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I Wanna B Famous (full)

Purple gnome, weeding gnome, plantsnouveauWelcome to The Weeding Gnome

This week’s Garden Notes: Where in the World was Angela all Summer: Part II

— October 3, 2014 —   

I Wanna B Famous

We pick up where we left off last time – headed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – home to my nemesis in football, the Steelers, for the Annual Garden Writer’s Symposium.  I was asked by the association to give a presentation to the garden writers. The idea was for me to partner with my buddy Lloyd Traven from Peace Tree Farm to talk about how our two little companies managed to stand out in a crowd and appear Awesome!

We decided I would talk about being awesome and how to be real and relevant and then Lloyd would take over and spend some time talking to the garden writers about making their writing relevant for their customers – the people reading their words, and that he would broach the uber- sensitive subject of being (or not being) a shill.  

What an interesting topic and one I think about daily, but have never put into words and certainly not a lecture, and I absolutely had not thought about it in terms of garden writing. Garden writers are where most of the public gets their gardening information, so they need to be credible, believable and real.

Putting on my deep thinking cap, I thought back to the beginning of Plants Nouveau and how I felt like a small fish in a huge ocean. How did I compete? How did I grow the business? How did I stay relevant ? Now, there’s a nice word. We’ll talk about that one a bit more below.  

When I started the business, I wanted to be real, I wanted to be genuine and I wanted to be transparent. I wanted everyone to trust me and trust that I would do a really good, honest job. As I searched for my place in the big world of horticulture, I turned outside of my industry to my favorite companies for guidance. Companies I trusted. Companies who cared. There was a common word in their core values – it was integrity.   

Let’s define Integrity:
Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honor moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles.

That being said, to be able to market plants in this big, stretched out world and keep your integrity while competing with some pretty untrustworthy folks isn’t easy. How would we do it? How would we stand out? 

We had to be Awesome!

Definition #2.
There are many ways to define awesome, here’s three:

  • Excellent – extremely good/outstanding
  • Exciting – causing great enthusiasm
  • Remarkable – worthy of attention

Those are some pretty strong words, right? Sadly, the Urban dictionary says Awesome is something Americans use to describe everything.  In this day and age, where just about anyone can be famous and even people who don’t deserve to be famous OR awesome are getting accolades, how can a little company like Plants Nouveau stand out?

Show people you are real.
Show people you are credible.
Show people you are an expert in your field.

Anyone can be famous in this technologically advanced, Google driven world. There’s even a new term for this generation. It’s Generation Like. Imagine that.  Like doesn’t just mean you think someone is cute or funny or even just okay. Like is the new indicator of how famous you are and how many people “like” you or your content dictates the space you occupy on the internet, and sadly, your fame. 

There is an entire generation chock full of young people who want to be famous and they get paid for their “Like” power. It all started with Honey Boo-Boo, the trailer park, trash-talking toddler who took middle America’s heart, but it has developed into careers and social trends that no one ever dreamed of.

There was a show on PBS about it and it was fascinating.  It talked about social media branding using kids to spread the word. The more power these kids have (in other words – the more “likes” they can get), the more brands want them to talk about their products, movies, etc.

I’m telling you now – it’s  a new paradigm for brand marketing.

For example – I present you with my new best friend Tyler Oakley. Tyler is a college grad with no “real” job. His job is to be funny, adorable and most importantly – believable on YouTube and Facebook. You can read about him oWikipediaor better yet, here he is in action:

Wise words about not devaluing your skills or your knowledge, but I digress. This kid is awesome. He’s believable. You want to be his friend and he has over 767,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, over 1,700,000 fans on his Facebook page and 3.2 million fans on his Twitter feed.

He is certainly “like-able”, right?

Frito-Lay, the maker of Doritos thinks so. They made a special taco for him – a Cool Ranch flavored shell. They heard him talking about it on his social media channels, begging them for this flavor. They listened.

That is the power of LIKE.

Does he deserve to be famous? Maybe. Maybe not. Do we need someone likable to talk to consumers about plants? Yes, absolutely yes.

Tyler only talks about things he really and truly uses in his life.  He’s honest and when he likes something, everyone knows. Conversely when he doesn’t like something – everyone knows. So you better hope he likes the thing you are giving him to try.

He’s no shill.

I would rather see someone like Tyler pushing products than some rich celebrity like Jennifer Anniston pushing Aveno wrinkle cream or Beyonce pushing full calorie Pepsi.  Do those brand’s reps really think we believe Jennifer Anniston would use off-the-shelf wrinkle cream or that Beyonce is drinking full calorie soda?  Shills.  They are all shills. In the newest Lincoln SUV commercial Matthew McConaughey tries to convince us that he’s driven Lincoln automobiles, by saying he has driven them “Long before someone paid me to”.

Do you believe him?

Many plant marketers are shills, and sadly there are garden writers who are shills. Many sales people are shills – well, maybe most sales people, LOL. Don’t be a shill. This was Lloyd’s message and surprisingly, it was well received.

I love to see good examples of growing the plants first, then talking about them, or even killing them, but being honest about the experience. Imagine that? We often see posts right after the samples are sent or soon there after. I swear, some garden writers talk about the plants the minute they take them out of the box. They say how great they are right then and there.

Really?  How great they are?  How do you know?

I know it is exciting to get that lovely box of lush, healthy samples plants, but don’t you need to put them in the ground or in a pot and grow them first? Here’s my advice on how to be a trusted resource to your customers – your readers.

It’s quite simple actually. Grow the plants.

A Boston area garden writer named Rochelle Greayer, who blogs about plants and garden design and lots of cool other stuff over at Studio”G” Blog did the right thing when she posted this write upafter a summer of growing these annuals she received from Proven Winners. She actually grew them ALL summer!  In my opinion, there is nothing worse than a plant marketer who does NOT know plants or a garden writer who talks about how great their fountain is right after they installed it. That fountain hasn’t even weathered a storm.

The people want honesty.  Hopefully, the company who gave you the freebie does too.

At Plants Nouveau we send out trial plants all the time. We want to know the nitty-gritty, the good, the bad, the incredibly awesome AND the ugly. Maybe our plants do really well here in Boston and die a slow painful death in Washington, DC. I’d rather know the truth so we can warn people who buy them or change our website to state that very helpful information. Of course, I would rather you not tell the world all coneflowers are evil because they died in YOUR garden, but I would like to know that they died and see if we can figure out why.

We send trial plants to many people around the US. We do that so we can see how the plants do in different climates. We value the feedback and use it to write our copy.

It’s real. It’s tested. It’s true.

Look at the Garden Notes from Brunnera ‘Silver Heart‘, where I wrote:

“I planted this new selection side-by-side with ‘Looking Glass’ and noticed a huge difference in foliage toughness. The leaves are thicker and more pubescent (or hairier) and they seem to hold up much better in extreme heat and humidity. The blooms are still deep cobalt blue and the foliage is as silver as the skin of a barracuda. Try this plant in your shade garden. I have it planted along my driveway in the shade and on warm summer evenings, each leaf looks like a little moon, lighting up the pathway. The mature leaves are easily as big as my head! This is one of the toughest brunneras  I’ve ever seen. “

It’s Awesome information and that information makes Plants Nouveau awesome because people believe us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

People think we are crazy with our wacky trade show booth designs, but you know what? They remember them, and they talk about them.

That’s the point isn’t it?

Take our Garden Writers New Products Expo booth, for example.  It was Black & White.  It stood out among all the other booths and everyone who visited asked why is was sans color. My answer – we wanted to stand out and we wanted the plants to be front and center – with no distractions.

Butcher paper and black markers it was! And…of course there was a costume. I was the Clematis Queen. I even convinced Linda to wear black & white too. Take a look.

We do crazy stuff. We have fun.We know plants and we are real. If that makes us AWESOME, I’m happy.

We also love these conferences because we get to spend time with our favorite plant geek friends. Check out these two plant whores collecting all the free samples they can for the University of Tennessee GardensAndy Pulte (right) and Jason Reeves (left) love plants and they will trial anything and give the best feedback.

My Clematis Crown was so fabulous, everyone wanted to wear it – take a look at Kelly Norris, Director of Horticulture at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens taking his turn, posing for the camera.

We love that. They make it all worth while.  

The conference was great. Pittsburgh was great – not the healthiest food there, but we enjoyed all it had to offer and the gardens we visited were very interesting as well. Great job GWA!




Have a great weekend, don’t forget to read this week’s Garden Notes below, and Happy Weeding!


Angela Treadwell-Palmer
Founder and Co-owner, Strategic plant finder, In Charge of Magic
Plants Nouveau, LLC.

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This week, from Angela’s Garden Notes; Clematis

During the Garden Writer’s Symposium, we gave away fabulously grown clematis from our new Sugar-Sweet™collection.  The plants were grown by our friends at www.gardenvines.comwho have the most amazing collection of climbing plants for sale anywhere on the internet.

Sugar-Sweet™Lilac and Sugar-Sweet™ Blue were well received by the attendees.  This new series is just the beginning of the amazing clematis selections we will have to offer in the future.

We are working with famed breeder Ton Hannink in the Netherlands and his plants are truly stunning.  Please be on the look out for more fragrant selections and many more wilt resistant varieties for your garden.

Back to the Sugar- Sweets.
They are just that, sugary sweet, both in appearance and scent. Lilac is a medium purple, highly fragrant, wilt resistant variety, emitting scents of gardenia blossoms. Blue is a highly fragrant, wilt resistant variety with soft periwinkle blooms that fade to a silvery blue with a scent reminiscent of lemon, sugar and vanilla.

Both selections produce lots of 2-3″ flowers and climb 6-9′ tall by 24″ wide.

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