One Bird At A Time

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One Bird At A Time

I enjoy sharing the trial gardens at the university with my friends and neighbors, and having recently moved, I mentioned I was going over to check on watering to my new neighbors.

In my little pickup truck trundled Jean and Vicki, two friends who enjoy gardening but don’t know one cultivar from another. They were also newbies to the trials, having never visited it. When they walked into the garden, they exclaimed with delight and wanted to see everything, look at the names and bring their husbands and family over to share it with them.

I had mentioned I had a few extra plants they could have, and like kids in a candy store, they walked around the containers asking the usual questions about sun and shade, annual and perennial and, of course, “What is that?” 

While wandering through the geraniums, the basil, the angelonias and the calibrachoas, they may not have known what they were, but under their breath I heard them muttering, “I have to get Hank here, I bet Emily would love this,” referring to their family and friends.

Reaching Potential Consumers

From the gardening perspective, here were two people our industry needs to cultivate, but how to do it? They enjoy gardening, but don’t love it. They know many different kinds of plants but don’t know cultivars. They enjoy the therapy of planting but need to be successful to continue. The most important thing I have found with people like Jan and Vicki, however, is they want to share.

When they get a bit of the “garden bug,” they want their husbands, friends and maybe most importantly, their kids and grandkids to share in their new-found adventures. For us, this is a no-brainer.

Sharing our own enthusiasm with others is the best way to continue bringing people into our world. It takes time and effort to do this, but there are many people out there like Jan and Vicki who enjoy putting some color in their beds or containers, and with a little enthusiasm from our side, can become the best ambassadors for our products. They can reach friends and young people we would never be able to reach.

With a little success under their belts, they will bring them to retail centers to help them choose plants, or simply as a shopping adventure. But they have to get turned on, and enthusiasm is the best switch.

How do you do it? There are a lot of them and few of us. I have no answers. And if I think about the hundreds or thousands of people who are like Jean and Vicki–people who would respond but don’t hear from us–I can get overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel.

But then I think back to a wonderful book in which a young boy was lamenting to his father that he had to write an essay about birds for his fifth grade class. “Dad,” he said, “there are so many. I don’t know where to start.” His father looked at him and said, “Son, just take it bird by bird.” (Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott, 1995)

There are a lot of birds, and we need to try to reach them any way we can.

Allan Armitage (allan@greenhouse grower.com) is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

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