Welcome to The Weeding Gnome
By: Angela Treadwell-Palmer & Plants Nouveau
— October 16, 2014 —
My New Job & Lemon-Lime Takes the Gold!
No gnome picture this week because Sergio, my rusty metal chicken, requested a prominent spot. He told me he is tired of being rusty and he demanded a new paint job.
Okay rusty chicken who decorates my garden, I’ll paint you. But…you all know how I struggle with choosing paint colors, so we know this will NOT be an easy decision. Sergio is currently painted in primary colors, green, red, blue and yellow. Those were fun, but we should mix it up a little, don’t you think?
Have any ideas for at least 4 colors?
I would prefer they don’t include pink or purple, but I’ll try to keep an open mind. If I choose your combo, you’ll get a present from me. Something really special.
So, where else did I venture to this summer?
Plantarium. Not the Plantetarium where every school kid goes for their fourth grade field trip, but PLANTarium, the largest new plant introduction trade show in The Netherlands. It’s where all the cool plants get introduced. It is a surprisingly small show, but it attracts 17,000 visitors.
That’s more visitors than our largest plant-focused trade show in the US.
Let’s just say it is a concentration of super trendy ideas, awesome new plants and new ways to present new plants – all tied up in a small package under a few greenhouse roofs. While we were there visiting the show, three of our plants won major awards. Yes, we rock it when it comes to choosing new plants. That’s right…Helenium, Helenium Mariachi Siesta, Plants Nouveau
And – as if that wasn’t enough for Arie…
Want to see more award winners? You can see all of the new plants that won awards here.
Helenium Mariachi Fuego, Helenium, Plants NouveauI TOLD you these heleniums were different. Now that they’ve been awarded medals from the Dutch horticulture gods, maybe you all will believe me.
After visiting the trade show and collecting our awards, we went on to see our panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) trials, look at and evaluate all of the fruiting shrubs like snow berries (Symphoricarpos) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum), as well as coneflowers (Echinacea), coral & foamy bells, (Heuchera and Heucherella), sneezeweed (Helenium) and last, but not least our very exciting, up-and-coming completely mildew resistant bee balms (Monarda).
We stayed in Gouda (pronounced Howda – but try to hock a loogey while you say the H) had some really great Mexican food (yes, you read that right…) and witnessed for the first time, the Gouda cheese festival. We walked into town to purchase my required twice yearly allotment of kuminen kase – or cumin Gouda, for my very- worldly 12 year old son who can not live without it, when we got lost in a see of tourists and people from town. Everyone was there to witness the acting out of a fake cheese auction.
It was very interesting. And there was a LOT of cheese. gouda, cheese, netherlands, plantsnouveau
What else happened this summer? Oh right, my job changed.
How can my job change when I own my own company, you ask? All I can say is I didn’t ask for a new job, but I’ve got one, and it’s taking up a lot of my time. How and where people shop has changed – therefore, my job has changed.
You see, a whole lot of our plants are being sold in the new Cash & Carry market. This is a market we have tied to build for years in North America and it’s finally catching on.
What is Cash & Carry?
Simply put, it means selling plants where people shop for other things. For example, warehouse stores like Costco, groceries and by the check out of large chains. The plants are so beautiful shoppers can’t resist them and they end up with one or several in their carts.
It’s a total impulse buy.
Better yet, it’s clear what’s for sale and how much they are. They only sell a handful of items at a time, but they have lots of them- sitting on pallets or carts, right as you walk in the front door. Shoppers can’t miss them, right? There’s no fancy signs, no cultural information, just a row of perfectly (we hope) grown hydrangeas (or whatever…) sitting there, catching everyone’s eye.
Sometimes they have Knock Out® roses, sometimes they have mums, pansies or seasonal plants. Sometimes they have huge arborvitaes that only people driving a Suburban or large pick up could ever take home.
Sometimes there is nothing.
They are not training customers to look for plants, but to be surprised by them. So surprised that they buy them right then and there, on the spot, without even thinking about what kind of care they need. Their customers buy them because they may never see them again.
It’s kind of like Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Granted, both of those stores always have certain things, but if you see something really cool that you want, you should buy it then because you never know if they will have that item ever again.
What’s not to love?
Well…who’s going to answer their questions? Who’s going to tell them how to make the hydrangea flowers blue? Who’s going to tell them anything about the plants they are buying?
There isn’t anyone, and THIS is the new customer service paradigm and the reason I now spend hours a week, which I’m certain will grow exponentially over the next few years, answering emails from consumers who bought our plants at one of these warehouse stores.
hydrangea, plants nouveau everlasting revolutionOur hydrangeas have a required tag. That tag has our website on it. Consumers go to the website, look around a little bit – not a lot, because 1/2 of the questions they ask are actually ON the website, then they email us. And it’s rarely one email and one easy question. It’s usually a Horticulture 101 class full of questions and several emails before they are satisfied with their knowledge enough to take care of the plant.
I actually like talking to consumers. I want them to love our plants. I want them to be successful. I know a lot about the plants we are introducing – as I should.
This is happening to all of the “brands” and plant introduction companies who require tags on their plants. We want the tags on there, that’s not the problem. But what surprises all of us in this part of the industry is how we have become the customer service for stores like Costco. They don’t have plant people working there and I’m thinking there aren’t any plans to add any either. Why should they? hydrangea, everlasting revolution, plants nouveau
We are doing the job for them.
But the more plants they sell, the more questions we get and some of the larger brands like Star Roses and Plants ®- the introducers of the Knock Out Roses, say they have several employees on board answering questions from consumers every day.
Whoa! I don’t have time for that. But I have to make time.
We want people to feel confident. We want them to enjoy gardening. We want them to buy more plants, right? So we have to suck it up and add customer service representative to our “other duties as required” section of our job descriptions. Or in some cases- hire more people, depending on how many emails come in.
The Internet makes this world a small, intimate place. A place we’ve never been before.
How long before we need full time customer service representatives? Costco and other warehouse stores are making a lot of money selling plants. Their margins are high. They have no special employees to pay to take care of the plants, so these items are icing on the cake and almost always extra purchases that never would have happened.
I’ve been preaching that we should take the plants to the people and this is exactly what they’ve done. People shop at warehouse stores and chains more often than they would ever shop at a garden center, so why not sell plants there?
If people are running in between work, soccer games and school events AND trying to garden, then why not make it easier for people to buy plants by having them right there, in the stores they visit most often?
It’s a wonderful idea.
But how long before we have to charge them for information because they are getting the plants so cheap and there’s no one there to help them? Apple and Microsoft charge for help. They give their customers one free year or so depending on the product- if they buy the “plan”. Could we do that? Could we teach Americans how to garden by having a club? Could it be a club that charges a fee, so there’s a perceived value for that information?
Would they pay? How would we set it up?
It’s a great thought to ponder. Can we make gardening a never-ending learning experience? Can we teach them more about plants than any garden center employee ever could? Would people value our information? Would it make people value plants and gardens and all outdoor life more or at all?
All good questions and thoughts I’m pondering daily as we enter this new paradigm where WE are the ones answering all the questions and where WE are the ones teaching people how to garden. Once these folks sending in emails find out I know something about gardening (OK, well…a lot), they start asking about other plants and general gardening questions.
People are hungry for information.
They don’t want to kill the plant they just spent fifty bucks on. They want to be successful and there really isn’t a great source of information in one place. There’s no website filled with information on how to grow plants, so I am quite happy to answer questions, teach them and learn what they know and don’t know, so we can improve our website and all of our information to help consumers be successful.
What do you think about this new paradigm?
Have a great weekend, don’t forget to read this week’s Garden Notes below, and Happy Weeding!
Founder and Co-owner, Strategic plant finder, In Charge of Magic
Plants Nouveau, LLC.
Angela’s Garden Notes for October 16, 2015
Nandina domestica ‘Lemon-Lime’ PPAF
You may have seen many heavenly bamboos with red foliage, but this is the first one on the market with lime green foliage. Brought to us from our good friend Richard Davis, former owner of the awesome Ivy Farm on the shores of southern Virginia, this new plant has surprised us with its resiliency, even in incredibly harsh winters. It completely defoliated for me in a cold zone 6 last winter and came back – good as new- this summer.
Each spring, the new growth emerges bright, limey chartreuse and then fades to grass green as the summer heats up. It’s a selection of Nandina domestica var. alba, so there is little to no seed set. I have not seen any and neither has Richard.
Brighten up your borders and foundation plantings with this bright yellow spring color. It will add excitement and a much needed boost of color each year as your bulbs and early spring perennials start to bloom.This new selection has been licensed to the Southern Living Plant Collection and to growers north of that region. If you would like to be licensed or you would like to purchase plants, let us know.
It grows 4′ tall by 3-4′ wide and has proven winter hardy to a cold USDA zone 6.
Not only did Lemon-Lime win a gold Medal at the Plantarium this summer, it also won the Retailer’s Choice Award from the SNA (Southern Nursery Association). This plant is decorated with honors and it has only been in the market for two years. Way to go Richard Davis for having such a keen new plant eye and way to go Plants Nouveau for introducing award winners.