Information Revolution

Tags offer only so much space to tell a plant’s story. Even the largest tags have limits, as they offer enough space to present the plant’s name, a photo and a couple hundred words of care tips and other relevant information – but no more.

So tags, at least the way they’ve traditionally been designed, force growers and retailers to make tough decisions. Is it, for example, more important for consumers to know the plant requires sun or shade? Or, is it more useful to point out the fact the plant can be grouped with others to create a beautiful combination basket or planter?

As long as space is limited, growers will continue to make tough decisions about which information they present on tags and which information they don’t. But what if, in addition to the plant’s name, photo and cultural information, the tag was a gateway to endless facts and figures about the plants consumers are considering as purchases at the garden center?

Unbelievably, that gateway is now real. Hort Couture explored 2D-tagging technologies like QR (quick-response) codes and Microsoft Tags this spring. The technologies are applicable to consumers with smart phones, who have the ability to scan 2D icons printed on tags with their phones while shopping at the garden center.

Hort Couture is still trialing the technologies at Greenbriar Nurseries, home of the Hort Couture brand Jim and Jennifer Monroe founded four years ago. Jim has already deemed QR codes the better of the two technologies – at least for garden center retailers like him – because, he says, smart phones apparently read a QR code’s dark pattern better than it can a Microsoft Tag’s yellow dots in a garden center environment.

But, by scanning either 2D technology, Hort Couture has the ability to create a gateway to link consumers to additional information about its plants. Hort Couture is planning to present its QR-coded content in three forms: videos via 10-20 Media’s GardenPilot application, text messages sent from Hort Couture and content at HortCouturePlants.com.

“The content is what makes the experience,” says Jim, Hort Couture’s CEO. “Our whole brand essence really connects with the young consumer anyway. So we’re proud of our technology-driven side that puts us ahead of [our competition].”

Content Is King

Steve Cissel, CEO of 10-20 Media and the creator of GardenPilot, agrees the key component of 2D-tagging technology is content. A year from now, Cissel envisions 2D tags becoming the standard for marketing and merchandising at retail. The trick, he says, is connecting consumers to useful content through 2D tags – and connecting consumers to content that’s presented in a usable format for smart phones.

“Sending somebody to a retailer’s website on a mobile phone is a waste of time,” Cissel says. “Today, each of these retailers has got to have multiple [Web] formats. Do they need a mobile site for every [mobile phone] carrier? If the answer is yes, it’s a tall mountain to climb. Our desire is to house the content for them, if they so desire.”

In Hort Couture’s case, Jim Monroe intends to send mobile-phone users to GardenPilot to view short YouTube videos about different plants.

“People may look at Tomaccio, for example,” he says. “We are putting short snippets on YouTube that say, ‘You are looking at Tomaccio.’ We’ll say what its attributes are. We are trying to limit videos to eight to 10 seconds so we can quickly engage consumers.”
If presented properly, mobile content is the gateway to new consumers and, more specifically, the next-generation consumers our industry has mightily struggled to attract. At the moment, at least, the demand mobile content has created globally exposes a weakness in our industry.

“Our industry is extremely fragmented,” Cissel says. “From a plant standpoint, it has a Latin name; it potentially has more than one common name; it’s called one thing in the North and another thing in the South; it’s an annual in the North, a perennial in the South and it doesn’t grow in some places; some breeders have brands whereas others don’t; and sometimes breeders know where their product is sold and sometimes they don’t.

“The loser in all this is the consumer because we can’t share local information with them. We haven’t historically because we ourselves don’t know the answers.”

But give consumers a mobile phone – a device enabled with GPS – and they have a personalized location device for the entire continent.
“Wow, what an opportunity we have to give consumers local content about the plants, products and services of our industry,” Cissel says.

New Opportunities

This new technology is an opportunity for labeling and merchandising companies, as well. It’s testing them to design labels and signs that incorporate 2D technology and come up with programs that consider the needs of the mobile-phone user. MasterTag, for example, partnered with Hort Couture in its endeavor to print QR codes on labels and signs.

“We do a number of market research studies, and we keep coming across consumers – even repeat consumers – who are perplexed by the information presented to them at the garden center,” says Joe Fox, MasterTag’s sales and marketing director. “They have low confidence as gardeners and they want more information.”

Tags and signs can only display so much information, though. So MasterTag, Fox says, explored new ways to deliver information to consumers. Ultimately, the company determined there are two places to deliver information more effectively: at the point of sale, where there’s opportunity to cross merchandise product or enhance the way information is delivered; and at home, where consumers need more information as assurance they’re growing plants properly.

Smart phones, obviously, give consumers the ability to access information anywhere. But at the point of sale, MasterTag is doing more than empowering those with smart phones. They’re empowering everyone with a mobile phone – smart phone or not – with more information.

“QR codes are great, but only about 19 percent of cell phone carriers have smart phones,” Fox says. “It’s growing fast, but there still aren’t that many. And that’s what pushed us to come up with something that can appeal and be workable to anyone with a phone: a toll-free service.”

The toll-free program, which is applicable to any retailer, involves a phone number consumers can call right at the garden center to get more care information about plants and programs. A toll-free phone trial will be taking place in Meijer stores in Michigan this year with products from Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses.

“The toll-free concept is completely customizable,” Fox says. “It’s applicable to individual garden center retailers. The voice on the phone could be their own garden center experts, someone providing help and information that’s unique and specific to their store. We’ll help with all the scripting and getting the recordings set up.”

Other New Programs

In addition to 2D technology and the toll-free concept, MasterTag is also exploring ways to enhance the tags themselves. Research MasterTag recently conducted found 62 percent of gardeners prefer to use tags as an in-house reference while 66 percent prefer to use tags as garden markers.

If you do the math, it’s clear tags as they’re currently designed can’t serve both functions. But MasterTag has designed a solution in the SnapTag, a two-tags-in-one item that serves as both reference material and a garden marker for consumers.

“The gardener would take the tag, simply snap off the garden marker and keep the remaining piece for future reference,” says Gerry Giorgio, MasterTag’s creative director.

In addition to SnapTags, MasterTag has developed a concept for creating beautiful container gardens called Container Creations. Combination planters were seen at just about every Spring Trials site this year but most of the combos on display were pre-selected for consumers. Container Creations, however, leaves the creativity to consumers.

Special tags have been created for the concept, which identifies plants with upright, mounding and trailing habits. Upright plant tags are yellow, mounding plant tags are blue and trailing plant tags are red.

The tags will help eliminate the guesswork for consumers who aren’t sure which plants work well together. At the garden center, consumers can search for plants based on the different tag colors and have fun creating their own custom combination planters.

John Henry’s Endeavors

John Henry Company, like MasterTag, exhibited at Spring Trials in April and had several compelling ideas and programs to share. Among its exciting developments is a partnership with AllRecipes.com. John Henry is now designing packaging and tags with QR codes that connect consumers with smart phones directly to AllRecipes.com. Then, as John Henry Marketing Manager Brenda Vaughn suggests, consumers can plan their next meals with Dinner Spinner, an AllRecipes.com application on the iPhone.

“We know kids are attached to these phones, and eventually they’re going to be buying plants,” Vaughn says. “Now, we can communicate with that generation.”

Tags are still the bread and butter of John Henry’s business, Vaughn says, and vegetable plant tags were among the company’s top-selling items in 2009. In fact, she says vegetable plant tag sales were up 38 percent over the previous year, and John Henry’s intensified effort for 2010 should result in further increases. Merchandise like John Henry’s wrap-fused pots for blueberries in the Texas market are an attraction.

Another unique program from John Henry is Bee Friendly, a program geared toward plants that pollinate. The program’s yellow packaging is inviting and includes handy applications like carriers that contain two 1-gallon pots.

“We need new ideas for people to buy plants,” says Kristi Huffman, John Henry’s vice president. “Now, they’re helping a cause. It’s critical to keep pollination going.”

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Information Revolution

  1. We’ve just launched a venture focusing solely on QR code plant labels: in addition to the basic cultivation and horticultural information regarding the plant, our product connects users to thousands of images and enhanced wikipedia content. Additionally, users can carry on threaded discussions about the plant, comparing notes and tips and tricks. Take a look: http://www.hortycodes.com

  2. We’ve just launched a venture focusing solely on QR code plant labels: in addition to the basic cultivation and horticultural information regarding the plant, our product connects users to thousands of images and enhanced wikipedia content. Additionally, users can carry on threaded discussions about the plant, comparing notes and tips and tricks. Take a look: http://www.hortycodes.com

More From Variety Trials...
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Market, And Plans To Change The Future Of Pentas And Geranium Breeding

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Petunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners)

April 20, 2016

Proven Winners Funds Gardening “It Couple,” Names Plant Of The Year For 2017, And Promotes Retail Concepts

Since 1992, Proven Winners has been changing the gardening game, and it’s not stopping now. With new plants, improved series, and interesting retail customers, the brand aims to make planning easier for growers, and make gardening easier and more fun for consumers. At its new 2016 California Spring Trials location at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, Proven Winners had the space and a beautiful setting to lay all of its offerings out, from new and improved varieties in annuals, perennials, and shrubs, to marketing and retail programs. Check out the slideshow below for highlights.   Proven Winners Is Flexing Its Marketing Muscle One of the ways Proven Winners is working toward better use of its products and gardening in general, is by supporting the gardening authorities that gardeners of all ages trust on social media. Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks says while searching for influential gardeners, he came across a young […]

Read More
CallaFornia Red

April 19, 2016

Golden State Bulb Company Shows Off New Concepts In Callas

There’s no question that Golden State Bulb Company’s specialty is in breeding virtually any color of Calla Lily, available in about any habit — cut flower, bouquet pot, upright pot type — the list goes on. But now, the bulb specialist is focusing on making calla lilies more accessible to the masses, for use in combination planters and the landscape, with calla six-packs. Calla breeder Peter Beckman showed us the shrunken-down version of these beauties, and they’re certainly perfect for patio pots, planting along paths or at the front of the garden, or en masse for an elegant statement. This presentation makes it easy for consumers to pick up and use callas, without the intimidation they might feel from a bulb crop, says Dr. Allan Armitage.   They’re also versatile for growers to plant in early to mid-February to add to finished containers in the spring, or to sell in […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Ma…

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Petunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners)

April 20, 2016

Proven Winners Funds Gardening “It Couple,” Names Plant…

Since 1992, Proven Winners has been changing the gardening game, and it’s not stopping now. With new plants, improved series, and interesting retail customers, the brand aims to make planning easier for growers, and make gardening easier and more fun for consumers. At its new 2016 California Spring Trials location at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, Proven Winners had the space and a beautiful setting to lay all of its offerings out, from new and improved varieties in annuals, perennials, and shrubs, to marketing and retail programs. Check out the slideshow below for highlights.   Proven Winners Is Flexing Its Marketing Muscle One of the ways Proven Winners is working toward better use of its products and gardening in general, is by supporting the gardening authorities that gardeners of all ages trust on social media. Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks says while searching for influential gardeners, he came across a young […]

Read More
CallaFornia Red

April 19, 2016

Golden State Bulb Company Shows Off New Concepts In Cal…

There’s no question that Golden State Bulb Company’s specialty is in breeding virtually any color of Calla Lily, available in about any habit — cut flower, bouquet pot, upright pot type — the list goes on. But now, the bulb specialist is focusing on making calla lilies more accessible to the masses, for use in combination planters and the landscape, with calla six-packs. Calla breeder Peter Beckman showed us the shrunken-down version of these beauties, and they’re certainly perfect for patio pots, planting along paths or at the front of the garden, or en masse for an elegant statement. This presentation makes it easy for consumers to pick up and use callas, without the intimidation they might feel from a bulb crop, says Dr. Allan Armitage.   They’re also versatile for growers to plant in early to mid-February to add to finished containers in the spring, or to sell in […]

Read More
Disney Trial Garden

April 17, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For Florida Flower Trials In May

The two-day event, which takes place in Orlando, is held in conjunction with the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and offers educational seminars, tours, and open houses.

Read More

April 15, 2016

Pacific Plug & Liner Features Plenty Of New Varieti…

One of the best-merchandised spots on the California Spring Trials is always Pacific Plug & Liner (PP&L), where the greenhouse is stocked with beautiful plants and displays, and the people are dressed to the nines and graciously ready to help in any way.

Read More

April 15, 2016

American Takii Commemorates 180 Years Of Industry Commi…

American Takii, Hilverdakooij, and newcomer HMA Plants show off zombie-zone celosia, new dianthus, and hip succulents.

Read More

April 15, 2016

Ernst Benary of America Takes Plant Fashion Week To The…

Ernst Benary of America gave growers a taste of the fashion world during the new variety promenade held during California Spring Trials 2016.

Read More
Delizz Strawberry packaging

April 14, 2016

ABZ Seeds’ Delizz Strawberry Makes Mouths Water At Spee…

Speedling, Inc. hosted Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, ABZ Seeds, Plant Source International, and Vista Farms For California Spring Trials 2016. Here are some of the highlights of the trial.

Read More
Begonia Evi Pink and Evi Bright Pink

April 14, 2016

Westhoff, Beekenkamp, PAC-Elsner And Plug Connection Pr…

Floricultura-Pacifica in Salinas opened its doors to invite California Spring Trials visitors to experience new offerings from European breeders including Westhoff Flowers, Beekenkamp, and PAC-Elsner, as well as California native The Plug Connection. While there, it was interesting to witness the ongoing and highly automated production of orchids, as well as construction of more greenhouse space happening simultaneously. As is tradition, Westhoff Flowers invited its visitors to flag their favorite combos at the entrance, and showed off its unique assortment of annuals, as well as a few concepts. The breeder is working loosely with Florist Holland to show mixes used with Westhoff Flowers — or Westflowers — annuals and Florist gerberas in the center. The combinations are bright and cheerful, and spur a happy reaction in those who have seen them, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this concept going forward. Another new idea is putting together […]

Read More

April 14, 2016

Sakata Ornamentals’ 2016 California Spring Trials…

Sakata is celebrating 10 years of SunPatiens production, and a whopper-sized, three-layer SunPatiens cake was featured at Sakata’s display at California Spring Trials. There are four new colors in SunPatiens, three compact and one spreading, with lots more to come. The Mix it Up combos promise three seasons of color — rain or shine, sun or shade. ‘Sunpatiens Shell Pink’ is not new this year, but is still noteworthy as a recent All-American Selections winner. It was impossible not to notice the electric colors in the Majorette Gerbera line. This new series promises uniformity, a characteristic hard to achieve in gerberas. It comes in six colors, plus one orange color with a ring around the eye. Also worth mentioning is a Clear White, another breeding challenge for gerberas. There are two new mixes in the SuperCal Petchoa line. The Pink Lemonade mix received a lot of attention from trial attendees. […]

Read More

April 13, 2016

Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm Breeding Focuses On Market A…

The company is using available technological breeding advancements to align its products with market demand and give them every chance for commercial success.

Read More

April 13, 2016

Hort Couture Builds Relationships With Independent Bree…

The company works with independent breeders from all over the world to introduce unique genetics to the market.

Read More

April 13, 2016

Dümmen Orange Succulent Combos Stole The Show At Barrel…

Succulents and succulent combos were bigger hits than the beer at Dümmen Orange’s BarrelHouse Brewing location in Paso Robles, CA. With the acquisition of Florexpo, Dümmen Orange now has the capabilities to produce broader selections of perennials and herbs, which featured prominently in its display, along with succulents. Succulent guru Robyn Foreman was on hand to pump up the excitement about succulents and demonstrate their versatility for use in everything from half-cut wine bottles to coffee cups and mini-pots. Color bowls of succulents with Kalanchoe Calandiva and other combos designed by Foreman were a popular item with trial-goers. The company is looking at mapping out some of these combos and pre-determining recipes to make it easy for consumers to achieve the same look. These succulents are moving toward being available as Confetti liners, which could streamline production of succulent combinations, says Tom Costamagna, National Production Manager at Dümmen. More information […]

Read More
Verbena Wicked Purple 2017

April 13, 2016

Dr. Allan Armitage Highlights His Favorite Varieties Fr…

From the explosive color of a new verbena, to the vigor of an upright veronica, Armitage says there’s a lot to like from Dümmen’s new introductions this year.

Read More

April 13, 2016

HGTV Celebrates New Simplified Order Fulfillment And Ex…

The HGTV brand continues to grow, as consumer interest in products associated with the popular home improvement brand increases. Streamlined ordering will help growers improve plant quality and reduce frustration. This year’s big deal at HGTV is its new alliance with young plant grower EuroAmerican Propagators. The partnership allows one-stop-shop ordering for young plants, which will allow growers to receive the plants for containers at the same time, so they can be stuck together, in an HGTV box. Previously, growers would often receive cuttings from multiple locations, at different times, in boxes that didn’t indicate they were from HGTV. This caused growers to not be able to stick cuttings at the same time — a major issue in production, especially for combination plantings. Rolling out to Lowe’s Canada stores, HGTV simulated a mass merchandiser display, to demonstrate how that would look. It’s important to the brand, says representative Maria Zampini, […]

Read More

April 13, 2016

Dümmen Orange Presents Its Impressive Annuals Collectio…

Dümmen Orange’s Edna Valley Vineyard location is a favorite California Spring Trials stop for its view, food, and beverage. But this year’s trials in San Luis Obispo also yielded a number of new variety introductions, new combos, branding, and a streamlined distribution and ordering method that will improve communications and reduce headaches for growers and brokers. With two farms in Guatemala and one in El Salvador, the company revealed it will generally assign annuals production to Oro Farms in Guatemala and Las Mercedes in El Salvador, while the perennials and herbs it acquired with the Florexpo acquisition in 2015, and its new succulents program will be produced at its Antigua Flowers facility, formerly owned by Paul Ecke Ranch. This shift was made to accommodate crops’ environmental needs, as well as to simplify ordering and fulfillment, says Tom Costamagna, National Production Manager at Dümmen Orange. There will be some exceptions, depending on […]

Read More

April 12, 2016

EuroAmerican Propagators Brings In-Ground Tests Back To…

EuroAmerican Propagators’ decision to move its California Spring Trials (CAST) location back to its Bonsall headquarters was deemed risky by some, and applauded by others who said they enjoyed seeing the older format of actual trials at the company. The location included in-ground trials and container trials, and included genetics from a number of breeders who submitted them. For the past few years, EuroAmerican has collaborated with Suntory Flowers on a CAST location at the Ventura Botanical Gardens, but this year, the grower opted to hold its own open house back in the San Diego area. Many have gotten used to not traveling as far south, but as of the first day of the open house, Friday, April 8, EuroAmerican had received a number of visitors, despite the rainy and cool conditions. The in-ground trials were meant to simulate real growing conditions with real-life challenges in the garden, compared to […]

Read More
Garvinea Gerbera Sweet Caroline (Florist Holland)

April 12, 2016

Sunny Skies And Beautiful Varieties At GroLink Provide …

At GroLink in Oxnard, CA, on Sunday, the sun finally came out, after a day of pouring rain on Saturday. So the breeders and growers were happy to be outside, and the mood was positive and sunny, matching the weather. This is a massive stop with several breeders displaying on site. Here are the highlights of what we saw at each supplier’s display. Sun-Fire Nurseries T. Jay Higgins was on hand to talk about the new Mandevilla ‘Sun Parasol Apricot,’ an addition to the popular Sun Parasol line with peachy, creamy flowers. This vigorous grower was presented in traditional pots with trellises, but also in gorgeous hanging baskets. That’s more for the independent retailer, Higgins says, as it’s difficult for big box growers to ship, but it certainly makes for a premium item. Next up was Suntory, wearing its heart on its sleeve with the newest addition to its petunia […]

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