GG: What are some of the unique poinsettias you offer?
Whitehouse: Since the 1990s we have grown poinsettia topiaries, starting first with large standards and moving to smaller topiaries in 8-inch and 5-inch clay pots. We called these two sizes our Tabletop (8-inch) and Desktop (5-inch clay) topiaries, suggesting to the consumer that they could be used on buffet tables, reception desks and mantles to decorate for the holidays. In 2011, we retired the Tabletop size and replaced it with a poinsettia wreath (8-inch clay), an even smaller topiary called the Elfin Tree (3-inch clay) and mini-pinched Super Minis in 2.5-inch pots. The poinsettia shapes make up about a third of our annual poinsettia production.
Since we are a trial site for Ecke, we have first chance at new colors coming to the market. In past years, colors such as ‘Ice Punch,’ ‘Luv U Pink,’ and ‘Polar Bear’ have sold out before the shipping season has even begun. This year these three colors were sold out with pre-book orders in early September. After a number of years of poor sales for red and white, we decided to grow nearly all novelty colors for our pinched poinsettia programs in 2012.
For the 2011 and 2012 seasons, we also experimented with holiday combos in 8.5-inch pots that mixed poinsettias with other great houseplants such as ferns, begonias, herbs and scented geraniums. These sold well for our smaller-sized customers like florists and designers.
GG: Are the topiary shapes labor intensive, and are you able to get a premium price?
Whitehouse: The amount of labor is respective to the shape. The larger the topiary, the more labor and growing time are involved. We start our wreath topiaries in July, and the Elfin Trees are started in September. We’re able to justify a higher price point with the wreath as it is truly a one-of-a-kind item, a piece that stands out for the garden center and is a great statement piece for the consumer. We grow only 50 wreaths, and 10 times that in Elfin Trees each year. The Elfin Trees work also because they are a lower price point while still looking elegant; consumers can purchase four or six at a time to make an impression with their decorating without breaking the bank.
GG: What trends are you seeing with containers, colors and shapes that you may try to take advantage of next season?
Whitehouse: Over the last three years we have seen an increase in sales with the smaller-sized topiaries. I think the lower price points and the trend toward all things small (as we’ve seen with fairy gardens and terrariums) has powered this increase in demand for the Elfin Tree topiaries.
‘Luv U Pink’ is still our top-selling color for the last two or three years. Its bright, vibrant, “Barbie pink” color is truly unique, and I think it really speaks to consumers who are looking to take their holiday decorating in a non-traditional direction. Graphic/geometric patterns, metallics and bold colors were all trends seen during the 2012 holiday season in retailers across the country. ‘Luv U Pink’ also is lovely with silvery-toned succulents like Echeveria ‘Perle von Nurnberg,’ a great pairing taking advantage of the current love for succulents.