Let’s Revisit New Crops

Dr Allan ArmitageThe California Spring Trials (CAST) are the launching pad for new annuals and perennials that will soon be adorning gardening magazines, blog posts, websites and even the occasional garden center. One place they won’t be is in my daughter’s gardens. They are not interested in knowing what is new; they are still buying what they are comfortable with.

Do not misunderstand me, however. Apparently, I am known as the new plant guru — supposedly on top of all new plants every year. While that is surely not so, I am the biggest cheerleader. I have been quoted time and time again as saying, “New crops are the lifeblood of our industry.” I truly believe that.

However, “new” has many meanings, and the definition varies, depending on who is doing the talking.

The following are four lessons I have learned about “new” plant crops.

Lesson 1. We are more excited about new plants than most people who buy our plants. Sometimes we intimidate landscapers and gardeners with our zeal for new.
When teaching at the University of Georgia, my greenhouse manager and I were relaxing in the office just off the greenhouse when a lady, calling herself Rachel, walked in and inquired if this was the Hort Club plant sale. I said that these were research facilities and the sale was elsewhere. She asked if she could walk through the greenhouses, which she did.

About 15 minutes later, she came into the office carrying two pots. She had her purse open, money ready and wanted to know how much they were. I was about to repeat my former statement when she placed a pot of ‘Better Boy’ tomato and a pot of ‘Leyland’ cypress in front of me.

I was astonished and said, “Rachel, when you walked in there, you believed that everything was for sale. You were surrounded with incredible beauty and sensational plants. There were no prices listed. You could have chosen anything at all.” She nodded in agreement.

“Then why did you choose a ‘Better Boy’ tomato and a ‘Leyland’ cypress?” At that, she looked me in the eye and said, “That’s all I recognized.”

Lesson 2. People like the word new, but they like to hear from you even more. Put the two together.
It is true that no one comes into the garden center and asks, “What’s old?” However, while a few people come into the garden center wanting to know what’s new, most are asking, out loud or in their minds, “What can I succeed with?”

Use the word “new” in marketing your “Newest List of Top Ten Plants,” or “Newest List of Best Groundcovers,” or “Newest List of Great Roses,” etc. Bookstores do this; specialty food shops like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods do it; so should we. In this way, you can sell the tried-and-true with the newest-of-the-new.

Lesson 3. Don’t expect everyone to be as excited about new plants as you are. The next grafted tomato or echibeckia may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they may take a few years to catch on. 

My daughters are decorators, not gardeners. They get their information from friends, magazines and online (certainly not from their father). They will never ask for a cultivar or nativar; they simply are not that interested. What is new to them is likely two to three years old for you.

If they look good in a container, are reasonably priced and displayed well, my daughters will buy them. Never throw out all the tried-and-true to make way for untried and new. Unfortunately, many of the newest have not been around long enough to know if they will die at the first sign of drought or heat.

Last lesson: Don’t confuse your daughters, your moms or their friends. Let people know what you think is best (Lesson 1) and take the guesswork out of shopping.
My daughter Heather finally called me after I sent her shopping for a heuchera plant. Like a teenager waiting to hear from a date, I was sitting by the phone. When she called, I asked “Heather, what did you buy?”

I was on the edge of my seat expecting to hear her rave on about a Caramel or a Mocha or a Citronelle.

I was immediately subdued when she replied, “Dad, there were so many choices. I could not make up my mind, so I didn’t buy any.”

All this being said, I can’t wait to share the new and the incredible from the CAST — that is when I can ignore my children and love my industry.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Let’s Revisit New Crops

More From Armitage On Plants...

April 25, 2018

Armitage Scholar’s Final Thoughts on the People and Plants of California Spring Trials 2018

"This trip solidified my desire to breed plants. Every time I was able to have a discussion about plant traits, genetics, and germplasm, I felt a thrill of excitement."

Read More
Gomphrena Truffula Pink (Proven Winners)

April 24, 2018

Armitage Talks Favorites From Danziger and Proven Winners

From annuals that look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book to breeding marvels in perennials and shrubs, the visits to Danziger and Proven Winners at California Spring Trials were exciting, to be sure. Here are some of Dr. A's favorites.

Read More

April 24, 2018

Proven Winners Reveals Marketing Efforts for 2018-2019 at CAST 2018

For the first time, the brand has generated one billion consumer impressions, and plans to keep that momentum going with a number of ambitious programs.

Read More
Latest Stories
Gomphrena Truffula Pink (Proven Winners)

April 24, 2018

Armitage Talks Favorites From Danziger and Proven Winne…

From annuals that look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book to breeding marvels in perennials and shrubs, the visits to Danziger and Proven Winners at California Spring Trials were exciting, to be sure. Here are some of Dr. A's favorites.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More

April 18, 2018

Dr. A Weighs in on His CAST Favorites From American Tak…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Noteworthy 2018 Plant Intros fro…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Lavender-Madrid-Lavish-Green-Fuse-Botanicals

April 16, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Spring Trials Favorites From Green Fus…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Asclepias-tuberosa-feature

March 29, 2018

Allan Armitage Revisits the Native Plant Movement And I…

With breeders adding dozens of nativars and with public opinion so high, many more perennials, trees, and shrubs are natives/nativars than there were 14 years ago.

Read More
Allan-Armitage-Tennis-Team

March 6, 2018

Allan Armitage: Columnist, Author, Professor … Te…

Dr. Allan Armitage is well-known in the horticulture industry for his passion for plants. That passion also applies to tennis, as evidenced by his tennis team’s run to a national championship.

Read More
Helleborus Frostkiss Penny's Pink

February 24, 2018

Allan Armitage on Hot New Perennials for 2018

Here are some of the perennials Armitage thinks may increase in value in 2018.

Read More
Gomphrena-Ping-Pong-Lavender-Sakata-Ornamentals-feature

January 26, 2018

Allan Armitage: A Closer Look at New Annuals for 2018

Petunias, marigolds, pansies, lantanas, and zinnias will always be needed, but here are some other annuals I think may increase sales.

Read More
Take-2-Veggie-Combo-Burpee-Seed

January 6, 2018

Why Growers Should Not Market Their Plants, But the Sol…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage says landscapers, designers, and gardeners want solutions to problems, not simply a recommendation for one more handsome plant.

Read More
Brandon-Coker-and-John-Ruter-University-of-Georgia

December 3, 2017

Great Plants for 2018 That Stand Up to Heat and Humidit…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage credits trial managers at the University of Georgia, who have come up with an extensive list of plants that continually outperform others throughout the season.

Read More
Allan Armitage San Marzano tomato plant feature

October 26, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why Simplicity Rules for Younger Homeow…

Most starter gardeners are not looking to buy the ingredients to make a combination planter or basket. They want it made for them — no muss, no fuss.

Read More
Allan Armitage Of Naked Ladies and Forget Me Nots

October 2, 2017

Hear Classic Plant Stories From Allan Armitage in an Up…

Greenhouse Grower’s resident Contributing Editor and “Dr. A. Unchained” scribe Allan Armitage will be the guest speaker on gardening author and speaker Kerry Ann Mendez’s national gardening Webinar series.

Read More
Armitage GWA Buffalo Tour 5

September 21, 2017

Tour of Buffalo Gardens Reveals Hidden Gems And Communi…

This past August, Allan Armitage joined the Association for Garden Communicators on a tour of Buffalo. It was a reminder that that we can make a difference in neighborhoods, in cities, and in people’s lives.

Read More
Bidens Popstar (Kientzler)

August 31, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why I’ve Become a Fan of Bidens

The rather boring plant with mundane daisy-yellow flowers has morphed into a vigorous plant carrying colorful flowers that seems to be comfortable in most of the country.

Read More
Van Wilgens Garden Center Customer Appreciation Day

July 26, 2017

Allan Armitage: How Interacting With Your Customers Can…

Plants are our common denominator, but trust and positive interaction with our customers and each other is truly what keeps us in the plant business.

Read More
Allan Armitage Citizenship

June 26, 2017

Allan Armitage Describes His Path to Citizenship

In between offering his take on new varieties and gardening trends, Allan Armitage and his wife Susan recently became proud citizens of the U.S.

Read More
Tyler Beasley and Allan Armitage

May 25, 2017

Allan Armitage: Two Great Examples of Young People Movi…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage says perhaps we should, as an industry, extend our hands to our youngest members. We might be pleasantly surprised what happens.

Read More