Based in the Pacific Northwest, Terra Nova Nurseries is a haven of breeding majesty, where plants thrive in the temperate, cool climate. The breeder, located in Canby, Oregon, has enriched the industry with more than 700 new plant varieties, including 30 that have been recognized with national and international awards.
Its marketing efforts have brought gardening with rare plants back into focus among gardeners, and piqued curiosity in a new generation of homeowners with perennial plants like heuchera, heucherella, echinacea, coreopsis and new developments in annuals like coleus and begonia.
“‘Terra Nova’ means ‘new earth,’ and in every aspect of our company, we are constantly changing and evolving for the better,” says Co-owner and President Dan Heims. “We have a passion for our work, and it is truly exciting for all of us every day.”
Plant Lovers Unite
Terra Nova Nurseries was founded in 1992 and is co-owned by President Dan Heims, General Manager Ken Brown, CFO Jody Brown and Contracts Manager Lynne Bartenstein, who recently retired.
In the beginning, Ken Brown and Bartenstein worked together in a laboratory as microbiologists. Ken Brown had a keen interest in plants, thanks to a family full of gardeners, and Bartenstein was being courted by a mutual acquaintance – Dan Heims. Brown says Bartenstein kept bringing cool plants to work with her and when he asked her about them, the co-workers realized their mutual connection with Heims.
As Heims’ and Brown’s interest in plants grew, they worked together to purchase used tissue lab equipment and built a laboratory on Brown’s property to start new plants for tissue culture production. They built a greenhouse on Heims’ property to house stock plants and allow controlled breeding.
Since these humble beginnings, Terra Nova Nurseries has grown over the years to become a world leader in annual and perennial plant breeding. Its three divisions employ more than 100 people.
Terra Nova Nurseries’ business divisions each serve different customers: the liner division provides liners to finished growers for both retail garden centers and box stores; the laboratory division serves young plant producers; and the licensing division works with a network of 60 propagators and young plant producers worldwide, who distribute Terra Nova’s plants outside North America.
“We are proud to have started from our personal visions, with little money and resources, and to have turned Terra Nova Nurseries into an internationally known entity,” says Ken Brown.
Traveling The World For New Genetics
Terra Nova Nurseries’ mission has always been “to breed and introduce exciting new annuals and perennials for the global market.”
That mission holds true today, as the operation has worked on more than 75 perennial genera over the years and holds more than 500 plant patents in its portfolio. With the addition of annuals, Terra Nova has more than 50 different perennial and annual genera in its current catalog and introduces at least 50 new plants every year, mostly from its own breeding.
Terra Nova employs a staff of breeders, including three primary breeders, Janet Egger, Harini Korlipara and Chuck Pavlich. Each year, Heims and Pavlich actively search for and locate native species of plants all over the world.
“We will license other breeders’ plants, if they present outstanding plants,” Heims says. “For our own breeding, (which is more than 90 percent of our catalog), we find it much easier to reach our goals by starting a breeding program from scratch and not from other breeders’ inventions.”
Terra Nova reveals new crops, plants and series on an ongoing basis, with set release dates and full launch and marketing programs for each. Throughout the summer and fall, it launches a schedule of sneak peak varieties. The operation is also finding that some plants are becoming reestablished by popular demand among customers and others in the industry, and Terra Nova Nurseries is reintroducing these favorites as part of its “Back by Popular Demand” program.
“Our job is to satisfy the dreams of the breeders, growers and gardeners around the world,” Heims says. “If a breeder shows a plant that is not ready for market, we will finish it. If a grower is fighting with cultural problems, we will try to eliminate those problems. If gardeners say, ‘If there were only a plant like this…,’ we will try to create it. First and foremost, we work diligently to produce plants that have easy culture and do well in the garden.”
Expert Marketing Plus Gardening Personality Creates A Loyal Following
Terra Nova Nurseries is a fully integrated company that does everything in-house with an extended team, from plant development to stock plant fulfillment. Its onsite marketing department produces a four-color catalog, complete with high-resolution, full-bleed photography that provides a virtual encyclopedia of information for garden writers, growers and retail customers. Its most recent endeavor includes making the newest catalog both print and fully interactive digital, designed in the flip book style and available on the website, TerraNovaNurseries.com.
Growers can access culture sheets for each of Terra Nova’s plants on its website, and the company makes it easy for customers to create their own marketing by providing free high-resolution, professional photos with comprehensive catalog and tag copy available.
The operation also joined forces with Eberly & Collard Public Relations, an Atlanta-based firm that successfully promotes Terra Nova’s varieties to print media via garden writers, and social media on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages.
“The reports show we have a following of almost everyone from growers, to garden writers to the general consumer and plant collector,” Brown says. “Our social media channels continually grow in their follower and fan bases, and the overall interaction is active and energetic.”
As a well-known speaker, plantsman and garden personality, Heims spends many weeks on the road each year, educating the public and visiting growers. Heims has a portfolio of more than 20 lectures and seminars that he delivers around the world.
He has hosted a weekly gardening show on radio and appeared on U.S. Hallmark Television (Martha Stewart TV Show), Martha Stewart Omnimedia Radio (Sirius), (HGTV) and British television (BBC). Heims’ work and garden has been featured in USA Today, Forbes, Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset and Organic Gardening.
On the wholesale and licensing side, Terra Nova’s licensing team actively visits all trial sites, licensed propagators and young plant producers, providing training and tech support.
Innovation Is Sustainable, Complacency Is Not
The growing urban population is one trend the owners of Terra Nova Nurseries say is crucial to the industry’s growth. With its experience selling plants in markets around the world, Terra Nova reacted early and has been actively breeding plants for smaller containers to answer this trend.
For innovative companies like Terra Nova Nurseries, thinking progressively is the key not only to fulfilling industry goals, but also to sustainable and profitable business.
“We would like to see more diversity from the breeder to the marketplace,” Heims says. “We want exciting plants delivered to consumers, so they do not get bored with gardening. Developments of more markets can help create and enhance this type of excitement.”