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Time to Buy the Mums

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Welcome to The Weeding Gnome By: Angela Treadwell-Palmer & Plants Nouveau

— November 14, 2014 —   

It’s Time to Buy the Mums

Wow! Time sure does fly. The Polar Vortex is making its way across the US, yet it seems like we were just trying to fit in our last summer beach day. Where does the time go?

Seasons change. Speaking of seasons, while preparing for a lecture on European trends for the Independent Plant Breeder’s Conference a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. Before you say, “Ut-oh, here she goes”, or run away screaming, please read on.

I’m always trying to equate European trends and gardening habits with selling more plants, so I started looking at the times of year American’s buy plants. I came up with a few times, but the time of year when people go out to buy their fall mums was by far the most popular.

For a few years, my kids have been making fun of fall mums. I must confess that this is all my fault. I’m not a huge fan. I love many plants in the Chrysanthemum genus, but the ones we see each year on people’s front porches, in their pots, and planted along gas station curbs make me want to gag.

It all started one day when we were shopping at a local apple farm. I over heard not one, not two, but three couples say, “It’s time to buy some mums”. Of course, my cynical mind goes directly to questioning why. And then I repeated – It’s time to buy the mums- It’s time to buy the mums- It’s time to buy the mums – in a very low, maniacal voice. My kids loved it and now every time we are out in the fall and they hear someone say something about getting mums, they look at me and whisper, “It’s time to buy the mums!”, quietly, so no one can her them.

I know – I’m a bad mother.

I knew it when my now 12 year old, then 7 year old yelled “Old as dirt!” out the car window as we passed an elderly driver that had been holding us up. They retain and repeat everything we say.

684d4472-16d6-4ffa-be0b-c01aaf402147Lest I digress any further, let’s get back to why consumers feel the need to buy mums in the fall. Who told consumers mums were the one and only plant they need for fall decorating? Why do they NEED them? I l know garden centers try to sell other plants in the fall, but honestly, the majority of plants going out the door are mums.

I get it. They are buying plants and I need to get over it. Mums are pretty, I suppose, but the horticulturist in me says there are so many more exciting, more utilitarian plants that they could be buying – and that goes for more exciting forms of mums too.

But that’s totally NOT the point!

The point is these folks are buying plants and we want people to buy plants. We want people to garden. Are the consumers buying mums really gardeners? Should we feel lucky they buy anything?

And then it dawned on me. To these consumers, it’s a tradition, it’s not really gardening. Hmm…think about that. It’s NOT gardening. The main complaint we hear from consumers is gardening is too much work, right? That’s what all the latest market research says too. Buying mums and poinsettias isn’t considered work to these consumers, but I hate to tell them – whether they like it or not, they ARE gardening. Hehe – we tricked them into it.

Here’s a question – what else can we “trick” them into buying? I use trick in a non-literal way, but you know what I mean. Perhaps a better word is “train”? I analyzed the times each year when people who don’t really garden go into a home store, apple farm, garden center, etc., and buy “traditional” plants. So, there’s Easter, when they flock to roadside stands for lilies. Then comes Mother’s Day, when the traditional gift is a lily or forced hydrangea. Then there’s fall when they must get their mums. Finally, there’s Christmas when a large majority of American’s rush in to get a poinsettia and a Christmas tree. Don’t forget about Christmas trees – they are plants too. 

I thought about these times and then came the epiphany-a light bulb if you will.

If we want to sell more plants and get more people gardening, how do we make more plants part of our American traditions?

The person or company who taught people to buy mums in the fall was brilliant. It’s been happening for decades. I’ve got a gut feeling those same people are buying poinsettias and Christmas trees too. I’m not sure how long the Easter/Mother’s day plant tradition has been going on, but I’m guessing at least as long as I’ve been alive – and probably MUCH longer.

And… as much as I dislike mums, it IS brilliant. It’s on people’s calendars; built into their DNA and something they think they CAN’T live without. It truly is marketing genius.

Chew on this… How can we get people as excited about spring bulbs, summer perennials/annuals, ornamental grasses and the brilliant fall color of so many ornamental shrubs and trees, and I’ll even throw in other throw-away plants and cut flowers, as they are about mums? How do we make gardening an American tradition, much like it is in Europe?

I’ve got it! “Time to buy the Metasequoia glyptostroboides!”. Haha, I threw that in for my plant geek friends – you know who you are – but seriously… got any brilliant ideas?  I’d love to hear them.  Let’s chat!

Speaking of fall color, did you realize some coneflowers have excellent fall color? Not only do they look great all summer, they feed the birds with their seeds, and then they have brilliant spaghetti squash-yellow fall color.

(Sidebar: Can you tell my kitchen is being over-run with squash from my fall CSA share? And that the brilliant yellow color of the huge spaghetti squash sitting on my butcher block has been burned into my corneas? We MUST have that for dinner tonight.) What’s not to love about a plant named Milkshake anyway? Check out this week’s Garden Notes below. Not only is it my all-time favorite coneflower, but it has incredible fall color. It’s quite possibly coneflower perfection.

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend, eat some squash, and Happy Weeding!


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

Angela’s Garden Notes 

Echinacea Cone-fections‘Milkshake’ PP#20594

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.

Read more about Milkshake here.

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My New Job & Lemon-Lime wins Gold

Welcome to The Weeding Gnome
By: Angela Treadwell-Palmer & Plants Nouveau

— October 16, 2014 —

My New Job & Lemon-Lime Takes the Gold!

SergioDear Reader,

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?

thema-logo.rightHave 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, whelenium, mariachi siesta, plants nouveau, plantariume rock it when it comes to choosing new plants. That’s right…Helenium, Helenium Mariachi Siesta, Plants Nouveau

We rock!

A Gold Medal went to Nandina ‘Lemon-Lime’ from one of our plant geek friends, Richard Davis in Virginia.
A Silver Medal went to Helenium Mariachi™’Siesta’ from AB-Cultivars’ breeder, Arie Blom.

And – as if that wasn’t enough for Arie…

A Bronze Medal went to Helenium Mariachi™’Fuego’ as well.Nandina Lemon-Lime, Plantarium, Gold Medal, Plants Nouveau

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.

gouda cheese festivalIt 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.

Iplants at costco’d bet good money that the average person doesn’t go to Costco looking for plants, but there they are, in all their glory, at the front door- right as they walk in.

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.

Due to this ever-expanding market, growers are selling lots of plants and people are taking plants home and hopefully planting them in their gardens.Costco_plants_spring

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.

Hydrangea1212_Revolution-1But 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.

I never dreamed 10 years ago that I, as a business owner who really has had little interaction with consumers, would be talking to consumers each and every day about our plants.Hydrangea1212_Revolution-2

It’s great!

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!








Angela Treadwell-Palmer
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

Nandina, Lemon-Lime, Plants Nouveau, Richard DavisYou 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.Nandina,Lemon-Lime, Plants Nouveau, Richard Davis

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.

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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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Where in the World was Angela All Summer? Part I

Gnome, Plants Nouveau
Welcome to The Weeding Gnome
Brought to you by Angela Treadwell-Palmer & Plants Nouveau

This week’s Garden Notes:
My favorite hydrangea in the trial garden.

— September 19, 2014 —

The Snow Just Melted, Right?

The summer of 2014 has nearly come and gone and I missed most of it. My favorite seasons are pretty much any season that is not winter. I’m not a fan of winter, especially last winter, and the thought of the 41 degree F temps predicted for tonight makes me cringe. My garden looks so beautiful right now and I have so many plants to get into the ground still.trial garden plants nouveau

Even though I’ve been home for the last two weeks, I spent most of the summer traveling to trade shows, giving lectures on various topics and visiting many plant breeders. I calculate two weekends that were spent at home, in my garden from June to September. I did not empty my travel jewelry bag from late May to last week. Boy, was I tired of wearing the same earrings over and over.

And how many suitcases did United Airlines loose and re-route for me this summer? Let’s just say there were too many nights spent in hotels with the “Female Overnight Bag” – the standard issue of deodorant, shampoo and a white tee shirt to wear to bed.

I’m not complaining about the travel. It was all fun and well worth the time. I wish my trips were a little more spread out though. I also wish my children played winter sports. That would be so much easier for me than spring and fall sports. Imagine an entire Saturday to work in the garden in the spring or fall.

I can’t …phlos trial garden, plants nouveau

I call myself the kamikaze gardener. Between lacrosse and soccer games, hours before getting on a plane – whenever I can fit it in. It’s not Zen-like or relaxing in anyway, but it’s what I can do during these busy times.

My developing ¾ acre garden/trial site requires about four hours a week to keep the weeds at bay and tend to the many plants from around the world. That doesn’t include time to plant, water or mow the ever-shrinking grassy patches. Those four hours are just maintenance on what’s already in the ground.

Missing all that time really put me behind and I swear, I never even got to arrange my aloe/agave/dyckia/bromeliad collection on the back deck. I remember taking them outside in May and never going back to finish the job.

Finding time to write in the summer was really hard. I promise to do a better job next year, but I figure you’d rather read a good story than read a post that says, “No time to post, so please look at some pretty pictures while I’m out and about.”


So where did I go and what did I see?
It’s way too much for one post, so here’s Part I.

After Cultivate’14 in Columbus, OH (formerly known as OFA Short Course), I was off to Cincinnati for the Perennial Plant Association meeting and to give a lecture on how to sell more perennials. The lecture topic was difficult. They wanted me to speak on trends and to have some magic answer as to why more perennials are sold in Europe than in the US, especially since we have so many people in our country. As I contemplated the lecture, there was no magic answer, but I did a lot of thinking – deep thinking – about possible reasons. What did I come up with?mass planting in the center of gouda, netherlands


Exposure to lots of mass plantings in public spaces, commercial sites and even home gardens is the missing link. In Germany or The Netherlands or even in the UK, when you walk from neighborhood to neighborhood in larger cities, there are walk-thru gardens and parks where people pass through each and every day by foot or on their bikes, or even in cars, on their way to work. More times than not, these spaces are filled with masses of shrubs and or perennials. Not just some shade trees and mown grass, like you would see here in the US.

For example – look at this picture I took from my airport hotel window in Amsterdam. Yes, you are seeing that right, this is a mass pcimicifuga and hakonechloa at amsterdam airportlanting of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa) and Bugbane (Cimicifuga)

Another thing I noticed while traveling the countryside and along the highways of Europe this summer were the naturalistic plantings and non-mowed spaces along the roads and bike paths. There’s not mile after mile of mowed turf. Instead, you see wildflowers and naturalized perennials and annuals and colorful grasses that form mosaic carpets of color.

Driving up and down highway 95 and from Boston to Ohio for Cultivate’14 this simmer, I really started to notice how much time and energy we waste on mowing.

How many milkweed and goldenrods and little blue stems were mown to the ground, not only taking away precious pollinator habitat, but taking the color and beauty away as well.

Highway planting in new hampshireIf you look at a very well thought out Piet Oudolf planting you’ll see exaggerated mosaic carpets, overflowing with powerful colors and textures that keep your eye busy, yet balanced as you pass through. Un-mown highways can have the same texture and color – albeit subdued, but it’s so very pretty to look at and soothing to the eye. This kind of no mow situation also exposes the millions driving these roads to an organized chaos that makes for wonderful garden design.
We have American Landscape Designers introducing this style as well. Designers like Roy Diblik at Northwind Perennial Farm and Adam Woodruff are stepping it up with masses of perennials and grasses, creating textural masterpieces for ha garden designed by Adam Woodruff, plants nouveauome and commercial landscapes.

Contemplate this…

If passers-by saw thousands of golden rods, milkweeds and little bluestems weaving a carpet along the highway each day, all summer long, as they drove into work – would they be more prone to wanting masses of perennials in their own gardens? Would they be calmer and more balanced when they got to their destination?

Even if they weren’t all natives, masses of Russian sage, perennial salvias and ornamental grasses like you see here in this perennial display garden at Appeltern, in The Netherlands, would sell a heck of a lot of perennials.

Salvia and other perennials at Appletern in the NetherlandsI would love to see some research on this and to know why the heck we mow so much along the highways. Gosh, I’d rather see a field of naturalized chicory and Queen Anne’s lace – neither of which are native – than mown grass. It’s pretty and soothing to me.

If there were more public spaces like the Highline in New York City, The Lurie Garden in Chicago and The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Boston, would people be exposed to masses of plants and want more in their gardens too?

We can only hope, otherwise, we may have hit the limit on the number of perennials sold in the US, which pales in comparison to the number of annuals. I calculated some rough numbers by taking the total number of perennials sold in 2012 – according to the USDA survey and dividing it by the total population of the US and got that 1 in 3 people has a perennial in their garden. Now, this is unreliable because a lot of the people counted in the total population are children and many live in the same household, but still…that’s a ridiculous figure. Even if every house in the US The Highlineplanted one perennial – that would still be sad.

So, how do we sell more perennials – and plants for that matter? What’s your take on how to increase those numbers?

People in Europe garden more and they are exposed to more gardens on a daily basis. People in the US are exposed to mown grass along the highways and silly evergreen foundations outside most homes with one token perennial or annual planting, if they are lucky.

If trends in home decorating and fashion are mimicked, how can we translate that into mimicking of garden styles?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Drop me a line and let’s chat.

For now, I’ll be in the garden-because sadly I have very little time left before the snow comes again in Massachusetts.

Next week -What I learned and lectured on at the Garden Writer’s Symposium in Pittsburgh.

Enjoy the last warm days of summer and Happy Weeding!






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

Angela’s Garden Notes:

You might be wondering – what looked really good this summer in my garden?

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas Halo’ has had an amazing summer.
It’s a selection of the native smooth hydrangea with pure white lace cap blooms that are often 14” wide. I love this plant for many reasons:

hydranea arborescens, haas halo, rick ray, plants nouveau

#1 – it’s a nativar (an improved selection of a native)
#2 – the pollinators that visit my garden LOVE it
#3 – it never flops
#4 – it’s pure white – not creamy white or greenish white – like many other selections
Last, but certainly not least:
#5 – when dry, it takes well to spray painting for holiday decorating. A few of these ginormous dried flowers on your Christmas tree make for one snazzy statement.

Read more about Haas’ Halo here.

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Cultivate’14-Road Trip (continued)

Welcome to The Weeding Gnome Brought to you by Angela Treadwell-Palmer & Plants Nouveau This week’s Garden Notes: New Plants for 2015, Part II – Woody Plants

— July 11, 2014 —   

Cultivate’14- The Road Trip

When I started writing this week’s post, I was literally on my way to the biggest US trade show for new plants. For 787 miles, I drove a 10′ cargo van full of goodies and interesting booth parts, heading westward, across 4 states to make it in time for today’s set up.  Cultivate’14 is the largest horticulturally themed, summer  trade show in the US.  It attracts vendors and buyers from all over the world in search of new products, new ideas and new technologies for the green industry.   

If you are attending Cultivate’14please stop by booth #2232, to see and or talk about our new plants in person.  

Like I said last week, we’ll have the pleasure of having two of our breeding companies from The Netherlands represented at the show. Of course, it would have been much more fun for them if the Dutch futbol team was playing in the finals of the World Cup – we are all mourning  the loss.

On the other hand, go Germany!

I’m glad my family routes for three teams; The US, of course, The Netherlands and Germany (we are part German after all). We are huge soccer (futbol) fans and had a great time watching the games.  It will be interesting to see if the show floor clears out at 4pm like it did during the World Cup finals four years ago.

Of course – the Dutch were playing then…

Now that my long drive to Columbus has ended and I’m now in town to start the set up of our booth, I’m quite thankful the trip was rather uneventful.  As often happens on a 15 hour drive alone, I learned some things about myself and my surroundings.

What did I learn?

I learned why Pennsylvania Blue stone is so expensive.  I wish I had taken a picture of the bluestone outcropping I passed outside of Scranton, PA, but I figured there’d be more.  There weren’t.  Being schooled and trained as a landscape designer in the Mid-Atlantic, I always wondered why it was so dang expensive to get blue stone in the bluest shades.

Now I get it.

You see, in these blue stone out croppings, there are layers of stone. There’s red, then gray, then red, then the bluest of blues and then some more (lots) of red. To get to the bluest of blue and to make a whole palette of that color, they must mine through many other layers of many other colors of stone.

That’s why you usually see a mix of blues, reds and grays, and that’s also why a palette of the bluest of blues is so much money. They have to work really hard to get those.

I had no idea.

I also learned that being a horticulturist and a plantweenie, I never stop thinking about plants.  As I drove the nearly 800 miles to get here, I watched many a landscape go by.  Not purposefully landscaped landscapes, but natural ones. 

From the picture, you might think I was in Vermont or New Hampshire, but look closely and there’s no white barked birches or white spruces – only maples, oaks and black locust.  

The rolling hills of Western New York and The entire state of Pennsylvania, which took 5 hours to drive across!, are lovely.  The mix of trees is basic eastern deciduous forest.  It’s nice driving.  

How many of you can identify where you are in the US by looking at the plants along the highways? I love seeing the plant palette along the highways change as the miles go by.  In my opinion, that’s the best part of any road trip. That and trying to find healthy food to eat on the road.

What else did I see/learn? I

also saw 6 (yes, I counted) dead foxes along the highways.  These were destroyed foxes.  It was so sad. I know I drove a long way, but I’ve never seen a dead fox on the side of the road, much less 6!  I wonder why?  Why were they crossing the road?  Why couldn’t it have been deer, or some creature that eats our garden plants – like ground hogs? Why foxes?  

It was disturbing…

The last thing I learned is Ohio has no respect for roadside pollinators.  

It made me so sick that I was actually nauseous. Next week…a rant on the destruction of roadside pollinator habitat.

Lest I digress any further, back to what we are all here for…new woody plants.

Sadly, many of these will not be in our booth, but they are brand new and we hope to see them in booths of our partners like Ball Ornamentals,  and HGTV.  We have some really cool, break-through plants this year.

A brilliantly colored new mop head hydrangea from Kolster:

Hydrangea ‘Kolmagics’ Magica® Sunfields a.k.a Butterfly Frolic™ is part of the HGTV Plant Collection. Unique in its color, Sunfields has hard-to-the-touch, rose-red blooms tinged with bright green. As the flowers mature, green becomes the prominent color, while rose-red appears more like a frame or picotee edge for each petal. An excellent cut flower, Sunfields has strong, upright stems and an abundance of colorful blooms that will last in a vase for months.

A new panicle hydrangea with super-full flowers:

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bokraflame’ Magical® Candle has Immense, porcelain-white flower heads that appear backlit,  creating a surreal glow of soft, yellow flowers above tall, erect stems. A robust grower, the dense, lacy panicles of this variety are among the most beautiful in its class. A lovely choice for the summer garden, when so many flowering shrubs have taken a rest, Candle will give you plenty of enjoyment from July-September as it ages to shades of deep rosy pink.

Rhododendrons that can take high pH and clay soils: Yes, you read that right.  If you have always wanted to grow lush, healthy, vigorous rhododendrons, but your soil pH is too high, too lime or full of clay, here’s your chance.  

The name INKARHO is short for INter-essengemeinschaft KAlktoleranter RHOdo-dendron (lime-tolerant rhododendron) What are INKARHO® rhododendron? INKARHO is a pH neutral rootstock, which is tolerant of acid and lime soils. After 25 years of testing over 1 million seedlings, we can reliably offer this rootstock to be grafted onto all your favorite rhododendrons, ensuring they will grow and have strong root systems. How are INKARHO® different? INKARHO are the newest generation in a long line of superior breeding. They are more robust, and suitable for a wide range of soil types. Even heavy clay and loamy soils will reap the rewards of our favorite garden sensations. What does this mean for you? For those of you with lime soils, it gives many areas of the country the 1st opportunity ever to grow rhododendrons well. Some have never imagined lush, healthy plants.  For those of you with acid soils, your plants will grow with more vigor, the flowers will be more vivid, and you’ll still be able to enjoy your favorite selections because the INKARHO rootstock can be grafted onto all of the well-known varieties that gardeners have been growing and even coveting for years!

Last, but not least…we have some repeat , did I say repeat? Yes, I said repeat blooming weigelas from Kolster.   

Weigela ‘Bokracuwhi’ Magica® White is a medium sized variety that will make an excellent addition to the mixed border, or as a specimen in full sun to part shade. This is a fast growing shrub with a gracefully arching habit. Guaranteed to add season-long color, it’s one of the first plants hummingbirds come to in the spring. The profusion of repeat blooming white flowers make this new selection one that ranks far above those used by Grandma. 

What’s more?  It also comes in PINK!

Don’t forget -we have some special guests this year – Henk Holtmaat from AB-Cultivars will be at the show and in the booth talking about his wonderful breeding program in the Netherlands and for the first time ever in Ohio, we will also have Peter Kolster, owner and breeder of our amazingly wonderful Everlasting® hydrangea line and many other woody plants from our program.

Have hydrangea questions, ask Peter! Or just come meet the man behind these awesome, useful, easy to grow Gift-to-Garden™ plants.

There’s also Revolution Man – in case you missed him last year.  

We hope to see you there. Please stop by or look for live social media updates on on Facebook (PlantsNouveau page), Instagram(@plantweenieand Twitter @plantweeniethroughout the show.

Next week…Why does Ohio have no respect for roadside pollinators?

Until then…

Happy Weeding! 


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

Archives, E-Letter, Weeding Gnome

Do You Cultivate?

orange gnome, plants nouveau

Welcome to The Weeding Gnome
Brought to you by Angela Treadwell-Palmer & Plants Nouveau

This week’s Garden Notes: New Plants for 2015

— July 4, 2014 —

Do You Cultivate?

What exactly does the word cultivate mean? defines it like this:
cultivate  (ˈkʌltɪˌveɪt) 
A verb
1. to till and prepare (land or soil) for the growth of crops
2. to plant, tend, harvest, or improve (plants) by labor and skill
3. to break up (land or soil) with a cultivator or hoe
4 .to improve or foster (the mind, body, etc) as by study, education, to labor
5. to give special attention to: to cultivate a friendship; to cultivate a hobby
6. to give or bring culture to (a person, society, etc); civilize

Next week, we head to the largest trade show in the US for people who grow, sell and market plants – especially new plants. The show has a new name. For as long as I can remember, this great show in Columbus, OH was called the OFA Short Course. OFA is short for Ohio Florist Association, which is how the show started – as a show for floral supplies and classes. This year, they changed the name to Cultivate’14.  Cultivate logo

Cultivate is a fantastic word and it should be used more, not just in my world of horticulture and new plants, but in general.

I cultivate everyday. Whether it’s making new friends, starting new business relationships, introducing my kids to old school hip-hop music or actually cultivating the soil and hundreds of plants in my garden.

It’s a really important word and it’s not used enough. We need more cultivating!

butterfly series of echinaceas, plants nouveauAt Plants Nouveau, we cultivate new relationships all the time. It’s what we do. It’s actually hard to explain what we do, but weeding and cultivating pretty much sum it up.

Many people have no idea that our little company is a force behind some of the large plant-marketing companies.

We give our new plants to Ball Ornamentals®. Many have and will continue to be placed in the HGTV® plant collection. We also work with the Southern Living® and Sunset® Magazine plant collections, as well as the First Editions® Collection and even Monrovia®, which has now become the upscale “house brand” in many Lowe’s stores throughout the US.

I do find myself torn about working with these large programs. Yes, we benefit from their size and potential distribution of our plants. Yes, they have more marketing dollars than we will ever have to promote the plants, and yes, the whole point is to sell the most plants and at the same time make our breeders more money, but we get very little credit for our work.

We do a lot of the legwork behind the scenes, working with the breeders and selecting and trialing the plants – sometimes even writing the plant patents too.

Plants Nouveau is a small, but one might say powerful force behind the scenes in the world of new plant introduction. We don’t always get fame, and we certainly haven’t yet received our fortune, but these large groups come to us because they know we have cultivated long lasting relationships with some of the most amazingly talented breeding companies in the world.

There’s that word again…Cultivate.

Cultivation isn’t easy work. First, we have to have a relationship with the breeders. They need to trust we will select the right plants, find reputable growers who will maximize the number of plants sold and be able to trust that both of us will get paid honest royalties, which are collected on the number of plants sold – just like royalties are collected by musicians on a hit song.

Echinacea Butterfly CleopatraThat’s where the weeding comes in and how this blog/e-newsletter got it’s name.That and the fact that I collect garden gnomes.  We weed. We weed a lot. Weeding through the hundreds of plants people bring us to find the good ones is a huge part of our job.

Are we fortunetellers? No.

But we are plant fashionistas and we try to keep up with all of the major trends and know what our consumers want (read weed out).  This is how we come up with the best plants for our markets. To sell large quantities of plants, we must build (read cultivate) relationships with growers and large new plant marketing groups like the ones I mentioned above to assure the plant is successful.

What else do we cultivate?

We cultivate relationships with trade and consumer publications, so the magazine editors will come to us as an authority on marketing and introducing new plants. We want them to think of us when they have stories or questions about the plants we are introducing.  We cultivate relationships with consumers through our many social media outlets.  Heucherella infinity, plants nouveau, purple leaved heucherella

Cultivation is key.

I know you are dying to know what’s on the new plant menu for Cultivate’14, the show in Columbus, Ohio where we unveil the latest and greatest new plants. As usual, we have quite a few and it’s hard to choose favorites, so I’ll break it down into two groups.

I’ll introduce you to a few of our new tropical and perennial plants this week and new shrubs and trees next week.

If you are attending Cultivate’14, please stop by our three, yes that’s right I said three booths. We will be bigger and better than ever before- look for booth #2232.The booth design this year is different. Let’s call it modern, minimalist industrial meets butterfly.

You’ll have to see it to understand, but I promise it will be totes cool.

Back to the new stuff cause that’s what you are all here for, right?

We have some really cool, totally new-to-the-market perennials this year. A dwarf Japanese painted fern called ‘Silver Slippers’, a new heucherella – yes, we ARE going there, but this one is oh, so special because it blooms from May to October – hence the name Heucherella ‘Infinity’, and of course the focus will be on our ever-so-fabulous, retail ready Butterfly™ series of single petaled, amazingly colored coneflowers.

Japanese painted fern silver slippers, plants nouveauThis year, we will have‘Purple Emperor’, ‘Julia’ and ‘Cleopatra’ in the booth for your viewing pleasure. There are many more selections for the Butterfly series in the works and we will be talking about those as well.

As for new tropical plants, breeder Brian Williams will be bringing us some beautiful new selections like; Caladium ‘Poison Dart Frog’, Colocasia ‘Dragon Heart Gigante’, and the newest from the Gecko series, Painted Black Gecko’.

A new feature in the booth this year will also be a selection of leaves to compare from all of the tropical plants we offer.  A fancy tropical foliage wall, if you will.

We also have some special guests this year – Henk Holtmaat from AB-Cultivars will be at the show and in the booth talking about his wonderful breeding program in the Netherlands and for the first time ever in Ohio, we will also have Peter Kolster, owner and breeder of our amazingly wonderful Everlasting® hydrangea line and many other woody plants from our Caladium Poison Dart Frogprogram.

Have hydrangea questions, ask Peter! Or just come meet the man behind these awesome, useful, easy to grow Gift-to-Garden™ plants.

We hope to see you there. Please stop by or look for live social media updates on on Facebook (PlantsNouveau page), Instagram (@plantweenie) and Twitter @plantweenie throughout the show.

Next week…new trees and shrubs at Cultivate’14!

Until then…

Happy Weeding!