Connecting People & Plants

Connecting People & Plants

This spring, garden celebrity P. Allen Smith’s new garden home retreat will be the epicenter of all his media platforms engaging consumers.

In addition to being a showcase for the latest and greatest in gardening, activities at the retreat will appeal to interests ranging from home building and home décor to cooking, outdoor living and entertaining. Animal lovers will connect with the dogs, chickens, sheep and horses on the working farm. The retreat also ties in with the green movement, with the energy-efficient home being built with sustainable materials and the grounds irrigated with recycled water and maintained as organically as possible.

“The retreat is America’s test kitchen for outdoor living,” Smith says. “Not only will we be trialing new plant varieties, but other products that are part of the outdoor lifestyle. What the consumer really needs is a way to pull it all together, feel good about it and not break the bank.”

Smith is a landscape designer by trade who grew up in a family of nurserymen in Tennessee and garden center owners in Arkansas. He studied garden history at the University of Manchester in England and became a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society before returning home to Arkansas in 1986.

The gardens he designed in Little Rock, Ark., captured attention locally, regionally then nationally. His first brush with celebrity came when he was invited to answer questions for a local radio talk show, which led to the local ABC television affiliate approaching him about producing a weekend show in his gardens.

Today, Smith can be found in a wide range of national media:

– “P. Allen Smith Garden Home” television show on PBS

– “P. Allen Smith Gardens,” a syndicated television show

– Gardening reports on The Weather Channel

– Regular appearances on the “Today” show

– Contributor and advisor to Cottage Living magazine

– Contributor to Woman’s Day magazine

Smith just published his fourth book with Random House, “P. Allen Smith’s Living In The Garden Home,” which focuses on connecting the seasons with containers, crafts and celebrations.

His next book will focus on bringing nursery plants indoors. “We’re trialing the best nursery plants in the house to see the length of days they will last inside and length of days they will last as a cut flower,” he says. Woman’s Day’s special interest publication, Garden Deck & Design, will showcase the best live plants for weddings, receptions and parties–14 plants that will last at least 10 days inside.

Smith incorporates his love of plants, cooking, art, history and charitable causes in all his work. Recent landscape projects in Little Rock include a healing garden at a local hospital, the restoration of a historic hotel and an overhaul of the gardens at the governor’s mansion.

Last spring at the garden home retreat, sixth graders and tenth graders planted 50,000 daffodils, harvested them and sold bunches of 10 for $5 to benefit local underprivileged youth. 

A Labor Of Love

For 12 years, all of Smith’s filming was done on location at a small, urban lot in a historic part of Little Rock. He had relocated an old home to the empty lot and created a series of garden rooms around it. Out in the country, the new garden retreat opens the doors to limitless possibilities, and eliminates background noise that can interfere with the audio side of shooting video.

“We just needed more space to experiment with different kinds of plants,” Smith says. “While it may seem huge, it’s very contained. Throughout 2008, you’ll see the evolution of the property on the show, in print and on the Web. A brick doesn’t get laid without being photographed or on video tape.”

The actual home, which will be completed in February, is a brand new Greek revival style inspired by four historic homes built in the 1830s. An expansive, Viking studio kitchen will seat 45 people. Additional kitchens are outdoors and in a separate building detached from the house. Another room is a studio for dried flowers and crafts. Each space has a function.

When I visited in late October, I got to see the foam insulation derived from soybean oil and fluffy fabric insulation from bluejean factory scraps instead of fiberglass. Gutters will capture runoff and direct it to a 6,000-gallon water tank concealed under lawn space to water the garden and orchard. Local materials, including cypress and stonework, were obtained to build the house.

When asked if historic homes already were “green” in their construction, Smith says, “The older materials were green, but where they run off the road is in energy efficiency. We have a radiant solar metal roof that preheats the floors with hot water, and our windows have an energy rating.”

His business manager, Bill Reishtein, continues to be in awe of the scope of the project and Smith’s vision for it. “No one in the industry has undertaken a project like this to show ideas in a compelling way to get the public inspired and excited,” Reishtein says. “PBS viewers follow what’s going on at the retreat. It’s like a reality show. Everybody wants to know what he grows.”

Driving Plant Sales

Smith’s most direct tie with growers and garden centers is the work he does with Proven Winners, which is funded by the sales of plants to growers and retailers. Smith is an important part of the Proven Winners media strategy, which should generate 900 million impressions in 2008.

“One of the deal closers for us was that he was on the cusp of doing this,” says Proven Winners Marketing Director Marshall Dirks. “We could see his passion and how much more creative and how many more opportunities there would be with this property. He has the media platform, needs good plants and it works for both parties. He can reach new gardeners through cooking, sustainability and his care for animals. There is a high correlation between gardeners and pet owners.”

Reishtein said he and Smith chose Proven Winners because the company has the stability and critical mass to support the brand. “If you can’t find the plants, you’re going to be dissatisfied,” Reishtein says. “Proven Winners has enough critical mass that you can go to a retailer and buy them.”

Smith isn’t a spokesperson for Proven Winners, but presents gardening ideas and concepts with Proven Winners plants. “I like to talk about combinations, not just a specific plant, but what does it hang with? How does it look best with companion plants and in the outdoor space?” Smith says. “I’m a plant nerd and very interested in plants for the sake of plants, but I’m looking at the bigger picture all the time.”

He says he was attracted to Proven Winners because they believe in promoting gardening as an activity versus promoting just their plants. “While there are certain products they provide, they do recognize the importance of promoting the pursuit of gardening and outdoor living,” Smith says. “For the industry to have a bright future, it’s going to be incumbent on more industry corporations to think about their market that way.”

This will be the third spring Proven Winners and Smith have worked together. By zeroing on the Hot 21 Plants, Proven Winners is able to measure results of the campaign.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen a 31 percent increase in sales for the Hot 21,” Dirks says. “It may be 300 percent for ‘Diamond Frost,’ but on average, it’s 31 percent. If you set that in context of 5 to 7 percent average growth in the industry, that’s pretty significant. Next year, maybe we’ll have a Hot 30 with nine new varieties.”

Proven Winners will be sponsoring “the first day of spring” on The Weather Channel, where Smith will have regular reports related to getting ready for spring. Smith’s Web site also will offer viewers online video features and allow viewers to rate, comment and share their views on plants.

Both Smith and Dirks are concerned about the future of gardening and want to cultivate and convert as many gardeners as they can, whether they be children getting their first exposure, busy Generation Y consumers who are just getting established professionally or Gen X couples juggling work with family. Capturing leisure time will be even more important than dollars.

“The reality is we’re not competing with one another,” Smith says. “One flower brand is not competing with another flower brand. It’s not family-owned independents versus Home Depot. We’re competing for the consumer’s time. This industry has to create a compelling reason to take time to go to a garden center, plant a garden and create an outdoor living space for their family. My goal is to help consumers create style and comfort without spending a lot of time and resources and feel what they have done is an expression of their own personal style.”

Reishtein believes this strategy will help the entire industry. “Together, let’s elevate all ships, make gardeners more successful and get a share of their leisure time.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Connecting People & Plants

  1. I’m not a fan of Proven Winners. I spent $110 or so on a dozen plants, only to have every one of them arrive dead. As for Proven Winners reimbursement policy: I received a check for $20 and a tub of plant food. I’ll stick with highcountrygardens.com.

More From Varieties...
Sheridan Nurseries

September 3, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Operation Of The Year Sheridan Nurseries Raises The Bar

Ontario-based Sheridan Nurseries has long been an innovator in the Canadian market, but during the economic downturn, CEO Karl Stensson says the company decided to take things a step further. “We have survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and many other downturns in the economy,” he says. “During this last recession, our staff set out at being the best at what we do.” The company’s efforts have paid off. Sheridan Nurseries was named Operation of the Year at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, held July 13, at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio. The company was also awarded for Excellence In Perennials Production, based on its reputation for plant quality and the activities the nursery has led and been a part of, both within its company and in the industry at large. “We are elated and proud of our staff accomplishments,” says CEO Karl Stensson. “Over the last five years, we […]

Read More

September 3, 2015

Legalization Of Marijuana In California A Strong Possibility

The push for the legalization of recreational marijuana intensifies in California as proponents promote the crop’s agricultural and economical benefits.

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
Latest Stories
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
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

September 1, 2015

Perennial Plant Association’s 33rd Annual Symposi…

The Perennial Plant Association's 33rd Annual Symposium, held July 27 to August 1 in Baltimore, Md., delved into the rich history of perennial suppliers and landscape architects in the Baltimore area and their influence on the perennial market today and its bright future.

Read More
LuckyLotsAbelia_featured

August 18, 2015

Farwest Show New Varieties Showcase Will Spotlight 2016…

Featuring a spectrum of new market introductions, the 2015 Farwest Show, August 27-29 in Portland, Ore., will display 49 plants in the New Varieties Showcase, a mainstay favorite every year on the show floor. Seventeen companies from all corners of North America, the Netherlands and Canada have submitted material that covers the best and brightest of perennials, shrubs, conifers, shade and flowering trees and edibles being introduced for 2016. This year’s entries will display the prized characteristics that growers and retailers are seeking— new features, improved performance in production environments and landscape, compact sizes, enhanced disease resistance, performance in urban settings and drought tolerance. In particular for garden retail benefit, consumer appeal for this year’s showcase is excellent with choices for spectacular foliage, blooms, seasonal interest and overall wow factor. Check out the slideshow for a sampling of the new varieties. Plants are creatively displayed in retail fashion and well tagged with full descriptions, compliments of showcase […]

Read More
Cayman

August 17, 2015

21 New Blooming Potted Plants For Trouble-Free Greenhou…

Blooming potted plants brighten up almost any occasion. With new colors and an abundance of blooms, these 21 new introductions add a unique, finishing touch to even the most diversified crop mix. Here are 21 new varieties available in 2015 that will hit retail in 2016.

Read More

August 4, 2015

New 2015 California Spring Trial Edibles For The Patio …

If you are looking to capitalize on the foodie trend and spread your risk beyond Spring sales, new vegetables showcased at 2015 California Spring Trials offer plenty of opportunities to focus on unique, flavorful vegetables and edible plants that also hold ornamental value. Here are a few of new varieties Editor Laura Drotleff and Group Editor Carol Miller discovered at Spring Trials that will help diversify your crop mix.

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
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
Coleus-Campfire-BallFloraPlant

July 21, 2015

Costa Farms Trial Garden Update: 2015 Late-Season Top-P…

The Costa Farms team announced its late-season top performers in the 2015 Season Premier Trial Garden in Miami, Fla. Its research and development team has been working to grow and evaluate hundreds of varieties and have published their findings here. The plants you’ll find in the link have thrived in Miami’s late-spring conditions. Every spring, the research and development team trials 500 varieties of annuals, perennials and tropical plants from plant breeders around the world. All of the varieties were tested in the 2-acre trial garden. Varieties are assessed for abundance of bloom, crop uniformity and overall performance, which includes factors such as clean foliage, little to no pest damage and the plants’ overall habits and appearances. About 70 varieties scored as top performers during the evaluation period, which lasted from week five to week 19. Transplanting into the trial garden occurred at week 51, and plants were grown in 6-inch pots to finished […]

Read More
Cornell_annual-bed

July 20, 2015

Cornell Floriculture Field Day To Take Place August 11

Cornell’s Floriculture Field Day will be Tuesday August 11 at the Cornell campus in Ithaca, N.Y. An alumni event will be held the evening prior. More information and online registration for both events is available online. Here is some of what will be happening during Cornell’s Floriculture Field Day: 1. New Cornell Alumni and Friends reception. Come to Ithaca, N.Y an evening early for the 2015 alumni and friends event at the Cornell Plantations visitor center. The event, which will be Aug. 10, 5:30-7 p.m., will feature appetizers, New York wine and jazz. It will take place at the Nevin Welcome Center. 2. Armitage and Konjoian kick off the morning program. During the morning program at the Cornell Veterinary School, Allan Armitage, professor emeritus, University of Georgia, will talk about some of his favorite annuals, perennials and veggies for the landscape. Peter Konjoian, of Konjoian’s Floriculture Education Services, will inspire you to […]

Read More
Dragon’s-Breath-Celosia_featured

July 15, 2015

Greenhouse Grower Honors 2015 Medal Of Excellence Breed…

Greenhouse Grower announced its Medal of Excellence winners at the Evening of Excellence, held Monday, July 13 at Cultivate’15  in Columbus, Ohio. The Readers’ Choice Award was presented to Terra Nova Nurseries for Leucanthemum ‘Luna,’ the Industry’s Choice Award went to Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ from Sakata Seed and the Editor’s Choice Award was given to Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ from EuroAmerican Propagators Read on to learn more about the varieties that were finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice, Industry’s Choice and Readers’ Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ […]

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Open House

July 8, 2015

This Summer’s Can’t Miss Tours And Events

July and August are packed with events, from greenhouse tours and seminars, to the new Summer Vegetable Trials in California. Check out the list of events for dates and times, as well as information on how to plan your visit. Bailey Nurseries Bailey Nurseries will hold its Minnesota Expo 2015, a jam-packed event showcasing its farm and plants, on July 30, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in St. Paul, Minn. In addition to farm tours, participants can enjoy new varieties, hot picks and merchandising displays, as well as attend various seminars throughout the day. A continental breakfast and lunch will be served during the event. Visit the Bailey Nurseries website for the complete schedule and to register online, or contact Sue Gundersen at sue.gundersen@baileynursery.com or 651-768-3372 for more information. Ball Seed Field Day & Landscape Day Ball Seed’s Field Day & Landscape Day will take place July 31, at 8 a.m. in West […]

Read More

July 8, 2015

The Kientzler Group Is Honored For Industry Achievement

Kientzler is one of the world’s most prolific and innovative breeding powerhouses. It has built on its rich history by providing new and exciting genetics to the floriculture industry, with the creation of the market for New Guinea Impatiens with its Paradise and Pure Beauty series, as well as bringing Scaevola, Bracteantha, Sutera and other plant genetics to the marketplace, introduced in the U.S. through the Proven Winners network. Through its Innovaplant facilities in Costa Rica, Kientzler has also become well-known for establishing high standards for quality and cleanliness, and providing a dependable supply of young plants to growers in the U.S. for more than 20 years. With the company’s new business direction starting this past winter, providing its own genetics directly to the U.S. market, 2015 is a great year to honor Kientzler’s past accomplishments and celebrate its new horizons.     Building On A Legacy Of Greatness Kientzler […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

July 6, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s …

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More

June 24, 2015

Perennial Container Combos And New Intros Shine At 2015…

Despite a rainy start to the day, more than 300 perennial enthusiasts showed up at 2015 Darwin Perennials Day to see the latest perennial introductions first-hand and connect with some of the best suppliers in the business.

Read More
2015 Readers' Choice

June 24, 2015

The 2015 Readers’ Choice Finalists Up Close And P…

You’ve narrowed the Readers’ Choice Finalists down to top picks in the Annuals, Perennials and Best of the Rest categories. Now it’s time to pick the overall winner. Here’s a closer look at the three finalists to help you make your choice. Then join us during Cultivate'15 at Greenhouse Grower's prestigious Medal of Excellence reception on Monday, July 13, where we will reveal the winner.

Read More
WavePetunias-GrowIt_contest_featured

June 18, 2015

Wave Petunias Sponsors Photo Contest Through GrowIt! Ga…

The gardening season is heating up and the Wave Petunias Team wants to see the #WildestWave. The popular plant brand has joined forces with the GrowIt! Garden Socially app to host a two week contest in June that encourages Wave Fans to share and rate photos of their favorite Wave Petunias. The grand prize is a $100 gift card to the garden center of the winner’s choosing. “We are excited to work with GrowIt! and see our Wave Petunias tagged in cities from coast to coast,” says Claire Watson, brand manager for Wave. “Seeing gardeners’ creative photography, awarding a winner, and learning what each region likes about Wave Petunias will be extremely useful as we further promote our ‘Wow ’em With Wave’ ad campaign this season.” Gardeners can place an entry into the contest by downloading GrowIt!, filling out a profile, and uploading photos of Wave Petunias. Placing the tag #WildestWave in the photo’s comments section […]

Read More
Kaleidoscope Abelia (Plant Haven International)

June 17, 2015

PlantHaven International Launches National Campaign To …

PlantHaven International has partnered with BlueSkye Creative to initiate a national consumer ad campaign that carries across radio, video, print and social media to increase sales of Abelia Kaleidoscope.

Read More

June 17, 2015

Green Leaf Plants Plans Two Open House Events June 25-2…

Green Leaf Plants will hold two open house events this summer to give the public a chance to view trial gardens, take guided tours and learn about new varieties and programs. Both events will be held at Green Leaf Plant's facility in Lancaster, Pa. The event in July will coincide with Penn State University Extension Trials in nearby Manheim.

Read More