Several national green-industry associations are working together to help increase consumers’ already high-level interest in pollinator gardening and build on their successful Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.
As the National Pollinator Garden Network, AmericanHort, the National Garden Bureau, and the American Seed Trade Association gear up for a big publicity push to promote the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge this spring, they are sharing five tips for retailers they believe will help them achieve their goal of 1 million pollinator gardens across the country by the end of 2016.
With less than a year to go, the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge will hit its mark with the help of garden centers and nurseries who are communicating and engaging with customers, sharing the pollinators’ stories, and initiating action. The Challenge was established by the National Pollinator Garden Network, led by national gardening and habitat organizations American Public Gardens Association, National Gardening Association, National Wildlife Federation and Pollinator Partnership joined with industry organizations AmericanHort, American Seed Trade Association, Home Garden Seed Association and the National Garden Bureau. These organizations believe that helping our nation’s pollinator species survive and build their populations and contribute to our food system is a responsibility all Americans share. .
With the gardening season right around the corner, now is the time for garden centers and nurseries to plan how they can spread the message about the importance and benefits of pollinator-friendly plants. Greenscape Gardens in St. Louis, Missouri, is one garden retailer that has met with success in communicating with their customers about planting with pollinators in mind. With more than three growing seasons of experience advocating for pollinators under their belts, Greenscape’s Jen Schamber and Tammy Behm shared five ways garden retailers can grow customer awareness and take action for pollinators’ benefit.
#1: Look at existing programs in your area. Greenscape Gardens turned to the Grow Native! A native plant marketing and education program of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. This program is launching its Pollinator Buffet line of 11 plants chosen for their benefits to pollinators. Its colorful tags help educate consumers on both the plant and the pollinators it benefits. With an existing program, the work of researching plants and providing consumer educational information has already been done.
#2: Ask your grower network to put pollinator-friendly plants into production. Consumers are driving the demand for pollinator garden plants of all sorts—annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and vines. Communication is key. Growers have a huge opportunity to listen to what consumers and retailers are demanding and to provide it.
#3: Relate pollinators to vegetable and berry gardening. Edibles gardening is more popular than ever, but many gardeners don’t equate a bountiful harvest with robust pollinator activity. Use point-of-purchase signage, customer communications and staff interactions to educate gardeners on the importance of including pollinator-friendly plants along with veggies and berries. Cross-merchandise pollinator plants with the edibles to drive the point home.
#4: Team with community partners. Find a community, state or regional organization with the same mission and collaborate. Pairing with the local wildlife or native plant society, for instance, creates two outlets through which to tell the pollinator story and spread the message beyond the retailer’s established customer base. A good place to look for a community partner is within the National Pollinator Garden Network, whose member organizations often have local chapters. Also look to local libraries and youth programs for a partnership opportunity to spread the message to children.
#5: Spend a little, get a lot in return. Greenscape Gardens spreads the word about pollinator plants by giving away a free sample plant with any purchase. “It raises your authenticity in telling the pollinator story,” Schamber says. “In this consumer market we have to give a little bit to gain the consumers’ trust.” Demonstrating that your company is “walking the walk” also gives community partners assurance of your commitment to the cause —and will give them even more reason to share your story.