Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
The day before the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo on Nov. 5, I drove to Kalamazoo to visit Larry Boven, his daughters, and the new owners of Boven’s Quality Plants, Kris and Stacy Van de Streek. They purchased the original Boven location in August. The newer Van Boven’s location six miles away was purchased by Nirmal Shah. Both are young growers who just turned 30. Nirmal came to Boven’s from Penn State and Kris has worked for Boven since he was in high school, raising money to take a trip to Spain over spring break
The last time I visited Boven’s was 14 years ago, when I was an editorial assistant and attending the Western Michigan conference in Kalamazoo. It was my first grower visit and I even got to go up in a helicopter with Larry to see the entire Kalamazoo Valley. We were supposed to do that again this month, but the weather was very windy and rainy and not safe.
But I did get a tour of the poinsettias and learned all the nuances of production techniques from Kris, who takes great pride in this crop. He emphasizes the importance of paying attention to all the details early in the crop to get the results you desire later. “This is why I have knots in my stomach for five months,” Kris says. “I hope it looks like this in the end. You can measure your life in poinsettia crops. This is the 10th crop I’ve produced solo.”
About 10 percent of the 200,000 poinsettias will be sold at Menards. The rest will be sold to floral wholesalers, florists and independent garden centers. There will even be 6-8 trucks taking plants to garden centers in Mississippi and Louisiana. Boven’s has built a strong reputation for poinsettias.
Sizes range from 4 ½-inch to 10-inch. “We used to do 12-inch but our tens got to be so big, there wasn’t much difference,” Kris says. Another key is making sure there is enough visual difference between a 7-inch and an 8-inch. The 7-inch has two plants per pot and the 8-inch has three. “Some customers buy every size,” he explains. “If they see seven and eight-inch are the same, why pay more? It’s hard to hit everything just right and distinguish differences. With the warm weather this fall, it was hard to keep plants under control.”
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 21, 16:57
Going For Consistency
I was surprised to learn that Boven’s still grows stock plants for cuttings. “When we buy in cuttings, they are too variable,” Kris explains. “We want to control our own destiny. We want a nice cutting that covers the dirt. When we stick a cutting, we get a big healthy plant. We direct stick everything under mist and our loss is less than half a percent. It also keeps our people busy after spring.”
Big cuttings are stuck for 10-inch crops and then the next cuttings for 8-inch. The numbers of cuttings increase for 4-inch and 6-inch.
About half the crop is hand watered. “It gives us more control and we water some cultivars less. Plus since the weather has been warmer, we’ve been watering more,” Kris says.
Kris also keeps crops on track monitoring growth through graphical tracking and sprays plants based on results. “Uniformity wise, this is one of our best crops. We want to be consistent for our customers,” he says.
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 21, 21:14
Building The Plant
Kris says he tries to build nice, big plants with strong branches. “We stick earlier, use more PGR and build the plant in the beginning,” he says. “We’re going for a lot of leaves so you can’t see through the plant. We build them bigger and then finish them off in a cooler zone to delay color, which also helps on the heat bill. But this year, we were hot and sunny in October, so it was a challenge. It looks like Christmas already. We’re trying to cool the plants down and keep the fans going so they don’t get botrytis. We try to prevent everything we can.”
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 21, 16:40
Fine Winter Roses
I was impressed with the quality and fullness of the Winter Rose plants. “We put two plants in a 6 ½-inch pot with a ring to keep the stems together like a bouquet,” Kris says. “And after we pinch them, we remove leaves to get more light to the plant. In the 8-inch pots, we stick four plants.”
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 21, 16:38
Ring Supports Winter Roses
This is another view of the stems and ring supporting the plants.
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 21, 16:36
Kris grew 10,000 plants to trial straight peat mixes. He was especially pleased with Berger Euro Mix and Pindstrup. “We used to use a bark mix, but it’s too expensive,” he says. “We used straight peat for pansy bowls, and there was nothing bad. If we don’t have to have vermiculite and perlite, why pay for that? We do get better roots with the bark mix. We’re ready to switch all our spring crops to straight peat but we’re not sure on poinsettias yet.”
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 21, 16:34
Boven’s New Horse Farm
Two years ago, Larry Boven built a 10-stable horse farm on his property as a fun pursuit for his family. The farm could grow to 30 stables for people to board their horses. He takes care of the registered quarter horses with his daughter and grandchildren. The building has an apartment for a future trainer and a room for children to play and watch the horses through a big window. 4-H groups have come to visit. This horse, Dudley, had a scratch on his eyeball and was being treated for it.
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 21, 15:36
Looking For Garden Leaders
Two Fridays ago I visited Grimes, just 20 miles away in Concord, Ohio, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the broker’s innovative programs designed for small to mid-size growing operations and grower-retailers, including its Garden Leaders brand. Pictured from the left are owners Rod Ledrew, Gary Grimes and Bill Watson.
Gary says his Garden Leaders brand was actually the first brand on the market in 1991, before we had Wave petunias and Proven Winners. Although he had a look and a trademark, he didn’t have the money to put behind it. But all this time Grimes has been evaluating plants for garden performance through its own trials, customer trials and university trials. Customers vote on their favorite plants as the Garden Leader of the Year.
“We don’t want to be breeders. We want to pick from the best,” Bill says. “Rod has the ability to look at the whole world and choose what’s best for Garden Leaders. We’re the only company that blows past the political stuff right to product performance.”
One aspect that makes Garden Leaders unique is it covers the full range of herbaceous plants from annuals to perennials, herbs and vegetables. Other brands are a collection of like products, such as vegetative annuals. Items from seed and cuttings are in Garden Leaders.
The program has taken off with retailers the past few years, Bill says. Just in Ohio, 500,000 four-inch potted plants have been sold with a Garden Leaders tag. Kroger’s supermarket moved 150,000. Grimes backs its Garden Leaders with a 100 percent unconditional guarantee and administers that for retailers to create a no-risk sale and purchase. “Ours is not life and death, but a satisfaction guarantee,” Bill says. “You don’t have to kill the plant, just not be happy with it.”
Grimes also has been successful in building a pipeline to supply smaller growers and retailers what they need, how they need it. For instance, many smaller operations will not buy seed or cuttings and prefer larger liners. Through Grimes, a grower can buy 50 large liners of Dragon Wing begonias from seed instead of 500 small plugs. These same liners can be finished along side vegetative liners. “We rejected the notion that it has to come from cuttings to be a liner,” Bill says.
Delilah Onofrey, Sep 05, 10:51
Trials Grow Confidence
Grimes’ container trials wrap around the entire office building and draw curiosity from the public, as well as enthusiasm from the staff. Having trials on site brings many benefits, Rod Ledrew says. “We have most of our salespeople right here. It helps them explain to a customer what a plant looks like fully grown versus a close up picture in a catalog,” he explains.
Another fun part is tasting the vegetable trials. “We test 20 varieties of tomatoes and award the best. ‘Merlot’ has had the title three years running.” Rod says. “It lights everybody up on the inside and brings us closer to the product we’re selling.” Later this month, Grimes will host its first field day with the Greater Cleveland Flower Growers. Last year the event was at Shreve Farm.
Delilah Onofrey, Sep 05, 10:54
Pay By Scan Is Old Hat
The best part about informal industry visits is gaining new perspectives. Gary Grimes made an interesting point about pay by scan, or selling plants on consignment, in its purest form. “There has always been pay by scan. You sold what you grew,” he says. “It’s not a big deal to the guy who always had to throw out what he had left.”
Medium and small growing operations are benefiting from the large growers moving to pay by scan at the box stores, he says. While the big guys are reducing variety selection to play it safe, medium and small growers are offering a wider selection for more money.
Delilah Onofrey, Sep 05, 10:45
Sorting Through Growth Habits
Grimes is helping growers sort through all the growth habits by identifying varieties that will stay compact without chemicals (Lo Gro) and more vigorous varieties that will fill containers quickly (Hi Gro). This experimental sunflower is being considered for the Lo Gro program. This program has already caught the attention of Southern growers who are looking for ways to control growth and reduce stretching. Plants are genetically compact but with normal flower sizes.
Delilah Onofrey, Sep 05, 09:46
Big On Big Red
It’s easy to see why hibiscus ‘Big Red’ was named Garden Leader of the Year. Plant one of these and you get the same impact as a Japanese maple in a fraction of the time and cost. I continue to be amazed at the diversity in species within the hibiscus genera–tropical hibiscus, species just for foliage interest, and the perennial hardy hibiscus, which is being used more and more in commercial landscapes. There seems to be a lot of potential for breeding more innovative hibiscus varieties.
Delilah Onofrey, Sep 05, 09:37
Back In Black
PanAmerican Seed’s ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ was especially impressive in late August. The black leaves had a nice sheen and the black berries were just turning red. If you want to make a fashion statement in the garden, you can’t find anything blacker than ‘Black Pearl.’ A really high-contrast pairing is ‘Black Pearl’ with the chartreuse-colored sweet potato ‘Marguerite’
Delilah Onofrey, Sep 05, 09:27
Critiquing Containers At Cornell
Flowers and fellowship are what makes Cornell University’s Floriculture Field Day so great. After a morning of educational sessions, Tuesday, July 24, growers headed out to the gardens on Bluegrass Lane to view nearly 1,000 established perennials, annual beds and mixed containers entered in the fourth annual Kathy Pufahl Memorial Container Design Competition. I was one of about a dozen judges evaluating the containers. We were divided into three groups to judge baskets, 16-inch patio planters and a group without limits. Pictured is judge Liz Brown from Cornell Plantations with our third place winner in the foreground. Entry fees and silent auction support Crohn’s Disease research, Kathy’s charity of choice.
Kathy was one of the real pioneers incorporating plants for texture and foliage in container plantings. Her designs were featured in Martha Stewart and other consumer media. She died tragically five years ago and the local industry decided the competition would be a great way to honor her legacy.
This year’s competition drew about 40 entries.
Winners in the basket category were:
First Place, Michler’s Florist
Second Place, TechniGrowers
Third Place, Mark Adams Greenhouse
Winners in the 16-inch patio category were:
First Place, Zema Nursery
Second Place, Bakers Acres
Third Place, Borella’s Plant Kingdom
Winners in the unlimited group were:
First Place, TechniGrowers
Second Place, Mischler’s Florist
Third Place, Borella’s Plant Kingdom
Congratulations to all who created containers for a great cause!
Delilah Onofrey, Aug 01, 13:47
Growers Lloyd and Candy Traven of Peace Tree Farm in Pennsylvania brought their son Alex to campus to check out the university. He’s pretty sure he will be starting at Cornell in the fall. It was also a great time for mom and dad to reminisce about their days at the college and visit their old stomping grounds in Ithaca.
Delilah Onofrey, Aug 01, 13:45
I brought my own family with me and we had a great time in the Finger Lakes. While I was judging containers, Steve and the kids went to the ornithology lab, which has interactive educational exhibits open to the public. Afterwards, we hiked the Gorge Trail at Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, a place I had been wanting to take them for a long time.
Delilah Onofrey, Aug 01, 13:44
The Southeast Greenhouse Conference in Greenville, S.C., celebrated its milestone of turning 15 on June 21 by presenting a commemorative bottle of wine to companies that have been exhibitors for 15 years and supporting trade press, like Greenhouse Grower, hence my bottle. The Chardonnay was bottled by the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.
The conference started as a collaboration between three floriculture faculty members–Doug Bailey of North Carolina State University (now at University of Georgia), Bill Miller of Clemson University (now at Cornell University) and Paul Thomas of the University of Georgia. Since then it has grown to include seven states and their respective universities and state grower associations. Located in trendy and progressive Greenville, S.C., attendees enjoy the hospitality and passionate volunteers who run the conference.
Delilah Onofrey, Nov 08, 15:57
Miller Recognized For Initiative
The Southeast Greenhouse Conference has created its own hall of fame by recognizing a variety of individuals for horticultural initiative. This year’s recipient is Dr. Marvin Miller, who wears many hats at Ball Horticultural Co. but has the title of market research manager. He is an ag economist and chief industry liaison with many organizations. Miller is the current president of the America In Bloom board and serves on OFA’s board of directors and the Seeley Conference board at Cornell University. He also serves on the Society of American Florists’ government relations committee and floriculture statistics task force with USDA. For more than 20 years, he has worked with USDA on tracking floriculture crops.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:40
Thomas Receives Doug Hull Award
Dr. Paul Thomas of the University of Georgia was delighted and surprised to be this year’s recipient of the Doug Hull Award, which recognizes a devoted Southeast Greenhouse Conference volunteer. It was announced just as he was explaining the purpose of the award to a newer attendee.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:38
A Garden Variety Keynote
As the keynote speaker, Southern gardening celebrity Norman Winter shared the highlights of the best varieties he saw at the California Pack Trials this spring that would be good for Southern growers, retailers and landscapers. As Extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University, Winters coordinates the Mississippi Medallian program promoting outstanding plants.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:37
Luncheon Explores Sustainability
We were pleased with the response and interest to our sixth annual Southeast Industry Luncheon sponsored by Fafard. About 100 people came to discuss the topic, “Eco Trends–Fad or Future?” Our panel included Mark Yelanich of Metrolina Greenhouses, representing large operations serving the box stores; Denise Etheridge of independent grower-retailer Homewood Nursery; Joe Messer, who is breaking new ground promoting Plug Connection’s Organiks line; and independent consultant Ron Adams. Dr. Allan Armitage joined us again as moderator.
Great debates included what constitutes organic and if organic is necessary to offer products in an earth-friendly light. Also, is the answer switching to biodegradable pots or making plastic more widely recyclable? Stay tuned for insights from this discussion and more sustainability coverage in our Growing Green series in Greenhouse Grower.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:35
10 Years Of California Dreamin’
This was our tenth year awarding two trips for two to the California Pack Trials. To date, we’ve brought about 35 growers, retailers and landscapers with us from the seven Southeast states. Sakata and Suntory have been loyal long-term sponsors and their support and hospitatlity makes these trips possible. For many growers in this region, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although it&rsquo’s difficult to break away from the business as spring really gets underway, they do what they can to seize this opportunity.
Friday’s winner was perennial grower Susan Brown of Homewood Nursery in Raleigh, N.C. She is pictured with David Jewell from Sakata and Lou Aguirre from Jackson & Perkins, representing Suntory.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:32
Our second lucky winner was William Henry of Little Marrowbone Farm in Ashland City, Tenn., just north of Nashville. He was stationed at the drawing both days, determined to win. On Saturday, his was the third ticket drawn and he said he was using mental energy to influence the outcome. He is a grower-retailer and he plans to bring his wife on the trip to the California Pack Trials.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:29
Thank You, Charles!
I just wanted to use this space to thank Charles Hall, who managed the Southeast Greenhouse Conference since its inception, for all his support all these years. One of the best parts of the California Dreamin’ contest is hearing him on the microphone announcing the winners and gathering the crowd. Here, he is pictured with event chair Terri Cantwell and Lou Aguirre, representing Suntory Corp.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:28
Best In Show
Goldsmith Seeds won Best In Show for its booth at the Southeast Greenhouse Conference. New varieties were shown off in an outdoor living setting in mass beds and then elevated with urns as focal points. Southern growers took great interest in the new phytophthora resistant Cora vinca series.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:25
Drawings At Dömmen
To help drum up interest and draw people to their booth, Rebecca Lusk raffled off prizes to attendees who received a postcard to bring to the show. Twin Oak Farm & Nursery of Piedmont, S.C., won a free box of rooted or unrooted cuttings. Rock Ridge Greenhouse of Alexis, N.C., won Potunia T-shirts for its employees. And Bridgewater Greenhouse of Richmond, Va., won an I-Pod Nano!
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:24
Bowling For Flowers
Grandiflora in Gainesville, Fla., is always known for its creative booth themes. This time it was bowling and the staff wore bowling shirts. My dad actually has a collection of bowling balls strategically placed around his yard like garden gazing balls but he doesn’t bowl or garden much. My inlaws, however, are very avid bowlers, and I used to bowl, too. Bowling alleys and garden centers tend to be family-owned, independent businesses that support the community. Maybe there’s an opportunity for local cross promotions.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:22
Pushing For Performance
As an exhibitor, Floral Plant Growers of Wisconsin promoted plugs under its well-known Natural Beauty brand. CEO Dean Chaloupka explained how the company has been tracking its fulfillment performance the past three years by each shipping week. The goal is 98 percent fulfillment or better. “If the order isn’t ready or it ships early, it’s a miss.” he says. “Substitutions are a miss. The response from grower customers has been tremendous. We’re not reinventing the wheel. This is very basic customer service, taking care of someone who does a favor for you by placing an order. All we have to do is fulfill it. What is the cost of not fulfilling it? This has been tremendous for us both internally and externally. In the last year, rebooking and new orders have increased significantly.”
Customers gain greater consistency, predictability and certainty of their inputs, which leads to better labor planning, reducing energy expenses and minimizing risk. “What is the cost if you don’t get something when you’re supposed to?” he asks. Floral Plant Growers is extending this performance tracking to its finished plant production and holding its vendors and distributors to the same standards.
On the way home, we were on the same flight to Detroit as Floral Plant Growers. A stewardess noticed the Natural Beauty logo and asked two of the women for beauty tips.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:18
Planting up old furniture is a great idea for garden retailers to add more personality to their displays. This entry won an honorable mention in the container competition.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:15
Succulents were one of the entry categories for the container competition. I’m glad to see this category getting more attention, especially since they are so easy for consumers to care for. My five-year-old is still thrilled with the tiny succulent combo pot I brought home from EuroAmerican Propagators during the California Pack Trials. He feels it is his plant.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:13
Berry Nice Pots
Just walking around the trade show floor, these pots caught my attention at Summit Plastic/Janor Pot booth. They are sturdy and have magazine-quality images. You can almost pick those berries and grapes. Definitely a good design for impulse purchases at retail.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 27, 18:12
Success With Celosia
As soon as I walked into the Super Floral Show last Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, I was happy to see grower Norm White of White’s Nursery and Greenhouses at his booth. Painted poinsettias are still going strong but he also is pleased with a program he started with celosia from cuttings last year. He has sold 40,000 6-inch plants this year. The purple flowers have been a big hit.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 12:43
A Program That Makes Sense
I was happy to see a program that is bringing blooming potted plant and foliage growers together to serve retailers nationally. Former Stop & Shop floral buyer Sandra Hering is heading up Senses Merchandising and Promotion, a program that brings breeders, growers and retailers together to provide lifestyle décor concepts consumers want in plants. Growing operations so far include Aldershot New Mexico, Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, Loops Nursery and Greenhouses, White’s Nursery and Greenhouses and Yoder Canada. The retail brands are Living Décor for gift-ready/home décor-ready plants in upscale containers and Living Quality, for when consumers want a new plant but don’t necessarily need a new pot. A new palette of colors will roll out every season, just like in the fashion and interior design world.
“We’ll be shortening the supply chain,” Hering says. “Breeders can bring new products to market faster and get feedback fast. Retailers will see new products. Growers will get preferential treatment and be part of the testing and trialing. This will be built on quality and documentation. We’ve got to test and know how long things will really last. Last fall we did a test at Big Y World Class Markets. One of the most expensive items was the most popular–two 6-inch mums in a basket. We will have impactful displays, not just products and price, and not the cheapest.”
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 12:38
Checking In With Costa
I had the pleasure of visiting with Ken Pines, neighboring grower Mike Rimland and Greg Hawkins at Costa Farms. While Costa’s color division has been a big growth area in the Eastern United States, foliage continues to be strong nationally. “The foliage side has been healthy this year,” Hawkins says. “We had a shortage of trucks. It is a struggle to get enough trucks in the spring. Our limiting factor was transportation, but business in general has been very good this spring. We&rsuo’re shipping foliage greater distances and color is more localized.”
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 12:23
Branching Into Citrus
It was nice to catch up with Paul Wright from Rio Grande Nursery in Brownsville, Texas, and his CEO Chad Mullins. Paul was my first cover story for Greenhouse Grower in January 1994 as a foliage grower. Five years ago he started growing citrus. “We ship all the way up to the East Coast and Canada,” he says. “You have to protect the plants below 28 degrees and give them lots of light. In January and February you can enjoy the aroma of the blooms. We grow more than 40 varieties on certified virus free budwood and sell them as budded trees. Rather than selling more of the same plants to the same people, we’re getting into some other items.” Another new line is fresh cut orchids from Thailand through Star Orchids. Next year, he will be bringing in seedlings from tissue culture.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 12:15
Containers From China
More large blooming potted plant growers are sourcing upscale pottery, wooden and metal containers from China to provide added value at an affordable pricepoint. In addition to price, I have heard the designs are more attractive and in line with home décor trends than what has been sourced domestically. Here is a collection in Canadian grower Westbrook Greenhouse’s booth. Westbrook’s Rej Picard told me, “We are bringing in container loads from China. Everyone has got African violets and kalanchoes. This is why we needed to get into value added.”
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 12:08
A Living Hershey’s Kiss!
Westbrook Greenhouses in Canada showcased a concept I had not seen before in amaryllis–presenting them as a giant candy kiss. When the leaves peak out of the top of the container, the plant does look like that. And then it grows out to be the tall flowering plant.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 11:58
East Coast giant Kurt Weiss Greenhouses rolled out a new program called Elements matching plants with home décor in concepts inspired by furniture retailer Ikea. Each of the four outer corners of their booth had a color-scheme vignette of a living room fireplace. Floral and design industry veteran Stephanie Hodges was recently hired to develop this program and she set up the displays. Dave Foltz, vice president of sales, says buyers liked the color-theme promotions, especially in between holidays. This concept has been a way to raise the value of the plants at an affordable cost to the grower and retailer and provide affordable style to consumers.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 11:51
Making Retail Connections
This was the first time The Plug Connection in Vista, Calif. Exhibited at the Super Floral Show to push its new Organiks line of vegetables and herbs in biodegradable pots and attractive, disposable cardboard display units. Sample shipments were sent out in early June. The only other finished plants Plug Connection has produced are poinsettias for the local market. I asked owner Tim Wada why Plug Connection would be growing the finished plants instead of coordinating a network of growers to do that. “The only reason we’re doing it is growers are not certified organic and the program is not being carried through,” he explains. “We want to show them there is a market.”
Seed industry veteran Joe Messer will be representing Plug Connection during our Southeast industry luncheon and panel discussion sponsored by Fafard on Friday. Retailer response has been encouraging, he says. “Buyers are looking for a product like this and have nowhere to go.”
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 11:39
Bouquets To Support Children
USA Bouquet Co. in Miami had an impressive booth full of concepts for retailers to distinguish themselves with bouquets. This cause-related marketing for Save The Children really caught my attention. I also was surprised to see the organization is 75 years old and started out focusing on providing programs for poor children in rural areas with the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. Since then, the program has expanded to support children all over the world by providing food, shelter and education. I would like to see something like this for inner city youth, especially after reading about all the strife and tragedy in the newspaper everyday in Cleveland. Suburban bleeding hearts like me could buy a bouquet. This is a concept that could be recreated locally or to support other charities.
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 11:28
An Outsider’s Perspective
Before the trade show opened, garden celebrity and floral designer Rebecca Cole from New York City was the keynote speaker. She has always approached floral from an interior design perspective instead of traditional floral. Cole would like to see our industry engage magazines and television shows more, because there is a disconnect between inspiring designs consumers see and what they can buy at a store.
“We’re not setting trends, we’re following them,” she says. “Magazines feel florists are behind the times. We should be the trendsetters of our own industry. Interior design follows fashion and we’re not matching that right now.”
I had to laugh at the end when emcee Danny Temkin of Temkin International said to her, “Your designs are beautiful, but these are supermarket people. If you put this in the supermarket, you’ll go out of business.”
Cole also suggested florists elevate themselves as artists with a red carpet show and elevate flowers a special gift, that is valuable, incredible, rare and special instead of a choice that doesn’t last long. She closed saying flowers are not a frivolous gift or a luxury but necessary in our pursuit of happiness.
Here, she’s talking to attendees and getting ready to do a book signing. Her books include “Potted Gardens,” “Paradise Found: Gardening In Unlikely Places” and “Flower Power.”
Delilah Onofrey, Jun 20, 11:14
Bringing South Africa To Macy’s In Minneapolis
Global gardening guru Keith Kirsten from South Africa was the star attraction at the recent Macy’s-Bachman’s Flower Show in Minneapolis, which kicked off March 21 and ran through April 7. Although the man is a brand in himself back home, he also represents key plant brands, such as Proven Winners and Anthony Tesselaar Plants in South Africa. His two-week visit to the states included Proven Winners partners Pleasant View Gardens in New Hampshire and Four Star Greenhouses in Michigan, as well as appearances in Minneapolis and Chicago for Macy’s.
For many years he owned his own chain of independent garden centers and will be part of hosting the International Garden Centers of America convention in South Africa this October. In the industry, Kirsten manages and represents plant breeders and growers, acting as head licensee, royalty administrator, agent and marketer of plants locally and internationally. Known as South Africa’s favorite gardener, he has his own television show, publishes books and leads many high-profile publicity efforts to get people excited about gardening. Kirsten also is active in many causes related to planting trees, protecting biodiversity and water conservation. As a passionate contributor to the “Proudly South African” campaign, he says, “I am an outrageous Africa optimist. Let us roll up our sleeves, clean up the litter, plant trees and flowers, while we get the African Renaissance to work.”
Delilah Onofrey, Apr 11, 15:15
This year’s theme for Macy’s flower show with leading grower, retailer and florist, Bachman’s was Gadina Africana. The upscale department store was decked out with plants native to Africa along with authentic African artwork. Large beaded animals from Rwanda captivated adults and children. Just in South Africa, there are 24,000 native plant species, including many varieties that have become familiar to us, like geraniums, gerbera, diascia and osteospermum, pictured above.
South Africa’s favorite gardener, Keith Kirsten was brought on as a consultant and kicked off the event with presentations at both Bachman’s and Macy’s. Presentations at Bachman’s included “Gardening Trends In South Africa With Tips You Can Use In Your Minnesota Landscape” and “Container Gardening With A South African Flair.” The next day he presented “Container Style With International Trends” twice at Macy’s for the public. Both retailers maximized local media coverage.
Kirsten says he loves the Q&A part after his presentations. “I like to help people with what will grow well, how to get the most out of shorter summers and put plants together to prolong the life of plantings from spring through autumn. Since selling my garden centers, I love mixing plants, people and places. I want to bring 1,000 ideas to America and 1,000 ideas back. I talk to industry people and consumers. In all the cities, I’m amazed at how many yards are empty. It’s the same everywhere. It’s up to our industry to inspire people to get out there.”
Delilah Onofrey, Apr 11, 15:11
Checking Out Chicago
Keith Kirsten wrapped up his trip in Chicago. Here he is pictured with Marshall Dirks, marketing director of Proven Winners (left) between the owners of Blumen Gardens garden center in Sycamore, Ill. In addition to making more presentations in Chicago, he and Dirks visited Tim Johnson, the director of horticulture at Chicago Botanical Garden, and explored ways to work together. “We exchanged ideas and business cards,” Kirsten says. “It’s a small world, actually, when you get going!”
Both Dirks and Kirsten explained how Proven Winners is structured slightly differently in South Africa then in the United States. Instead of three young plant specialists supplying finished growers, nine growers are licensed to propagate and finish, because the market is smaller in South Africa. Although Kirsten lends his endorsement, he is a believer in the Proven Winners philosophy, which is to not cobrand with the growers and retailers. “You don’t see anyone else’s name on a Coca-Cola can or on an Avis billboard,” he says. Instead, he would rather forge promotional partnerships that do not dilute the brand. An example is promoting ‘Burgundy Iceberg’ roses with a wine company and a cosmetics company. Bottles of burgundy wine feature the special label and the cosmetics come in burgundy packaging.
“For the grower, he just needs product in the loading bay and a salesperson to take the order,” Kirsten says. “As the brand manager, you have to get out and make sure you are delivering the goods to go with your brand, or you will kill your brand. This means quality plants, good service to retailers and making sure retailers get what they need.”
Dirks acknowledges that Kirsten is the bigger brand in South Africa. “He’s a passionate gardener and a great marketer. When his face is on products, clothes and tools, for us in South Africa, Proven Winners is nothing. We’re not doing marketing there. He does more for the brand than the brand does for him. We hope to utilize Keith and the media for things in the future. With Keith’s accent, just like on American Idol, it’s instant credibility. He’s an international star. He delivers great content and entertains in a sophisticated way.”
Dirks will be traveling to South Africa this fall to be the keynote speaker for the country’s nurserymen.
Delilah Onofrey, Apr 11, 15:08
OFA Supports Congressional Action Days
OFA Executive Director John Holmes touches base with Society of American Florists (SAF) lobbyist Lin Schmale at the Capitol Hill Club in between congressional visits. The two issues about 100 SAF members took to their representatives in person were the need for AgJobs and comprehensive immigration reform and a request to increase funding for the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative through USDA.
“I’m here for two different perspectives. As an individual constituent involved in this industry, It’s very important to share opinion and needs with representative government. A representative government only works if it acts on behalf of our interests,” Holmes says. “Secondly, in my role as executive director of OFA, I’m here showing our support and appreciation for SAF’s advocacy and efforts on behalf of floriculture. We financially support SAF and have contributed more than $125,000 to the government relations fund over the years. We also financially support the national PR campaign. The last two years, OFA has been one of the sponsors of Congressional Action Days. This morning I met with our representative in Columbus, Deborah Pryce, who has been a very strong supporter of the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative funds. Two years ago, she single handedly increased it from $6 million to $6.25 million. In 2008, she is helping to lead the charge to support it on the house side with her colleagues.”
Delilah Onofrey, Mar 14, 12:12
Representing U.S. Cut Flower Growers
California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) Chair Wilja Happé of Brand Flowers visits with Stan Pohmer of the Flower Promotion Organization at the Capitol Hill Club. “The last time I was here was eight years ago and it’s wonderful to be back.” Happé says. “SAF is doing a fantastic job. It’s one thing to grow flowers but it is also important to stay in touch with those who make the laws for you. The issue of immigration reform is very close to our hearts in California.”
Happé will be featured on the cover of the April issue of Greenhouse Grower as the new chair of CCFC.
Delilah Onofrey, Mar 14, 12:09
Making A Difference
Grower Martin Meskers of Oregon Flowers logs into the onsite computer to report how his congressional visits went. This is his eighth time coming all the way from Oregon to Congressional Action Days. “I find it’s important to tell our story,” Meskers says. “Our representatives need to hear from us in a real life situation and what’s going on. I feel I can make a difference. Our senator, Ron Wyden, spoke at the breakfast this morning. Some issues we&rsqo;re not always on the same page on but he always listens. I also liked our speaker yesterday, who gave examples of what to expect at your representative’s office.”
Delilah Onofrey, Mar 14, 12:07
Connecting With ANLA
SAF works closely with American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) on industry issues, especially those that affect growers. Here, grower Justin Marotta of Possum Run Greenhouse in Ohio (left) catches up with Craig Regelbrugge of ANLA. Marotta is on the SAF board and government relations committee.
“I started coming here when we were carrying bunches of flowers and that was lots of fun,” Marotta says. “I’ve always been a firm believer that people can make a difference. This is an opportunity to do that. Does one become frustrated? Yes. Does one become jaded and cynical? It’s the frustration of the process. Our representatives have always been good and met with us in person.”
Marotta has also been involved with the Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center (OPGC) at The Ohio State University since 1996. OPGC has been fully funded through the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, which was one of the issues SAF is lobbying for, an increase in funding.
Delilah Onofrey, Mar 14, 12:06
Home Depot Rolls Out Eco Options
The Home Depot is establishing itself as a destination for organic gardening as part of its Eco Options branding initiative. Bonnie Plant Farm in Union Springs, Ala., has designed a special display unit for its Earth-friendly Vegetables and Herbs in 4-inch and 5-inch biodegradable peat cups. This unit will be displayed near Scotts Naturals soil, fertilizer and pest control products.
With more than 45 different growing locations, Bonnie Plant Farm is the largest supplier of vegetable and herb plants, including more than 30 types of tomatoes and 20 types of peppers. Bonnie pioneered pay by scan in this category and has more than 400 trucks delivering product nationwide. Bonnie will still supply its standard merchandising program in addition to the Eco Options one. Most of the Eco Options plants are not organically grown but earth-friendly for the biodegradable pots. Bonnie is testing organically grown plants in the Atlanta and Chicago markets.
Eco Options is a broad initiative across all Home Depot categories of goods. The new organic gardening destination is a direct response to growth trends and consumer interest. According to Home Depot, the U.S. organic industry was $14.6 billion in 2005 with 17 percent growth and nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population uses some type of organic product. The retailer estimates the organic lawn and garden market to be $340 million.
With this new organic destination inside its garden centers, Home Depot plans to educate consumers about the importance of environmental sustainability, generate store-level excitement for environmentally safe products with promotions and events; and establish a strong public relations campaign surrounding the greening of Home Depot.
Organic lines are a great opportunity for growers to capitalize on a premium niche and provide value. Our supply chain is working on making it affordable to do on a large scale. Grower retailers and those who supply independent retailers should explore ways to do an even better job than the box stores in this category. Don’t concede this ground!
Delilah Onofrey, Mar 08, 15:25
Tour Begins At Clackamas Greenhouses
The 23rd annual Society of American Florists’ Pest Management Conference kicked off Thursday, Feb. 22, with a tour to three growing operations in the Portland, Ore., area. The first stop was Clackamas Greenhouses, which has been producing plants for 96 years in Aurora, Ore. Known for blooming potted plants, in recent years, Clackamas has been producing more garden plants to satisfy local demand.
Production Manager Jonathon Venzke (center) has been instrumental in establishing an IPM mindset in the company using scouting and data tracking to help control pests and diseases. He has developed an in-house Access-based database called New Bug City to record pests, pest control measures and to help in pest control decisions. Designed for the grower by a grower, initial setup entails adding ranges, crops, chemicals and then data for traps, chemical applications and scouting notes along with photos.
“Each trap entered must have a user number that is unique within that range,” Venzke says. “Quite simply, we start with one and continue up. We may have as many as 32 traps in one range. This way we know 24 in range 2 is always the same trap location. We can look back at the range and see where we might have consistently high populations.&ldquo
Bug City has become an invaluable tool at Clackamas Greenhouses and Venzke plans to make the system usable and available to other growers. For more information, contact Jon.firstname.lastname@example.org
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:57
Easy Spacing Fork
For growers who don’t have one of those automated spacing-fork vehicles to space potted plants on the ground, this manual, rake-like fork may be just what you need. Clackamas Greenhouses Production Manager Jonathon Venzke demonstrates and explains how they bought the metal pieces at Lowe’s and welded it together.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:54
Plant Pathologist Colleen Warfield of North Carolina State University and I both liked the hoop houses filled with ruffled pansies. So I snuck a picture of her taking a picture. She chaired this year’s pest management conference along with Robin Rosetta of Oregon State University.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:53
Modern Bulb Production
Our next stop was Oregon Flowers, Inc., a wholesale cut flower grower in Aurora, Ore. Cut lilies and tulips are grown under seven acres of glass. Seasonal outside field production encompasses 40 acres of peonies, hydrangeas, snowball viburnum, eremurus, allium and miscellaneous berries and rose hips. Lilies and tulips are grown year round in plastic crates and the potting soil is steam sterilized and reused. Our tour guide was owner Martin Meskers, who cochaired the tour with Mark Niklas of Clackamas Greenhouses.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:50
Automated Crate Collection
Once bulbs are harvested for cut flower bouquets, this machine collects all the plastic growing crates and stacks them for easy recovery for future use. These types of machines are typical in Holland.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:48
Tulips By The Bunch
Bouquet-making lines are automated with one person at one end laying down the tulips with bulbs and roots intact. The Machine cuts the stems and then another worker arranges them in bunches, which are secured between these foam wheels on the conveyor belt.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:46
I included this picture because I really like it and it captures the modern production of cut lilies, which I had not seen in person before. Notice the white heating pipes near the tops of the plants to prevent disease. Bulbs like it cold but plants like it warm.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:43
De Hertogh Duo
I was happy to see Dr. Gus and Mary Belle De Hertogh from North Carolina at this event. Gus devoted his career to flower bulb research and made sure I understood what was being presented on the tour. For instance, when bulbs are cooled, the peat is frozen to retain water and protect bulbs against freezing injury, while keeping shoots in. Gus is also research coordinator for the American Floral Endowment, which sponsored the pest management conference.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:42
Azaleas For All Seasons
Our final stop was Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas in Woodburn, Ore. I regret that this is my only picture, because the propagation ranges were dark and my camera was conking out on me as I was at the end of my batteries. Half of Woodburn’s business is 2,830,000 square feet of greenhouses for florist azaleas and the other half is 250 acres of container grown nursery stock. Here, owner Rick Fessler shows us a seedling that is grown tighter and taller to be planted as a braided azalea tree.
Delilah Onofrey, Feb 28, 19:38
Art & Nature Lovers
Driftwood Gardens celebrated its love of nature with its exhibit, which took second place in the island category at the Tropical Plant Industry Exposition (TPIE) in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.. Based in Apopka, Fla., the nursery specializes in air plants, which are mounted with animal figurines of all sizes and in vignettes. Think of them as living knickknacks! Smaller items for children make great impulse items at retail checkout counters. The top of the booth featured four large prints of giant colorful moths made from enlarged photographs of real moths done by a local artist. Driftwood Gardens also found the artist for the first TPIE commemorative poster. The printing was sponsored by Driftwood Gardens and our sister magazine, Ornamental Outlook.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 31, 23:21
Bill and Rachel Tippit of Driftwood Gardens will be featured in the March issue of our sister magazine, Ornamental Outlook. In addition to taking a picture of their booth, I wanted to get the couple in this nice wooden, throne-like chair at the show. They are art collectors and naturalists. The chair has branches and looks like it could be a living tree. Rachel is very active in TPIE and serves as the show treasurer. One of Bill’s latest causes has been preserving the Ivory Bill Woodpecker, which was believed to be extinct for 50 years. He accompanied an ornithologist on an expedition to find nesting sites in Florida and was featured in a big article in the New York Times. He has also created a figurine of the woodpecker decorated with Driftwood’s tillandsia air plants. He ordered 600 and they will be used to recognize those who contribute to preserving the lands the woodpecker was found.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 31, 23:18
All About Anthuriums & Orchids
While most of the TPIE exhibitors are from Florida, plant breeders from as far as Europe, Asia and Hawaii are represented. I visited with Anthura from Holland to check out the latest ideas for anthuriums and orchids. Sales Manager Maarten van der Leeden says Anthura is looking at ways to upgrade the products and increase consumer awareness. “Buyers are looking for a ready-made product, not just the plant itself,” he says. “The whole concept of selling plants is changing.”
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 31, 23:15
In the new product arena, growers and retailers are gaining more access to eco-friendly options. With large retailers like Wal-Mart and The Home Depot taking an interest, it will soon not only make business sense but become a necessity to offer products that are better for the environment or reduce adverse environmental impact. At TPIE, Eco-Source Home & Garden displayed these biodegradable grower pots and cover pots. I had the chance to meet with representatives of Bellan International, which produces Biopots in China. Grower trials are underway with that product line.
In growing media, Fafard has come out with two organic mixes. Fafard Organics Potting Mix is formulated with Canadian sphagnum peat moss, aged pine bark, perolite, vermiculite, dolomitic limestone, gypsum and all natural Nature Safe fertilizer. It meets the National Organic Program standards and contains no synthetic chemicals. Another mix for orchids is formulated with fir bark, chopped coir and large granules of perlite to improve drainage and retain moisture. This mix is available in 8-quart bags for retail and 2.8 cubic-foot bags for professional use.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 25, 19:34
More and more pottery and statuary companies are taking an interest in TPIE, promoting the perfect companions to beautiful plants. In many cases, it is the pot that will dictate or command a price point, not the plant. I really liked these Spanish pots from Ceramica De Espana with designs inspired by floral motifs.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 25, 17:43
Mixing It Up
Consider mixing attention-getting tropicals in your summer containers and baskets. At TPIE, Color Garden Publishing promoted a new line of side-planted coco-fiber containers from Kinsman Co. They are available as hanging baskets, window boxes and wall baskets. Consumers get the full look faster with plants on top and the sides. Barbara Hadsell showed me the containers she planted at the show. This would be a good shade one with guzmanias, impatiens and coleus.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 25, 17:25
What woman wouldn’t like a new purse? At TPIE, foliage dish garden specialist Vaughan Inc. of Sanford, Fla., promoted plants in purses as gifts. This helps solve the dilemma of whether to get a plant or something nonperishable. I’d like to see potted plants combined with more gift items and as a way to make gift cards, which have become really popular, more special. Supermarket chains that sell gift cards for a variety of retailers and restaurants should do this in their floral departments. A plant lasts longer than a night out at The Cheesecake Factory or another trendy chain restaurant and upgrades the value of the gift.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 25, 16:28
House + Plants = Home
First Foliage, which specializes in hibiscus, effectively demonstrated how plants enhance your home inside and out by setting up a house facade and room at TPIE. Customers and curiosity seekers were invited to come into a relaxing environment integrating plants with furniture. Based in Homestead, Fla., First Foliage was featured on our June 2006 cover.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 25, 16:13
Cuckoo For Crotons
TPIE exhibitors got creative to draw attention to their tropical plants, especially since a lot of the staple crops look pretty similar. Wayne Mercer of Mercer Botanicals in Zellwood, Fla., showed off colorful crotons with dramatically painted pots in green and yellow.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 25, 16:08
Welcome To Paradise
In many ways, the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) in Ft. Lauderdale is our industry’s vacation. The tradeshow is full of lush, tropical plants, the weather is beautiful, dress is casual and the atmosphere is really fun. Hosted by Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, TPIE is the only event of its kind and the best place to see innovations in interior plants from cutting-edge genetics to home decor presentations. It has also been a nice anchor for Garden Centers of America’s annual meeting. The show was expanded to include new exhibits on a second floor, as well complimentary demonstrations throughout each day on ways to use tropical plants in the garden, containers and retail displays. In this picture, I’m taking a rest at Acosta Farms’ booth, which won first place in the 300 square feet and larger category.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 17:00
Let’s Talk Trucking
For many growers, distribution costs are eclipsing their energy costs. Many growers spend 30 percent or more of their operating budget for the transportation and distribution of their plants. In conjunction with our sister magazine, Ornamental Outlook, we hosted an industry luncheon on transportation and distribution sponsored by Pierson Supply Co. Our two expert panelists were GG columnist Tim Higham of Interstate Transport and “Garden Godfather” Bob Jacobson, who worked for The Home Depot for 20 years, retiring as senior director of outside garden. Many credit Bob as the architect of the modern lawn and garden retail market, bringing order to the marketing, merchandising and distribution of plants.
But Bob also has another talent as a poet. At the end of our luncheon, he treated the audience to a very nice poem he wrote about me on his Blackberry that morning. He interviewed me and gathered personal information about my background, but I had no idea it was for a poem. Friends all over the country have Bob’s poems hanging on their walls, and I feel honored to have one now, too.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 16:58
Celebrating Revolutionary Retailers
This is the second year our sister magazine, Today’s Garden Center, published its 100 Revolutionary Retailers report in January. New this year is an awards program to go with it sponsored by Ball Horticultural Co. Regional winners include Grossman’s Country Nursery of Penfield, N.Y., in the Northeast; Boulevard Flower Gardens of Colonial Heights, Va., in the Southeast; Petitti Garden Centers of Oakwood Village, Ohio, in the Midwest; Watters Garden Center in Prescott, Ariz., in the Southwest; and Roger’s Gardens of Corona del Mar, Calif., in the West. Among them, the overall national winner is Petitti Garden Centers, which is also No. 74 on our Top 100 Growers. Congratulations, Angelo and A.J. Petitti!
Associate Publisher Suzanne Di Staulo announced the results at Garden Centers of America’s breakfast and presented the cover plaque to Sue Amantangelo from Ball.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 16:56
A Distinctive Recognition
Kerry’s Bromeliad Nursery of Homestead, Fla., received ECGC Distributors’ 2006 Award of Distinction. ECGC is a buying group and network for 11 of the largest independent garden centers in the United States. The foliage buyers of all ECGC firms evaluate each preferred vendor on product quality and customer service. Kerry’s received the highest score. Presenting the award to owner Kerry Herndon are Mike Ireland of Martin Viette Nursery and ECGC Purchasing Director Kathy Scott.
Fellow grower and close friend Mike Rimland shared how Kerry has been his friend and mentor and taught him to invest in making products better so consumers get a better value, instead of just to make more money. “I can’t think of a person who better deserves this award of distinction,” Rimland said. “He really does care about you as customers and the end consumer.”
Kerry commended ECGC’s affiliated garden centers as being not only survivors, but the best of the best, after the industry got trampled by a race to the bottom led by Wal-Mart. He also declared we’re not in the home décor or gift business, but the home fashion business, and need to roll out completely new looks every single year. Kerry got this epiphany while reading Vogue magazine in the dentist’s office.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 16:53
Best In Show
Kerry’s Bromeliads received Best of Show for its booth zeroing in on the themes of home décor and fashion. The light, neutral wood was a stylish backdrop to both Kerry’s finished plants and new varieties produced from tissue culture by sister company Twyford. Spotlighted here are upscale plants and combinations in large seashell decorative containers. Tell me these wouldn’t fly off the shelves at a lucrative price point! Owner Kerry Herndon says he is striving to provide products for all demographics and markets. These include more conservative straw and grass pots to ceramic art deco and more avant garde art glass and bold color statements. Classic designs from Asia and antiquity are popular, too.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 16:49
Stunning Sea Shells
The sea shell planters were the biggest hit at Kerry’s booth. “Most people live near the shore and the rest of the people want to,” Kerry Herndon says. “What kind of statement does this make at a beach house? We want to transcend home décor and gifts to home fashion and make a fashion statement.”
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 16:46
Breeder As Artist
On the Twyford side of Kerry’s booth, I met Gregori Hambali, the aglaonema and calathea breeder from Indonesia. Aglaonema ‘Ruby Sunset’ won favorite new foliage plant at the show. Gregori explains that all derivations with red come from Aglaonema rotundum from northern Sumatra, a unique red species. He likes to use it like salt in the kitchen to liven up foliage varieties and see more than green.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 20:16
From Green To Bling
Just as the phenomenon caught on with poinsettias, foliage growers are glamming up their plants with metallic paints. The right color paint can transform plants and stimulate impulse sales from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. In the home, the plants will grow out of the paint.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 20:16
Plants For Sea Lovers
Several of the new varieties introduced at TPIE resemble sea creatures. The most unusual specimen, pictured above, is Alocasia ‘Stingray;’ from Excelsa Gardens.
Delilah Onofrey, Jan 24, 16:37