Go Get ‘Em Already!

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The question of whether or not floriculture is relevant to consumers has been lingering without a definitive answer for far too long. To you and me, there’s no doubt floriculture is relevant. It’s what drives us out of bed every day to breed the next great plant, grow a top-notch crop or spread the joy of gardening.

Still, is floriculture relevant to consumers? If you take this year’s Seeley Conference into account, three of the last eight conferences have focused on consumers and how consumers perceive us. The 2004 conference was, in fact, directly focused on whether or not floriculture is relevant to consumers, and this year’s homes in on creating consumer mindshare.
The fact we keep asking the question leads me to believe we’re not relevant to consumers, but that doesn’t mean we’re hopeless. I would argue we’re one of the most underappreciated industries out there and that consumers will once and for all embrace us when they experience the rewards of gardening. Before consumers can reap the rewards, though, we have to do a better job communicating exactly what they’re missing.
Is there one giant leap floriculture can take to convey our core messages? Considering the industry can’t settle on a collective national promotion, I doubt it. Growers are too segmented by their respective crops and retail channels to come to a collective agreement, and there’s always the matter of who’s going to pay for such an effort. 

Success Stories

The most logical approach, then, is to think more individually or as small groups and take baby steps to reach consumers. Last year’s Lilytopia event at Longwood Gardens was a collaborative effort between breeders and growers to promote the beautiful lilies Dutch hybridizers are developing. The exhibition drew more than 50,000 people to Longwood–all of them potential lily consumers–and Longwood Executive Director Paul Redman expects a similar showing this May.
Yet another example of people with common interests coming together is an Anthos campaign to invigorate consumer demand for flower bulbs here in North America. Seventeen of Anthos’ members companies are participating in the campaign, and they’ve collectively pitched in $5.7 million over three years to jumpstart the bulb market here.
“Education is important,” says Henk Westerhof, Anthos president. “Consumers know what a flower bulb is, but you have to deal with different climate zones here in the North American market. People don’t know what to do with flower bulbs.”
Yes, both examples involve Dutch companies making tremendous investments together, but there’s no reason others can’t unite. The folks at Suntory Flowers, EuroAmerican Propagators and Armstrong Garden Centers put their minds together for a President’s Day weekend event to promote Senetti pericallis across California. A convoy of about 20 EuroAmerican semis with Senetti splashed across them visited retail locations throughout the state, leaving an Armstrong Garden Center with an escort of four patrol cars and a marching band sendoff. If only we promoted all of our products this way! 
Fortunately, we can. If Dutch hybridizers are drumming up excitement for lilies, if bulb suppliers are spending serious dollars to promote their products and if a breeder, grower and retailer are collaborating with decorative semis and a high school marching band, there’s surely opportunity for you to be part of a bigger idea that can benefit your business.
Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.

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