Sunnier Days Ahead After Stormy Spring

Spring brought some of the most inclement weather we have seen in 10 years, with unusually cold temperatures and rain across most regions of the United States. In some areas, the season did not start until mid-May. In some regions, the season started and stopped three or four times.

Those who fared the best were companies that could respond with good product whenever the weather broke, good selection and precision distribution. From all of those I talked to, the only part of the country that had a somewhat normal window of opportunity was the Deep South. And even then there were periods of stopping and starting.

Contract growers may have been most affected. Word has it there were a lot of contracts that were not delivered because the weather-related issues stalled sales and the merchandise was not needed. With the poor weather conditions so widespread, it was difficult to sell excess material to adjoining regions.

Growers who can respond the quickest to good weather days suffered far less than those who could not immediately fill the retail shelves with needed products. Another activity that helped those companies who were the most nimble was the movement of product from one store to another. Those who understand the importance of doing both product and store analysis have the information to know when and where to shift products.

Overall, from traveling around a number of regions it appears this was one of the worst springs in the past 10 years, with more poor weather conditions across most regions. It is yet to be determined what impact it will have on the financial health of the grower community, but clearly many businesses were hurt and hurt badly.

On the broker side, brokers typically they have huge receivables by the beginning of spring and want to clear them by the end of spring. But you have to wonder how difficult it will be to accomplish this because many of their customers took major hits on their sales volumes that ultimately affect their ability to pay their bills.

New Programs

Cow Pots, a biodegradable container made from pasteurized cow manure, was seen in a few stores in the Northeast in a 306 configuration with nice labeling and cart banners retailing for $6.98. It is one of the few bio-positioned containers that actually break down the first season. Look for this container to be more widespread next season.

At several Lowe’s stores in Southern California, I saw a 109 tray that consisted of three different genera positioned as a product the consumer could make their own patio pot or window box. It was retailing for $15. It had more comprehensive information than you ever see on an annual product.

At Walmart in Southern California, the stores I visited had no Bonnie Plant vegetables. Instead, Walmart offered a generic line produced by Altman Plants. The quarts were produced in some type of paper, and all flats had a large flat talker on the end prominently displaying the variety and price point. Each pot also had a large colorful label. The generic vegetables were priced lower than the Bonnie Plants in other regions.

Other Observations

There’s no doubt the edible category continues to grow and expand. I observed consumers heavily shopping the edible products at retail. The retailers are putting a wider array of offerings in their stores, with an increase in varieties of vegetables and a lot more berries and small fruits in their inventories.

Noticeably absent is the lack of vegetables and other edibles for patio gardening, especially because there are a lot of varieties that are compatible with patio and small space gardening–most notably the Vegetalis line from Floranova. Clearly the industry is missing an opportunity to satisfy the demand, as research shows more than 50 percent of consumers who vegetable garden do some form of patio gardening.

Proven Winners continues to expand its footprint at Home Depot with more retail space. In some markets, Home Depot has built pergolas with Proven Winners-only products and POS retail signage. Clearly, Proven Winners is the lead premium here.
On the branding front, from my observations the Wave brand is the leading national brand that is in every store at all national retailers–and in some regions in large quantities. Most growers like the Wave product because it has created heavy demand, has low input costs and carries healthy gross margins.


Overall, this was not a good season. But it was clear as I stopped at retailers while traveling the country that there was pent-up demand by the consumer after a long, hard winter. This was the first year I remember seeing weekend traffic during the week when the weather broke. It seemed like many consumers were going to buy green goods and the only thing that mattered was what day the weather would be good enough to garden.

Patio containers continue to grow but only if they look great. There are too many of them on the retail shelves that are not appealing because they have little color. Some of the recipes being offered are leading to the lack of color because all items are not blooming or even growing together. If we want to kill this market, then continue to put unmatched recipes on the shelves. It’s simple: color sells.

Leave a Reply

More From State of the Industry...

May 1, 2015

18 New Grasses To Grow

Ornamental grasses fit in with the needs of today’s landscapers and consumers better than ever. Whether your customers are looking for creative solutions for patio containers or a mass planting in a landscape, some of the 18 new varieties included here are sure to meet the need.

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Natives And Grasses

Restoration landscapes, depending on their purpose, often require straight native species, along with a confirmation of their known provenance. Research is key in this area and good recordkeeping is a must.

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Financial Administrator

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Latest Stories

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

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

January 14, 2015

Florensis Receives Horticultural Entrepreneur Award

During the January 7, 2015 award ceremony in the Keukenhof, in Lisse, Netherlands, Florensis received the Horticultural Entrepreneur Award. Florensis was one of four nominated companies, which also included Arcadia BV, Artemis and Martens Asperges.

Read More

January 9, 2015

AmericanHort Celebrates Its First Birthday

AmericanHort was formally launched one year ago on January 1, 2014, and the association is celebrating numerous successes of the first year.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 7, 2015

We’re All In This Together

Growers and retailers have a common goal — to serve customers better. In this new column, Greenhouse Grower will take a look at ways growers and retailers can work together to take advantage of profit opportunities and better meet customer needs.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Industry Speaks Out Against “Waters Of The U.S.” Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of the U.S.,” has the potential to disrupt normal business practices for growers across the country.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Students Tackle Real-Life Challenges At National FFA Fl…

Top prize winners put skills learned in the classroom to the test at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Floriculture Career Development Event.

Read More
Lesley Judd

January 7, 2015

2014 Meister Scholarship Awarded To Ph.D Student

The Richard T. Meister Scholarship was awarded to Lesley Judd, a graduate student with a passion for horticulture and a desire to pass her knowledge along through teaching.

Read More

January 6, 2015

39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium Will Be Febr…

The Professional Gardener Alumni Association (PGAA) will hold the 39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium program will be on February 6, 2015 from 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood Gardens, and will feature an array of engaging speakers.

Read More