Marketing Ideas You Want To See From 2015 California Spring Trials

Back when California Spring Trials (CAST) were still called Pack Trials, new plants were placed on growing benches in packs so attendees could see for themselves how uniformly the plants grow. It was practical and useful.

Today, CAST is primarily about introducing new plants in a way that catches your imagination and convinces you that these plants are not only disease resistant, need almost no inputs, including plant growth regulators (PGRs) and have excellent timing, but also that they are plants consumers will fall in love with.

In other words, marketing.

Some of the breeders go a few steps further and pull together ideas and information that growers can use for their own businesses. It can be methods to connect better with their retail customers or even to help promote our industry and its great plants directly to the public.

Here are some of the standouts from CAST 2015.

Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner (PP&L), like Proven Winners and Benary, always pulls out all the stops for CAST. This year’s visual theme was Victorian gothic, complete with black fascinator caps and skeleton versions of pink flamingo yard art.

In the midst of the festive feel were some great marketing ideas for growers.

First up is PP&L’s Hula Berry line, which is getting its first full roll-out this year. Since consumer success relies on having nearby male plants to fertilize, PP&L has created a packaging program that includes one pollinator plant with three fruit plants.

It’s supporting the launch with a dedicated website,, which has an easy-to-navigate menu guiding consumers on how to grow Hula Berry and where to buy them.



Proven Winners

Proven Winners invited the media and select buyers into a conference room, where Marshall Dirks and Jeanine Standard present Proven Winners’ marketing research and material. It’s a goldmine of information.

The company committed to social media some years ago, and that commitment is paying off. It has more than 30,000 Google searches a day, 700,000 requests for its Idea Book and scores of hits on its Facebook, Instagram, Houzz, Twitter and Pinterest pages.

Standard also says consumers begin searching for garden themes that are about three months in the future. So in spring, she is deep into posting summer garden ideas and photos and begins posting fall themes.

The public (and growers) are free to use Proven Winners’ online photo library for their own postings.


Helping consumers pick the right vegetable to grow can be challenging, even for growers and retailers. Syngenta had a couple of clever ideas on how to solve that problem.

For example, The Decision Tree divides up the typical features that make vegetables appealing, from harvest dates to taste to color and fruit shape. It had two examples on display, the Pepper Decision Tree and the Tomato Decision Tree. This would help retailers pick which plants they wish to order for their customers, and help consumers decide which varieties they should choose.


Benary excels at offering ideas for independent retailers to help the pull-through appeal of their plants. In recent years, it set up several interactive display ideas that are either free or require only simple materials to pull off. This year was no different.

Throughout Benary’s displays were factoids about how consumers interact with plants, which is based on extensive research it participated in.

Here are three of the facts Benary used from Metrolina’s Home Garden Panel research:

  • 60 percent of consumers say they would like more tips and ideas
  • 69 percent of people garden with family or friends
  • 50 percent of consumers are interested in a garden center clinic for kids.

Ball Horticultural Co.

Ball Horticultural Co. excels at building a story with displays. Check out the slideshow to see just a few of those tales.

HGTV Home Plant Collection

HGTV Home Plant Collection taps into the popular network’s trendsetters to help identify which big trends will impact gardening in the coming year. In response, the company suggests which plants tie into those trends.

This year, HGTV identified these three trends:

Shady Showoffs. Time-crunched urban dwellers with little direct sunlight need plants that require less care and that can thrive in shade.

Superbloomer! Suburban families that are actively involved with their community like to have bright, bold colors in their front yards, which tend to be sunny.

Drought Tolerant. A large portion of the United States is facing drought conditions or will face drought conditions in the future. Plants that can sip instead of gulp water are a must for long-term outdoor enjoyment.

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