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...
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selections Offers Improved Navigation

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant Breeding

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
Latest Stories
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
prince-tut-cyperus-grass-feature

November 28, 2016

Growing Tips For ‘Prince Tut’ Cyperus Grass

'Prince Tut’ from Proven Winners’ Graceful Grasses collection is versatile, working well in all container sizes with its columnar habit and dense canopy and filling out well in the landscape.

Read More
Sea breeze combo

November 26, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
Begonia at Oklahoma State University field trials

November 26, 2016

2016 Oklahoma State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City.

Read More
Petunia 'Tidal Wave Cherry'

November 25, 2016

2016 North Dakota State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

Read More
Scaevola 'Scala Bicolor Blue'

November 24, 2016

2016 North Carolina State University Field Trials Resul…

Check out the 2016 field trial results at North Carolina State University/J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.

Read More
2016 Missouri Botanical Garden Flower Trials

November 23, 2016

2016 Missouri Botanical Garden Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO.

Read More
Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse first caught the poinsettia bug in 1996, but the operation didn’t begin trialing the plant until 2004

November 21, 2016

Poinsettia Trials Across The Eastern U.S. To Take Place…

Poinsettia growers interested in keeping up with the latest variety and production trends have the chance to attend university open houses in New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Ohio.

Read More
Coleus 'Main Street River Walk'

November 21, 2016

2016 Michigan State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.

Read More
Field trials at Lucas Greenhouses

November 20, 2016

2016 Lucas Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 Field Trials results for Lucas Greenhouses in Monroeville, NJ.

Read More
Catharanthus 'Soiree Kawaii Coral'

November 19, 2016

Kansas State University 2016 Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trial results for Kansas State University in Lawrence, KS.

Read More
2016 Massachusetts Horticultural Society field trials

November 18, 2016

2016 Massachusetts Horticultural Society Field Trials R…

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, MA.

Read More
verbena-endurascape

November 18, 2016

All-America Selections Announces Its 2017 Slate Of Vari…

Brokers, growers, mail order, and seed packet companies can purchase these varieties immediately. Retailers and consumers will find AAS Winners for sale for the 2017 gardening season as supply becomes available throughout the chain of distribution.

Read More
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac'

November 17, 2016

2016 Metrolina Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

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