Why Growers Should Not Market Their Plants, But the Solutions They Provide

Breeders will more than likely come out with more turn-key pollinator programs in 2018.

Here we are in 2018, and away we go again. The good news is most of us can remember the kerfuffle with Y2K; the bad news is that a few of us can’t remember what happened to Y2001 to Y2017.

However, it is time to pull out the crystal ball once more and look into the murky future of plants and programs. I am incredibly old and therefore must be equally wise and percipient. Nah, don’t believe a word.

Solutions, Not Plants

I have talked about solution gardening for some time. Slowly but surely, plant selection is moving to solution-based marketing. Solution marketing is simple: Landscapers, designers, and gardeners want solutions to problems, not simply a recommendation for one more handsome plant. Let’s look at a few:

Solving problems with time (for shopping, planting, doing) is by far our biggest challenge. There is never enough of it. Finding ready-made solutions for low maintenance is crucial.

Consumers’ need for low maintenance options to fit their busy lifestyles has changed how they view vegetable gardening. Vegetable gardening has given way to vegetable marketing. The patio vegetable movement has taken off in recent years as companies get behind unique marketing programs. Herb programs are similar. We can still sell a single lavender or cilantro, but a combination of herbs is more appropriate for today’s lifestyle market.

Such combos find their way immediately to the deck, patio, and home greenhouse.

Veggies and herbs are part of the rising tide of foodscaping. People are looking not only for patio combos but also for tasty veggies and herbs for the garden — that are also ornamental.

Millennials and retired people alike don’t want vegetable gardens; they want vegetables in the garden. Examples include new eye-catching ornamental peppers, variegated kale and lavender, and colorful eggplants. These are available but sit higgledy-piggledy on the bench and on availability lists. Foodscaping and veggie and herb combinations will continue to be strong, and will greatly benefit from their own posters/labels/signage.

Solving plant problems. This means letting people know that we actually have plants that solve everyday problems, like houseplants dying, deer and rabbit destruction, water-efficient plants, and plants that attract pollinators.

An example of solution marketing is houseplant gardening. Who would have foreseen the incredible and mysterious rise of plants like succulents? Personally, I don’t get it, but to ignore them is to do so at your own risk.

Lavandula allardii ‘Meerlo’ (Southern Living Plant Collection) is a drought-tolerant perennial that attracts birds and butterflies.

Solution Markets to Watch

Three major solution markets in recent years are deer browsing, pollinator-friendly, and water-wise solutions. The first was borne of necessity; the latter two are subsets of the Green Movement (which also brought us the native plant market).

Deer (and rabbits). I can’t begin to tell you the number of gardeners who have given up because of deer (and rabbits). This is not a breeder issue. It is an obvious marketing issue. We have plenty of deer-resistant plants. We just need to market them as such. Let’s provide easily accessible deer-resistant lists so landscapers and designers don’t have to be searching random lists on the Internet. And how I love seeing good signage at retail where gardeners are given a solution, rather than a problem.

Pollinators. Everyone is talking about pollinators, from bees to butterflies. I can’t go anywhere where environmental issues are not raised. I have no doubt we will see breeders come out with more turn-key pollinator programs in 2018. Major breeders, growers, and distributors are putting signage and labels together so that my daughters and your neighbors can feel good about buying plants. Promoting the environment is as important as anything we sell.

Water-wise solutions do not mean drought solutions. It means putting together a program for plants that tolerate low rain/irrigation inputs. I see excellent lists on the Internet, even some on availability lists, but not nearly enough signage for my neighbors and local landscapers.

I’m not suggesting everything we do is based on a problem. Many people still love beauty for beauty’s sake, and people still enjoy the therapeutic value of playing in the dirt. However, those same people need a little help in justifying their plant purchases. Solution marketing is a necessity for the future.

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