Dill Greenhouse Is Making The Most Of A Mature Market

Dill Greenhouse Is Making The Most Of A Mature Market

From a stack on his desk, a smudged Post-it note sits scribbled with heirloom tomato names. The task at hand is to decide if the tomato-tasting event at Dill’s Greenhouse should go on. Day-after-day summer downpours and, subsequently, hot temperatures were not kind to the heirlooms this growing season.

Jerry Dill can see his greenhouse business from the retailer’s point of view. He believes he will be as successful as the gardeners who buy from him. If they are not, his greenhouse will lose out. Dill thinks his business is impacted by (in this order): how much weather they get, the economy, what the business does to itself and the ever-maturing green industry.

Without hesitation, Dill says, “Garden retailing and growing is a weather-related business – 2009 proved that. It was one of the best springs weather wise with record sales.” Contrast 2009 to 2011, in which Dill lost 10 percent in sales, and he’ll admit “April killed us.”

Adjusting In Retailing & Growing Plants

Known in the area for its pond plants and equipment, Dill’s Greenhouse has maintained a regular following of customers. But, Jerry cautions, it is a specialty business with little margin for error. Carrying live fish was time consuming and not productive, so he gave it up.

Dill is out of the koi business but he did invest in a large Dingo auger his landscaping team uses to plant the 4-inch caliper trees sold from their nursery. “The guys love it,” he says. “It’s nothing special but we have the equipment for the work we do.”

Sizing Up Dill’s Greenhouse

Dill’s Greenhouse began in 1983. Dill’s sits on the site of the original Sim’s Greenhouse. The four original greenhouses, circa 1923, have been replaced by 20 greenhouses, of which two are set aside for retail. The sales floor and office space behind the front facing barn wall, an annex and pole barn complete the structures on Dill’s 10 acre property.

The total greenhouse space is 75,600 square feet, the courtyard 9,654 square feet, perennial space is 8,833, square feet and nursery space is 27,832 square feet. Annual sales in 2011, is estimated at between 2.5 to 3 million dollars. Of that amount, approximately $100,000 comes from the Fall Festival, $200,000 from landscaping and $150,000 from retail and wholesale holiday sales.

Dill’s Greenhouse is a full-service and delivery landscaper, the department being managed by a full-time landscape designer. Not focusing on hardscapes, Dill carries most of the plant materials used in its projects. The business started offering landscaping services in 2006, developing it into another revenue stream. But in retrospect, with new construction impacted by the housing bubble, Dill thinks his landscaping business probably started at an inopportune time.

Dill is confident about filling parking lots in April, May and June. It is after July and in the offseason when attracting customers remains the challenge to independent growers like him. While weather is his number one issue, and yes, there is still the economy to worry about, he also feels the industry is maturing and being ruined by overproduction, causing sales growth to stagnate.

It is clear that selling mums in full bloom in mid-July, when his Ohio customers will want them blooming in September and October, is not how Dill wants to run his greenhouse. He knows new is good but what looks good in the greenhouse in May is only one part of the strategy. He wants to know what the plants will look like in mid-summer.

“Breeders should focus on drought tolerant or, should I say, low-maintenance plants,” Dill says.

A Family Business

Upstairs from the main entrance of Dill Greenhouse are the informal offices of Dill and Colleen Sapp, one of his daughters who serves as office manager. Sapp points out a series of photos along one wall depicting Dill’s beginnings preserved in dime-store frames. At the start, she and her sister, Kelly Brandewie, were young girls.

Brandewie is the retail manager for Dill’s Greenhouse and her influence is seen in the eclectic assortment of containers and the dramatic planter combinations popular at Dill’s. In the courtyard, which includes the fish pond and perennial and nursery displays, are the entrances to the retail greenhouses.

Dill’s undergraduate work at Ohio State University was devoted to marketing, not horticulture. But he paid his dues and gained 10 years of experience working for another grower before making his move to owner along with his partner and co-owner, Eileen Dill.

In 1983, he purchased the property of a wholesale greenhouse in Groveport, Ohio. Located off U.S. Route 33 just south of Columbus, Ohio, this destination greenhouse is easy to get to.

Active in the Community

The front entrance of Dill’s Greenhouse has a wide open landscape befitting the neighboring countryside. The asphalt parking lot lays open a welco

In recent years, an addition to the front of the property was an 8-foot-tall and 28-foot-wide outdoor electronic billboard. The massive sign draws its share of curiosity. The screen’s messaging system rotates with traditional garden sales messages, which can be read going eastbound down the highway.

Among Dill’s promotional tools is its website, which features plant lists to help consumers anticipate the new season’s plant selection. Dill’s Dollars are point-of-purchase coupons customers can redeem later in the season on new purchases, and free on-site classes are offered to customers on Saturdays.

Dill’s Greenhouse sells about 50 poinsettia cultivars each year. For more than 10 years, Dill’s has been one of four greenhouses that trial new cultivars for Ohio State University. Dill likes to participate for the chance to see what’s coming out and what’s worth taking a second look at.

The business also offers plants in 6.5-inch pots and larger, selling them to school and church groups.

The Fall Fest is a huge success at Dill’s Greenhouse. It caters to young families with children, fourth grade and younger. There is a corn maze, hay rides and pumpkins to buy. Dill finds the event attracts a different crowd of customers than the early-season crowd.

Customers also like the tomato tasting event, which allows people to try out Dill’s heirloom tomato varieties when the weather cooperates. Dill has taken on selling local farm produce at the business. Partnering with a local farmer, Schacht’s Farm, Dill’s sells its produce at the greenhouse. Dill promotes the Schacht name on the produce.

Dill’s Greenhouse is part of the community. Regular customers come from as far away as German Village in Columbus, plants are donated to the Ohio State Fair and the greenhouse provides hanging baskets to the nearby community of Canal Winchester. However, Dill’s longtime run on the board of the OFA ended this past July.

With a big beaming face, he sums up his outlook on selling plants: “Vegetable sales have been incredible in the last few years, young families are gardening again. It is fun for us to finally have young families come in who have never planted a garden before and ask, ‘Can you help me?’”

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories
Heather combo with a birds nest at Minter Country Gardens

February 8, 2016

Winter Combo Garden Ideas From Minter Country Gardens […

On a recent visit to Minter Country Gardens outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, we spied several combo gardens filled with cool-weather plants with a strong winter appeal.

Read More
Bob's Garden Center roadside sign

February 8, 2016

Roadside Signs: Research Shows What Works Best

If zoning laws for roadside signs seem random to you, there’s a fair chance you’re right. Until 2011, zoning boards did not have solid research to rely on when developing their rules. That has finally changed, thanks to a report from USSC Foundation.

Read More
Pot Mum Combos (Syngenta Flowers)

February 8, 2016

Syngenta Has A New Buyer, Will Not Divest Flower Seeds …

Syngenta has announced that it will likely approve an offer from ChemChina to acquire the company, which means it no longer plans to divest its flower seed business.

Read More
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans

February 8, 2016

Register Now For Biocontrols USA 2016 Workshop

Biocontrol is becoming a mainstream part of growing plants commercially. Every good program starts with quality products and a good supply chain. Register now to join us from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on March 4, following the conclusion of the education program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA for a special event that will help you improve your biocontrols program. In this informative, real-world workshop led by biocontrols expert Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, owner of Buglady Consulting, you’ll learn: The key players that are producing beneficials How to check product quality once you get them The latest trends and practices growers are using to implement beneficials into their programs Important pitfalls to avoid. A roundup of the current biocontrol research that can help you be more successful in your production practices this season. Wainwright-Evans, a pest management specialist, has been involved in the green industry for more than two […]

Read More
Gotham Greens Queens

February 8, 2016

Gotham Greens Opens Newest Greenhouse In Queens, NY

The new facility, which was partially funded by grants based on reduced energy consumption, nearly triples Gotham Greens’ overall production capacity in New York.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More
Travis Higginbotham

February 8, 2016

Biocontrols And Next-Generation Production

Biocontrols are becoming much more established in greenhouse production. In some cases, it’s the next generation of growers that’s helping to support the adoption of this next generation of pest control. Travis Higginbotham, R&D Manager for Battlefield Farms, in Rapidan, VA, is a great example. Brought on in 2014, he is helping Battlefield take the next step in product development, as well as become more efficient as a business and adapt to new technologies and demands from their customers with a more proactive approach. Higginbotham will share information on Battlefield’s nematode program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference and Expo, March 3-4, 2016 in Monterey, CA. We asked him about the details involved with building a new biocontrols program, as well as the future of sustainability in greenhouse production. Q: What are the differences in costs involved in using biocontrols? What costs should growers consider, aside from the hard costs […]

Read More
Jim Zablocki, Plant Prod

February 5, 2016

Sign Up For A Webinar On Using Plant Nutrition To Impro…

The webinar takes place March 2, and covers how leading growers are using plant nutrition to minimize costs, reduce the number of factors they need to worry about, and lessen environmental impacts.

Read More
Biocontrols Conference and Expo 2016

February 4, 2016

Biocontrols 2016 Conference Offers Insights And Learnin…

The Biocontrols 2016 Conference & Expo, which takes place March 3-4, 2016, in Monterey, CA, brings together growers, pest control advisers, suppliers, researchers, and other segments of the industry to share the latest information on biochemicals, microbial pesticides, and beneficials, and help you put biocontrols to work in your operation.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
LiveTrends Copper Wire Orb

February 3, 2016

The Coolest New Retail Products From TPIE

During the recent Tropical Plants Industry Exhibition (TPIE) in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the Garden Center Group embarked on a search for the coolest new products for garden retailers. Here’s what they discovered.

Read More

February 3, 2016

New Plants, Products, And Trends From TPIE 2016

Tropicals, foliage, and succulents may be the way to new consumers’ hearts, based on the cool ideas, products, and trends presented at the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s (FNGLA) 2016 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE), January 20-22, 2016 at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The theme this year, Elevating Expectations, was fulfilled, renewing and reinvigorating attendees to carry forth their businesses into 2016 and beyond. TPIE showcases the latest trends in foliage, floral, and tropical plants, with a tradeshow of more than 200,000 square feet of show-stopping displays. While checking out new plants and products is a great excuse to travel to South Florida in late January, the threat of Storm Jonas bringing the snowstorm of the century to the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states had some show attendees booking flights early to get home before they were stranded. Still, reports from FNGLA said this year’s TPIE […]

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 2, 2016

19 Strategies To Strengthen The Horticulture Industry

In Greenhouse Grower’s annual State Of The Industry Survey, we asked how your operation is living the GROW initiative’s five pillars: cultivate new customers, demand quality, drive consumer success, invest in the industry, and sharpen business management. Here is what you had to say.

Read More

February 1, 2016

Stores Big On Plant Sales Vs. Stores With Diverse Produ…

Stores with most of their gross sales coming from plants tend to think those where plants generate less than half of annual sales are ... not quite legitimate. So we took a closer look at what kind of differences we could find between the two groups, and discovered several surprising results.

Read More

February 1, 2016

Vendor Day At Osuna Nursery Draws Gardeners And Builds …

The New Mexico-based garden retailer invites all its vendors to meet its customers one day a year, and give customers access to deeply knowledgeable representatives, and giving vendors a chance to meet the public in a way not usually available to them.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More
Texas Aquaponics

January 30, 2016

Texas A&M Extension Hosting Aquaponics Workshop In …

During the workshop, which takes place on Feb. 27, participants will help assemble and set up a fully functional aquaponics system.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]