January 21, 2008
Written by
Garry Grueber had an inspiring presentation during last year’s Ohio Short Course.

‘Inspiring’ was not only the effect of his presentation on his audience, but it was also the theme. Beyond Mixed Containers – Gardens of Inspiration was the topic, and Grueber left attendees with a number of ideas to help them inspire their customers.

Grueber is with Kientzler/Innovaplant Germany.

Some 20 years or so ago, he said, red geraniums were dominant in the industry. But that’s all changed with the arrival over the years of new varieties of New Guinea impatiens, scaevola, bacopa, bidens, petunia and calibrachoa.

Mixed containers have become increasingly an important industry segment over the past ten to 15 years, he noted. The OFA: an Association of Floriculture Professionals has published a key ‘Tips’ book on mixed containers.

Yardwork is a popular pastime for North Americans, he said. In the U.S. alone in 2005, some 91 million households participated in do-it-yourself lawn and garden activities, representing about 83 per cent of all households. This was an 11 per cent increase over 2004 statistics.

However, average household spending on lawn and garden products dropped by 13 per cent during that same time period, while spending on flower gardening items specifically was 10 per cent below the five-year average.

“This is scary,” said Grueber. “If the trend continues, all of us will have a difficult time making a living in floriculture.”

The key to industry growth will be in how well breeders, growers and retailers can inspire more consumers to incorporate plants into their daily lives. It’s not just the introduction of new plants that excites consumers, he said, but how they are used. It wasn’t too long ago that people would never have used perennials in containers. Now it’s quite common.

Foliage applications in mixed containers can’t be underestimated. There are even some foliage-only container designs, he noted.

Vacation getaways have inspired travellers to incorporate plants they have seen on their travels into their gardens.

Container gardening ensures urbanites can continue to enjoy plants. “People value the limited space they have for plants.”

Consumers are also looking for “fuss-free” plants that are easy to grow. They want to garden, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty.

“It’s not about plants and flowers,” he reminded his audience, “it’s about decorating.”

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