Innovation Critics Not Welcome

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My best friend hates everything Nike. I’ve never quite understood why the sight of Nike’s swoosh rubs him the wrong way, but he says it’s because when he was growing up Nike represented something he didn’t have that the snobby rich kids in his neighborhood did. And those kids made a point of the fact that because he couldn’t afford Nike apparel, he wasn’t one of them.

I can’t relate to my best friend’s experience but I can respect it. Just like he respects my preference for Nike apparel. Different minds have different tastes.

The same logic applies to plants. There are plenty of love-them or hate-them plants out there. Take Ball FloraPlant’s ‘Black Velvet’ petunia. There’s a consumer base that loves ‘Black Velvet’ because it’s nothing like they’ve seen before. They love being able to combine black with contrasting colors in combination planters and having something their friends and neighbors don’t have on their decks.

But ‘Black Velvet’ isn’t for everyone. Yes, it has its critics–some of whom reside within our industry–who say the petunia isn’t truly black. Or that ‘Black Velvet’ doesn’t perform the way other petunias do.

The other obvious polarizing new variety is Silver Vase’s Blue Mystique orchid. If you haven’t been on GreenhouseGrower.com lately to read about Blue Mystique, you’re missing the war of words between the blue orchid’s supporters and its haters. Some of the comments make me chuckle, including one that simply reads: “Repulsive.” Other haters point out how Blue Mystique doesn’t rebloom blue and Silver Vase is potentially setting up consumers for disappointment when their orchids rebloom white.

Growers, Consumers Think Differently
Let consumers say what they will about the black petunia, the blue orchid or other polarizing plants. At least consumers are talking about them. At least they’re showing an interest in what we do.

Who are we as an industry to criticize consumers who say they want such plants, even if growers consider them sacrilege? So what if the petunia is totally black, mostly black or somewhat black. Same goes for the controversial dyed orchid that now has its first sibling in Indigo Mystique. If there are markets for those plants, then I say let those plants be.

Consumers don’t necessarily want what you want as a grower. The overwhelming majority of consumers could care less about pot sizes, what the Latin names of their plants are and how their plants fit into your greenhouse systems. Many of them simply want the cool new thing, not the next bench-run plant you’re planning to incorporate into production.

If anything, the industry should be applauding the Ball FloraPlants, the Silver Vases and others who bring truly innovative plants to market. Odds are the people criticizing such breeding are the ones whose focus is making yet another pink calibrachoa or purple petunia available year after year.

Those calibrachoas and petunias probably fit nicely into your product offerings, but are consumers asking for improved calibrachoas and updated petunias? Some may indeed want those, but I would argue they’re looking for the never-before-seen plants like Selecta’s 3D double osteospermums, Floranova’s ‘Field Of Dreams’ corn or perennials they have little experience with like the Candy Drops phygelius Skagit Gardens produces.

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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    3 comments on “Innovation Critics Not Welcome

    1. Anonymous

      I agree that we need to sell items that the consumer is clamoring for. But, we should be honest with them too. They want a blue orchid. They bought blue. They expect it to be blue when it reblooms. It’s like buying a Lambourgini but when you wash it, it you end up owning a Yugo. This leads to customer dissatisfaction and you may lose a customer. It might be trendy but it should also be truthful. We should not promote ‘putting one over’ on the customer to make a buck.
      Now, if there is an additive the customer could buy to make it blue again as with hydrangeas, then….. Sell,Sell Sell!!

    2. Anonymous

      I bought the blue mystique orchid on impulse, of course, because it was just so different. I wanted to see how it was done! Knowing that kind of blue is not natural I just had to see what made it tick and Meijers would certainly not let me do that in their store! I got to see the plant continue to bloom, confirm my suspicions and make friends wish they had such a blue-white orchid, too. It was possibly worth the money, but I enjoyed the oddity while it lasted!

    3. Anonymous

      The great thing about the market is that bad ideas don’t tend to last. If you’re not trying new things you’ll be a dinosaur soon enough. And if you pay attention to your customers you’ll find the good ideas that help you grow.

      I absolutely hate black petunias. But they look great at my mom’s house.

      Pay attention to your customers. They will tell you how to succeed.