Angela Treadwell-Palmer founded and co-owns Plants Nouveau LLC., a company that specializes in introducing and marketing new plants to the nursery industry. She’s been around the world, experiencing world-famous gardens and remote areas looking for new ideas and exciting plants. Angela wrote six columns for Nursery Management in 2017, collected here for your convenience.
Thank you for subscribing to the monthly newsletter for Plants Nouveau written by me, Angela Treadwell-Palmer, Founder and Co-Owner of Plants Nouveau. This revitalized e-newsletter will entertain and educate you about what’s been happening, new trends, new products, rants, raves and all of my favorite horticultural happenings throughout the year. Whether it’s a travel log of me romping through fields evaluating plants with breeders, or a video diary of the latest European and worldwide plant, gardening and marketing trends, you’ll surely be entertained. I promise to keep my whits about me, even as I rant and explore the latest trends aimed at getting people who know absolutely nothing about plants to buy them.
That’s a really hard thing to do sometimes (keep my whits about me…).
It’s been a while since I’ve written, and that’s totally my bad. You see, we’ve been growing this business at such an alarming rate, and wrapping plants from here and there around the world, that it’s been hard to make the time. I know many of you have asked where the Weeding Gnome is, and lots of you want to hear all about what’s going on in my (and Linda Guy, my business partner’s) world(s). I promise to write at least once a month and maybe more, if something pops into my head.
Pass it along please! If you like what you read and you’d like to help me change the way the world thinks about plants and horticulture, then pass this newsletter along to your friends and colleagues to spread the love.
I’d really appreciate it.
My passions these days are (in this order), my new 20′ greenhouse (if the heater ever gets hooked up), my trial garden (if the winter snow ever does melt), taking pictures (of everything), being the best lacrosse coach I can be (yes, I coach lacrosse and I love it…I was a pretty good player my self way back when), Monty Don, our newest rescue dog (who would follow me to the end of the world), and of course new, exciting plants. I’m talking plants so exciting and so gorgeous you can’t possibly pass them by. These babies will fly off the shelves and make the people who take them home so happy. Like adopting a puppy. They may not know why these plants make them happy, but I do, and we will be talking a lot about why people need plants.
Because they do.
I spend my days trying to get more people interested in plants and thinking of clever marketing ways to show the people who sell plants how to get more people to buy plants, by writing copy for tags, catalogs, ads and our website. It’s our job as marketers of plants to educate consumers and help them realize they can’t live without plants, that their souls depend on it.
If you live in the dark, snowy north like me, plant catalogs help keep the winter blues away. Enjoy!
Thanks again for reading and watch for future issues of The Weeding Gnome, delivered right to your email inbox, real soon.
Take care, be well and Happy Weeding,
P.S. Speaking of plants we can’t live without, I’d like to talk about the most amazing little hydrangea I’ve ever seen or grown. Hydrangea Everlasting Revolution from our breeding partners at Kolster, B.V. in the Netherlands truly is just that – a revolution.
And as the Beatles song goes;
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
And dang it – we really do want to change the world! We want everyone to have this perfect little plant in a lovely pot on their patio to enjoy month after month – for 150 days of flowers. Trust me, I had one in full bloom on my porch from late June to late October, and it was absolutely fabulous. That hydrangea in that ochre colored pot saw many after gardening libations consumed. It just kept blooming and blooming and the blooms that fully opened turned from pink to pale pink to deep maroon and stayed that way until we had a real hard frost in November, then I brought the plant into the greenhouse for the winter – in that same pot. It’s now leafed out and starting to bud up for this year’s patio display, as I write. That’s Monty Don pictured in the bottom photo next to our Revolution last summer – on the porch of course, sitting in his favorite blue chair.
If you have not tried one of these – please do and let us know what you think.
This perfect selection blooms for 150 days when sold as a gift plant.
150 days of color.
150 days of happiness.
150 days of beautiful flowers in a pot on your patio or porch for the entire summer season.
Who could ask for more?
What else are we excited about? Brunnera
To grow these false forget-me-nots (Brunnera macrphylla) is to love them. These are not walk-into-the-garden-center-and-identify-as-immediately-sexy-selections plants, but they are grow-them-in-your-garden-and-be-wowed-by-them plants. In most parts of the world, where summers are hot and humid, brunneras fade in the summer heat. They completely melt and go away for the summer.
Silver Heart and Sea Heart emerge super early with leaves as thick and scratchy as an emory board, then they flower, and when I say flower – these guys flower their little heads off. Clouds of the cutest cornflower blue blooms completely cover the plant for about a month in mid spring. Once the flowers fade, the leaves start to grow bigger and bigger and bigger, until they are truly as big as your head. That’s me, pictured above, holding a leaf of Silver Heart last August.
It may in fact be larger than my head…
Not only do these new selections last until a frost, but their leaves are very resistant to foliar nematodes and ozone damage from pollution. We believe they are so resistant because the leaves are so thick and hairy. Whatever the reason, we’ll take it, right? No one likes to see brunnera leaves with black squares on them all summer.
In closing – try these. I guarantee you will fall in love with their magical powers to last all summer and light up any path at dusk. These are the perfect border plant to put along the path where you take your evening stroll.
For more information on Brunnera ‘Sea Heart’ click HERE.
For more information on Brunnera ‘Silver Heart’ click HERE.
One of the best parts of my job is to track trends, and one of the best shows for trends is the annual IPM Essen show in Germany. Each January, 1,600 exhibitors from 50 nations get together to show off the latest in horticultural everything. It is truly the best horticultural trade show on the planet.
For the first time, I saw packaging geared toward people who know nothing about plants, and products that were completely consumer proof. I’ve been attending this show since 2006, and I have not seen so many innovative ways to sell plants — ever. I’ve been preaching for years that Gen X (my generation), as well as Gen Y and younger — the folks who theoretically have money to buy plants right now — know very little to nothing about gardening. In fact, it has been proven time and time again that they don’t even like the word ‘gardening’ or the term ‘garden center’ because they conjure up images of getting dirty and sweating hard. Gardening is hard work. If most people don’t know how to garden, and many are not wanting to get dirty and sweaty, how the heck will we ever sell them plants? We must approach it in a different way.
Two of the most innovative products I saw were more about packaging than anything. One was an amaryllis bulb dipped in a special wax that holds in moisture. It holds in moisture so much that whoever buys it never has to water it. Never. Really. It takes all of the guess work out of growing them. It’s foolproof. Grab one, place it on your dining room table and watch it grow.
Another really innovative package was for herb and veggie gardening (pictured). The bareroot plants or seeds were sold in a cardboard package with a picture of a delicious dish on the front, a recipe on the back, and the plants needed for that dish inside. Want to make homemade lasagna? Here’s your tomato, basil, oregano, rosemary and garlic starts; grow them in your garden, follow this recipe and voilá — homemade lasagna. It’s brilliant, and it makes so much sense for people who know nothing about plants. It also ties growing plants to cooking food, and we need to do more of that.
I saw some clever gift plant packaging at the show as well, including bulbs packaged in a way that resembles Lindt Truffle bags. Each one had a special, ruffled, pink tulip inside. One gift plant I found was incredibly clever and targeted perfectly to Gen Y shoppers. Cyclamen were died in pastel shades to match a palette of pastel-colored eye shadow. I know what you’re thinking — no gardener would ever! But these were not for gardeners. They were for people who like makeup and maybe have never put a finger in the soil. They don’t know it’s fake. To them, it’s beautiful. When it dies, they can go buy a new one. The marketing that went along with these was fabulous. They are called Make-Upz cyclamen (pictured), and they sell them in color-coordinated pots and gift bags. I know my friend, who owns a salon, would be all over these for her spa.
We must focus on new ways to sell plants to people who know nothing about plants. The Europeans finally get it. Will we ever get it?
The most interesting trend
I saw this summer while traveling in Europe to visit trade shows and breeders was the annualizing of perennials. What does that mean? It basically means breeders are selecting perennials that can be planted as a tiny input late in December or at least before the beginning of March, and then sold as a pot full of blooms that same year.
That’s nuts, right? What about plants that need to be vernalized? Apparently, vernalizing perennials takes too long, costs too much money and just isn’t cool anymore. And you guessed it, it absolutely means perennials that need to have a cold winter to bloom are no longer showing up in mass quantities in the marketplace.
Beloved plants like Lobelia cardinalis, some echinaceas, dicentra and others are falling out of favor with growers because they can’t be planted and brought into bloom in a few months.
What’s the good news? The cost of perennials has gone down and the new “annualized” perennials make the greatest displays in retail garden centers. In some cases, perennials like campanulas and anemones (top right) and some succulents are being sold as gift plants.
There were two cool marketing ideas that caught my eye. One was full of emotion and one showed use. I’m learning so much about how little today’s consumers know about plants, and the more I think about it, the more I realize we need to tell people how to use them.
These two ideas could help. The More Lips campaign is an overarching POP idea to put emotion into buying common gift plants. More Lips = more love, and more kisses for the person who gave the gift. The campaign was all about love, and the black and white posters had photos of people kissing, children kissing their parents, and even new moms kissing their babies. It was very powerful. There were bench wraps, plastic sleeves and tags to match.
This kind of point-of-purchase marketing grabs the attention of a shopper looking for something to take to their sweetie or maybe someone who just had a new baby. It was well done and I think it would work in grocery stores and in the gift plant section of any garden center or home store. I would buy them. It was like Anthropologie or J. Crew meets Hallmark.
Check out the tags for hedge plants called Privacy Makers (top left). It’s not really showcasing new plants, but new ideas for their use. This booth had everything from beech trees grown to perfection for making a proper hedge, to hydrangeas and common evergreens used to make a hedge around your patio or property. The tags and signage showed couples and families behind the hedges enjoying meals, glasses of wine and play time. It was such a wonderful way to portray how hedges can be used in any garden space.
The last thing I saw that blew my mind were the fully fruited, probably 20-year-old espaliered pear and apple trees in several displays. For $400 to $500, someone could take one home and plant it without all the hard work of training it for the first five to 10 years. This is a great way to carry on a very specialized gardening skill without having to teach someone how.
Marketers keep talking about the do-it-for-me generation — well, here you go. We do it for them and the art of espaliering a fruit tree is not lost forever. Seems like a win-win situation to me.
Angela founded and co-owns Plants Nouveau, LLC., a company that specializes in introducing and marketing new plants to the nursery industry. firstname.lastname@example.org
No rant today, but I would like to tell you about a very special camellia who’s royalties benefit Cystic Fibrosis. Susy Dirr was bred by famed camellia breeder Bobby Green and named after the daughter of one of Horticulture’s great teachers. Cystic Fibrosis is a debilitating, life-shortening disease that affects your ability to breath. One of the largest expenses someone with Cystic Fibrosis can encounter is a lung transplant.
The Sweet Melissa Fund collects donations to help CF patients defer some of the cost. Susy Dirr, daughter of Dr. Michael and Bonnie Dirr, was born with Cystic Fibrosis, which makes the act of breathing a life and death struggle.
Dr. Michael Dirr is one of the most famous woody plantsmen in the US. He wrote and published many versions of his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, a textbook that has been used by horticulture students, master gardeners and plant lovers all over the world.
The original is still sitting on my shelf. It was my one and only college textbook for the Woody Plants 101 course I took while earning my degree in Plant Science at the University of Delaware. I still use it and I believe it’s one of the only textbooks I still reference from college. If you still use or learned from your copy, you owe it to Dr. Dirr to grow this fabulous plant.
Undaunted by her disease, Susy was valedictorian of her high school class and an honor student at the University of GA, graduating with a degree in advertising a year ahead of her class. Cystic fibrosis did not define Susy as a person. She embraced life with a joyful spirit that was uplifting to everyone around her. She made the world a better place with her compassion for others, her biting wit and brilliant mind. When a soul shines so bright, we see it in all things beautiful.
So, as summer fades and hints of autumn are in the air, reflections of these lovely flowers, graceful in form and with the sweet fragrance of newly opened tea, begin to fill our senses. We reflect on Susy’s life and know that a part of her spirit remains with us in the garden.
Bobby Green, the breeder of this Camellia has generously gifted his portion of the royalties from each plant to the Sweet Melissa Fund, which helps families with cystic fibrosis. Visit http://sweetmelissafund.org for more information.
This new hardy, fall blooming camellia is a robust grower in containers in the nursery and in the garden. It’s a full, bushy plant with a dense habit, and elegant, formal double carmine pink flowers.
No other species has contributed more to the garden than C. sasanqua, the winter-blooming camellia. Attractive all year, and hardier than most of its cousins, these shrubs blend harmoniously with other textures and offer a plethora of flowers in Sept-Oct. Susy Dirr does that and more. The voluptuous, bubble-gum pink blooms put on a show-stopping tribute, honoring an exquisite young woman who was the essence of all things beautiful.
C.sasanqua is fall blooming as well, but more cold hardy than it’s cousin. Some of these new selections have proven hardy in USDA Zone 6, but we are saying zone 7 to be safe. Liners are available to Licensed Growers.
The drawing above of the Camellia ‘Susy Dirr’ flower will appear on all of our promotional pieces for this plant. Our friend and amazing illustrator, Steve Asbell in Florida drew this for us. If you ever need anything drawn, we would highly recommend Steve’s work. Not only is he humble and an incredible artist, but he also’s easy to work with and a really nice guy.
Each November, I like to reflect back on the year, the seasons, the garden and all who have touched my soul. In this week’s Weeding Gnome I Give Thanks.
I am thankful for:
My children – who are troopers and deal with unexpected stops along the way during every road trip to forage or identify plants and check out new garden centers.
Finally meeting new friends like Jeavanna Chapman in person – after chatting for years on Social Media. Nothing beats meeting people in person.
My travels. Since I work from home – travel is so important for me. I get to see old friends and new and see what’s going on in the world – literally.
My husband Drew, who has become the best hole digger and sod remover this side of the Mason Dixon line. Without him, we’d be paying for lots of labor in the trail garden. He admittedly enjoys sitting on the deck after gardening and looking out at his hard work. He prefers to do this while tasting one of my Plants Nouveau gardening cocktail creations.
My business partner Linda because she’s the yin to my yang and we make a really good team.
People who walk past my garden and ask about the plants and if they can have a piece. They are the reason I do what I do and passing the information along is what gardening is all about. I’ve had more people stop this year than ever before. Maybe that’s a good sign that gardening is becoming more popular – or at least that they are curious.
Our breeders, for without them, we would have no company and no plants. I am very grateful for their trust, their humor and their loyalty.
Our licensed growers. If they didn’t believe in what we do, we would not be here and no plant would ever make it into a consumer’s hand.
The birds who frequent the feeders outside my office window – for without them, it would be a very lonely, colorless winter.
My trial garden, because living with the plants is the best way to get to know them.
Cloth napkins & Garden Gnomes – because they are fun to collect, they define me and have become a part of everyday life in my family.
And finally you. You listen to me. You inspire me. You feed my mind and for that – I am truly thankful.
Ella, my seven year old, modeling a vintage hydrangea at Terrain @ Styers in PA.
My Twitter friend, Jeavonna and I meeting for the first time – in real life!
Selfie with breeder Henk Holtmaat of AB-Cultivars in the Netherlands in May.
Good industry friends, Like Mark Highland of Organic Mechanics and fine growers like Pioneer Gardens make life a lot easier.
I wish for you a peaceful Thanksgiving, good times, great health, and most of all…Happy Weeding!
Founder and Co-owner, Strategic plant finder,
In Charge of Magic
Plants Nouveau, LLC.
When you think of fall color in your garden or selling fall color to your customers – do perennials come to mind?
Some coneflowers have excellent fall color. Echinacea Cone-fections™ ‘Milkshake’ has brilliant fall foliage. Not only does it look great all summer, but it feeds the birds with its bountiful seeds, and then – to top it off – it has brilliant spaghetti squash-yellow fall color.
What’s not to love about a plant named Milkshake anyway? Not only is it my all-time favorite coneflower, but it has incredible fall color. It’s quite possibly coneflower perfection. This could be the best double white echinacea for the mid-border. Milkshake is “regular” sized. It’s not tall, it’s not dwarf, it’s just the right size for all you coneflower traditionalists out there.
Blooms are held high on strong, sturdy stems and they do not age until fall. It’s as if they are fake flowers. Milkshake grows 36-40 inches tall and 24-30 inches wide. It has proven hardy to USDA zone 5 and grows well from Vermont to North Carolina, from Minnesota to Oklahoma and Texas. It’s one versatile, hardy coneflower and we are proud to have it in our Cone-fections™ line.
The plant is also very sturdy and strong. Each mature plant holds 40-50 blooms (the same ones since early June…) high with great confidence and no sign of flopping. The blooms are large and fully double, and they are almost true white, with a hint of french vanilla milkshake-y-ness. Milkshake is one of the most asked about plants in the Massachusetts trial garden. People stop and ask what it is, and if they can take some seed all summer long.
How about heucheras (coral bells), tiarellas (foam flowers) and their hybrid cousins heucherellas (foamy bells)? Some of them have brilliant fall color, like our Heucherella ‘Infinity’. Not only does it bloom until – well – it’s STILL blooming, so I’m not really sure when it will stop – hence the name – Infinity, but the chocolatey-purple foliage turns maroon,orange and pink when the temps drop.
This new foamy bell – a hybrid of a coral bell ( Heuchera sp. ) and a foam flower (Tiarella sp.) is sure to please even the most discerning gardener. From the breeding program at Ab-Cultivars in the Netherlands, we bring you this amazing new heucherella that blooms to infinity and beyond.
Infinity has large, dark, chocolate colored, velvety leaves that work together to form a mounding, bushy perennial, making a statement in any garden. The deeply lobed, matte finished leaves look as if they’ve been covered in dark chocolate cocoa powder. Creamy pink buds open to cream colored flowers on two foot spikes that bloom continuously from the end of May to late fall.
What else? Many of the new little blue stems selections on the market have great fall color too, like our Schizachyrium ‘Prairie Munchkin’.
If you are looking for a native, ornamental grass that won’t get too tall, takes poor soils with little to no organic matter and loves to be dry? Then this new selection is for you. Prairie Munchkin was selected from tons of seedlings by Donovan Boehm of Boehm’s Garden Center in west, central IL. Don selected it for the steel blue new growth, the perfect size for median and municipal plantings that require plants to be 3′ tall or smaller and for the fact that it does not flop in late summer or even winter, like most little bluestems do.
Prairie Munchkin even takes good garden soil – and it STILL does not flop. That’s amazing since most little bluestems thrive in poor soils.
Prairie Munchkin is the perfect native alternative to the highly overused Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’. This new sturdy grass will make a perfect 3′ tall hedge. Use it in naturalistic plantings in a border or mass it in a hedge row for a very minimalist, modern look, Prairie Munchkin is certainly not “small” on uses or personality.
The steel blue foliage persist throughout the heat of the summer, then the flowers appear and the foliage slowly turns a shade of strawberry blonde, then to shades of tan, blue and deep maroon for fall, finally settling in for a long winter’s nap with a bright shade of tawny for the remainder of winter.
There’s lots of perennials with fall color or really cool seed heads that make the autumnal garden more beautiful, so don’t forget about them when designing or planning or selling for all season color.