Nursery News & Blues

We’ve been hearing how nursery growers focused on woody ornamentals are faring much worse than greenhouse growers producing spring annuals. The headlines we published last fall indicate there will be a pretty big shakeout in the nursery landscape next year, even plant shortages.

Hines Nurseries is back in Chapter 11 for the second time in two years. Carolina Nurseries has closed its doors. Monrovia is asking for a $20 million bailout from its faithful indpendent garden center customers, while seriously considering serving the box stores for the first time in 15 years.

Hines and Monrovia have iconic histories. Both were founded in the same region of California in the 1920s but pursued different paths. Monrovia built a brand based on quality and selection and focused on the independent garden center channel to uphold the value of its brand. Hines gravitated more to the box stores while still serving independents.

Hines has had a revolving door of outside investor ownership and was publicly traded. Last year it focused on getting back to being the company it used to be and brought many of its leaders from 10 years ago back. But can you really go back to the future when so much in the market has changed?

For instance, The Berry Family of Nurseries in Oklahoma has emerged as the force to be reckoned with serving box stores. In 16 years, the company grew from one farm to 13 through acquisitions, which were all financed by the family business. While Hines, Monrovia and Carolina have been struggling to secure financial footing, The Berry Family just took on a private equity investor who infused $50 million in working cash into the business.

For many in this industry, outside investors and ownership have been the kiss of death. It only seems to work when the principals who built the business stay involved.

I spent a half hour on the phone talking to father-and-son team Bob and Burl Berry and was really impressed with their sense of purpose and direction. They launched with a clear vision to serve large retailers, even though independent garden centers still represent a good chunk of their business, $20 million. They have been able to serve both markets and produce leading brands including Knock Out and Flower Carpet roses, Encore azaleas and Forever & Ever hydrangeas.

Being less than 20 years old, the company was never rooted in the wholesale landscape trade and wasn’t as affected by the halt in housing and construction. More traditional nurseries have been saddled with too much inventory that took up space and became too old or past its prime. They haven’t had the cash or space to replant fresh inventory, which is why many are expecting shortages in plants this year.

Regional nurseries are facing the same issues, and changing with the times has been painful. One operation that has been really proactive in taking charge of its destiny is Willoway Nurseries in Ohio.

The company has invested in modern facilities that expand the possibilities of what can be grown. Willoway is always refining its crop mix and has expanded beyond perennials, trees and shrubs, to also offer annuals, tropicals and combination planters. Simple videos on YouTube show what’s available now.

Willoway has changed its customer base from 60 percent landscapers/40 percent garden centers to 80 percent garden centers/20 percent landscapers. The company also has expanded its geographic reach by adding sales representatives and regions, while helping garden centers with merchandising to increase sales.

Willoway also has fully embraced lean manufacturing principles to drive labor costs down. “We can’t control the cost of perlite or things dictated to us. Labor is where we’re trying to hit it hard,” says Willoway’s Cathy Kowalczyk. “We’re trying to work smarter.”

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Nursery News & Blues

  1. Another big change this year was with Conard-Pyle’s exit from finished container production.

    What WILL this look like a year from now? Nobody knows. The seasonal and cyclical nature of the business is a cause-effect scenario we all have to live with. Horticulture suppliers never do well when mixed with Wall Street economics. Over time the market will prevail and when we hit a down cycle short term thinking by investors takes over.

  2. Another big change this year was with Conard-Pyle’s exit from finished container production.

    What WILL this look like a year from now? Nobody knows. The seasonal and cyclical nature of the business is a cause-effect scenario we all have to live with. Horticulture suppliers never do well when mixed with Wall Street economics. Over time the market will prevail and when we hit a down cycle short term thinking by investors takes over.

More From State of the Industry...

March 2, 2017

Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry Whitepaper Available for Download

This year’s survey featured a record 975 respondents and tackled topics such as sales trends, technology, major industry challenges and opportunities, and much more.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry Webinar

February 27, 2017

State of the Industry Webinar Available for On-Demand Viewing

The half-hour presentation includes an analysis of Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 State of the Industry survey, along with insights from horticulture industry leaders.

Read More

February 11, 2017

Poinsettia Survey Reveals Growers Increased Poinsettia Sales and Production in 2016

On average, growers responding to Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Poinsettia Survey said the poinsettia season was “good,”Here’s a glance at the outlook for poinsettias in the marketplace.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 2, 2017

Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry Whitepaper Avai…

This year’s survey featured a record 975 respondents and tackled topics such as sales trends, technology, major industry challenges and opportunities, and much more.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry Webinar

February 27, 2017

State of the Industry Webinar Available for On-Demand V…

The half-hour presentation includes an analysis of Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 State of the Industry survey, along with insights from horticulture industry leaders.

Read More

February 11, 2017

Poinsettia Survey Reveals Growers Increased Poinsettia …

On average, growers responding to Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Poinsettia Survey said the poinsettia season was “good,”Here’s a glance at the outlook for poinsettias in the marketplace.

Read More

January 25, 2017

59 New Members of Congress Need to Hear from You, SAF S…

Retailers, wholesalers, suppliers, and growers coming to the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 37th Annual Congressional Action Days, March 13-14 in Washington, DC, have a lot of explaining to do. There are 59 new congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill, and this freshmen class needs a lesson about floriculture.

Read More
bouldin-lawson-pro-sticking-line-at-north-creek-nurseries

January 25, 2017

State of the Industry 2017: Growers are Ready to Invest…

Greenhouse Grower's 2017 State of the Industry Survey revealed that grower investment in technology is imminent due to the cost and availability of labor, to improve efficiency, expand their growing operations, and allow employees to concentrate on higher value jobs that are less labor-intensive.

Read More

January 24, 2017

Growers are an Aging Demographic, 2017 State of the Ind…

Owners and upper management of growing operations in the horticulture industry, not unlike others in agriculture, are aging, according to Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 State of the Industry Survey.

Read More
Biocontrols and beneficials absolutely can be used in outdoor production, with the use of banker plant systems

January 24, 2017

Growers Becoming More Sustainable but Most Think Climat…

Greenhouse Grower's 2017 State of the Industry Survey revealed that growers are adopting biocontrols and organic production, yet 58% of growers said they don't believe humans can control climate change.

Read More

January 24, 2017

State of the Industry Survey Says 2017 Will be a Year o…

Growers, suppliers, and researchers who took Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 State Of The Industry Survey say they are ready to drive change and profitability in horticultural businesses.

Read More
Moana plant yard

January 4, 2017

Green Industry Poised for Continued Economic Growth in …

Positive economic indicators point to 2017 being a year of modest growth for the green industry, according to economist Charlie Hall.

Read More

January 3, 2017

Growing Optimism for the Horticulture Industry in 2017

With a new administration and a new Congress, AmericanHort's Craig Regelbrugge says the horticulture industry has reason to be cautiously optimistic that regulatory relief could be on the horizon.

Read More
Bees on flowers

October 11, 2016

Bees Endangered? Here’s The Rest Of The Story

Recently, mainstream media reported that certain bee species have been placed on the endangered species list, but the situation isn’t as dire as one might think.

Read More
cuttings-facility

September 27, 2016

How Global Suppliers Of Unrooted Cuttings Are Working T…

The world’s top vegetative producers discuss how they continue to evolve to overcome challenges and embrace opportunities to help growers and the varieties supply chain.

Read More
OSU ATI Greenhouse

September 21, 2016

Your Support Is Essential For Current And Future Studen…

September is back to school time, and that means renewed opportunity to support the young people who are electing to pursue careers in horticulture. I continue to hear from growers of all sizes, from all over the country, that there just are not enough qualified graduates of two- or four-year horticulture programs. We also need to be active in promoting careers in horticulture to those who are not aware of the opportunities available. There have been some great success stories in this area recently. At University of Florida (UF) last fall, Anna Ball and Dr. Marvin Miller of Ball Horticultural Co. joined UF’s Dr. David Clark in an introductory environmental horticulture couse that’s open to any major. After the class, the line of students waiting to talk with Ball, Miller, and Clark was out the door. It is so important, Ball says, for each of us, individually and collectively to […]

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

August 13, 2016

Plants Sales Are Up For Fourth Straight Year, According…

Growers declared spring 2016 to be a success in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry: Spring Crops Recap Survey.

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

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our …

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at [email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More