Q&A: Traven On ‘Martha’ Equals Big-Time Begonia Promotion
In March 2010, grower Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm was on “The Martha Stewart Show” talking begonias. He made quite an impression on Martha Stewart and her staff and has plans to return in the near future.
Greenhouse Grower caught up with Traven on Monday and asked him about his 15 minutes of fame on “Martha Stewart.”
GG: First off, how did you end up on “The Martha Stewart Show?”
Traven: They called me. You don’t tell them you’d like to be on. She loves begonias and collects them. She had her crew out at her greenhouse and wanted to highlight begonias and do another feature.
Her producers talked to four different botanical gardens and they all recommended me. It all happened so fast, too. I was on air Tuesday, and they contacted me for the first time the Wednesday before. So there was no growing stuff for the show. There was no preparation. It was get your stuff in a van and go to New York City.
GG: How is Martha in person?
Traven: Martha was wonderful. She was so engaged. And she was in total envy. It could not have gone better. She went ballistic over the plants. She was giddy over live cuttings. We were like two friends giggling over begonias. Her staff couldn’t believe how engaged she was with me and the plants.
I met her in the hallway before the show started for 15 seconds. The next time I was in contact with her was on the set. It felt very natural. We were in between segments, and the crew’s moving stuff around and she grabs my arm and says: you’re a natural at this. Like I said, it couldn’t have gone any better.
GG: You did seem like a natural, but did anything catch you by surprise?
Lloyd: She caught me by surprise when she asked about a catalog. I do have a catalog online if you have a store. But she was really asking if we do mail-order, which we don’t. But even as she was asking me the question, I was saying to myself: “If I say, we’re a wholesale company,” I will have just turned off the audience and have just turned off Martha. I would have a lost an incredible opportunity. I’d have to be an idiot to say “no” that her. She wants these plants to be available to her audience. So I said we do have a catalog.
We have this disclaimer up on the site now: Peace Tree Farm prefers not to ship plants during the winter months because too many of them die on doorsteps. Please fill out the contact information and we will send you an automatic e-mail when the ordering section has been reactivated. And that’s what we’re working on right now.
GG: How are things in the short time after being on-air?
Lloyd: We are just overwhelmed. We’ve gotten 30,000 hits on the website and 300 e-mail inquires. Dave Williams (Williams Nursery, Westfield, N.J.) put it up on his website–”Just saw one of my suppliers talking begonias on “The Martha Stewart Show.” We saw that and contacted him and said, “Dave, we have a truck in your area tomorrow.” Boom there’s an order. As soon as the truck came in, he posted it on his website–”You gotta see these begonias from Peace Tree Farm, but these primula are even better …”
GG: Anything else cool happen?
Lloyd: We’ve talked about coming back already. I left a lot of those plants with her. And I arranged for a permanent membership in the American Begonia Society for her. I also brought her a very special plant I knew she’d love. This was my personal gift to Martha.
It’s a tiny thing. A succulent in a 4-inch pot. It’s a sedum japonica that we have under the name ‘Gold Dots.’ Its leaves are literally the size of a sesame seed or smaller. It’s just an adorable dense blob.
When she saw it she said, “Oh my goodness, that is so adorable.” She immediately goes to her decorator (and says), “We need to get two more of these for a photo shoot. They’re going to be a centerpiece.” She knew exactly what the aesthetic was on it. She’s really sharp. It took her two seconds to figure out what she wanted to do with it.
Did you miss Traven’s segments on The Martha Stewart Show? Visit MarthaStewart.com for a video interview with Traven and video of Traven walking Stewart through different begonia varieties. You’ll have to click the photos to play the videos.