Since Athens Select’s launch in 1998, the collection has added a host of best-selling new varieties and initiated a partnership with the Southern Living Plant Collection that’s helped take the program to new heights.
Things are really heating up for 2009-10 with a new president and another batch of great varieties from both Athens Select and its alliance with the Southern Living Plant Collection. It’s a great opportunity for the propagators in the program as well as growers and retailers who stock their heat- and humidity-tolerant plants.
“Any time you’re part of a program like this, it opens doors and gives opportunities to expand your selection and promote your business in new ways,” says President Leah James of James Greenhouses in Athens, Ga.
Operators of a strictly propagation operation specializing in perennials, Leah and her husband Ken immediately saw the program’s potential and signed on as one of the charter propagator partners. With about 2 acres producing 10 million plugs a year, Leah sees endless possibilities for both her operation and the Athens Select program.
“I’d like to help bring more patented, protected breeding to the program,” she says. “Breeding at the University of Georgia and others shows a wealth of potential to build on.”
Partnering with the Southern Living Plant Collection adds a whole new horizon of opportunity, Leah adds. “It’s such a strong brand with tremendous recognition, not just in the South, but nationwide. That, along with the concept Athens Select has for exceptionally heat- and humidity-tolerant plants, can increase distribution and awareness across the board for our programs and varieties.”
Just two years into Athens Select’s partnership with the Southern Living Plant Collection, the program shines for its unique varieties and its ability to provide sizzling color even in summer heat. With 11 Athens Select varieties now part of the Southern Living Plant Collection, opportunities for growth abound.
For Athens Select, the partnership was a no-brainer. After all, Southern Living is a premier lifestyle and entertainment magazine and the sixth largest monthly consumer magazine in the United States. It reaches nearly 16 million readers each month and enjoys a circulation of about 2.8 million.
“Having the Southern Living brand behind your product and, for retailers, [having] the pot and tag on their shelves, is such a powerful statement,” Leah says. “This is a partnership that’s truly focused on growth.”
The magazine, with the help of Alabama-based plant innovation company PDSI, designed the collection to provide gardeners with innovative new plants that solve specific landscape challenges. Each plant in the collection is the result of years of plant evaluations, plant trials and consumer research.
It’s an exceptional fit for Athens Select plants, which undergo some of the industry’s most rigorous evaluations in Allan Armitage’s trial gardens at the University of Georgia.
The latest Athens Select varieties added to the Southern Living Plant Collection are Vogue mandevillas ‘Sophia’ and ‘Vivian,’ verbena ‘Princess Blush,’ verbena ‘Princess Dark Lavender’ and pentas ‘Stars & Stripes.’
These and every plant in the Southern Living Plant Collection are supported by a cohesive promotion campaign, including consumer advertising and public relations. Strong packaging and point-of-purchase elements provide additional pull-through marketing to gardeners.
It’s this unique combination of tactical marketing and exceptional plants that’s helped Athens Select heat up sales for growers across the country. As Allan Armitage likes to say: “Put Athens Select in your lineup, and watch your sales rise along with temperatures!”