Blog posts from April 2015

AAS launches herbaceous perennial trial

Apr 15, 2015

The program will be a three-winter trial in partnership with the Perennial Plant Association.

Press Release | April 9, 2015

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – All-America Selections (AAS) has a long history of being the only independent North American trialing organization that trials new varieties then grants branded awards to the best performers. That 80-year history has proven to be a good model with trialing protocols that have been refined to withstand the test of time and basics that will work with perennial entries as well as annuals and edibles.
 
Perennial Plant Association (PPA) is a trade association composed of growers, retailers, educators, landscape designers and contractors that are professionally involved in the herbaceous perennial industry. Together, the two organizations have determined the details necessary to conduct a thorough and horticulturally sound perennial trial and PPA actively endorses this new AAS trial.
 
The perennial trial will follow many of the basics of the recently launched AAS Vegetative Ornamental trial. Entries accepted will be herbaceous perennials propagated from seed, cutting, tissue culture or bare root. A seed entry can be trialed against a vegetative or TC comparison and vice-versa. Entries will be trialed next to comparisons, in order to continue the AAS legacy.
 
The primary difference with the AAS Herbaceous Perennial trial is that it will be a three winter trial allowing the AAS judges to measure and record winter survivability and subsequent growing season performance. Other AAS trial entries will continue to be trialed over one growing season. Breeders who wish to have their herbaceous perennials tested for first-season performance can continue to use the one-season trial. All other herbaceous perennials would be placed in the three year perennial trial.
 
For the long-term, entries have to be new, never-before-sold, but, after submission to the AAS Herbaceous Perennial Trial, they may be introduced commercially. After the trial is completed, if the entry scores high enough to be become an AAS Winner, after criteria is met and the announcement is made by AAS, the breeder may then market that variety as an AAS Winner.
 
However, for the first entry year (entries submitted by July 1, 2015), AAS will accept entries that have been on the market for twelve months or less.
 
“I’m very happy to have helped All-America Selections get to this point of trialing perennials," said Dallas Arboretum Director of Horticulture and AAS Judge, Board of Director and Perennial Trial Task Force member Jenny Wegley. "Because of an 80+ year history in doing great plant trials, this is a natural step and a great service to the industry and to home gardeners. It will be very interesting to trial the perennial entries we receive then share the results.”
 
“National perennial trials are important for both the industry and the consumer," said PPA Southern Regional Director and Board of Directors Trials Chair, AAS Perennial Trial Task Force Member, Leslie F. Halleck. "As a previous trial program director and AAS Trials Judge, I know how important it is to have the program properly structured and managed nationally. Rather than have both organizations (PPA & AAS) develop competing perennial trail programs, it seemed the perfect solution was to instead team up and work together. We think this collaboration is the key to finally executing a highly organized, thorough and well-marketed perennial trial program that will benefit both PPA members and their customers.”
 
The pilot program of trialing perennials will begin immediately with entries due July 1, 2015. Those entries will be sent to approximately 24 trial sites beginning in early 2016. The first AAS Winners from the Perennial Trials will be announced in 2019.
 

Green Industry: Are You Helping or Hurting Your Marketing Efforts?

Apr 6, 2015

Successful green industry businesses balance their experience and technical know-how with good communication skills and a commitment to consumer education. Relying solely on the company’s reputation and word-of-mouth referrals might still work for a very small segment of the industry; but for most companies a commitment to content, marketing and some form of advertising is no longer avoidable.

However, when cash flow is tight, the economy contracts, or a company is experiencing what feels like a painful growth spurt or transition, there are a few common knee-jerk responses that are often more hurtful than helpful.

The first is a rush to cut marketing and advertising from the operating budget. This is a big mistake. Why? Simple: When you’re out of sight you’re out of mind. Even if your aspirations for growth aren’t grand, most businesses need to replace some percentage of customers on a regular basis.

Awareness of the company brand and services is the number one driver of new and repeat customer sales. If you do have big growth goals then you’ll most likely fall short of them without a solid commitment to marketing. You might think your company offers the best thing since sliced bread; but rest assured the public will still forget about you if you don’t have a presence in their media consumption sphere. Cutting your marketing budget typically doesn't solve your cash flow problem; but it just might create a bigger one.

Another common response is the refusal to innovate through technology. The need to communicate digitally through contemporary websites and social media has yet to be fully embraced by the green industry. Many company owners simply don’t see the need to spend the time or money on a dynamic website, Twitter or Facebook account. Just because the company CEO doesn’t hang out in the digital world doesn’t mean your customers aren't there; they are. In fact, they practically live there!

Effective marketing entails reaching the customer where they are. Building an up-to-date website with useful content, plus a lively social media presence, are crucial parts of a successful marketing strategy. Ongoing website upgrades, digital content and social media maintenance need to be taken seriously and represented in your operating budget.

Say a company commits to all the above; think that gets them off the hook when it comes to networking? It doesn’t. To be truly successful and productive in this industry requires that companies build a network of trusted allies and mentors. Building a vibrant network demands that company members put themselves “out there” in a number of different ways; be it joining professional organizations, serving on organization boards or attending industry events. Resistance to networking actively on an ongoing basis typically results in lots of missed opportunities and brand awareness.

Finally, companies often refuse to admit it may be time to outsource some help for their marketing needs. It can sometimes be hard to admit that outside help is needed to achieve company growth goals. You’re the expert on your business, right? Of course you are; but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a perspective that’s fresh enough to market it to new customers. You probably also don’t have the time to do it yourself. Many green industry companies can’t yet support a full-time, technically knowledgeable, marketing professional on staff. Outsourcing to a freelancer or agency can be a cost-effective solution that helps you actually get your marketing initiatives of the ground.

Embrace change. Then, know when to ask for help and don’t be afraid to ask for it.

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