Saturday, August 23, 2014

Farwest Seminar: So, you want to launch an online store?

An industry forecast that has much talked about on and off the show floor is keynote speaker John Stanley’s comment that “30 percent of sales will be online in the next five years.”

From left to right: Sid Raisch, Kristin VanHoose,
Jonn Karsseboom and Nicholas Staddon.
Sid Raisch, owner of Horticultural Advantage, who moderated this panel discussion, thinks that figure is conservative: “I think it’ll be closer to 60 percent,” he said.

Speaking about their online experiences were panelists Kristin VanHoose, owner of Hydrangeas Plus®; Jonn Karsseboom, "Rebel Leader" at The Garden Corner; and Nicholas Staddon, director of new plants and company spokesperson for Monrovia Nursery Company.

In attendance, based on a show of hands, were many retail garden center owners who have yet to launch a business website.

Raisch kicked off the discussion by stating that today's “ground zero” of customer relationships is online, citing research which has shown that more than 70 percent of transactions begin online. "Many customers are coming into retail settings with more information about the products sold than many retailers are knowledgeable of," Raisch said. 

"The goal of our website is to drive customers into independent garden centers," Staddon said. Monrovia has only recently made a substantial push into social media outlets such as Instagram and Pinterest, and incentive-driven online marketing programs. "The biggest challenge of marketing online versus retail sales is making sure inventory matches what’s being promoted online," Staddon said.

VanHoose said that her business established its Internet presence early on in 2000/01. Today, they have more than 71,000 friends on Facebook and actively advertise on Google.

Asked what's the future of her online marketing strategy? VanHooose replied, "Expanding social media and refining the business's back-end shopping cart platform. "Most people are using three different software programs: one for inventory, another for processing credit card sales, and so on. Getting them to work together is the biggest problem. Off-the-shelf solutions are very inflexible.

Informative, short videos were cited by Raisch as a key component of keeping customers on your website, and Karsseboom is a big porponent of the practice, posting videos weekly to YouTube.

Explaining his online strategy, Karsseboom said, "A lot of people think having a website means selling to the world. But I see it more as, 'Is there something we can do for our existing customers to make them buy more?' My goal is to keep customers in their garden." He said his biggest challenge is keeping photos updated on the website so that they reflect what’s in inventory.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Farwest Retailers' Choice Awards winners announced

The Retailers' Choice Awards are a new addition to the Farwest Trade Show this year. The idea is simple: first, a group of retailers explores the show floor and finds the plants and products — whether old or new — that excite them. Then, they get together to compare notes. "It's a real synergy effect," said Danny Summers of Garden Center Group, who coordinated the effort.

After that, the results are tabulated and presented before an audience of show-goers, at the new Idea Center feature, as the Retailers' Choice Awards. "These are chosen by retailers, for retail," said Sid Raisch of Garden Center Group, who presented the awards along with Summers.

The awards are presented to the exhibitor showing the product, which is sometimes, but sometimes not, the company that introduced the product. They were given out on Friday afternoon, and include the following:
  • Donica hibiscus, exhibited at Alpha Nursery (Booth #18019)
  • Mason bees, exhibited by Crown Bees (Booth #22045)
  • Styrax japonica 'Marley's Pink Parasol', introduced and exhibited by JLPN Inc. (Booth #2049) and represented by Upshoot (Booth #2045)
  • Digiplexis Illumination® Raspberry®, exhibited by Plug Connection (Booth #12026)
  • Sambucus racemosa 'Lemon Lace' elderberry, exhibited by Proven Winners® Color Choice® (Booth #3045)
  • Olympian Fig, Echibeckia Summerina series and Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', all exhibited by T&L Nursery (Booth #13015); the latter two selections are Pacific Plug & Liner introductions
  • Begonia T-Rex series, exhibited and introduced by Terra Nova Nurseries (Booth #18061)
  • Vaccinium macrocarpon 'Lohzam' groundcover cranberry, exhibited by UpShoot LLC (Booth #2045)
  • Mixed variety trays of succulents, exhibited by Walla Walla Nursery (Booth #12019); and
  • Clerodendron bungei (peanut butter tree), exhibited by Youngblood Nursery (Booth #18045)

Farwest Seminar: Kelly Norris on 'Growing a Nation of Gardeners'

According to Kelly Norris, the key to the Green Industry's future is not getting more people interested in gardening. "It is a waste of time to recruit people who are not interested," he said.

Rather, it's getting those who are already interested, more engaged. "In order to succeed with our present day situation, we have to convert casual buyers into enthusiastic buyers," he told attendees at a Farwest Trade Show Seminar held this morning.

According to Norris, there do exist younger people who are at least casually interested in gardening. As evidence he pointed to a recent study done by a British outdoor furniture company, which indicated that gardening is in the top five among favorite leisure activities for those under 35. This only makes sense. Millennials often seek opportunities for self-expression, and gardening provides that.

Norris is the horticultural manager at the Des Moines Botanical Garden, which covers 14 acres in Des Moines, Iowa. Now 27, he first got into the hort business at the age of 15, when he persuaded his parents to buy a mail-order bearded iris nursery in Austin, Texas, and move it to Iowa.

So, how should the horticulture industry adjust its approach in light of generational changes? Norris has an answer.

"We are selling stuff," he said, "but we shouldn't be selling stuff. That [flower in a] pot is an experience .... Plants have purpose. Every plant has a story .... In its basic form, marketing is storytelling — very good, leveraged storytelling."

The key to converting casual gardeners into enthusiasts is to engage them. Garden centers can do this by becoming cultural facilitators, not just places where stuff is sold; by being dynamic, consumer-driven and style-forward; by keeping in close touch with the pulse of modern gardening; and by acting as a resource for an experience that is perennial, seasonal and edible.

But garden centers cannot convert the public alone. They need assistance from public gardens to help them, Norris said. These gardens can serve as cultural hubs where people can see the best of gardening and the latest trends in sustainability. This will expand younger people's gardening literacy.

Farwest Seminar: Garden Retailing

John Stanley, renowned garden center and retail consultant, gave tips to garden retailers that will help them build a successful business now and on through to 2020.

Stanley started by discussing customer demographics:   

Millennials (those 33 and under) are very interested in gardening, but they are more interested in buying experiences, not products. To attract these buyers, garden centers must create a space they want to spend time in.

"Gen Xers don’t know what gardening is," Stanley said.

Baby Boomers are the age category most targeted by garden centers; however, gardening is a shrinking part of the average Baby Boomer budget:
1. Travel (Gardening used to be #1) is tops at $12,320, followed by
2. Family activities
3. Hobbies
4. Gardening — $2,400
5. Fishing: Stanley noted that the fishing industry is doing a very good job promoting the activity with YouTube videos.

Today's consumers are cautious and price-conscious, according to Stanley, but more than anything they want to add value to their lives. Here are ways to convert consumers from browsers to buyers:
• Pricing strategy: Offer 3 options, where the middle one is the one you want to sell. • People will spend more if they perceive to be saving money, time or mental energy.
• Sustainability initiatives, eg green walls, save the bees.
• Fun, eg flower urinals.
• Promote the social causes you support (eg, Who Gives a Crap, AUS toilet seller)
• Be kid-friendly.

Stanley also stressed the following principles of merchandising:
1. Place the familiar with the unfamiliar; eg, creative displays, such as planted pallets (popular with millennials).
2. Make it easy for the consumer: 1-2-3 signage; eg, How to plant a container — 1. Select the container. 2. Pick a plant. 3. Potting soil. It’s easy!
3. Add value. Selling naked, versus dressed; eg, planting inexpensive plants in spendy containers.
4. Cross merchandise to provide solutions, put like with like; eg, everything you need to grow cacti, citrus, etc.
5. Keep up with the trends: composting, grow your own super-foods, eat your weeds, drink your garden, bees, urban forestry, men in the garden (American men spend more time in the garden than women)
6. Steal ideas. Whenever you're running out of ideas, visit your competitors and see what they're doing.

Farwest Seminar: Crazy Plants for Crazy Gardeners

Led by Dr. Alan Armitage, this seminar combined the academic with the aesthetic. Dr. A, for short, stressed that his subject should be serious, but also fun.

"Everybody wants to know what’s new, but the more important question is 'What’s good?' " Dr. A said. The plants he went on to feature are those varieties he has found to work, based on his travels around the country speaking at horticultural shows.

Using his own family as an example, Dr. A stressed that it is important to keep the end consumer in mind. One of his daughters has four children and no time; a second has two kids and no time; his son has no time and no interest in gardening.

Below are some of the plants Dr. A recommended for people who have money, but no time, yet want to decorate their gardens — and most importantly, plants that work!

ANNUALS: Breeding work in these plants has been nothing short of astounding, according to Dr. A.
Angelonia: Baskets and containers are the garden of the future.
Begonia: “Splashy” pendulous forms in red, such as ‘Santa Cruz’ and ‘Bossa Nova’
• Rex hybrids: Esp. Jurassic. His recommendation for the front of the garden center — “People will swoon over these!”
Canna: Very popular for their tropical look. Range in size from large to dwarf, and wide variety of vibrant flower color.
• Geraniums: Too many zonals on the market, but people buy them. Deadheading is essential. What’s exciting to him are Ivy + Geranium hybrids, such as Caliente/Timeless & Precision series.
Gomphrena: Great for people who need the indestructible. “You can mow over this stuff and it’ll still come back.”
• Bedding impatiens: The big downside is downy mildew, but New Guinea and hybrids are downy resistant, eg Bounce series
• Sweet alyssum (Lobularia): Used to die in an instant, but big advances in hardiness have been seen with new varieties, eg ‘Snow Princess’, ‘White Knight’ and Stream series
Coleus: Shade tolerant but sun-loving. Great for mixed containers.
Colocasia (Taro): Tropical look, and do well everywhere.
Alternanthera: ‘Little Ruby’ = best ever.

Crazy annuals — Retailers won’t sell a ton of these plants, Dr. A advised, but they will make people smile and come back to buy their begonias and gerniums.
• Eyeball plant, Bed of Nails, Musical Note plant, variegated Tapiocca

PERENNIALS: All the tried and true is what’s selling.
• Yarrow (aka ‘woundwort’): Have been out of favor, but the short (knee-high tall) varieties are becoming popular. The back story: Smell it, stomp on it — the first room freshener.
• Goatsbeard
Baptisia: The hybrids, eg ‘Purple Smoke’, ‘Twilight Prairie’, ‘Screming Yellow’. The first ever subsidized agricultural crop in America as alternative for making indigo dye.
Brunnera (aka false forget-me-nots):
Erysimum (aka wallflowers): Breeding has made great strides for tougher plants.
Coreopsis: fun plant, but breeding has messed them up. Have to make sure about what you’re selling: perennial or annual?
Echinacea: “A plant we’re stubbing our toes on.” Too many in the market, and a lot are terrible. People are buying them, but they’re not coming back.
— A’s rule for Echinacea: If you’re not sure, always buy purple or white. The fancy types: do not sell or plant in the fall.
• Hellebores

Farwest Trade Show Preview: Day Two: Friday, August 22, 2014

Welcome to Day Two of the Farwest Trade Show! Are you thoroughly recovered from last night's Pub Crawl yet? No matter — the show has several great things happening throughout the day, including a trifecta of great presenters (Armitage, Stanley and Norris) right off the bat at 9 a.m.:
  • Garden Retailing: Getting to 2020 with John Stanley — 9 a.m. in Room B1156-116 (seminar pass required) — Stanley will expand upon his thoughts in yesterday's keynote session, pondering how retailers can survive all the changes coming to business overall, and particularly retail, in the next few years.
  • Crazy Plants for Crazy Gardeners with Dr. Allan Armitage — 9 a.m. in Room B110-112 (seminar pass required) — Your customers want more than red geraniums. He even says it in the subtitle of the presentation. What, then? Dr. Armitage will talk about it in this can't-miss one-hour session.
  • Growing a Nation of Gardeners: A Fusion of Public and Retail Horticulture, with Kelly Norris — 9 a.m. in Room B117-119 (seminar pass required) — The Baby Boom generation that loves gardening, and spends money doing it, is not getting any younger. Are there enough gardening fiends amongst the Millennials to replace them? If not, then what? We need to promote a love of gardening, for the good of the nation as well as our industry. Horticulture expert Norris will discuss how we get there.
  • Retailer's Choice Awards Ceremony — 4 p.m. in The Idea Center, located at the northwest corner of the show floor, next to the Growers Showcase. A jury of show attendees has been scouring the Farwest Show floor in search of the most innovative and unique products. Here, hosts Sid Raisch and Danny Summers will announce the winners. This is a quick and easy way to learn about lots of cool new stuff, all in one fell swoop.
  • Women in Horticulture — 4:30 p.m. in the VIP Lounge on the second floor. This networking event will feature author/speaker/journalist Shawna Lee Coronado, who is a "green evangelist." She will share her ideas on how to inspire greater interest in plants — something every grower and retailer should be interested in.
Want to know more? Check back here for highlights of the sessions and events you might have missed, or download the Farwest Show App for iPhone or Android to put the entire show in your pocket — schedules, highlights, alerts, social media and more! Need a better connection so you can download it faster? Stop by the OAN Resource Center (Booth #13027 on the show floor) and tap into the free WiFi connection there. Just ask for the password.

Farwest Seminar: Breed All About It

This seminar featured four renowned plant breeders, who spoke about their research and work in creating the perfect plant.

How do plant breeders create the perfect plant? How do they start with a purple plant with purple flowers that blooms in the winter, and create a new one with yellow flowers, which will create color contrast with the leaves, that will bloom in the summer when people can enjoy it in their garden?

By singling out traits in individual specimens and breeding them, plant breeders seek to create progeny with more impactful color, greater heat/cold tolerance to a wider range of zones, and other desirable characteristics.

In his presentation, "From Genes to Cool Plants," Ryan N. Contreras of Oregon State University, said, "What we want is the perfect plant that has all the perfect traits."

Contreras explained how genes are inherited, which determines what traits he looks for when developing "cool" plants:
- low heritability traits include characteristics such as plant height and yield, which have gradients of expression.
- high heritability traits include fruit and flower color, which are easier to select for breeders.

Using the example of Katsuratree, Contreras explained the previously non-existent red weeper was created, as well as his work with Hibiscus syriacus (see his article in the August issue of Digger magazine).

Thomas Ranney of North Carolina State University was next up with his presentation, "Dreaming Up Plants."

Ranney finds inspiration in the wild, native plants found in his home state's Smoky Mountain range, such as Hydrangea arborescens. This plant species has naturally hybridized over millennia, but not with much variety, which makes it a strong genetic specimen to create new, more dynamic progeny.

Stan Hokanson of the University of Minnesota spoke on "Woody Plant Breeding: It's Not About Cold Hardiness."

"Everybody and their brother are creating new plants these days," Hokanson said. "So I thought, 'What can I do? How am I uniquely positioned to add to the field of plant breeding?' "

Hokanson chose to tackle some of the tougher traits, cold hardiness of azaleas (an important trait in Minnesota, where minus 30 F is very common), and conservation of endangered native species, specifically Tsuga canadensis.

John Ruter, Allan Armitage professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, talked about his work with creating more cold-hardy Agapanthus and improving the form and color of Hibiscus during his talk, "Breeding Herbaceous Ornamentals: Finding One's Softer Side."

Farwest Seminar: Launching a New Product

"What It Takes to Launch a New Product in Today's Intensely Competitive Marketplace" proved to be equally of interest to growers, retailers, landscapers and marketers. This seminar addressed the synergistic process that exists between the plant breeder and marketer; in this case, Dr. Michael A. Dirr, owner/partner, Plant Introductions Inc., and Natalia Hamill, brand and business development manager, Bailey Nurseries Inc.

Dirr addressed his process in creating new plants, most famously Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer®. The key characteristics of this plant, which has made it a true "superstar" in the garden and marketplace, is its ability to rebloom (remontancy) and cold hardiness.

"We're all looking for the golden goose that can lay the reblooming egg," Dirr said.

Once the marketing team believes in a new introduction, the next step is to convince growers. "In a crowded market, it must perform as promised," Hamill said, stressing an important point for growers as well as end consumers.

Hamill explained that the power of a viable brand (e.g., Endless Summer) can provide a platform for subsequent introductions via line extension. The brand Endless Summer has become one of Bailey's top-performing product lines, now with four varieties — The Original, Blushing Bride, BloomStruck, and Twist-n-Shout.

Hamill also touched on the importance of packaging (branded pots, elevated stakes) and plant photography that stands out from the crowd. "The strength of the brand creates consumer confidence, as well as with the trade," she said.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Farwest Show: Spring Fleecing Fringe Tree named Best in Show winner of the 2014 New Varieties Showcase at Farwest

PRESS RELEASE — Portland, Ore., August 21, 2014 — Every year, the New Varieties Showcase at the Farwest Trade Show features dozens of outstanding plants that are new to the trade.

This year is no exception. This year’s showcase features 52 different trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with interesting shapes, colors, growth habits and other characteristics to excite the people who buy plants — as well as those who sell them.

“This is one of the most outstanding collections of plants we’ve ever featured,” said Ann Murphy, director of marketing for the Oregon Association of Nurseries, which produces Farwest. “It’s the quantity as well as the quality. Our judges were truly impressed with the plants that were submitted.”

But as great as these plants are, only one could win the coveted New Varieties Showcase Best in Show award.

That winner was Spring Fleecing Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus 'Spring Fleecing'), which was selected by Sam Allen of Tarheel Native Trees in North Carolina. It is offered by Heritage Seedlings Inc. in Booth #9037 at the Farwest Trade Show.

“Even without flowers, it is attractive," Murphy said. "Judges said the foliage is beautiful and the stems are gorgeous. It should be used more in the landscape, especially as a street tree. It has broad appeal across many zones.”

The winner was based on voting by a group of judges, all of them horticultural experts with longtime experience in the green industry. In addtion to the Best in Show winner, they chose three Plants of Merit. They were as follows:

Lemon Lace™ Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa 'SMNSRD4' PPAF, CBRAF), discovered by Tim Wood, Spring Meadow Nursery Inc., Michigan, and introduced by Proven Winners® Color Choice®. It is available from Farwest exhibitors Spring Meadow Nursery Inc./Proven Winners® Color Choice® (Booth #3049) and Fisher Farms LLC (Booth #10037).

First Editions® Toscana™ Barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'BailJulia' PPAF), bred by Don Selinger of Bailey Nurseries Inc., introduced by Bailey Nurseries Inc., and available at their Farwest Show booth (Booth #17019).

Mighty Velvet™ Stachys (Lamb's Ears) (Stachys 'Bello Grigio' PPAF), developed by Goos Bartels, The Netherlands, and introduced by Agricola Management Group for the HGTV HOME Plant Collection. It is available at the Farwest Show from exhibitor Van Essen Nursery Co. (Booth #13037).

These winners, and the other New Varieties Showcase selections, can be viewed in an attractive display at the 2014 Farwest Trade Show, which will be open noon–6 p.m. Friday and noon–4 p.m. Saturday at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland. The show is open to all professionals engaged in the nursery industry and related trades, including retail nurseries, wholesale growers, landscapers, landscape designers, and others involved in the green industry. Admission is $10 per person.

People attending the show can weigh in with their own opinions and vote for the People's Choice Awards. The top three People's Choice vote-getters will be announced Monday.

The New Varieties Showcase remains a very popular and unique feature at the Farwest Trade Show. “Every year, growers and retailers always consider the New Varieties Showcase to be a highlight of the Farwest Trade Show," Murphy said. "Experienced gardeners are always looking for something new and different for their gardens, and the plants shown in the New Varieties Showcase fill that need. Retailers appreciate being able to find so many new, high-quality plants, all in one place. They can see how the plants actually perform, and visualize how they might look in-store. If they want to place an order for all the new plants that catch their eye, they can do that right from the show floor.”

To learn more about the varieties in this year’s New Varieties Showcase at Farwest Show, visit

The Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN), based in Wilsonville, represents more than 800 wholesale growers, retailers, landscapers and suppliers. Oregon's ornamental horticulture industry is among the state's largest agricultural commodities, with annual sales of $745 million. Oregon’s nursery industry is a traded sector; nearly 75 percent of the nursery plants grown in Oregon are shipped out of state. For information, visit or call 503-682-5089.

The Farwest Trade Show is produced by the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN), a trade organization that represents and serves the interests of the ornamental horticulture industry. Any revenue realized by the OAN is reinvested into the industry through education, research, marketing support and government relations. For more information about the 2014 Farwest Trade Show, visit or download the Farwest Show app for iPhone or Android.

Farwest Keynote: John Stanley: Don't Serve Me, Make My Day

This is a time of change. Businesses will change more in the next five years than they have in most people's lifetimes so far. And that's why it's crucial that businesses adapt if they wish to survive and succeed. That's the word according to author and retail/horticulture consultant John Stanley, who gave the keynote address at the 2014 Farwest Show.

"Every business in the world is at a crossroads," Stanley said. "You can't stay there too long, or your business will die in the next few years. You have to make changes. You have to move out of your comfort zone. You have no choice."

The changes happening today are social, economic and technical. Winning businesses, Stanley said, will recognize the changes in how customers want to relate to businesses. Old-school sales techniques are dead. "The old system is broken, and you will not repair it," he said.

In place of the old system? Daymakers. These are team members who develop insight into customer needs, and know how to offer more than the customer expects. It's not about cost, or value. It's about telling a story and creating an experience — something the customer will remember. It's an important distinction.

"Salespeople process," Stanley said. "Daymakers make people's day."

It's also about being consumer-centric, not product-centric. Why is this important?

"You don't sell product," Stanley said. "Your customer sells your product through referrals."

These referrals may come from person-to-person. Or, they may come through social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and others. That's why all companies need to be familiar with these channels and have a presence.