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Inside View: Perennials time machine a strong marketing plus

October 25, 2016  By Gary Jones

November 2016 – When it comes to marketing, we’ve all seen those quirky tag lines or pub-quiz style snippets that pique our interest and make us look further behind a product.

For example, do your customers know that …

  • Perennial plants often have deep, extensive root systems that can hold soil to prevent erosion, capture dissolved nitrogen before it can contaminate ground and surface water, and outcompete weeds (reducing the need for herbicides).1
  • The symbol for a perennial plant, based on Species Plantarum by Linnaeus, is also the astronomical symbol for the planet Jupiter. 1
  • A notch in a tree will remain the same distance from the ground as the tree grows.2
  • Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew Cannabis sativa (marijuana, of course) on their plantations.2
  • The oldest living thing in existence is not a giant redwood, but a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California, reputed to be some 4,600 years old.2
  • Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world; it can grow 35 inches in a single day.3 (Maybe this is partly why Giant Pandas are now off the “Endangered Species” list, yeah!)
  • Iris means “rainbow” in Greek, and Iris was goddess of the rainbow in Greek mythology.3
  • In France, May 1 is La Fete du Muguet, the festival of the Lily-of-the-Valley. The celebration includes giving bouquets of Lily-of-the-Valley to loved ones, wishing them health and happiness.1

Well, just now it’s that delicious time of year again. Delicious because I just got a call from Mary Anne at “Annie’s Orchard” who told me our apples are ready for pick-up. Not just any old apples, of course. These are (hopefully!) 15 pounds of Cox Orange Pippin fresh from the tree. I’m a Brit, and so look forward to this tangy-yet-oh-so-sweet taste of the home country with the Cox’s, firm-never-floury Bramleys (sure to start a debate here, but these are the best pie apples!) and my personal favourite dessert apple, Egremont Russets. For this couple of weeks, Mary Anne and her husband Jim will be inundated with Brits picking up their orders. And they have other weeks hosting German ex-pats, Danes and Dutch families collecting their prized Gravensteins and Belle de Boskoops.


What makes us do this? Why do we all put in our order a year ahead of time, in eager anticipation of heading down to “Annie’s” each fall like kids waiting for Christmas? Well, of course, some of it is that we just like these apples! We’re familiar with each distinct flavour, skin colour, texture and juiciness.

But it’s more than that.

Each bite reminds us of the good parts of “home” (without the associated bad bits!). Each fruit connects us to a piece of our personal and national history. Every apple pie has a story to tell and jogs a happy memory. And the distinction of different varieties takes us back to a richer, more diverse seasonal kind of food and agriculture.

This got me thinking about other perennials. Each of Canada’s immigrant groups will have plants that remind them of “home,” even if home is several generations past. And, of course, Canada itself has a tremendously rich collection of indigenous, often unique, flora. I’m coming to appreciate the delights of blueberry (mainstream of course), salmon berries and haskaps.

Maybe we need to make more of this. Go for those deep, emotional ties that we have for specific plants, or types of plants, and re-connect our buying public to their childhood.

These emotions can be pretty powerful, presenting strong buying triggers. It’s not just the apple we’re buying.

And on that note, it’s time – time to head out to “Annie’s.” I can’t wait.

  1. Wikipedia.
  3. Better Homes and Gardens at

Gary Jones is co-chair of horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, B.C. He serves on several industry committees and welcomes comments at

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