Taking Time To Educate Consumers Pays Off

Echinacea 'Big Kahuna'How many springs have we been hearing customers lament over failed echinaceas? “Fancy” echinaceas (peach, salmon, mango, yellow, doubles, shaggy, hideous) are not our native purple coneflowers — not even close. They have been infused with blood from at least four other species, none of which are as vigorous or tough as the purple coneflower. The result is that gardeners plant these unusual beauties with great enthusiasm, only to find they do not return the next year.

I’m not sure how many people actually read this column, but I bet many of you are nodding your heads in agreement. From Akron to Atlanta, the complaint is the same: the new echinaceas are not long-lasting. How many times must we shoot ourselves in the foot? Soon we will need prosthetics.

Little research has been done, and I am aware of no scientific papers published on this phenomenon. So what do we tell buyers to bring back some credibility? You may not like it, but this is what I tell Master Gardeners, retailers, landscapers and garden club ladies:

Echinacea 'PowWow Wild Berry'For most gardeners, buying purple or white echinacea any time of the year is not a problem. These are likely mainly E. purpurea, and assuming they are planted with sufficient time to become established, overwintering should not be an issue. However, “fancy” echinaceas should never, ever be bought in the fall, only in the spring. They simply need more time with the grower and more time to establish roots in the ground.

I have seen stage IV plantlets arrive on the greenhouse bench in late winter, which are then planted up and turned around and sold in late summer and fall (even in spring). This is not nearly enough time to establish a robust plant.

Selling in the fall does a disservice to the plant, which won’t overwinter, and the customer, who won’t come back. In fact, not only do I suggest plants be bought in the spring only, I also suggest they ask if the plants have gone through a winter in the container. They should.
I know I am not the only one who has seen this problem. We cannot continue to disappoint people, and ignorance is not an excuse. The “fancy” echinaceas are wonderful plants, kudos to the breeders. Many people have made money with them, and many landscapers and consumers have been pleased. However, remember that they are not your grandmother’s coneflower; they are a different animal and must be treated as such. Please!

Teach Consumers About Annual And Perennial Coreopsis
At the same time, I see another train wreck just around the bend. Too many consumers, professionals included, do not know that both annual and perennial coreopsis exist in the marketplace. The annual coreopsis, of which there are dozens, are often not marked plainly enough as annuals. They are generally in flower early and colorful — absolute magnets for impulse buyers.

Coreopsis 'Bengal TigerWhen I ask at garden centers for coreopsis, I’m shown annual and perennial forms on the same bench. Truly knowledgeable salespeople take the time to tell me the difference, but these folks are few and far between. My daughters, my friends, your neighbors — they don’t even know to ask, they simply buy coreopsis as if they are all perennial. Labeling and product placement must be improved. These coreopsis are examples of great breeding but lousy sales information. Another toe shot off! We cannot run when we are limping so badly.

Too Many Choices Result In No Sales
I should not write again about the dilemma of too many choices, as some of my readers will give me grief, but I will anyway. Once again, I saw 20 beautiful heuchera varieties displayed at an excellent garden center, and once again, I knew many first-time buyers would be unable to make a decision and would probably walk away with none.

I have been saying this for some time, and it turns out there is an entire psychological theory based on too much choice, leading to no sales. It is called the Jam Theory, the result of research by Dr. Sheena Iyengar of the Columbia Business School. In her studies she writes, “If faced with too many choices, consumers often choose nothing.”

In her bestselling book, The Choice Theory, she writes, “In order to choose, we must exercise control, and we must perceive that control is possible.” I have suggested for years that less is more, especially for garden centers and other consumer-dependent outlets. Nice to know that at least one person agrees with me!

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Armitage On Plants...
Nathan Lamkey Chuck Pavlich Allan Armitage talk about muckgenia

May 31, 2016

Allan Armitage: Three Trends (Good And Bad) That Caught My Eye At Spring Trials

We need to put the same energies we invest into California Spring Trials to get plants into consumers’ hands and encourage young people in the industry to attend.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos And Apartments

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Scaevola 'Purple Haze' (Danziger 2016)

April 19, 2016

Allan Armitage Picks His Favorites From Proven Winners, Danziger, and Syngenta During 2016 California Spring Trials

From “crazy” petunias to container pentas, there was plenty that caught Allan’s eye during the final day of 2016 California Spring Trials.

Read More
Latest Stories
Nathan Lamkey Chuck Pavlich Allan Armitage talk about muckgenia

May 31, 2016

Allan Armitage: Three Trends (Good And Bad) That Caught…

We need to put the same energies we invest into California Spring Trials to get plants into consumers’ hands and encourage young people in the industry to attend.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Scaevola 'Purple Haze' (Danziger 2016)

April 19, 2016

Allan Armitage Picks His Favorites From Proven Winners,…

From “crazy” petunias to container pentas, there was plenty that caught Allan’s eye during the final day of 2016 California Spring Trials.

Read More
Fashion Show At Benary

April 15, 2016

California Spring Trials: Dr. Allan Armitage Notes Emer…

Attractive new varieties will draw the eyes of consumers, but innovation and creativity will keep them coming back.

Read More
Crazytunia Citrus Twist

April 14, 2016

Dr. Allan Armitage’s Top Picks From Floricultura And Sa…

The best new flower introductions have the power to turn a non-believer into a fan. Check out Dr. Allan Armitage’s top picks from his visit to Sakata and Floricultura, the latter of which hosted a number of breeders.

Read More
Calendula Power Daisy (Kientzler)

April 12, 2016

Dr. Allan Armitage Names His Top 6 Picks From GroLink A…

Editor’s Note: Dr. Allan Armitage shares his top picks from the breeders who presented new varieties at the GroLink location in Oxnard, CA, and the Windmill Nursery location in Buellton, CA, during the 2016 California Spring Trials.   Gerbera ‘Sweet Caroline’ (Florist Holland) Every year I am so impressed with the Garvinea gerberas from Florist. They have proven their ability to stand up to the rigors of winter, are available in more than a dozen colors, and may be used alone or in combination containers. The flower color and size of ‘Sweet Caroline’ are outstanding, and this is already enjoying robust sales. Begonia ‘Revelation Maroon’ (Terra Nova) Learning more about the diversity of plants offered by some of our best-known companies is always a treat. Walking into Terra Nova, I was ready for Echinacea and Heuchera, but was instead blown away by begonia and coleus. Terra Nova has been breeding begonias […]

Read More

April 11, 2016

Dr. Allan Armitage: 6 Picks From Ball Horticultural Co.…

Editor’s Note: In Day 1 of our coverage of California Spring Trials 2016, Dr. Allan Armitage, Contributing Editor for Greenhouse Grower, talks about the plants that caught his eye. See images of his six picks in the slideshow below. Petunia ‘Night Sky’ (Selecta) Am I really starting off with a petunia? It is not that they are not all beautiful, there are just so many of them, Having looked at new plants for many years, it is difficult for any petunia to impress me. ‘Night Sky’ did just that. To gush about how the dozens of glittering white spots glitter on the blue petals does not do it justice. Suffice it to say it was different, it was fun, and people were talking about it. I certainly am. Begonia MegaWatt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Begonias are one of the building blocks of annual spring sales. “Full-size” wax begonias, personified by the […]

Read More
Eucomis 'Aloha Kona'

October 20, 2015

Eucomis Aloha Series: A New Bulb Crop For Containers

The Eucomis Aloha series of Pineapple lilies may be the next money making bulbs for the deck with their compact habits and shorter stems that are perfect for containers.

Read More
More and more people are employing a landscape service, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still garden

September 2, 2015

Under Siege? Not Really, Just Go For A Walk

I have no trouble with people buying chocolates or wine instead of flowers to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays or peoples’ lives. We should all have choices. However, the other night I felt like I was entering the Republican caucus. I was minding my own business by the television set and became more than a little upset. A website called insteadofflowers.com came on the screen. It provided serene music and wholesome images of busy women doing busy things. It turns out that such busy women enjoy a small token of appreciation, but apparently their enjoyment, according to the voice-over, does not include flowers. This website delivers meals to the house, anything from beef brisket to beef bourguignon. It is a fine website with a good idea. But why pick on us? Why not use “insteadofbaloneysandwiches.com” or “insteadofgrilledcheeseandsoup.com,” “insteadofburgerdoodle.com,” or a dozen other things. When did flowers get to be the whipping boy? […]

Read More
llan Armitage Syngenta Starcluster

July 30, 2015

Allan Armitage: Let’s Talk About Starflowers. Why Is Pe…

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
window flower boxes

June 28, 2015

The Horticulturist And The Decorator

Allan Armitage tells shares a story about a horticulturist and a decorator to illustrate why gardening and decorating are not jobs; they are simply meant to bring pleasure.

Read More
Allan Armitage At Tradeshow

May 15, 2015

Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank …

Allan Armitage tells why the horticulture industry is about the people, not the plants, not the marketing and not the social media, and why horticulture is here to stay.

Read More
Lomandra-Platinum-Beauty-Ball

April 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds A Lot To Love On His Last Day At T…

On the last day of the 2015 California Spring Trials, Allan Armitage and the Greenhouse Grower team visited three stops that accounted for 12 breeding companies. From annuals and perennials to herbs and strawberries, Armitage found plenty to get excited about.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Westhoff_Crazytunia_Swiss Dancer

April 16, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Some Surprising Intros At Floricul…

Allan Armitage visited three breeders at Spring Trials’ newest location, Floricultura. He found several plants that made Floricultura’s debut a must-stop site in 2015. Westhoff At Westhoff, plant breeding is alive and well, with many things to embrace. The petunia program is vibrant and creative, and I am particularly confident that the Crazytunia program will continue to grow. Crazytunias should fly off the shelves because of their unique colors. Westhoff also brings more standard fare to the table. The Epic series of bacopas have large flowers and should be of particular interest. ‘Epic White’ is particularly nice. And the lobelia in the Hot series has been excellent. ‘Snow White’ adds a good white to the mix. The Hot series does tolerate heat better than most lobelias and now it has a reasonable number of colors. The plant that caught my interest the most this year was ‘Lilac Cascade.’ According to Westhoff, this […]

Read More

April 16, 2015

Golden State Bulbs And Sakata: Allan Armitage Highlight…

Dr. Allan Armitage was excited to see both new and improved breeding, as well as have the chance to meet breeders and talk shop at Sakata Seed and Golden State Bulb. Sakata Seed At Sakata, we wandered through traditional crops like zinnias, New Guinea impatiens, calibrachoa and petunias. However, I have always been impressed with the SuperCal program, and this year’s introduction of vibrant colors of Light Yellow and Pink really caught my eye. The flowers of Light Yellow are significantly larger than other colors in the series. I believe the SuperCals are poised for major additional sales. Everybody was talking about ‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia, and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. It is surely hype-worthy. The plants I observed were large with obvious vigor, and the foliage was coppery with huge, bright, rose-red flowers. Apparently this is a plant that benefits from minimal inputs, such as […]

Read More
Asclepias-Monarch-Promise

April 14, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Old Fashioned Plants Are New Again…

Day two of California Spring Trials was packed with breeders and all their new introductions and marketing. Allan Armitage found several varieties he felt were worth a second look.

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