People Love Plants – Sometimes A Little Too Much

More than 1,000 people came out to participate in Plantapalooza.

Oh boy, was I in trouble. I figured I would be toast once everyone figured out that nearly all the geraniums and petunias that had been sent to me to be trialed in the gardens had been stolen. Well, stolen is not the correct word. Perhaps “taken in error” is more accurate – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Decision

With the economy still dismal, consumer confidence low and discretionary dollars difficult to justify, the team at the trial gardens discussed the pros and cons of doing a large plant sale. Would people show up? Would they spend the money? Does anyone even garden around here with water restrictions still in place? On and on we argued.

Instead of backing away, however, we decided to go forward, approaching The State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the student horticulture club to create a plant sale extravaganza we dubbed Plantapalooza. We approached our retailers, and they bought into the concept and offered discounts and specials to anyone who visited one of the three venues.

We quickly ran out of greenhouse space, so to free up benches, we put the tougher plants like petunias and geraniums around the corner behind do-not-enter tape. We marketed Plantapalooza as a destination weekend and crossed our fingers that people would attend with open wallets.

The Result

It was a smashing success; people came to Athens from at least five different states. We sold all the unusual stuff, from vines, unusual veggies and perennials to annuals like alternanthera, solanum and nierembergia – all for five or 10 dollars. More than 1,100 people showed up over about seven hours, and we raised thousands of dollars to support the students and the gardens. And that was just us. People were excited to go down the road to two other venues, be welcomed by the retailers like royalty and find plants for decorating. Everybody was pleased.

The Trouble with Social Media

As successful as the event was, at least a hundred plants remained. The last thing I wanted to do was haul them back in the greenhouse – so I flexed my newfound social media muscles and sent a message to our eMail list, Facebook and Twitter (yes, I now tweet, to the shame and embarrassment of my best friend). I wrote, “Free plants at the back of the greenhouse, pick them up Saturday evening or Sunday.”

People speak of the power of social networking – I could practically hear the squealing of brakes, U-turns and messages being sent – and within an hour, everything was gone.

I meant to send a second message telling everyone that all the free plants were gone, but, well, my Swiss cheese brain forgot. The next morning I received frantic messages from my students telling me that people had come to the garden on Sunday and looked for those promised free plants – and what they found were the flats of petunias and geraniums being saved for the trials. Nearly everything had disappeared.

Yes, they were behind do-not-enter tape, but hey, my message said free plants, and people took me at my word. Social media had worked too well – I was in big trouble.

The Moral of the Story

What to do? These plants were irreplaceable; breeders had paid us to trial them, and now they were gone. Once again, I turned to social media and asked for their return. Apologies to all of you who received these pleas. We hoped to receive a flat or two anonymously, and then scramble to find replacements. But, people drove back the next day, apologizing profusely, “We didn’t realize. We are so sorry. We just thought…” More than 95 percent of the plants were returned. Some had even been planted and were brought back with garden soil clinging to the roots.

I learned three things that weekend. 1. People still love what we sell. If we market ourselves boldly, they will come, and they will spend. 2. This social media thing is powerful, both in a positive and negative way. 3. My faith in mankind was rekindled. The final lesson is the one I will remember the longest. I smile as I think of these people bringing back the plants and setting them at our feet. I was touched.

If you missed Plantapalooza, visit us this season and check out the trial gardens. We’re having an Open House June 20, 2012, and you can check out the much-traveled petunias and geraniums.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To Explode, And What It Means For You

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos And Apartments

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 27, 2016

Know Your Market When Choosing Ornamental Grasses

Growers have no shortage of choices in the ornamental grass market. Narrowing down the selection comes down to finding the right plant for the right purpose.

Read More
Latest Stories
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To …

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 27, 2016

Know Your Market When Choosing Ornamental Grasses

Growers have no shortage of choices in the ornamental grass market. Narrowing down the selection comes down to finding the right plant for the right purpose.

Read More
Bee on Bidens

April 25, 2016

Breeders Go The Distance To Bring New Plant Varieties T…

Breeders are meeting the demand for new varieties that perform and sell well by extending trialing to engage the grower community, using advanced technology, and encouraging international collaboration.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

April 20, 2016

Growers And Breeders Are Always Looking For A Better To…

While edibles become more diverse, there's one goal that hard-core gardeners and urban foodscapers share.

Read More
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Ma…

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Petunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners)

April 20, 2016

Proven Winners Funds Gardening “It Couple,” Names Plant…

Since 1992, Proven Winners has been changing the gardening game, and it’s not stopping now. With new plants, improved series, and interesting retail customers, the brand aims to make planning easier for growers, and make gardening easier and more fun for consumers. At its new 2016 California Spring Trials location at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, Proven Winners had the space and a beautiful setting to lay all of its offerings out, from new and improved varieties in annuals, perennials, and shrubs, to marketing and retail programs. Check out the slideshow below for highlights.   Proven Winners Is Flexing Its Marketing Muscle One of the ways Proven Winners is working toward better use of its products and gardening in general, is by supporting the gardening authorities that gardeners of all ages trust on social media. Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks says while searching for influential gardeners, he came across a young […]

Read More
Scaevola 'Purple Haze' (Danziger 2016)

April 19, 2016

Allan Armitage Picks His Favorites From Proven Winners,…

From “crazy” petunias to container pentas, there was plenty that caught Allan’s eye during the final day of 2016 California Spring Trials.

Read More
CallaFornia Red

April 19, 2016

Golden State Bulb Company Shows Off New Concepts In Cal…

There’s no question that Golden State Bulb Company’s specialty is in breeding virtually any color of Calla Lily, available in about any habit — cut flower, bouquet pot, upright pot type — the list goes on. But now, the bulb specialist is focusing on making calla lilies more accessible to the masses, for use in combination planters and the landscape, with calla six-packs. Calla breeder Peter Beckman showed us the shrunken-down version of these beauties, and they’re certainly perfect for patio pots, planting along paths or at the front of the garden, or en masse for an elegant statement. This presentation makes it easy for consumers to pick up and use callas, without the intimidation they might feel from a bulb crop, says Dr. Allan Armitage.   They’re also versatile for growers to plant in early to mid-February to add to finished containers in the spring, or to sell in […]

Read More
Disney Trial Garden

April 17, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For Florida Flower Trials In May

The two-day event, which takes place in Orlando, is held in conjunction with the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and offers educational seminars, tours, and open houses.

Read More
Dianthus Paint the Town Fuchsia_CJW14 (2)

April 16, 2016

Proven Winners Focuses On A Better Consumer Garden Expe…

Excellent, long-lasting performance, and easy maintenance are at the core of Proven Winners’ introductions.

Read More

April 15, 2016

Pacific Plug & Liner Features Plenty Of New Varieti…

One of the best-merchandised spots on the California Spring Trials is always Pacific Plug & Liner (PP&L), where the greenhouse is stocked with beautiful plants and displays, and the people are dressed to the nines and graciously ready to help in any way.

Read More

April 15, 2016

American Takii Commemorates 180 Years Of Industry Commi…

American Takii, Hilverdakooij, and newcomer HMA Plants show off zombie-zone celosia, new dianthus, and hip succulents.

Read More

April 15, 2016

Ernst Benary of America Takes Plant Fashion Week To The…

Ernst Benary of America gave growers a taste of the fashion world during the new variety promenade held during California Spring Trials 2016.

Read More
Fashion Show At Benary

April 15, 2016

California Spring Trials: Dr. Allan Armitage Notes Emer…

Attractive new varieties will draw the eyes of consumers, but innovation and creativity will keep them coming back.

Read More
Delizz Strawberry packaging

April 14, 2016

ABZ Seeds’ Delizz Strawberry Makes Mouths Water At Spee…

Speedling, Inc. hosted Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, ABZ Seeds, Plant Source International, and Vista Farms For California Spring Trials 2016. Here are some of the highlights of the trial.

Read More
Crazytunia Citrus Twist

April 14, 2016

Dr. Allan Armitage’s Top Picks From Floricultura And Sa…

The best new flower introductions have the power to turn a non-believer into a fan. Check out Dr. Allan Armitage’s top picks from his visit to Sakata and Floricultura, the latter of which hosted a number of breeders.

Read More
Begonia Evi Pink and Evi Bright Pink

April 14, 2016

Westhoff, Beekenkamp, PAC-Elsner And Plug Connection Pr…

Floricultura-Pacifica in Salinas opened its doors to invite California Spring Trials visitors to experience new offerings from European breeders including Westhoff Flowers, Beekenkamp, and PAC-Elsner, as well as California native The Plug Connection. While there, it was interesting to witness the ongoing and highly automated production of orchids, as well as construction of more greenhouse space happening simultaneously. As is tradition, Westhoff Flowers invited its visitors to flag their favorite combos at the entrance, and showed off its unique assortment of annuals, as well as a few concepts. The breeder is working loosely with Florist Holland to show mixes used with Westhoff Flowers — or Westflowers — annuals and Florist gerberas in the center. The combinations are bright and cheerful, and spur a happy reaction in those who have seen them, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this concept going forward. Another new idea is putting together […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]