Blog posts categorized as: Green Industry

Beyond the Poinsettia

Aug 31, 2015

The full article published in the August issue of Greenhouse Management Magazine.

Consumers are increasingly interested in nontraditional plants for the holiday season. Grower-retailers should consider these succulents, tropicals and edibles as the end of the year approaches.

While some growers are still finding steady success with their poinsettia crops, many others are turning to alternatives to correct sales slumps.

Demand for indoor plants is growing and customers want specimens that complement the look of their home and help them bring a bit of nature indoors. They also want multipurpose outdoor plants. Finished gift and table-top plants still offer a good opportunity to drive niche-season and impulse sales, but offering fresh new alternatives that meet customers changing indoor and outdoor plant needs may be the best way to recapture their holiday dollar. Here are a few finished potted plants that are trending and can be creatively marketed for holiday sales:


Echeveria are impressive specimens bound to please any recipient. The large whorled leaves of echeveria give it the look of a giant rose bloom. Some echeveria varieties sport brightly colored foliage and even ruffled leaves. Echeveria gibbiflora ‘Red Ruffles’ is particularly suited to the holiday season, with red-edged ruffled leaves.The rosette grows to the size of a large cereal bowl, making it the perfect size for a table-top centerpiece. Plants can be kept indoors in a bright location as a houseplant, or set out on the patio in summer. Echeveria make water-wise landscape specimens in warmer climates. Plants send up foot-tall flower spikes in summer with red-orange flowers. Echeveria ‘Christmas’ is also quite suited to the season, with red-tipped leaves.

‘Christmas Carol’ aloe comes complete with a festive name and brightly colored foliage. The succulent leaves offer deep crimson spots edged in vibrant red. Red flower spikes are a festive bonus. This is a petite plant perfect for a more space-conscious gift giver. Plants can be kept as an indoor houseplant or set outdoors in zones 9-11.

For a shock of intense foliage color, consider Crassula capitella ‘Campfire.’ The succulent leaves offer up a fiery red color perfect for the holiday season. Plants grow to only about 6 inches tall which make it a handy, grab-and-go holiday gift plant. Again, this succulent makes an excellent houseplant in a bright location and a perfect patio table plant in summer.

Read the entire article HERE.

Smithsonian Gardens

Aug 5, 2015

Recently, I was in Baltimore for the Annual Perennial Plant Association Symposium. Tours are a big part of the week-long event and we had the chance to swing by the lovely gardens at the Smithsonian in D.C. If you haven't  been, be sure to make them a stop on your next visit to the Capitol.

A lovely Partierre planted with Angelonia in front of the visitor center.

The garden beds are filled with loads of interesting plants, most of which are clearly labeled.

It's a cornocopia of funky plants!

AAS/PPA Perennial Trial Opens for New Entries

Jun 3, 2015

Are you in the business of breeding perennials? If so, there's a deadline coming up that may interest you:

After almost five years of anticipation, All-America Selections is proud to announce that our long-term perennial trial is now a thing of reality! AAS will be working in partnership on the trials with the Perennial Plant Association (PPA).

The next step is accepting entries for this brand new trial.

This is a very exciting opportunity for your company and your new genetics. For the fee of $1,200 per entry, your new genetics will be trialed at more than 20 diverse locations and evaluated by our non-biased, independent, professional judges. Please note: the usual AAS rules of ‘new, never-before-sold’ will apply in future years but for this first year, we will accept entries that have been introduced within the past 12 months, meaning no earlier than July 1, 2014.

This is a THREE-WINTER trial meaning what you enter in the summer of 2015 will be trialed winter 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 and will be introduced as an AAS Winner summer or fall of 2019.

Please start thinking about which of your breeding work would make a good AAS/PPA perennial entry for 2016-2019. Entries are due July 1. You can download the perennial entry form here.

Any questions should be directed to Diane Blazek, AAS Executive Director.

TOCA Awards…What an Honor!

May 22, 2015

Sometimes you get so busy doing what you're doing that you don't stop to thank the people who recognize your hard work...and say thank you back! I was honored to attend the recent 2015 TOCA, Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association, conference where I received five awards. FIVE! A big thank you to the folks at TOCA for such a warm welcome, a well-thought out annual meeting and of course the lovely awards. What a great group of people.

We're proud to represent our client Soils Alive with a First Place award for Writing! The award covered all their site content including their blog.

And our other client Preservation Tree Services with a First Place award for Advertising Design...

AND our other client Hydro Galaxy with a Merit Award for Writing on their blog...

I was also honored to take home a Merit Award for Writing for a feature article I contributed to Garden Center Magazine, GIE Media. You can read the ariticle here.

Pretty cool. Again, a big thank you to TOCA for the good times and recognition. It just makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

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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