By Brandi Cowen
Greater Columbus Convention Center was buzzing in July, as thousands of
professionals from every aspect of the horticulture industry came
together for the 2012 OFA Short Course.
Greater Columbus Convention Center was buzzing in July, as thousands of professionals from every aspect of the horticulture industry came together for the 2012 OFA Short Course.
|Hort Couture’s dramatic displays shone a spotlight on quality plants and proved the power of creative displays.
|DCN’s self-watering containers offer a solution for forgetful gardeners who don’t always remember to water their plants.
|Fairy Gardening Inc. offers everything a consumer needs to turn their backyard into the perfect getaway spot for a tiny sprite.
|A-Roo’s orchid gift tote features a high-definition photo of an orchid, for fashionable plant transport.|
|The Bumper Crop line from Burpee is bred to offer more heirloom flavour than other tomato varieties.
|Fun items, like these whimsical pots from Global Link Partners, appeal to a new generation of gardeners.
Garden centre operators, nurseries, greenhouse growers, landscapers, and other green industry professionals, as well as students and educators, had a lot to pack in to just four days in Columbus, Ohio: strolling seven acres of trade show floor and attending a selection of the 140 educational sessions, tours and workshops, plus dozens of other show activities and networking events.
Gardening guru and TV personality Joe Lamp’l, a.k.a. joe gardener, delivered the first of two keynotes at this year’s Short Course. Lamp’l kicked off the day on July 15, noting that “people buy differences, not similarities,” so the challenge for an independent garden centre is to make itself stand out from the competition. To do this, independents must establish a reputation as thought leaders, setting the trends and creating demand. They must lead, not follow.
This is especially true when it comes to dealing with members of the Millennial generation – those 17- to 34-year-olds who represent your up and coming customer base. Lamp’l said that although this group are carrying a debt load and therefore slow to spend, they are spending more in some categories, such as container gardens that fit into their small living spaces, and growing their own food. To win over this demographic, a garden centre needs to show Millennials that it understands their lifestyle and habits and can offer solutions to meet those needs. Garden centres should also explore ways to reach out to these young customers where they already are. For example, using QR codes on advertising and in store displays to drive web traffic, podcasting tips on plant maintenance and care, and coordinating with growers to offer real-time crop updates and share plant progress photos via social media.
The importance of reaching out to future customers was also a key message in the second keynote of the show. Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and senior policy advisor on healthy food initiatives, addressed a crowd on July 16. Kass focused on the positive impact gardening can have in a community. He said that, in his experience, gardening makes people take ownership of the things they plant and grow. Kass has seen this himself in the 1,100-square-foot White House vegetable garden, which he has worked alongside elementary school students. The children may not always know what all of the freshly harvested veggies are, but he said they enjoy sampling them after helping with the harvest.
New product roundup
This year’s Short Course featured many new items to explore, both on the show floor and in the new products and new varieties displays outside the exhibition hall.
Canadian company DCN Plastic showed off its new line of self-watering plastic pots and planters. The containers feature a large water reservoir, and drainage holes to prevent overflow. The containers can be used indoors or outdoors, and are available in a range of styles, sizes and colours. The company also has a new, self-watering rail planter, complete with overflow protection. These planters have two different sized cuts in the bottom, allowing them to fit a two-inch-by-four-inch or two-inch-by-six-inch rail. (http://www.dcnplastic.com/ )
Burpee’s booth featured a large display of its “Bumper Crop” line of tomatoes. All of the tomatoes in the collection are grafted to give gardeners more heirloom flavour while also offering improved disease tolerance and a more successful growing experience. (www.ballhort.com )
At the John Henry Company’s booth, a new line of pot wraps caught our eye. The wraps can be customized with brand information, or dressed up to fit a festive occasion. The company also introduced a four-way hanging basket tag, offering more options for garden centres to tag their products. (www.jhc.com )
Capturing one of the big retail trends highlighted in the Garden Centre Live! area, Fairy Gardening Inc.’s booth offered an array of products perfect for creating a home for friendly neighbourhood fairies. The company offers a starter kit, as well as individual pieces to personalize a garden, and special “fairy flowers” that thrive in small spaces. (www.fairygardening.com ).
The next OFA Short Course runs July 13-16, 2013.
The hottest trends in retail were featured in the Garden Centre Live! space during the OFA Short Course. Seven displays – one representing each trend – offered retailers new ideas to bring these trends into their garden centres: