Bred For A Cause

Bred For A Cause

Americans love to give. They love to give even more if they get something in return, other than a warm and fuzzy feeling. Floriculture has gotten into the giving mood recently, with the proceeds of many plant sales going to charities. Proven Winners is giving back with perilla ‘Gage’s Shadow.’

Proven Winners approached plant breeder Cheryl Baker about the coleus/perilla cross. ‘Gage’s Shadow’ is named after Baker’s son, Gage, who is challenged with cerebral palsy (CP).

“This plant was going to be for children who have cerebral palsy,” Baker says. “This was going to be their plant. I know there are many children out there who have CP and just can’t get help.” Baker’s Shed Floral Nursery is a Proven Winners breeder, as well as a wholesale grower and retailer.

Proven Winners will donate 100 percent of the marketing funds received from the sale of every ‘Gage’s Shadow’ plant to the local United Cerebral Palsy chapter where Gage receives treatment and support. Baker points out that the proceeds of the plant will help many children with CP, not only Gage. She worked on the breeding for ‘Gage’s Shadow’ over ten years, and decided on Proven Winners among the many interested breeders to patent the plant and become its licensed propagator. ‘Gage’s Shadow’ has purple-black foliage, a great background to set off colorful flowers in the landscaping. It is fast growing and drought, sun and shade tolerant. In full sun, the plant takes a burgundy tint.

“It’s a great feeling in our business to find a way to help people in need,” says Jeanine Standard, Proven Winners’ advertising and public relations coordinator. “This is a great effort because it channels dollars right into the local chapter where Gage has been helped.” This type of program also allows opportunities for other companies to give. The John Henry Company donated the printing of point-of-purchase materials, including a double-sided poster, which explain to the consumer that a portion of the proceeds go to United Cerebral Palsy.

“The minute John Henry heard about this, they wanted to get on board,” Standard says. EuroAmerican, Four Star Greenhouse, Pleasant View and Nordic Industries and Sobkowich Greenhouses in Canada are growing ‘Gage’s Shadow,’ as is Shed Floral Nursery. The great plant characteristics and the special donation have been a winning combination so far. Baker says her first 1,000 cuttings were sold immediately this spring.

Standard says we can expect to see more similar cause-based products from Proven Winners in the future.

“It’s been very enjoyable,” Standard says. “The positive response has surprised us. We’ve gotten thank you notes from customers and the general public.” And working on a project that is all about giving benefits the Proven Winner staff, too.

“It makes them feel good about what they’re doing. It’s a small effort, but its our way to make a difference,” she says. And Baker feels the same way.

“I wish I could do more for them [children with CP],” she says. 

Community Support

The public appreciates what companies have done to support charity efforts. Here’s one note of thanks Proven Winners received in response to ‘Gage’s Shadow':

“Glad to see a fundraiser for cerebral palsy. My brother (one year older than me) has cerebral palsy and has lived with this condition for 44 years. He is able to walk with an awkward walk, and has remained out of a wheelchair til now. I know that he is fortunate as so many are so severely handicapped. But it is a matter of time before he will be wheelchair bound.

“I want to congratulate you on your mission. And want to thank you for the wonderful plants you provide. You guys are the greatest!”

Remember Me Roses

After September 11, 2001, Sue Casey was thinking about what she could do to help those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks. As she left a church service, she came across a beautiful yellow rose.

“After a moment, looking to the West Hills of Portland, I said, ‘That’s it. We’re the City of Roses, I’ll give them a rose garden.'” From a home office, the Remember Me rose garden was born. Since then, the effort has bloomed. Hybridizers have pitched in and Remember Me plans to dedicate gardens in New York, Washington D.C. and Somerset County, Pa., each with 2,963 rose bushes, one for each person who lost their life.

There will be a total of nine roses dedicated to the victims of 9/11. Bailey Nurseries’ ‘Forty Heroes’ rose was selected for inclusion in the gardens.

“I feel this rose exemplifies the strength, courage and beauty of the passengers of United Flight 93,” says hybridizer Ping Lim. “They are true heroes and we feel privileged to pay tribute to them.” The rose features deep yellow blooms in hybrid tea form, with a fruity fragrance. When ‘Forty Heroes’ is available at garden centers in spring 2008, a donation from the sale of each rose bush will be made to the Remember Me Rose Garden Maintenance Fund, which finances the care of the gardens.

In addition to ‘Forty Heroes,’ eight other roses have been named to honor the victims of Sept. 11, and a donation from the sale of those roses will also go to the maintenance fund. ‘Firefighter’ was hybridized by Pierre Orard of Lyon, France, and was named one of the two City of Portland Gold Medal Award winners for 2007. ‘Soaring Spirits’ and ‘We Salute You’ were hybridized by Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses. ‘Firefighter’ is currently in the process of being opened up for licensing to other growers. ‘Forty Heroes’ sold out quickly in a pre-release by Bailey’s. “The feedback from consumers to the roses is amazing,” Casey says. “It seems like anyone who has contacted me about the roses has had a story about September 11, too. I believe that as more people learn about Remember Me and the roses, the demand will be even greater.”

‘The Finest,’ another rose hybridized by Ping Lim, was announced on April 27 in New York City to honor the New York Police Department. It will be available in garden centers in 2009.

TGM Marketing in Garland, Texas, is donating the design for a hang tag specifically for the Remember Me Rose Garden Collection.

Not only are suppliers feeling good vibes from the program, so are schoolchildren. The Remember Me Rose School Awards program, sponsored by the National Gardening Association and All-America Rose Selections (AARS), awards roses and gardening materials to twenty schools across the country. AARS supplies each winner with two dozen rose bushes.

“The kids create their own mini Remember Me rose garden as their way of remembering September 11th,” Casey says. “The space is also used as a place for them to resolve conflicts in a peaceful way.”

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