30 More Years Of Greenhouse Growth Is Within Our Grasp

Dick Meister
Dick Meister

The great growth era for floriculture that occurred from the end of World War II up until the beginning of the 21st century was a triumph of technological progress plus discovery of new cultivars that brought bright colors to the landscape. It was also an era that was remarkable for an astonishing and marvelously insatiable boom in demand for flowering plants to beautify the expanding middle class investment in homes, patios and gardens.

The growers who adopted the technology, and the professors and land grant colleges that taught and preached it came from the vegetable side, where there was experience in annual plants, their propagation and growth.

Our American Vegetable Grower magazine began to devote more and more space to an editorial section called Greenhouse Grower, which worked hand-in-hand with the newly formed organization, Bedding Plants Inc., at Michigan State University under the leadership of Dr. Will Carlson. Bedding Plants Inc. quickly grew to national stature as growers reaped profits, with cash registers, as one grower put it, ringing a merry tune. In 1983, the flower plant section in American Vegetable Grower was spun off to become a standalone magazine, and Greenhouse Grower was launched.

It is hard now to comprehend how great was the surge in flower and plant sales. Sales weren’t increasing at 20, 30 or 40 percent, they were doubling and tripling. In the 1970s, flower and plant sales tripled in size to $1.5 billion and foliage plant sales grew by 12 times. By the end of the century, sales had doubled again, to $3 billion.

Positioning For Another 30 Years Of Growth

Now, at the beginning of 2014, the great boom is long over. We are in a mature market. Consolidation is taking place and there is a daily war to keep market share. Dire predictions are being made about the future of this business, especially taking into account a millennial generation fascinated by smartphones and iPads, with seemingly little concern for landscape beauty and gardens.

However, the lesson of the past 30 years is that the greenhouse industry is strongly resilient and it is premature to say the growth era is over. There are still large numbers of producers because flowers and plants are a perishable crop, subject to variations in quality and performance, and considerable skill remains a prerequisite. Nearly all greenhouse businesses are family operations, which are well-adapted for survival and can stay in business long after others have thrown in the towel.

And greenhouses produce that most desired of plants — the fragile and beautiful flower, which enhances the senses and beautifies the landscape. Flowering plants are essential for a sense of well-being and wonderment at the beauties of nature, of which we are an integral part. The desire for beauty in the landscape is basic.

Combine the power of flowers with developments in breeding new plants, which are sure to outdo even such current favorites as bush hydrangeas, Knock Out roses or trailing petunias, along with the advent of new technologies in growing, and an expanding future can be just around the corner.

Advice From The Past That Still Makes Sense Today

Will Carlson wrote a monthly column in Greenhouse Grower from 1983 until his death in 2010 — 37 years without missing a column, quite a record in itself. We put together the best of his columns in a book called “One to Grow On.” One of his columns asked “Will Floriculture Continue To Grow?” His answer is worth reviewing today when he said, “Yes, floriculture will continue to grow. New plants, technology and consumer trends will develop with your help. All you need to do is be the first to react to them and know what to do with them.” And then, with typical Will urgency coupled with practical advice, he wrote “Keep squintin.’” (Meaning keep looking, studying and learning).

That’s good advice as we look forward to the next 30 years.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Greenhouse Grower's GROW...
Laura Drotleff

April 23, 2018

Opinion: Why the Floriculture Industry Must Be Willing to “Humble Brag” About Itself

There is potential for our industry to provide talking points for growers to promote sustainable production efforts. It’s not exactly bragging — it’s simply and humbly speaking the truth.

Read More
Dickman-Farms-Carve-and-Brew-Event

March 26, 2018

How Dickman Farms Used a New Event to Expand Its Customer Base

Last fall, Dickman Farms hosted “Carve & Brew,” a new event in which young adults were able to carve a pumpkin, taste craft brews from two local microbreweries, and relax with friends and neighbors.

Read More
Mason-Day-GrowIt-Feature

March 22, 2018

Why Your Efforts to Sell Plants Fall Short and What You Can Do About It

It’s time to look at outside industries for ideas and inspiration on what we can do to operate more efficiently in today’s economy.

Read More
Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

April 23, 2018

Opinion: Why the Floriculture Industry Must Be Willing …

There is potential for our industry to provide talking points for growers to promote sustainable production efforts. It’s not exactly bragging — it’s simply and humbly speaking the truth.

Read More
Dickman-Farms-Carve-and-Brew-Event

March 26, 2018

How Dickman Farms Used a New Event to Expand Its Custom…

Last fall, Dickman Farms hosted “Carve & Brew,” a new event in which young adults were able to carve a pumpkin, taste craft brews from two local microbreweries, and relax with friends and neighbors.

Read More
Mason-Day-GrowIt-Feature

March 22, 2018

Why Your Efforts to Sell Plants Fall Short and What You…

It’s time to look at outside industries for ideas and inspiration on what we can do to operate more efficiently in today’s economy.

Read More
Seed-Your-Future-Dinner

March 20, 2018

Seed Your Future Dinner Celebrates Focus on New, Young …

During a Seed Your Future Leadership Meeting Fundraiser dinner at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania's Ag Secretary thanked the Seed Your Future initiative for its efforts to create awareness of horticulture and careers in horticulture.

Read More
Tom-Demaline-Willoway-Nurseries-feature

March 1, 2018

7 Ways You Can Control Your Business Destiny With Lawma…

As business owners and industry leaders, your job description should include being active and engaged in our political system.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

February 25, 2018

How Two Leading Greenhouse Growers Are Committed to Qua…

Greenhouse Grower recently asked its two most recent Head Grower Excellence in Quality award winners about the steps they take to improve plant quality. Here’s what they had to say.

Read More
employee-reviewing-shipping-list

February 21, 2018

Four Ways to Get Your Staff to Care About Quality

It can be a challenge to convince your employees to care as much as you do about your business and the quality of products you are providing. Here are four suggestions for making this happen.

Read More
Company-Culture-at-AgBiome

January 22, 2018

Four Ways to Attract Employees With a New Approach to C…

AgBiome is a participative, self-managed organization where no one has a boss. Instead, employees self-assemble as teams around organizational issues that need to be tackled, and internal experts help drive important decisions.

Read More
CareerUp

December 27, 2017

How CareerUp Helps Young Professionals Level-Up

The mission of CareerUp is to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential.

Read More
Nathan-Nordstedt-in-the-Greenhouse-feature

December 26, 2017

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Winner Encourages Indust…

This year’s scholarship winner says young people need experiences that challenge them and allow for creativity and innovation.

Read More
GROW

December 21, 2017

Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative: How You Made…

To create a competitive advantage, you must consistently experiment with and learn from new ideas. Greenhouse Grower’s GROW initiative provides you with cutting-edge ideas and actionable advice that results in greater profits in everyone’s pocket.

Read More

December 15, 2017

Your AFE Donations Will Be Matched Between Now and the …

Between now and December 1, any donations made to the American Floral Endowment will be matched up to $20,000.

Read More
HortScholars

December 8, 2017

HortScholars Program Now Accepting Applications for 201…

Do you know any college students currently in a horticulture-related program? This unique program gives them a chance to connect with industry leaders and make new connections at Cultivate.

Read More
GROW-Summit-2017-Group-Photo

December 5, 2017

GROW Summit 2017 Tackles Marketing and Business Managem…

This year’s think-tank style event brought together leaders from across the green industry to deliberate on topics such as disruptive marketing, cost accounting, and Millennials, to name a few.

Read More
Photo-with-Endless-Summer-Hydrangea

November 27, 2017

Why It’s Important to Get to Know Consumers at th…

One way to learn about consumer behavior is to get boots on the ground and engage with them.

Read More
Seed-Your-Future-feature

November 9, 2017

Dümmen Orange Throws Support Behind Seed Your Future In…

Dümmen Orange has announced it will pledge $450,000 over the next three years to Seed Your Future, the non-profit organization whose mission is to promote horticulture in the U.S. and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.

Read More

November 1, 2017

Thanks to the 2018 GROW Sponsors

There are a number of industry organizations that help make Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative a success.

Read More
Marshall Dirks, Proven Winners

October 28, 2017

5 Rules for Creating a Lifetime of Outdoor Garden Memor…

Many customers are time starved. Their most important asset is time, not money, so be realistic about the investment of both when they are buying plants.

Read More