Growers and breeders are beginning to capitalize on higher demand for perennials, market by marketing them with an emphasis on what they do, how they can be used, and what, exactly, they bring to the garden. And it’s a concept you can easily implement at your business, as well.
Hardier, less demanding, longer blooming, water-wise perennials hit the sweet spot of buyer motivation, and good marketers know it. Throw in native perennials for the environment and pollinator-friendly ones for bees and other wildlife, and you have an enticing package that offers real value, but it’s all about how you position it.
Keep It Simple, Keep It Accessible
Terra Nova Nurseries, a breeder in Canby, OR, created a Garden Decorating Guide as a way to help its sales reps to talk about and sell perennials. Nathan Lamkey, Director of Sales and Marketing/Assistant General Manager, says he likes to think of it as a beginner’s guide to the breeder’s catalog, bottled in a small, portable package.
The guide, inspired by garden decorating magazines and the Pantone Color Match system, has a wheel-shaped design of sturdy 9 by 2 ½ inch cards, bound together with a pin. Reminiscent of paint chips in a hardware store, the guide takes a similar approach, grouping and displaying new plant introductions according to color to make selection easier. Each card includes close-up beauty shots of each plant, companion plant recommendations based on complementary hues, textures, shapes and growing conditions, and ordering information.
Lamkey says the Garden Decorating Guide fills different roles for different people, from the broker rep assisting a retail grower with building a program with a full color assortment to the landscape designer matching plants to a homeowner’s patio furniture.
“Gardening is decorating, and that creates excitement,” he says. “So we asked ourselves, ‘How do we make gardening and plants easy to sell?’ The Garden Decorating Guide was the natural result, and we’ve been pretty happy with the customer response we have been getting.”
Sell Solutions, Not Plants
The Perennial Farm, a grower in Glen Arm, MD, has a theory about customer response. When a customer sees a perennial as a solution to a problem, it elicits an emotional response that increases the perceived value of the plant.
Take deer, for example. It is difficult to find a gardener who doesn’t seethe when a deer mows down her carefully tended garden. The Perennial Farm’s Deer-Leerious program addresses this common problem, promoting perennials that deer won’t eat and making it easy for gardeners to select them.
Allan Armitage talks more about using perennials to satisfy solutions in “13 Ways To Repackage Perennials.”
Educate, Educate, Educate
North Creek Nurseries (Oxford, PA) and Walters Gardens (Zeeland, MI) use education as their conduit for relaying information on how and where to use perennials. Walters Gardens highlights new perennials on its website, sharing trial information, culture notes, and videos. It offers “Simple, Sensible Solutions: A Grower’s Guide to Finishing Perennials,” an online e-book/pdf. North Creek Nurseries offers planting guides on its website that recommend perennials for erosion control, fall and winter interest, rain gardens, and groundcover and green roofs. The company offers similar resources in its catalog.
The Perennial Plant Association, Greenhouse Growers’ 2015 Medal Of Excellence in In Marketing award winner, has had a big impact on perennial marketing, as well, and is a great resource for growers and grower-retailers. One of its most effective tools is the Perennial Plant of the Year program, for which the association creates marketing materials, to encourage use and sales of highlighted plants.
Communicate Perennials Extended Value In Your Own Way
Education helps call attention to the overall package of benefits and value that perennials offer. Follow others’ examples and find creative ways to communicate the how and why of growing perennials with a selling strategy that is the right fit for your business. If you tell your story right, sales will follow.
2016 Perennial Plant Of The Year Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ is The Perennial Plant Association’s (PPA) pick for the 2016 Perennial Plant of the Year. It is a clump-forming, woody perennial with bright-white blooms that have green centers surrounded by a cluster of yellow stamens. ‘Honorine Jobert’ attracts butterflies, is deer and rabbit resistant, and provides forage for bees. Plants bloom from late summer to fall for late-season interest. ‘Honorine Jobert’ is hardy in Zones 4 to 8.
Perennials chosen for Plant of the Year by PPA are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multi-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. PPA is known for its marketing efforts to boost perennial sales, and in 2015, Greenhouse Grower honored the organization with its Medal Of Excellence In Marketing Award.