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Buy local theme goes ornamental

April 30, 2008  By Dave Harrison

Ontario growers work to grow market opportunities within their own province

Albert Graves, grower display coordinator at Canada Blooms.

Ontario growers of ornamental plants and their new buy local campaign couldn’t have wished for a better marketing opportunity this winter.


The widely publicized Canada Blooms show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and its six acres of imaginative display gardens, attracted about 88,000 dedicated plant enthusiasts. And surrounding them, as they queued up to enter the show, were vibrant and colourful displays from 10 leading Ontario cut flower and potted plant producers. Show visitors gazed longingly and yearningly at the flower and foliage displays, having endured one of the snowiest and gloomiest winters in memory.

Canada Blooms, the five-day Toronto Flower and Garden Festival, is a
perennial breath of fresh air with its hinting and teasing of pending
gardening opportunities. The growers’ displays certainly set the tone
for the rest of the show.

This is the second year for the growers display
area, a chance to showcase Ontario-grown plants. Eight growers took
part last year. Albert Graves of Bloemen Décor coordinates the
displays, which he says attract considerable attention and photography.
Graves is a widely respected Ontario-based floral designer and
floriculture promoter.

Union Station flower giveaway


Highly visible within the displays was promotional material from the newly launched Pick Ontario program of Flowers Canada (Ontario), a first-year sponsor with Canada Blooms.

Graves was joined in one afternoon educational session by fellow Ontario designers Evelyn Baker (Sobeys Canada), Julie Drago (Creations by Gitta) and Jim Edwards (San Remo Florist) in a stage demonstration utilizing only Ontario-grown flowers. Pick Ontario sponsored the presentation.

“We want to raise the awareness of both the variety and quality of flowers produced by Ontario growers,” said FCO marketing director Gary Gander. “We’ve been quite happy with the response during the show. This is a great opportunity to talk to a very targeted flower audience, and to get our Pick Ontario logo in front of people.”

An example of Pick Ontario advertising.

Workers in downtown Toronto received a sneak preview of the campaign earlier in the month with a fresh cut flower giveaway at Union Station during a morning commute. Some 5,000 flowers were distributed in two hours.

This launch was complemented with outdoor, office washroom, pathway posters and transit advertising throughout Toronto, encouraging people to buy floral products grown in the province. Also included is an interactive website,, with information on Ontario-grown flowers, tips on floral arrangements, “and opportunities for retailers to take part in the campaign,” said Gander.

The Pick Ontario logo will also be clearly visible at points of purchase to help consumers easily identify Ontario-grown cut flowers and potted plants.

The campaign is attracting considerable publicity from Toronto area media, including Global TV, CBC radio, and a couple of major newspapers. “We’ve done a number of interviews,” said Gander.

buy1   buy2
Trend Floral, of St. David’s.
  Van Geest Brothers, Grimsby.
buy3   buy4
Casey Greenhouses, Delhi.
  CosMic Plants, Beamsville.
buy5   buy6
Sunrise Greenhouses, Vineland Station.
  Floral Superstar participant Jim Edwards, of San Remo Florist in Toronto. 
buy7   buy8
Rosa Flora, Dunnville.
  Sunrise Greenhouses, Vineland Station.
buy9   buy10
AB Products, Woodstock.
  Spring Valley Gardens, St. Catharines.
buy11   buy12
Virgil Greenhouses, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  Floral Superstars were centre stage at this year’s Canada Blooms, using only Ontario-grown material.

Pick Ontario is a major marketing and
educational campaign. It also ties in with a growing “buy local”
sentiment of many consumers. “The research we did last year was that
many people didn’t understand or fully appreciate the size of the
industry, and the range of products grown, in the province. The people
we talked to said they’d be predisposed to supporting Ontario
floriculture, much the same as they have been supporting agriculture in
general in the province. Floriculture is just an extension of that.”

 Pick Ontario is a grower-driven initiative, he noted. FCO’s marketing steering committee came up with the idea, and made the applications for funding. “Their feeling was that we really have to do something,” said Gander. “The industry is at a crossroads.”

With the loonie showing no sign of lagging, exports are taking it on the chin. The domestic market, then, is becoming increasingly important. “We never really had the tools before to launch a campaign of this size,” said Gander. “We now have the chance to get the brand established.”

Pick Ontario is funded by The Ontario Greenhouse Alliance and the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

The project currently has funding for only a year. Gander said it would be great to see it continued. “We’d like to build a brand, and it’s hard to do that in just a year.”

For more on the campaign, visit our website at .

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