Taking The Guesswork From Gardening [Opinion]

In my previous job as horticulturist at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, one of my responsibilities was to answer the “Horticulture Hotline.” Members and the public could call in several days per week with their gardening questions. It was a free service, and in the spring and summer I answered an average of 30 to 40 questions per day. People asked why there were brown spots in their lawn, why the wisteria hadn’t bloomed, how to save dahlias over the winter, what that disgusting green caterpillar was on their tomatoes, how to save seed from jack-in-the-pulpit, and what could they spray to keep the Japanese beetles off their roses. I never knew what questions the day would bring (sometimes it brought obscure questions on sedges or South African native plants from co-workers calling from another extension trying to stump me).

Even now, at parties the hostess often steers me out to the garden or landscape beds to have me help her figure out what to plant and diagnose problems. No doubt you have had the same experience when people find out what you do for a living. We, as an industry, worry about a waning interest in gardening. But my experience tells me otherwise. People still love plants. I believe we are programmed as a species to love plants. People want to garden, and they’re hungry for knowledge. But they’re intimidated. They’re afraid of spending their hard-earned money on something they don’t know how to grow.

A few months ago, I interviewed Joe Gray, senior vice president of Hines Nursery. During our conversation, he said, “I travel a lot, and when I’m asked, ‘What do you do?’ people respond, ‘Oh, I’m a terrible gardener,’ or ‘I have a black thumb.’ They say it’s too complicated; there are all these steps, and it’s just too much.”

Gray says, “We as an industry make it complicated for the consumer. We need to simplify it for them so it’s easier.”

It’s an opinion I’ve heard echoed by industry leaders. The effort to produce low-maintenance, high-quality plants has been underway for a long time. But now the focus is widening. Real efforts are being made to help consumers feel confident that what they buy will succeed.

HGTV has already proven this works with its line of paints, which are grouped and color-coordinated so no matter what the customer chooses, it will look good. They’re doing it with a new line of plants too. These pre-selected plant combinations that work well together, both in color and in culture. “They are designed to grow well, show well and go home well together, says Randy Hunter, CEO of Agricola Management Group, which is marketing the HGTV line of plants.

Burpee has an app, My Garden Designer, that allows consumers to match plants together right in the store. They can scan a QR code with their phone and see what will go well with it, or look up “recipes” others have suggested. Proven Winners has long worked with retailers to group plants together in POP displays that attract attention and eliminate guesswork. There still may be a place where traditional displays of plants in alphabetical order by category make sense, but if we’re going to make it simple, easy and uncomplicated for the plant novice we have to think out of the box.

“Educating consumers is the retailer’s job,” you might say. And traditionally it has been. However, more than ever before we’re working with a population with less discretionary spending and less time, but conversely, one that is used to instant gratification. Many retailers are asking for marketing help. Get together with your customers to find out how you can work with them to make it easy for their customers. I say it’s the duty of the whole supply chain to shift the thinking from “I can’t garden” to “I can.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Market

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More
Latest Stories

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 26, 2016

Beekenkamp And Danziger Partner To Distribute Poinsetti…

Danziger is continuing to expand its portfolio of products to the U.S. market with the addition of poinsettia cuttings of Beekenkamp’s varieties.

Read More

January 24, 2016

Positive Consumer Experiences Help Advance The Orchid C…

HGTV HOME Plant Collection plans to expand its Fresh Style product line through a partnership with Green Circle Growers (Oberlin, Ohio), which will supply decorative orchids, tropical plants, and indoor garden combinations. Greenhouse Grower asked Maxwell Sherer about Green Circle's orchid program, the latest trends he’s seeing, and where he thinks orchid growing is headed in the future.

Read More
Sansevieria in Corner of home

January 21, 2016

Tropical And Indoor Foliage Plants Emerge As A Lifestyl…

Consumers are incorporating houseplants into their everyday lives, which is driving the trends toward smaller-size plants and unique products that appeal to a younger demographic.

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

January 20, 2016

How To Promote Pollinator-Friendly Plants This Spring

Following last year’s launch of the National Pollinator Garden Network, groups like the National Garden Bureau and others remind growers that offering pollinator-friendly plants is a great way to keep up with consumer demand.

Read More
Caladium Painted Frog Series (Plants Nouveau)

January 17, 2016

16 New Foliage Plants To Round Out The Garden

Every garden needs a good mix of flowering and foliage plants for an attention-grabbing show of thrillers, fillers, and spillers. These new foliage varieties will not only act as a lush backdrop for colorful blooms, they can also stand on their own with their noteworthy textures and colors.

Read More
California Coast

January 13, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The 2016 California Spring Tri…

It’s time to think about registering for the 2016 California Spring Trials. You won’t want to miss any stops along the way, so use this quick reference to help with planning for your trip.

Read More
David Roberts Bailey Nuseries Feature Image

January 12, 2016

Bailey Nurseries’ David Roberts Says New, Novel Varieti…

Roberts was recently hired by Bailey Nurseries to be the General Manager and Breeder for Plant Introductions, Inc., which Bailey acquired last year.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

January 11, 2016

Kelly Norris: Questioning The Purpose Of New Plants

Norris asks if the time has come to rethink new plant introductions, or how we market them to consumers.

Read More
Weeks Roses Miss Congeniality

January 11, 2016

Weeks Roses Introduces New Lineup Of Roses For 2016

Weeks breeds and grows a wide range of rose bushes, all of which are field tested for many factors.

Read More
CAST2015_Floranova_Vegetalis_Ageratum Cloud Nine Blue

January 8, 2016

Floranova Opening New Chile-Based Research Station, For…

Floranova has announced it is building a new research station in Chile that will open in mid-2016. As a result, the company will not participate in the 2016 California Spring Trials, but says it will be back in 2017.

Read More
Streptocarpus 'Yellow Blue Eye' (Green Fuse Botanicals)

January 5, 2016

15 Flowering Foliage And Tropical Plants For The Home A…

Tropical and foliage plants are the ultimate lifestyle plants because they enrich the environment and provide mood-boosting benefits. Take into account some of these new introductions for a crop mix that helps your customers realize the true benefits of plants.

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