Keeping Variety Alive

Keeping Variety Alive

While walking me around her Blooming Nursery, Grace Dinsdale makes sure to point out the old dairy barn that now houses the offices for her floriculture business. It’s recognizable to customers, she says. A loyal and long-time staff works hard at keeping flower varieties alive that are threatened by commoditization and keeps a sense of professionalism and community flowing through the business. A background in farming meant Dinsdale was keenly aware of commodity growing and its challenges. From its beginning in 1982, she envisioned a Blooming Nursery that would be free to make its own choices.

“I knew we wanted to be in a market that was more under our control,” Dinsdale explains. “We can make decisions based on what we want our price to be, how many of something we’re going to grow, how we we’re going to schedule it and who we we’re going to sell to. I didn’t want to have any one customer be able to dictate these important business decisions to us or significantly damage us if they went away.”

Today, Blooming Nursery provides herbaceous perennials, flowering shrubs, herbs and ornamental grasses to independent garden centers and landscapers as well as liners and bare root stock to finish growers. About 20 percent of what the nursery grows for finished containers is from division, with 25 acres of plants in the ground. A wide variety of crops, more than 1,900 varieties in production, keeps a workforce of 80 to 90 busy for more than 10 months of the year. Managing that complicated inventory and keeping it fresh is the company’s biggest challenge, but also its biggest opportunity, according to Dinsdale.

Blooming Nursery considers itself more than a place to buy plants. It’s a place where plants are saved from extinction. If they’re considered merit-worthy, stock from perennials not currently in production is archived, allowing for varieties to come back into production in the future. The simplification of variety offerings in the industry is worrisome to Dinsdale. 

“This simplification taking place largely at the big box stores creates a great opportunity for independents and the growers that supply them to further differentiate themselves by continuing to offer the diversity that gardeners want and need. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose varieties,” she says. “If they’re dropped by the industry, they can disappear in a short period of time. Long term, I’m afraid it limits gardeners’ choices drastically and ultimately will be bad for the future of gardening and horticulture.”

Blooming Nursery follows the adage of growing not only a wide variety of products, but growing them the right way — slowly and cool, which has helped its products thrive over time. 

Back In The Beginning

Although Blooming Nursery began as a wholesale finish grower, an on-site retail outlet was added within the first 6 months and continued selling direct to gardeners for 10 years. In the early ’90s, the company switched to selling liners and closed its retail operation.

“Our retail shop was very successful and we had a lot of fun doing it, but we were all working so hard on the wholesale side and needed the space, so we had to stop,” Dinsdale explains. “We realized that selling liners fit better with the finished wholesale side than retail did and also helped to support the tremendous expense of maintaining stock for such a long list of varieties.” But retail customers still wanted what Blooming Nursery was selling and wanted to know how they could recognize it at other retailers. That’s when the Blooming Advantage brand was born. A burgundy pot and later a trademarked logo was the formula that worked.

“I really wanted a color that would be complimentary to the plant, that would make it look more striking,” Dinsdale says. “We wanted it to be understated, but identifiable.” 

This word-of-mouth branding used what, according to Dinsdale, any good marketing program needs — a distinct product and lots of time. It takes more than two or three years and a lot of hype to make a good brand.

“Research has shown that gardeners are not paying so much attention to brands in our industry. I think that’s probably true when it’s all advertising and promotion, without discernible differences in product and quality,” she says.

Looking Inward

With a branded and popular product line already in the market, Blooming Nursery has had time to evaluate processes and personnel. Over the last few years, new staff has been added to an already loyal and talented staff to add skills the company needed to improve, organizational efficiency, communications and process systems, in particular.

A new software system from SBI Nursery for tracking inventory by sales-ready date has also been a big recent change. Eight handheld computers are used to log transplants, cuttings and movement in production areas. While the entire nursery isn’t completely wireless yet, it’s in the works.

“What we’re working towards is getting full transparency throughout the organization, so everyone can look in and see exactly what we have, when it’s going to be ready, where it is and even notes about its condition, as well as what’s projected for the future,” Dinsdale says.

Over the next two years, the company also plans to add two acres of greenhouse space and is looking to expand into is co-branding with retailers and pre-pricing on the dock. The challenge is the short runs that would be required, as the company often ships up to 200 different items per order, one flat at a time. Pre-pricing, however, would give retailers more time to sell fresh inventory.

“Otherwise, when plants get to the garden center, they’re sitting on racks waiting for someone to price them,” Dinsdale says. “That doesn’t help us or them.” Ultimately, Blooming Nursery wants to help consumers become gardeners, even if it’s by accident.

Dinsdale On… 

Using common names for varieties: “The industry is responding to the fact that consumers don’t really like Latin names, so they’re using common names. The Latin name, in some cases, is not even on the label or hard to find. It’s making it even harder for a gardener to know what the real name of a plant is. It needs to be right there, prominent on the label.” 

Being a woman in floriculture: “I’m really fortunate to be an American woman born at this time in history. It’s the best ever. If I was born anywhere else in the world, I couldn’t do what I’m doing, as a first generation nursery owner. There have been some minor obstacles, but no serious handicaps. It’s just been a little bit of a nuisance.”

“Maybe they don’t even mean to be a gardener, but they end up with a plant,” she says. “We want to make sure that it’s a good experience. We don’t want any one of them to buy a plant, have it die and have them think, ‘Well, I’m terrible at that. I’m not going to do that anymore.’

“If retailers are selling low-quality plants and plants that aren’t tested for the area, that’s very likely to happen. People will take it personally. They tend to think it’s their fault.”

Keeping a well-educated and hard-working staff is also paramount. Different perspectives and industry experiences have brought new, smoother, more accurate communication and process improvements, with more to come.

“Small things like that make a difference in efficiency,” Dinsdale says. “I’m really excited about where we’re heading.”

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Katherine Wolper

January 24, 2016

Ludvig Svensson Hires Katherine Wolper As West Coast Sales Manager

Wolper says she looks forward to listening to growers and understanding the concerns, obstacles, and opportunities they face.

Read More

January 20, 2016

Tips For Overcoming Challenges In Family Business From The Owners Of Costa Farms

Our industry is run by a collection of family businesses, and every one, no matter how big or small, has its share of management issues. But there are several differences between one that is run successfully as a business and one that allows family politics to distract from the organization’s goals. In this year’s State Of The Industry Survey, we noted that labor recruitment and succession are two areas where growers struggle. In talking with the owners of Costa Farms for this month’s cover story, I thought some of the values they have incorporated into the operation’s management structure really stood out as practices that other family businesses could use. The participatory management approach to business and team building is one that Tony Costa, the second-generation owner of Costa Farms, instilled in his children, Maria Costa-Smith and Jose Costa, and son-in-law, Joche Smith, the current owners of Costa Farms. In […]

Read More
I-9 Form

January 13, 2016

Proposed Changes To I-9 Form Important For Greenhouse Growers

AmericanHort’s Government Relations and Grassroots Representative Davi Bowen says growers need to become familiar with the new form and should be prepared to make comments if necessary.

Read More
Latest Stories
Katherine Wolper

January 24, 2016

Ludvig Svensson Hires Katherine Wolper As West Coast Sa…

Wolper says she looks forward to listening to growers and understanding the concerns, obstacles, and opportunities they face.

Read More

January 20, 2016

Tips For Overcoming Challenges In Family Business From …

Our industry is run by a collection of family businesses, and every one, no matter how big or small, has its share of management issues. But there are several differences between one that is run successfully as a business and one that allows family politics to distract from the organization’s goals. In this year’s State Of The Industry Survey, we noted that labor recruitment and succession are two areas where growers struggle. In talking with the owners of Costa Farms for this month’s cover story, I thought some of the values they have incorporated into the operation’s management structure really stood out as practices that other family businesses could use. The participatory management approach to business and team building is one that Tony Costa, the second-generation owner of Costa Farms, instilled in his children, Maria Costa-Smith and Jose Costa, and son-in-law, Joche Smith, the current owners of Costa Farms. In […]

Read More
I-9 Form

January 13, 2016

Proposed Changes To I-9 Form Important For Greenhouse G…

AmericanHort’s Government Relations and Grassroots Representative Davi Bowen says growers need to become familiar with the new form and should be prepared to make comments if necessary.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Wenke Greenhouses Buys Zylstra Greenhouses

Two Kalamazoo, MI-based greenhouses have merged after Wenke Greenhouses closed on Zylstra Greenhouses at the end of November. The additional property and facilities will allow Wenke Greenhouses to expand its young plant business, among other areas.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Costa Farms Wins With Its Emphasis On Team, Solutions, …

Based in Miami, FL, Costa Farms has gone global by focusing on strategy, systems, and vertical integration. See how the operation continues to expand through its emphasis on team, solutions, and growth.

Read More

January 11, 2016

New Transportation Funding Bill Is Good News For Floric…

According to AmericanHort, perhaps the biggest benefit of the new bill is what it doesn’t include: a proposed amendment that would have prohibited the use of federal funds for vegetative enhancements.

Read More

December 29, 2015

The Home Depot Says No To Neonics

The Home Depot plans to phase out neonicotinoids by 2018, according to a recent statement on the company’s website. The large home improvement retailer stated that its live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, and now more than 80% of all flowering plants sold at The Home Depot are not treated with neonicotinoids. The retailer said it will continue this decrease unless: Treatment is required by state or federal regulation, or Undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on live goods does not have a lethal or sub-lethal effect on pollinators Aside from these exceptions, the retailer has implemented a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on live goods by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, The Home Depot has required all of its live goods suppliers to label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids. “The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the […]

Read More
Gardeners of all ages enjoyed the annual plant sale at McCorkle Nurseries

December 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Explains Why People Will Always Want To …

We may believe that an appreciation for gardening and plants is rapidly draining away, but there is reason to hope.

Read More
Canadian Greenhouse Conference 2015

December 21, 2015

Presentations From Canadian Greenhouse Conference Avail…

Many of the talks that took place at this year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference in Ontario focused on improving production efficiencies in the greenhouse.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

December 7, 2015

How The Finalized Produce Safety Rule Will Affect Green…

While the new rule from FDA has many exemptions that will likely apply to greenhouse growers, the reality is that buyers may still require strict adherence to food safety standards.

Read More
Smith Gardens Marysville outdoor field production

November 30, 2015

Why Smith Gardens’ Marysville, WA, Facility Is A Great …

Labor rates in Washington State are some of the highest in the nation, making competition for labor fierce. This is why Smith Gardens in Marysville, WA, wants to strengthen its reputation as a great place to work.

Read More
Great Lakes Expo

November 30, 2015

6 Reasons You Should Attend The Michigan Greenhouse Gro…

The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo, held Dec. 8-10 in conjunction with the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo, will feature an expansive trade show and several educational sessions aimed at greenhouse growers.

Read More

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS…

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Jill Calabro

November 3, 2015

AmericanHort Names New Research And Science Programs Di…

Jill Calabro will bring strategic direction and oversight to research funding by the Horticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort.

Read More
SBI’s ANY Device Application allows growers to quickly determine availability-featuer

November 2, 2015

SBI Software’s Solutions Help Simplify Logistics For G…

The company focuses on helping growers improve their existing processes with solutions for site fulfillment, replenishment, inventory management and more.

Read More
Griffin Expo15 seminar

October 28, 2015

Griffin’s Hits Record Attendance With 2015 Expos,…

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies set new attendance records with its 2015 Expos. Its 2016 Expos are set for August 31 and September 1, 2016, in West Springfield, Mass., and September 21-22, 2016, in Lancaster, Penn.

Read More

October 28, 2015

Possum Run Greenhouses Taken Over By New Owners

Justin and Lynn Marotta have placed Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts into the hands of new owners. John and Caroline Bletner, a newly married couple, took over the Bellville, Ohio, property October 2, according to an October 24 article in the Mansfield News Journal. The Marotta family has run Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts for 41 years. When the Marottas announced in April the greenhouse operation was for sale, they said they were looking for an energetic couple to take the business to the next level, which is what they found in the Bletners, the article reports. The Bletners have hinted they’ll be “opening to a larger market” and that the retail side will “look different.” They’ll hold a grand re-opening the week of April 22, 2016. Staff are staying on board and the Bletners are maintaining many of the suppliers. The 200-plus varieties of fuchsias Justin brought to the greenhouse […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]