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...
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means For Greenhouse Growers

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig Regelbrugge

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig…

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

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