Metrolina Announces First Winner Of Its Plant Of The Year Contest

Metrolina's test garden, which was open to the industry for judging in the summer of 2012.

Metrolina Greenhouses is asking consumers what they want in a plant, rather than just trying to guess. In its first-ever Plant of the Year competition, 15 plant breeders were asked to submit their best plants, which were then evaluated by a panel of 56 average garden consumers across the United States. The plants were subject to a range of growing conditions and environments.

The 2013 Plant of the Year winner is  Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ from Proven Winners.

Learning And Confirming Industry Suspicions

Since August 2011, Metrolina has been surveying a group of home garden panelists. This group is comprised of average gardeners representing the most significant plant consumer demographics. From this home garden panel, Metrolina has collected a wide array of consumer market data, including seasonal color preference, shopping habits and more. In 2012, the Metrolina marketing team determined that the year’s survey questions would be focused on “learn and confirm,� so they could challenge the assumptions made about the consumer and gather data to confirm or refute any industry myths about the consumer.

After the decision to learn and confirm, the Metrolina marketing team sent their  their panelists a selection of plants and asked them to pick their favorite after two months. In order to get the ball rolling, Metrolina approached their investors, a group of plant breeders who have access to Metrolina’s survey data for a set fee, and requested plant submissions for the trial.
“Instead of us judging plants, we decided to let America judge them,� says Holly Gernatt, a member of the Metrolina marketing team. “We felt we had a good selection in our panel of what America is and wants.�

Consumers, Industry Pick The Same Winners

Metrolina surveyed their panel and determined which panelists would like to participate in a home trial. Of the respondents who indicated their interest, Metrolina chose 56 of the panelists representing all regions of the United States to grow and select a 2013 Plant of the Year. Fifteen plant breeders submitted plants for the trial, and these plants were started and shipped in 1-pint containers to the panelists, who were told to grow the plants as they would any other. After two months, they were to choose their favorite, take a picture and submit their results with comments by July 1, 2012.

No stipulations for judging were given because from past survey data Metrolina knew that simply knowing the consumers’ favorite spoke loudly enough.

“To horticulturists, a successful flower means thriving, floriferous and hardy,� Gernatt says. “But the consumer wants something that just looks good.�
At the same time, Metrolina planted the 15 submissions in its own trial garden for industry evaluation. The company also held an industry open house in June at its Huntersville, N.C., trial garden. All industry and trade attendees were given one flag in order to mark their favorites from the 15 submissions. As panelist results rolled in, 50 percent of the industry votes were combined with 50 percent of the panelists’ votes, resulting in first, second, and third place winners.

“Interestingly enough, if we weighted the panelists votes 100 percent or the industry votes 100 percent, we got the same results, validating our findings and surprising us that we were all on the same page,� Gernatt says.

The Results Are In

The first-place winner was Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ from Proven Winners. In second place was Rudbeckia ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ from Syngenta-Goldsmith, and Zinnia ‘Profusion Yellow’ from Sakata took third place. The most compelling facet of Metrolina’s Plant of the Year competition, however, was that it gave gardeners and average consumers from across the country the opportunity to provide feedback to breeders, who submitted what they thought would be their most successful garden plant.

“We wanted to know what America thought was the best plant, not what the industry thought was the best plant,� Gernatt says. “Now that we have this powerful information, I think we’re beginning to realize how much impact the consumer’s insight should have on how we market plants. We definitely think the industry sees the value in this because retailers are asking for data behind plant choices, and this is one avenue to get that data,� Gernatt says.

Metrolina now sees this event as an opportunitiy to get new feedback on plants each year.

“We are definitely doing this again, and we’re hoping it goes national,â€� Gernatt says. “We figure if we promote plants that were chosen by everyday consumers that could be your neighbor or friend, the likelihood that you’ll be able to grow it successfully, and like it too, is huge.”

The Importance Of Data And Marketing

Metrolina is already working on promoting its new program. For the 2013 winner, Metrolina has created a Plant of the Year logo to be included on all Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ plant tags. Only the first place winner will have this special logo.

As Metrolina moves forward with determining a new survey focus for the 2013 year, Gernatt says the operation is pleased with how much value its market data created. GG

Leave a Reply

More From Annuals...

April 20, 2018

California Dreaming Takes on a Whole New Meaning at CAST 2018

At California Spring Trials 2018, the Greenhouse Grower team witnessed the revitalization of a company, plus some awesome merchandising displays, and efforts toward automation.

Read More

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Bailey Nurseries, and More

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bailey Nurseries, and More

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

Read More
Latest Stories

March 27, 2018

Industry Influencer Helmut Kientzler Dies

One of the managing directors of the Kientzler group of companies, which was largely responsible for the introduction of vegetative annuals in the marketplace, died unexpectedly on March 7.

Read More

January 4, 2018

Stand-Out New Varieties That Keep D.S. Cole Growers Co…

See what new varieties stood out to Doug Cole, owner of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH, this year.

Read More
Begonias-I’Conia-Series-Dümmen-Orange-Miss-Montreal

December 19, 2017

34 New Flowering Annuals to Brighten Up Your Product Mi…

Consumers will soon have the opportunity to experiment with colorful, big-impact blooms in their containers and landscapes. Here are 31 new introductions to consider that will color-up your product mix.

Read More
Eason-New-Calibrachoa-Hi-Graft

November 14, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Introduces New Decorative…

Created by Hishtil Nursery in Israel, the new decorative forms of calibrachoa feature an 8- to 12-inch stem and come in four colors of calibrachoa blooms on top.

Read More
Helianthus Sunfinity (Syngenta Flowers)

September 3, 2017

Growing Tips for Helianthus Sunflower ‘Sunfinity…

This annual sunflower is a profuse bloomer with strong branching that produces multiple flowers per plant from spring to fall.

Read More

August 29, 2017

27 New Impatiens for Spring Color in 2018

Gardeners love impatiens because they are one of the few plants that offer stand-out, splashy blooms for shady areas, and in some cases full sun. There's no shortage of new introductions this year to choose from for your 2018 product mix. Here are 27 new and improved varieties to consider offering to your customers.  

Read More
Candy Tops Snapdragons Series (Sakata Ornamentals)

August 3, 2017

Five Characteristics Breeders Want in Top-Performing Sp…

New spring annuals have to provide something for everyone — longevity, durability, performance, and more — if they want to meet breeders’ high standards for market-worthy plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Headliner Pink Sky" (Selecta)

August 3, 2017

Why Eccentricity is the New Black in Spring Annuals

Consumers judge plants by appearance, color impact, and ease of maintenance, which is why retailers want new spring annuals that are novel standouts.    

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Mio' (Danziger)

June 8, 2017

AmericanHort Update on Genetically Engineered Petunias

AmericanHort is actively assisting affected plant breeders, distributors, growers, and retailers as the genetically modified petunia regulatory response continues. Since the last update, there have been several changes to the list of petunias confirmed or suspected of being genetically engineered and therefore unauthorized to be imported or sold. Also, the list of recognized laboratories for petunia variety confirmation testing has expanded. Most importantly, petunia varieties on the USDA-APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) list require an APHIS Form 2000 for importation. APHIS also began requiring that any Petunia spp. Shipments, not including regulated GE varieties, must be accompanied by a list of variety names. This resulted in some inspection delays at the USDA-APHIS plant inspection station in Atlanta over the past two weeks. In response, AmericanHort has negotiated a more flexible approach with APHIS, and new guidance has just been posted for importing Petunia plants, cuttings, or seed. The new guidance allows […]

Read More

May 25, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Breeders Take Swif…

Now that the initial shock of genetically engineered petunias is wearing off, breeders continue testing for tainted stock and look toward the future. On the consumer side, uncertainties remain.  

Read More

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Gen…

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Petunia F1 African Sunset from American Takii

May 22, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Question and Answe…

AmericanHort’s key role interfacing with the USDA on the recall of genetically modified petunias has helped the horticulture industry rapidly address the problem. Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge talks about recent updates, the impact on the industry, and where it goes from here.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trial…

With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff Flowers, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.

Read More
Zinnia Solmar Series (Floranova)

March 17, 2017

Phlox, Zinnias, and More for 2018 From California Sprin…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Cosmos ‘Apollo’ (Floranova)

March 14, 2017

Begonias, Dahlias, and More for 2018 from California Sp…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Limbo GP burgundy picotee

March 7, 2017

New Petunias and Calibrachoas for 2018 from California …

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new petunias and calibrachoas that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More

September 7, 2016

Check Out The Best Annuals For Attracting Bees And Butt…

Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. Here's a list of annuals Michigan State University Extension recommends that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Read More