Today’s market trend: easy, speedy and green

November 03, 2010
Written by Gary Jones
The themes for this issue are “perennials” and “merchandising,” so it’s logical to combine the two. A brief tour of this year’s CanWest trade show in Vancouver revealed several recurring ideas and some other interesting creative approaches.

Make it easy: Several producers were saying their purchasing public is keen to be spoon-fed. As is the trend with society at large, it seems our gardeners want instant and easy gardens. So, do whatever it takes to make buying decisions easy and the aftercare minimal. This also means building in a high chance of gardening success – nobody wants to plant a newly acquired garden treat to find it dead in a few weeks’ time. Success breeds success, and it ensures repeat sales.

MUCH GREATER EASE IN PLANTING
One Vancouver area producer is supplying his larger specimen plants in “Fanntom Pots.” These are bag-and-wire containers that can simply be put in the ground at planting time, with the fabric cut for easy removal, and the wire forming handles for lifting the plant in to the hole. It’s that simple.

Go big(ger): Continuing the trend toward larger liner plugs, some growers have been developing deeper plugs, in larger sizes (e.g., 21/tray). I guess it’s back to the success stakes again. Larger and deeper plugs are more likely to survive (or at least withstand more abuse!) than will smaller plugs, plus they make reaching final size product faster – that’s “instant” again.

Extend the season – staying greener: Several producers of perennials were saying they are looking for plants that remain green(er) for longer in the season. So, if you come across cultivars that can extend the season by a few weeks (either at the beginning or end of the growing season), work it for your retail customers.

INDOOR PLANTS THAT ALSO DO WELL OUTDOORS
Another example of this was one U.S. nursery that was promoting hellebore as versatile “indoors and out” plants. Given as great holiday plants or gifts, and after brightening indoor rooms for a few weeks, they can be planted outdoors to continue as long-lived perennials. This provides great value for the money.

Change it up a bit: Ornamental grasses have been on the rise for some time now, but it seems that striped grasses are just about everywhere in Vancouver at the moment. They’re different (or at least they are just now), attractive and make a talking point. They are giving new life to an older theme, and in so doing are creating sales and wonderful merchandising opportunities.

Similarly, brightly coloured square pots have been around for some time. So have photo labels with planting information. But at least one wholesaler is making the labels so large they cover the whole side of a pot, making it distinctive and easy to read for those of us whose eyes aren’t quite what they used to be. Sadly, doesn’t that apply to a large demographic of the gardening public?

Other trends: Green walls continue to expand, and the idea of “ready-made” (easy again!) mosaic patterns made of plants is developing. Originating from England, this is a great way to quickly make rooftops and walls look great.

It seems that lots of wholesale producers are being asked for fruit trees. OK, so they’re not strictly “perennials” in the horticultural sense, but trees are perennial. Perhaps this is part of the “grow-your-own” and urban agriculture trend, but whatever it is, it’s good for business.

THE DRIVE FOR HIGHWAY HARDY TREES
Another area of growth for trees (no pun intended!) are those that are “highway hardy.” Plants growing next to a road have to take a lot of abuse: dirt covering the leaves (equals reduced photosynthesis and stress), salt damage in the winter, induced wind damage from passing traffic, and maybe even the odd vehicle accident. So, some producers are working with industry associations to promote species considered to be extra suitable for this honourable role in life.

Do your own thing: If all else fails, just do what seems like a good idea. Proven Winners™ greeting cards, for example, look great, and no doubt will help spread the image of great looking plants to a wider section of the retail consumer base.

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