Three Gardening Dilemmas

Three Gardening Dilemmas

Who is fooling who with these 4-inch pots? Or, how do I determine the best minimum pot size for sales to retail outlets?

These questions always come up when 2- to 4-inch containers are discussed. The great myth out there is that there actually is such a thing as a 4-inch pot. I used to teach my students about container sizes, but when we received four different sizes from four different distributors–all under the guise of 4-inch pots–I knew the minds of our future leaders would be forever muddled.

We found increased use of pony pots compared to jumbos, yet both were sold as the same size. Should the choice be based on price or how many of those little suckers one can squeeze into a 1020 tray, or onto a bench? Or, shouldn’t we use the smallest container we can get away with to reduce soil volume and bench time? What to do?

The answer: The intent of the product is to be sold to a retailer, then to the consumer. Therefore, why not use the container size to make their job easier rather than yours. Retailers cannot take care of a standard 4-inch pot, let alone a fake 4-inch one. They are much more able to maintain a jumbo pack rather than a pony pack. If retailers ask for pony packs or reduced 4-inch sizes, they must be told that the larger the container, the easier it is for the consumer to succeed.

The bottom line here is that gardening must be as foolproof as we can make it. A jumbo size, or at least an honest 4-inch pot, is simply a better plant with a better root that will be better able to take the abuse of weekend gardeners. I don’t think we realize the ultimate judge, jury and executioner of our product is the weekend gardener. Faking a 4 inch as a 3 or 2 and reducing a jumbo to a pony simply gives gardeners reason to fail. And why would we want that?

Gardening Is Expensive

This one will get me into trouble, for sure. However, being surrounded by the products we grow, we sometimes forget how expensive a flat of pansies or a gallon container of columbine actually is. Most of you have gardens consisting of what you can get out of the greenhouse or nursery–at a significant discount, perhaps even free.

Wherever I speak, I talk of the value, not the price, of the plants consumers buy. I know that and you know that, but gardening still requires money. And in these times, money is not necessarily in high supply. So please realize people are shelling out lots of money for our material, and we sometimes forget how quickly it adds up. What to do?

The answer: Get out and shop for plants for your own garden to see what I mean. It is an expensive jungle out there. After you shop, you will have additional incentive to grow the best product in the best container so garden failure is almost impossible. If you sell junk and the gardener fails, you are hurting all of us. If the product succeeds, the issue of price essentially disappears. That does not make gardening any less expensive, but it surely makes it a much better perceived value.

People Want Short & Compact

If you have attended the California Spring Trials or talked with breeders about the next great bedding plant, the terms “short” and “compact” always come up. For landscape plants, the argument is justified both for shipping and landscaping reasons. However, don’t for a moment believe that gardeners share the same enthusiasm about this short and compact stuff.

One only has to look at the steep rise in the perennial market and the specialty annual markets to know people are looking for more than short and compact. Ask any self-respecting gardener about size, and it quickly becomes apparent fewer short and compact plants are being used and more larger plant species are being sought. What to do?

The answer: Visit private or public gardens on a weekend to get a feel for what people are gardening. Most communities have a garden weekend, and hopefully all of us know at least one serious gardener. It sounds like a difficult thing to do, but you may even enjoy it. It will quickly become obvious that the public is demanding more diversity of size and color.

If the greenhouse industry doesn’t provide the plants the public wants, the nursery industry will. Use of gallon containers, or at least jumbo packs, and branching into perennials and specialty annuals compliments the short and compact syndrome.

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Three Gardening Dilemmas

  1. “Gardening IS Expensive”! Finally a point I agree with Allan on. Anyone who has worked at greenhouse or nursery knows that when it comes time to give away, or more often throw away, the excess inventory, everyone outside of upper management runs to the pile to get their freebies. And we grab all we can fit into our car (and it’s often medium to poor quality). Why? Because decent garden plants ARE expensive, even at the box store. Most greenhouse employees, growers, and even some middle management have a hard time paying for garden plants, because they know at some point there will be a giveaway. Senior growers and upper management take what they want whenever. I guess Henry Ford said he wanted his employees to be able to afford his product. I’m not sure that most greenhouse workers think they can afford, or justify, the price of the product at retail. I pay for plant varieties that I don’t grow, but this Spring I might splurge on some of our company’s own product. Henry Ford also said, “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

  2. I am one of probably many who agree with Dr. Armitage on a great many things. I think he is on the money here again. In business I always tried to use the KISS system to run things. When you have virtually the same , or seemingly so, plants in 5 different containers you create confusion. And he is right. We give the homeowner a way to fail by confusing the issue. If they leave confused we may never see them again. And Joe Grower is exactly right…”The customer pays the wages.”

  3. “Gardening IS Expensive”! Finally a point I agree with Allan on. Anyone who has worked at greenhouse or nursery knows that when it comes time to give away, or more often throw away, the excess inventory, everyone outside of upper management runs to the pile to get their freebies. And we grab all we can fit into our car (and it’s often medium to poor quality). Why? Because decent garden plants ARE expensive, even at the box store. Most greenhouse employees, growers, and even some middle management have a hard time paying for garden plants, because they know at some point there will be a giveaway. Senior growers and upper management take what they want whenever. I guess Henry Ford said he wanted his employees to be able to afford his product. I’m not sure that most greenhouse workers think they can afford, or justify, the price of the product at retail. I pay for plant varieties that I don’t grow, but this Spring I might splurge on some of our company’s own product. Henry Ford also said, “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

  4. I am one of probably many who agree with Dr. Armitage on a great many things. I think he is on the money here again. In business I always tried to use the KISS system to run things. When you have virtually the same , or seemingly so, plants in 5 different containers you create confusion. And he is right. We give the homeowner a way to fail by confusing the issue. If they leave confused we may never see them again. And Joe Grower is exactly right…”The customer pays the wages.”

More From Varieties...

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neighbors Will Try”

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Latest Stories

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flam…

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neig…

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

September 13, 2016

Aris Horticulture Names Blair Hoey As Managing Director…

Hoey brings more than 20 years of greenhouse production and management experience to Green Leaf Plants, a young plant supplier of perennials serving the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Read More
hibiscus-hollywood-hot-shot

September 12, 2016

New Variety Award Winners Announced At Farwest 2016

A panel of industry experts, as well as show attendees, selected a thornless blackberry and a hydrangea for the top honors.

Read More

September 7, 2016

Check Out The Best Annuals For Attracting Bees And Butt…

Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. Here's a list of annuals Michigan State University Extension recommends that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Read More

September 6, 2016

10 Colorful Spring Plants For Sales In 2017

Trends with plants come and go, but color always sells. These spring crops for 2017 offer color choices ranging from bold and vibrant hues to understated, softer tones, and they’re versatile enough to be used in baskets, containers, beds, and borders.

Read More

September 5, 2016

7 New Shrubs And Foliage Plants For Spring Interest

Perennials and annuals aren’t the only plants that supply spring color to the garden. Shrubs and foliage plants also add color and interest and are a great way to round out your spring product mix.

Read More
Janikia Eckert

September 4, 2016

All-America Selections Presents Achievement Awards At I…

Jim Nau of Ball Horticultural received the AAS Medallion of Honor, while Janika Eckert of Johnny’s Selected Seeds took home the Breeders Cup.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

August 30, 2016

14 Cool Season Plants To Kick Off The Spring Season

These new cultivar introductions for 2016 are spring bloomers that can take the cold for early-season sales.

Read More
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 20 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

Read More
Craspedia Golf Ball Beauty (Danziger)

August 19, 2016

Learn How Unconventional Plants Can Be Hidden Gems

According to Kelly Norris, plant breeding inspired by consumer motivations and interests restores our connection with consumers thirsty for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Moonstruck' (2015 Welby Gardens Field Trials)

August 9, 2016

Welby Gardens Names Top Selections From Its Trial Garde…

Welby Gardens, an exclusive grower of Hardy Boy Plants, tested more than 900 varieties this year in its field and container trials. Find out which varieties were the cream of the crop.

Read More

August 6, 2016

Growing Tips On Petunia ‘Night Sky’ From Da…

Production tips for Petunia ‘Night Sky’ from Dan Chaney, Vice President of Production, at Ivy Acres.

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