On The Heels Of Success

Winners of the annual Greenhouse Grower Medal of Excellence for Marketing are chosen based on their contributions to the industry in developing and promoting new varieties. Frances Hopkins, president of Under A Foot Plant Co., is certainly a worthy winner. Her STEPABLES brand, which features more than 130 beautiful, low-growing varieties capable of handling foot traffic, keeps Hopkins on the constant hunt for new plants that fit the bill.

Last time Greenhouse Grower caught up with Hopkins (August 2004 cover story), she talked about branding being a “tricky thing – it’s marketing on steroids,” she said. “If we are to build a successful brand and be in the marketplace for the next 20 years, we must be correctly identifiable to the consumer. If we are not, the consumer’s attention and loyalty fade.”

Winning the Medal of Excellence affirms the STEPABLES brand is here to stay. Hopkins understands her market and knows how to make her brand both identifiable and in demand.

Before the awards presentation in July, she said, “We have clearly defined a path for our product. We merchandise our product. We support our product with helpful handouts and a dynamic Web site bursting with information to help the consumer’s creativity blossom. When the Good For Your Sole campaign was created, we put ourselves on the map with a signature phrase people can remember.”

Step By Step

Hopkins says her next step is to work on STEPABLES’ identity. Beginning in spring 2007, all the STEPABLES distributors will be selling the plants in purple pots. “This is truly the best step we can take on a national level to stand out,” Hopkins says.

Also in 2007, Hopkins plans to introduce seven new plants to the program, and even more in 2008.

“I can tell you to watch for STEPABLES to reach new heights in 2007 and 2008,” Hopkins says. “We have our new cross-promotional campaign called Creature Features with Green Piece Wire Art. The Creature Features campaign showcases adorable animal wire frames planted with our tough little plants. It is a fun and exciting new program. This gives the garden centers a new twist on topiaries, and it will certainly be great for year round sales in the garden center, as well as opening up a whole new area for holiday gift sales.”

Filling The Shoes

One of Hopkins’ concerns last time she spoke with GG was the lack of young people involved in the industry. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then, and Hopkins still worries about horticulture’s fate. She also notes the difficulty in becoming involved in the industry, saying she only realized it could become her profession when it “fell into (her) lap.”

“No horticulture schools came to my senior open house or college days. I had to find out about the horticultural field on my own,” she says. “I have seen many, many of my peers leaving this industry. I see very few young people coming up through the ranks to replace them. Until our industry takes up the charge to wear its heart on its sleeve, charge more for its product and be proud of it, and show the American public how much value we bring to their everyday landscapes, our numbers will continue to drop.”

Stepping Up

An advocate of programs like America In Bloom, Hopkins recommends getting involved in the community by donating plants, containers and labor to “spread the passion” of the industry.

“None of us are in this business because of the money. Horticulture is deep within in our souls. It seems to be the very essence of who we are. Getting out in the community to show what is in our hearts as an industry would change things,” she says. “You may motivate a young person for six months with money, but you will inspire him or her for a lifetime with passion.”

Hopkins says her children, now 13 and 10, love being involved in her work. Her son is especially drawn to the sales and marketing aspect of the business, while her daughter enjoys “nursery hopping.”

As for the future of STEPABLES, Hopkins says she will continue to pave the way to the future by knocking down old traditions. She plans to push for more kid gardening and create awareness about the industry and the beauty it creates. Inspiration is the key, and her goal is to inspire.

“I believe we have touched something within the consumer,” says Hopkins. “We have hit a chord deep inside that people can recognize and believe in. We are a good company. We put forth a good product and we reach out and touch consumers. We inspire them. We give our product heart. It is not lofty, or pretentious. Anyone can do this! When they have a victory, they share it with us online. When they have a problem, they give us a call. We are real to them. There is no big façade, no giant corporation with suits. We are just a small company willing to help them be great gardeners. I think that’s what keeps them coming back.”

Leave a Reply

More From ...

July 30, 2015

Let’s Talk About Starflowers. Why Is Pentas Not More Popular?

It is good to talk about production techniques, performance results and then to see how our friends garden. Diversity of plant material has always been a strength in American garden centers, and we should never run out of plants to get people excited. However, perhaps people are tired of Petunias or Callas or Geraniums, but we will never run out of options to put in front of them. One plant that is often overlooked is Pentas, a fabulous summer crop for late spring sales. These are heat-tolerant plants, and growing them below 65°F in the greenhouse results in significant delay. Fertility should be at least 150ppm nitrogen, but avoid ammonia in the fertilizer. Plants are best grown at a somewhat higher pH than usual, between 6.4 to 6.8. For best presentation, pinch out the center bud. Side flowers will bloom together, and plants will walk off the shelf. Garden centers […]

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Growers

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More
Latest Stories

July 30, 2015

Let’s Talk About Starflowers. Why Is Pentas Not More Po…

It is good to talk about production techniques, performance results and then to see how our friends garden. Diversity of plant material has always been a strength in American garden centers, and we should never run out of plants to get people excited. However, perhaps people are tired of Petunias or Callas or Geraniums, but we will never run out of options to put in front of them. One plant that is often overlooked is Pentas, a fabulous summer crop for late spring sales. These are heat-tolerant plants, and growing them below 65°F in the greenhouse results in significant delay. Fertility should be at least 150ppm nitrogen, but avoid ammonia in the fertilizer. Plants are best grown at a somewhat higher pH than usual, between 6.4 to 6.8. For best presentation, pinch out the center bud. Side flowers will bloom together, and plants will walk off the shelf. Garden centers […]

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Grow…

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

2015 Spring Crops Report: Rain Soaks Spring Sales

Rain, rain and more rain. That was the story this spring for the large majority of growers across the U.S. And where it wasn’t too wet, it was too dry. Drought conditions cut sales in the West and Southwest. But it wasn’t all bad. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Survey declared the season a success, despite its challenges. They said beautiful weather in April and excited consumers who were ready to spend got the season going early, but then cool temps and rainy weekends throughout May and June caused confusion over when and how much to plant. Of the 189 respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Recap Survey, 53 percent identified themselves as grower-retailers, 34 percent were wholesale growers and 13 percent said they were young plant growers. Most responses came from the Midwest (27 percent), Northeast (18 percent) and Southeast (16 percent), but also […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Continues To Strengthen Standards With MP…

MPS recognized Dümmen Orange during an unofficial ceremony at Cultivate’15 for its continued dedication to ensuring sustainability in the floriculture industry. Through its deep understanding of environmental impact and the importance of sustainable operations, Dümmen Orange has implemented production best practices within its facilities to meet or exceed MPS standards on environmental and agricultural practices, as well as social responsibility. “Nowadays, consumers are not only interested in the visible and tangible characteristics of the products they buy, they also are concerned with how products are made,” says Carl Kroon, General Manager of the Dümmen Orange farm Las Mercedes in El Salvador. “Dümmen Orange is deeply rooted in our commitment to our people, our values and our planet. The MPS certification helps us to make it visible to our customers that our production methods respect our workers and the environment.” Setting A High Standard Dümmen Orange has taken a wide range […]

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

July 29, 2015

Participants From All Over The World Gather At Cultivat…

Participants from the United States, Canada, Mexico and more than 20 other countries gathered in Columbus, Ohio for Cultivate’15 on July 11-14. The largest all-industry horticulture exposition and convention in North America recently concluded with approximately 10,000 attendees. This year, attendees saw more exhibitors, an expanded collection of business-building programs and the presentation of several industry initiatives. The event gathered professionals from all aspects of the horticulture industry, including garden and floral retailing, greenhouse and nursery production, plant breeding, landscaping, interior plantscaping, research and education and the manufacturers and distributors of products and services. Formerly known as the OFA Short Course, it was the 87th edition of the event that was rebranded last year as “Cultivate.” Michael V. Geary, AmericanHort president and CEO, says the event continues to grow and serve the diverse businesses that comprise the industry. “Cultivate is not just a grower show anymore, and hasn’t been in contemporary […]

Read More
Bob_Peters

July 28, 2015

J.R. Peters’ Founder Dies At 97

J.R. Peters announced that its founder, Robert (Bob) Peters has died. Here is how his family and coworkers honored him: It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Robert (Bob) Peters, 97 years old, founder of the Robert B Peters Company. Our mentor, father and grandfather passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on July 18 in Allentown, Pa. He was a true floriculture chemist who designed and formulated the earliest Peters Fertilizer Products that still carry his name today. Born October 12, 1917 in Hanover, Pennsylvania, he was the oldest of 6 brothers. He made his home in Allentown where he started his first business, Peters Horticultural Services, in his mother’s garage in 1947. Bob was happily married for over 50 years and has 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. His passion for plant nutrition began in 1947 after he completed his service in […]

Read More
2016 SHSG covers.indd

July 28, 2015

SHS Griffin Releases 2016 Catalog In Print And Expanded…

SHS Griffin has announced the release of its annual seed and plant catalog for the 2015-16 season. Available in both print and digital formats, the 2016 catalog features more than 400 new and improved varieties from the industry’s leading breeders. The 262-page print catalog covers the company’s full seed portfolio — more than 3,400 cultivars of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, herbs and vegetables. From the SHS Griffin vegetative offering, the complete spring-annual assortment from Syngenta Flowers is featured, alongside new introductions and top sellers from nine top suppliers such as Proven Winners, Dümmen Orange and Suntory. More than 120 vegetative perennials from Syngenta Flowers are also included, including several SHS Griffin exclusives. The SHS Griffin 2016 digital catalog includes all of the product information and photography from the print edition, and more. For the first time, SHS Griffin has added a range of digital-only bonus content: detailed crop culture, quick […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

July 28, 2015

Cal-Poly To Preserve Campus Agricultural Land

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo will no longer consider development of nearly 43 acres of prime agricultural land just west of its campus core, as the university proceeds with the two-year process of updating its campus master plan. In May, the university had released an update to its Master Plan that indicated that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites may be repurposed for future development of university housing and other campus infrastructure. Most of the land in question is classified Class 1 farmland. The acreage is used now for lemons, grapevines, mandarin oranges, a deciduous orchard and silage for the university’s livestock. The proposed changes would have directly affected the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department, according to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head. Steinmaus encouraged industry members to submit their comments to the university. An […]

Read More
Syngenta CAST 2015

July 27, 2015

New App Brings Syngenta Flowers’ Portfolio To Gro…

Syngenta Flowers' newest app allows growers and brokers to quickly access information, descriptions, photos, culture and more on all of Syngenta's varieties.

Read More
Heating Feature image

July 27, 2015

In Hot Pursuit Of Heating Trends For The Greenhouse

From biomass boilers to hydronic-heating systems, growers have a range of options to fit their operation’s unique needs. Here’s what five manufacturers had to say about the latest trends.

Read More
Suzanne McKee

July 27, 2015

ePlantSource’s Suzanne McKee To Hike Grays Peak T…

Just a few years after welcoming their two daughters into the world, Gordon and Kristen Gray are faced with the agonizing diagnosis that their girls, Charlotte and Gwenyth Gray, both have Batten Disease CLN6, a rare neurodegenerative disorder that currently has no cure and is fatal. Children afflicted with this usually do not survive past the age of 12. Since the diagnosis, the friends and family of the Grays, including Suzanne McKee from ePlantSource, have come together to show an enormous amount of support through viral social media campaigns, silent auctions, lemonade stands and various other events and fundraisers. Celebrity support has also come in droves from celebrities such as Ali Larter, Channing and Jenna Dewan Tatum, Drew Barrymore, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Longoria and countless others. The Colorado friends of the Gray family are hiking Grays Peak on August 29 in support of Charlotte and Gwenyth. McKee and Brooke Michaels […]

Read More
Bunching onion warrior

July 27, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces First AAS Winners For…

All-America Selections announced another group of edible AAS Winners for home gardeners, gourmet gardeners, farm-to-table growers, market growers and anyone interested in a unique, delicious addition to their vegetable assortment. These three winners are the first for the 2016 Garden Season. Additional winners will be announced this fall and winter as the 2015 trials conclude and the breeders meet specified criteria. The first group of AAS Winners for 2016 includes: Bunching Onion ‘Warrior’ (Regional Winner) Mizuna ‘Red Kingdom’ F1 (National Winner) Radish ‘Sweet Baby’ F1 (Regional Winner) All-America Selections has had bulb onions as award winners in the past, but ‘Warrior’ is the first bunching (or green) onion. Similarly, there have been green mustard AAS Winners, but never a red Mizuna (or Japanese Mustard). ‘Sweet Baby’ radish joins nine other radishes that are previous AAS Winners adding a violet colored beauty to an assortment of radishes that range from white […]

Read More
Home Factory_Dramm2

July 24, 2015

The Dramm Corporation Will Be Featured On “Home Factory…

The Dramm Corporation, a family-owned manufacturer of watering tools, is in the national spotlight for making an eye-catching product. Dramm’s 30-inch ColorMark Rain Wand will be featured in a segment on July 27 on FYI’s “Home Factory.” The Home Factory production crew shot a segment showing the process of making the Rain Wand from start to finish. “Our grandfather, John G. Dramm, a florist by trade, invented the Water Breaker in the early 1940s to provide an efficient and even flow of water for flower growers,” says Hans Dramm, third generation owner of the Dramm Corporation. “This was the beginning of the Dramm Corporation and the foundation of the beautiful Rain Wands you will see highlighted in our Home Factory segment.” Dramm’s Rain Wands allow you to apply large quantities of water quickly to the plant base, where it soaks deep into the soil. The 30-inch ColorMark Rain Wand is equipped with a […]

Read More
eMailMarketing feature image

July 23, 2015

Is eMail Dead?

Email as a marketing technique may seem outdated, but when done well, it is still an effective way to share content and market your brand.

Read More
Berns_Roberto Lopez_Purdue6

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15 Greenhouse Learning Tour Showcases G…

Growers took advantage of the Greenhouse Learning tour held Saturday, July 11 at Cultivate'15 to see the strategies and technology two successful growing operations are using to tackle production challenges and come out ahead of the game.

Read More
HGTV HOME CAST 2015

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15: Keynote Nancy Fire Says Use Passion…

In the second keynote presentation at Cultivate’15, Nancy Fire, founder and creative director of Design Works International, discussed how the horticulture industry can capitalize on the latest design and lifestyle trends. Fire works with companies to help bring their designs to the next level, and she has expertise with textiles and surface design, market analysis and corporate rebranding. She was appointed as design director for HGTV HOME in 2011. Fire says customers today are interested in companies that show passion for what they do. That, combined with following the general direction of trends and maintaining a brand, are what will keep horticulture businesses relevant to their customers. A trend isn’t just a passing fad, Fire says, but rather, it indicates that something is developing or changing in a certain direction. Plants are important to consumers today, and fit into current trends, both inside and outside the home, Fire says. “I don’t […]

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

July 21, 2015

Luxflora Launches With Cultivate Speaker Event, New Web…

A new organization for women in horticulture that aims to change the way consumers think about flowers, launched at Cultivate’15 by sponsoring Ketty Maisonrouge, a marketing expert, who presented “How To Create A Luxury Brand.” Luxflora recently launched its website, as well as a page on LinkedIn, to facilitate networking among women in horticulture. The organization is working on next steps, including setting up a board of directors and officers. Updates and information on future events will be available at the Luxflora website as they are scheduled. Read about Luxflora’s mission and what it hopes to accomplish in “Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement.” In the session during Cultivate, Ketty Maisonrouge, owner of KM & Company, adjunct professor of luxury strategy at the Columbia University Business School and the author of “The Luxury Alchemist,” presented her ideas and expertise on luxury strategy marketing, and how it applies to horticulture. […]

Read More