Tropical Delight

Tropical Delight

Although the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) has always been known for looking green as an oasis full of gorgeous indoor plants, it is now becoming a place where people are thinking green.

Hosted by Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association (FNGLA), TPIE is the only national tropical foliage event. Nearly 7,500 industry professionals representing 46 states, two U.S. territories and 54 countries participated in this year’s event, Jan. 17-19 at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale. Major buyers from garden centers, interiorscapers, retailers and wholesalers were booking their 2008 orders of green goods.

Nearly 500 exhibiting companies showcased a wide range of tropical plants and related products. “Exhibitors went all-out not only to present exciting plants and products, but to display them in an exciting and inspiring manner,” says Jane Van Cleave of J. Van Cleave Marketing, who chaired the event. “TPIE displays are reaching the level of sophistication one sees at the European horticulture trade fairs. Tropical plants offer such beauty, and TPIE exhibitors this year really showed them at their best.”  

Going Green

On the interiorscaping side, Green Plants For Green Buildings kicked off its series of roundtable discussions. The organization promotes the environmental value and wellness benefits plants bring to built spaces. The organization’s director, MJ Gilhooley, also presented the top five indoor greening plants clients will love.

During the TPIE Short Course, several speakers shared their perspectives on what it means to be green and ways to market our industry that way. Also new this year in the new plants and products room was a Sustainable Solutions Showcase, which provided an area for exhibitors to feature products offering environmentally friendly qualities. 

Glam Time For Growers

As Van Cleave said, the growers went all out with their booths and their plants. In addition to winning the Best of Show booth award, Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses was honored by ECGC Distributors as the interior plant grower providing the most distinctive product and service in 2007. ECGC represents 12 of the largest independent garden centers.

Hermann Engelmann grows 435 varieties, which are sold at a wide range of retail outlets nationally as Exotic Angels. ECGC challenged Hermann Engelmann to come up with an exclusive line of products for its member garden centers.

“You challenged us two years ago to come up with products for you,” says President/CEO Wolfgang Engelmann. “It’s the million dollars of constant inventory that scares us. We’re going to IPM in Germany to look for new varieties and to the Christmas Show and NTV (Horti Fair). We’re always in Europe at least once a year for cool ideas. This time, Bisser Georgiev will visit two chains, one that generates 120 million euros in 11 stores and another that generates 1 billion euros. It is possible that you guys (ECGC garden centers) could be a $120 million company.”

Growers also got to showcase their plants to retailers during Garden Centers of America’s breakfast, where Robert Hendrickson of the Garden Center Group presented the Retailer Choice Awards. In this popular scavenger hunt, retailers search the show and identify plants, products and concepts that are most interesting to them.

Top plant picks were:
– An exotic plant called tacca from Thailand and a cold hardy Dutchman’s pipe vine plant produced by Greendale Nursery.
–Alocasia ‘Stingray’ from Morning Dew Tropical Plants.
–Tillandsia creations from Driftwood Gardens and weather-proof vinyl paintings through its new division, The Green Galleries.
–Upscale succulent dish gardens from Costa Farms.
–Kerry’s Bromeliads’ black-tie line of plants in designer pots and others in colored water pearls.
Other new plants voted on by attendees at large were:
– Twyford International’s aglaonema ‘Pink Sapphire’ as favorite new foliage plant.
–Hawaiian Sunshine Nursery’s Medinilla scortechinii as favorite new flowering plant.
–Boynton Botanicals’ Euphorbia stenoclada as most unusual single plant specimen.

The next TPIE show will be Jan. 15-17, 2009. For more information, visit


What It Means To Be Green

Lead-off speaker, Amy Stewart, presented an environmentally conscious consumer’s view of our industry. As the author of “Flower Confidential: The Good, The Bad And The Beautiful In The Business Of Flowers,” she traveled the world to find out how fresh-cut flowers come to market and was fascinated by what she learned.

Now it was her turn to share consumer insights with us: 

Sustainability Is A Conversation

“Organics, sustainability and green are a conversation. We’re all finding out what it means. Consumers know organic but aren’t as familiar with sustainable. It’s beyond organics to encompass worker health and safety, community development, conservation of our environment and resources and reducing use of our resources, such as plastics. Why be happy with just organics?” 

Educated, Affluent Consumers Care

“People ask why do we care if it’s organic if we’re not going to eat it? It’s not just what’s on your plate, but workers in a greenhouse you’ve never met in a country you’ve never visited that impact shopping decisions. Are they paid decently? Do they have opportunity? Are they safe at work? Are rivers and natural resources protected? It’s the environmental impact of getting plants to me, like with locally grown food and the oil and gas used. It’s not just my health as a consumer but big-picture health. Educated, affluent consumers are a good group of folks who put dollars where their values are.” 

Sustainability Is A Good Story

“Half of sustainability is doing it. Half is telling people you’ve done it. A 10-point plan on how we’re going to be green this year is an interesting story for the media and consumers. I know a florist who has a vase reuse program, where people who return vases get credits toward flowers. People remember and tell their friends. It’s also a good way to engage Generation X and Y employees and involve them.”

We Need More Than Price

“To assess quality, we don’t have information beyond price. As consumers, we just see a dozen red tulips for $9.99. We buy wine on more than price. If it was only price, we’d be drinking a lot of Two Buck Chuck for $2.99. We have no sense of what a luxury rose would be. I will spend $10 on a luxury bar of chocolate. It’s an affordable luxury. When you realize what you can get, it stops being about price.” 

Will The Market Reward Me?

 “When I was in Ecuador, the growers were saying, ‘I’m still waiting for the market to reward me. I’m still waiting to get paid for this.’ If the product is there, people will buy it and be excited about it. Consumers will respond in a positive way to green labels and not say, ‘But what about all these other plants?’ Consumers are used to options, like the new Clorox line.”

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