plants it could grow, and the team hoped the demand would far exceed its capacity. So it recruited reputable growers from around the country and shipped bare root Endless Summer plants to them. The partners were then able to take cuttings to grow future crops. When the plant launched in 2004, Bailey and its new partners program were able to deliver 1.5 million plants.
2. Began advertising a full year in advance. To create the demand it felt Endless Summer could generate, the Bailey team launched a campaign well in advance of the plant hitting the market. It ran a campaign that made it clear there would be a big demand. The first ads featured a crowd barely under the control of police with the words, “Endless Summer Is Coming! Endless Summer Is Coming! Please Remain Calm!” The next ad suggested brushing up on combat skills comes in handy to ensure retailers got their share of the shrub.
Bailey also began advertising directly to consumers through television ads. It was a small campaign compared to the trade launch, although they would balance out as years passed.
3. Made the plants stand out in the store. Taking a cue from Anthony Tesselaar’s branding of Flower Carpet Rose, the Bailey team added branded pots, creating the now-famous hydrangea-blue pots with the Endless Summer logo in white. It also created a large volume of point-of-purchase (POP) material for retailers. POP support at this level is common today (although single-variety branded pots are still rare). But in 2004, those blue pots stood out among the black grower pots like a rose in a nest of greenery.
Endless Summer Changed Bailey Nurseries
Even as remarkable a launch as Endless Summer had, it would have limited the effect if permanent changes did not also happen. The Bailey family knew it had a rare opportunity to transform its company from a strong regional grower to a national player.
The partner network it cobbled together to meet the initial launch of Endless Summer is now a major part of the company’s structure. It has more than 20 nurseries it partners with, and each is an individual relationship that differs in ways both minor and major from one another.
The marketing campaign it created for Endless Summer became a separate division at Bailey Nurseries, designed to support its most promising introductions, known today as First Editions.
Bailey also continues to work with Michael Dirr, although he is now with Plant Introductions, Inc. (PII) The partnership between PII and Bailey Nurseries has resulted in three more Hydrangea macrophylla introductions in the Endless Summer Collection. First Editions has also helped launch other PII varieties, including ‘Double Mint’ gardenia and a H. arborescens, Bella Anna. which had a brief stint on the Endless Summer line. It was removed after the team decided that the criteria for the Endless Summer series includes the plant being a H. macrophylla.
The Four Endless Summer Varieties
Bailey Nurseries broke tradition with past successful launches by limiting the number of plants that could be included to those that performed to Endless Summer’s high standards. So although the series is in its tenth year, it has seen only five introductions total, and one of those (Bella Anna) was removed because it was a Hydrangea arborescens and not a H. macrophylla like the other Endless Summer series varieties.
Here are the four varieties:
1. ‘Endless Summer The Original’
2. ‘Endless Summer Blushing Bride’
3. ‘Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout’
4. ‘Endless Summer Bloomstruck’