Anna Ball’s Top Trends In Horticulture

Anna Ball's Top Trends In Horticulture

Ball Horticultural Co.’s CEO Anna Ball recently shared her insights with woody ornamental growers at the International Plant Propagators Society’s Eastern Region meeting in Cleveland. Here are her top trends:

Sustainability
Sustainability continues to top her list, and as a company, Ball has been the leader in creating a sustainable supply chain for growers. Sustainability is the fifth wave of innovation to transform our industry, the way plastics and soilless media revolutionized our industry in the 1960s, she says. Sustainability isn’t a project or program but a new way of doing business. “It’s not a goal on the strategic plan but part of everything you do,” Ball explains. “It’s a vehicle to drive innovation in all different areas. To create a sense of urgency, we need to act as though oil were $300 a barrel, water availability were cut in half and weather variations tripled.”

She advises growers to embrace complete transparency in their production practices. “Imagine everything you do in your greenhouse gets printed in the newspaper,” she says, adding this type of accountability has happened in other industries. “Food labels are a good example. Imagine if on your plant, the label said what you sprayed, the miles it was shipped and the amount of energy you used. We need to prepare for 100 percent transparency on all products.”

Ball is not recommending the industry stop using chemicals and plastics. “This is not extreme. I think plastics and chemicals have their place,” she says. “The answer is in the middle. Sometimes we need chemicals but we need to reduce the need.” This is similar to the medical industry needing to focus on prevention as well as curing, a more holistic approach, she says.

There are opportunities for growers to make money by promoting sustainable practices, whether its presenting plants in eco-friendly packaging with a relevant message or supplying plants for green roofs and green walls.

But the top way for our industry to become more sustainable and make money is to reduce shrink. “Out of 100 seeds or cuttings, how many become beautiful plants in somebody’s yard?” she asks. “At the seed and cutting level, 26 percent are thrown away at harvest. An additional 13 percent is lost in distribution. Twenty percent are lost at they young plant stage, followed by 12 percent in finished plants and between 9 and 18 percent at retail. The consumer only plants 8 percent. This is a huge issue.

“We need better forecasting, better merchandising and better information. How can we reduce costs and increase quality? It’s an economic issue. Going sustainable also saves money.”

Ornamental Edibles
Whether they’re vegetables, fruits or nuts, we’re looking at edibles in a different way and rethinking how we use them. “We’re mixing vegetables and flowers,” Ball says. “No more 10- by 10-foot Victory Gardens. Everything should be mixed up. It’s a trend we’re seeing in every country, even South Africa, Australia and Japan.”

Gardeners Are Fading
Decorators are taking over. The two are direct opposites. “Gardening is a lifelong process–the journey not the destination. It’s sustained activity over time,” Ball says. “Decorating is short-term for instant gratification. It changes with the mood and must be fast. What do decorators want? Accurate, clear pricing and signage. No waiting in line. Large, easy carts. Clean hands and shoes. They key is appealing to decorators without turning off gardeners. For the decorators, make it as close to silk as possible–low maintenance, easy to care for and holds up at retail.” But each trend has a counter trend. “We’re also seeing a move to slow gardening in the recession, a return to home and slow food,” she adds.

Consolidation At Every Level
From breeder to retailer, each link in the distribution chain is becoming more consolidated. While this leads to lower prices, narrower margins and places power in fewer hands, it also eliminates less serious players and leads to harmonizing and upgrading standards. Ball says consolidation in our industry will never be as dramatic as in say the office supply industry.

“We used to have independent stationery stores, but within 10 years, they had consolidated 100 percent,” she says. “Instead of those stores you have large chains like Office Depot, Staples and OfficeMax. It didn’t happen in our industry and it’s not going to happen. We’re seeing a counter trend with strong independent garden centers offering better quality and selection along with a knowledgeable staff. The challenge is to keep the large and small growers as suppliers. Big box retailers and independents both have their place.”

Appealing To Young People & Novices
Many Gen X and Y’ers would compare themselves going to a garden center to their grandmothers going to the mega electronics retailer Best Buy. “The experience would be intimidation and confusion,” Ball says. “One guy said he wouldn’t go to an independent garden center unless he took a virtual tour online first. Otherwise, he’d feel too stupid. We have to make it easy for the consumer, especially new people entering the market through vegetable gardening.”

Beyond Beauty
Flowers are not just for beauty anymore. “I think there’s a paradigm shift in our industry and the way people look at plants,” Ball says. “One of our breeders said she thinks people want a different relationship with their plants than before. I think she’s onto something. It’s no longer just putting a tree in the front yard and a bush here. There’s a huge opportunity for our industry to improve property values, boost tourism, reduce crime, increase productivity, reduce energy costs, calm traffic, provide privacy and security, mitigate urban climate extremes, produce oxygen and sequester pollution. Intellectually, we know this but we’re not getting the message out. This all ties in with the benefits of America In Bloom.”

Product Blending
We’re seeing more blurring of crop lines and uses. “Is the plant an annual, perennial or a woody ornamental? Who cares? The consumer doesn’t,” Ball says. “Who cares about zones if it’s a woody ornamental in a mixed container that’s going to get thrown out at the end of the year. I bought all the gardening magazines in May. With my plant mind, I was sorting featured plants by annuals and perennials. I was unable to classify some of the plants because the articles and advertisements didn’t say. People don’t care what they are. They just care what they look like.”

Leave a Reply

8 comments on “Anna Ball’s Top Trends In Horticulture

  1. Interesting article. Going through the apps on my i Phone, I was thinking about the appeal to young people. Some of my “Friends” are playing this game “FarmVille”. If you haven’t seen it check it out. It’s an interesting perspective in a nerdy sort of style. I looked into the gardening apps. They have some similar, but not to the extent that this medium could be used, there is no branding. Finding specific item are tough. It could be a great teaching tool. In reading the article I quickly thought, what about a virtual Garden Center where you could actually order all types of plants, trees, shrubs. All growing information is there, as well as tips on how to succeed. Intimidation for end user is gone. Target your demographic and educate them. We need to get on their level, not the other way around. This will be our industries real sustainability, customers.

  2. As for sustainability check out the work in the California wine industry at Central Coast Vineyard Team. They are really leading the way to transparency and an honest discussion of all practices. No one is holier than thou like some of our organic friends growing in that tight little box of rules…look forward to showing my wife the trend in mixing vegetables and ornamentals. She has always wondered why I planted that way these 31 years. Just slightly ahead of the curve. PAB

  3. The idea of blending edibles with ornamentals was something I have been doing all my life. As a result, my first book “Landscaping Herbs” as my master’s thesis was published by Stipes, LLD, Champaign, IL.
    Anna and anyone interested in this concept should read my book.

  4. I thought the virtual online tour suggestion (Appealing to Young People and Novices) was really interesting. I recently saw that the Mood Fabrics website (the fabric store used on Project Runway) has store photos and a store layout that is easily printed. http://www.moodfabrics.com/index.php?file=aboutus IGCs could easily do this and at least give the uninitiated consumer a basic idea of what can be found at a garden center. One thing that Anna Ball didn’t mention is the “localvore” trend shifting from simply caring/knowing where our food comes from to supporting local, independent businesses.

  5. Interesting article. Going through the apps on my i Phone, I was thinking about the appeal to young people. Some of my “Friends” are playing this game “FarmVille”. If you haven’t seen it check it out. It’s an interesting perspective in a nerdy sort of style. I looked into the gardening apps. They have some similar, but not to the extent that this medium could be used, there is no branding. Finding specific item are tough. It could be a great teaching tool. In reading the article I quickly thought, what about a virtual Garden Center where you could actually order all types of plants, trees, shrubs. All growing information is there, as well as tips on how to succeed. Intimidation for end user is gone. Target your demographic and educate them. We need to get on their level, not the other way around. This will be our industries real sustainability, customers.

  6. As for sustainability check out the work in the California wine industry at Central Coast Vineyard Team. They are really leading the way to transparency and an honest discussion of all practices. No one is holier than thou like some of our organic friends growing in that tight little box of rules…look forward to showing my wife the trend in mixing vegetables and ornamentals. She has always wondered why I planted that way these 31 years. Just slightly ahead of the curve. PAB

  7. The idea of blending edibles with ornamentals was something I have been doing all my life. As a result, my first book “Landscaping Herbs” as my master’s thesis was published by Stipes, LLD, Champaign, IL.
    Anna and anyone interested in this concept should read my book.

  8. I thought the virtual online tour suggestion (Appealing to Young People and Novices) was really interesting. I recently saw that the Mood Fabrics website (the fabric store used on Project Runway) has store photos and a store layout that is easily printed. http://www.moodfabrics.com/index.php?file=aboutus IGCs could easily do this and at least give the uninitiated consumer a basic idea of what can be found at a garden center. One thing that Anna Ball didn’t mention is the “localvore” trend shifting from simply caring/knowing where our food comes from to supporting local, independent businesses.

More From State of the Industry...

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Innovation Day

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strategy

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Inn…

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
CCGGA-Scholarship-Winners

May 20, 2015

Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association Awards 201…

The Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association (CCGGA) is awarding 20 scholarships this year to high school and college students. CCGGA-member nurseries raised money for the scholarship fund and each donated a portion of the fundraising sales to the fund, which is open to students currently enrolled in college for the following year. The scholarship program is also available to students of employees who work at CCGGA-member nurseries One of the organization’s goals is to continue encouraging future generations to enter the horticulture field and to promote higher education within the families that work in the local nursery business. The 2015 CCGGA scholarship recipients are: Aloysia Shea – Nipomo High School Andrew McHaney – CSalinas High School Angel Flores – Righetti High School Beatriz Barajas – San Jose State University Carolanne Garibay – Monterey Peninsula College Cladia Lavina – Salinas High School Erica Marquez-Ibarra – San Jose State University Jorge Zarate […]

Read More

May 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Top 100 Growers…

Greenhouse Grower‘s Top 100 Growers Survey revealed that our projections in the 2015 State Of The Industry report were correct: Growers, at least the large ones, are expanding. Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 List ranks the largest U.S. growers by total square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse space, although this year, we have also listed shade and field acreage, to give perspective on how large these operations are beyond the greenhouse. In total, the 2015 list represents 228,906,001 environmentally controlled square feet of U.S. production, a 5 percent increase over 2014. All told, 26 growers reported that their operation grew between 2014 and 2015. Several growers reduced their production over the past year, as well, and while some operations’ downsized numbers were significant, most were slight and probably typical of the give-and-take in the horticulture industry. Greenhouse Grower‘s 2015 Top 100 Growers Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, […]

Read More
USDA Logo

May 13, 2015

New Report Shows College Graduates With Agriculture Deg…

A new report from the USDA shows high demand for recent college graduates with agriculture degrees, with an estimated 57,900  high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment fields in the U.S. According to an employment outlook report released by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture related fields, 22,500 short of the jobs available annually. “There is incredible opportunity for highly-skilled jobs in agriculture,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can expect to have ample career opportunities. Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more […]

Read More
USDA Logo

May 6, 2015

USDA Awards $10 Million In Grants To Universities To Ad…

More than $10 million has been awarded to U.S. universities to address critical water problems, such as water quality and availability, in rural and agricultural watersheds across the country. The awards were made through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Water for Agriculture challenge area and the National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP). “Water is our most precious resource, one that is essential for both human survival and well-being and for our ability to grow our crops and livestock,” says Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “By funding research, Extension and education for citizens and the agriculture community, we are able to proactively create solutions to water-related issues like drought and its impact on food security.” The AFRI Water for Agriculture challenge area was first introduced in fiscal year (FY) 2014, and these grants represent the first year of funding for the program. Funded […]

Read More
fngla

May 6, 2015

Florida Nursery, Growers And Landscape Association Name…

Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) has awarded a group of individuals through its FNGLA Industry Awards Program for their contributions to the industry. This year’s winners will be honored during FNGLA’s Annual Convention in Coral Gables on June 13, as part of FNGLA’s Annual Meeting. FNGLA’s Industry Awards Program acknowledges both FNGLA and industry service, with varying criteria geared for each award. Nominations are accepted from the industry-at-large and winners are selected by a committee of industry peers. The Wendell Butler Award and the FNGLA Hall of Fame are recognized as the most prestigious awards given by FNGLA. The Wendell Butler Award is presented for service to FNGLA and the FNGLA Hall of Fame Award is a lifetime achievement award. Nominations are accepted from the industry at large. FNGLA Hall of Fame Inductee: Hugh Gramling, Tampa Bay Wholesale Growers (Plant City, Fla.), retired Wendell E. Butler Award: Theresa & Kevin Riley, […]

Read More
water

May 6, 2015

Record Low Snowpack Continues In The West

Across the Western U.S., snowpack has melted sooner than usual, according to data from the fourth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “Almost all of the West Coast continues to have a record low snowpack,” NRCS Hydrologist David Garen says. “March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual.” Historically, April 1 is the peak snowpack. This year, the peak came earlier. There was little snow accumulation in March, and much of the existing snow has already melted. “The only holdouts are higher elevations in the Rockies,” Garen says. “Look at the map and you’ll see that almost everywhere else is red.” Red indicates less than half of the normal snowpack remains. A consequence of the early snowmelt is that Western states will have reduced streamflow later this spring and summer. In Western states where snowmelt […]

Read More
RedPeppers_RosanaPrada_Flickr

April 29, 2015

Nature Fresh Farms To Build 175-Acre Greenhouse Facilit…

Growing fresh vegetables in the Midwest is about to take a major turn in a new direction as Nature Fresh Farms has announced a large-scale investment in northwest Ohio. The company broke ground on April 10 to begin construction on a 175-acre greenhouse facility in Delta, Ohio. “This is an exciting time for Nature Fresh Farms as we expand our operations to include a U.S. growing facility,” said Nature Fresh Farms President Peter Quiring in a press release. “This development will allow us to better serve our Ohio customers with locally grown produce, year-round and continue to grow our U.S. operations.” Contingent upon acceptable levels of incentives from the State of Ohio and other government authorities, as well as utility rates agreeable to Nature Fresh, the company would be poised to ship its first case of vegetables in December 2015. The greenhouse project will be completed in several phases over the […]

Read More
RISE logo

April 29, 2015

RISE Delivers Petition Urging President Obama To Protec…

Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) delivered a pollinator petition to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, urging President Obama to create more habitat and forage areas for pollinators, and to consider all sources of information on, and contributors to the pollinator health issue. Nearly 600 citizens from across the U.S. signed the petition. “Our petition shows President Obama that citizens want a balanced and substantive conversation to happen on the pollinator health issue,” says Aaron Hobbs, RISE president. “The pollinator issue is very complex and research points to multiple factors affecting pollinators, including pests and parasites, microbial diseases, nutrition problems, bee management practices and climate change.” According to Hobbs, the petition highlights some of the steps the industry is taking to support pollinators. This includes creating pollinator-friendly habitats and forage areas through integrated vegetation management in utility rights-of-way and large tracts of land. “We do applaud the White House for including in […]

Read More
HRI logo

April 8, 2015

Horticultural Research Institute Accepting Scholarship …

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) is offering seven scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year, totaling $20,000. Applications will be accepted through May 31.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates H…

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More

March 25, 2015

NASS Reports U.S. Honey Production Was Up By 19 Percent…

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to a March 20 report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s…

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Benchmarks: Let’s Change Our Story

It's a new year. Time for our industry to change how consumers perceive plants by creating a new reality where plants are valued for more than their physical beauty.

Read More

January 21, 2015

AFE Wins Platinum MarCom Award For “Murder, Sex a…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) took home its fourth award for the animated awareness video "Murder, Sex and Greed." The organization also recently announced that there are two new members on its board of trustees.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 19, 2015

2015 State Of The Industry: Current Green Industry Tren…

Demand for green industry products and services is forecasted to increase in coming years as the housing market rebounds.

Read More
DNA-logo

January 14, 2015

Terra Nigra Joins DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group will be expanding its range of cut flowers by incorporating Terra Nigra, a company specializing in breeding and propagation of gerberas and roses.

Read More