The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens published its report on the state of the world’s plants in 2017. The report provides a synthesis of the world’s plants by reviewing databases, published literature, policy documents, reports and satellite images. It also provides information on the effectiveness of conservation actions and policies in protecting some of the most important plant species across the globe, showing that it’s not all doom and gloom for our planet’s ecosystem. Check out some of the key statistics from the report:
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Fuchsia x cultivars
How long has it been on the market?
This color is new on the market.
Quarts; 5” or 6” at retail
Not hardy, protect against frost
Fuchsia Fuchsita blooms relentlessly all summer long (May through October) until the first frost. They have a slightly upright habit which makes them easy to grow on the bench, rack-ship or to display at retail. Their flowers are two-toned and come in many beautiful combinations that are sure to attract attention.
Suitable for bedding programs as well as in mixed containers or hanging baskets. Be sure display Fuchsia Fuchsita up on a bench or shelf so your customers can admire the beauty of the colorful blooms.
Consumer care requirements
Space 10 to 12 inches. When planting, use a slow-released fertilizer in the soil mix. Water daily until the plant becomes established — about two weeks. Once the plant is established, you can allow it to dry out slightly between waterings. Avoid letting the plant sit in saturated soil. This can cause the leaves to yellow. Plant after all danger of frost is gone.
In a day and age where everything is being remade, redone and reinvented, nostalgia has never been cooler. Customers are coming into IGCs looking for decorative items that remind them of their youth, a past pet or toy they may have had to help accent their yards and gardens, suppliers say. Because of this, animal décor has become a dominating force in the industry.
“I think it all started with the dinosaurs — not in the way you think, but because 40 years ago, every kid wanted a plastic, rubber or wood one,” says Ron Knutson, vice president of SPI Home. “Then came Cabbage Patch, Beanie Babies and everything else. People want stuff to remind them of something from their past whether it was frogs, dogs, cats or whatever. There is always something on the horizon. The tough part is to figure out which critter comes next.”
Gustavo Ortiz, chief operating officer of Pottery Express, agrees that customers want items that remind them of something they cherish, and animals make them happy. Pottery Express has seen its fair share of people coming in and trying to memorialize a past pet.
“Most people have a pet at home,” Ortiz says. “They love them and want to have a representation of them. Let’s take a dog for example. A ceramic dog would provide a living representation of a dog that may have passed away.”
Margo Tantau, director of product innovation at Studio M, says that part of the rise in popularity is due to animals’ personalities and mannerisms.
“Animals are approachable, friendly, positive and often have good memories associated with them,” Tantau says.
“There is a great mix of whimsical and realistic animal art in the market right now — llamas with floral crowns, cute baby foxes, chickens in aprons, friendly donkeys, sloths, etc. — and of course our favorite dogs and cats are ever popular. Animals can have personalities we want to see in ourselves or that remind us of others.”
Businesses can better connect with generations young and old by supplying these items and capitalizing on nostalgia.
There are certainly key staples in animal-themed décor, but customers are always looking for the next big thing as different animals trend at different times. At SPI Home, the octopus has been big and shows no signs of slowing down.
“We continue to add new octopus in every cycle and the old ones are still matching their first-year sales,” Knutson says. “There is always a market for cats, dogs, squirrels, butterflies, bees, racoons, bears and pigs. Our design sessions look like we have invaded Noah’s Ark.”
On top of octopus, domestic animals are also trending upwards. At Studio M, Tantau says cute and oddly cute animals seem to be most popular.
“We’ve seen owls, foxes, llamas, sloths and narwhals on product,” Tantau says. “Goats and donkeys are more domesticated animals that are enjoying a whole new level of celebrity and product placement.”
Though octopus, goats and donkeys continue to rise in popularity, farm-themed décor is still standing strong in the marketplace and people tend to relate to animals in areas they live. Ortiz says that following trends in animal décor has become quite the hobby for some people, and at Pottery Express, the farm theme has done particularly well for them.
“Pigs are big,” Ortiz says. “There are a lot of different reasons why one item hits better than others. The farmhouse theme is big right now and pigs and roosters kind of go hand in hand.”
Key price points
Consumer spending on animal décor tends to vary depending on a few factors. What impacts these decisions is why the customer is purchasing the item and for whom are they purchasing it.
“Shoppers will typically spend about $20 for a friend or co-worker, $50 or more for a closer friend or bigger occasion and up to $75 for a unique or special product to memorialize or celebrate a pet,” says Gretchen Bingle, national sales manager at Studio M.
Ortiz adds that when customers are shopping for items for the long-term, they look for quality over price and are not afraid to spend extra for something that will last for decades.
“A good average would be around $100 to $150,” Ortiz says. “People are comfortable spending this amount depending on the type and quality of the item.”
At SPI Home, they work with cast metal which results in a higher price point, but a better-quality product, Knutson says.
“SPI Home uses cast metal which is inherently much more expensive than sheet metal,” Knutson says. “There is a lot more material, labor and a much higher cost. In return, you get a product that will last a lifetime.”
Because of this, SPI Home is not in the low end of the market. They have an octopus end table that retails for around $800 and various garden sculptures that retail from $60 to $500.
Knutson says that though these items are a bit pricier, they perform well in garden centers because people want to enjoy them for years.
Though the animals that are trending may differ from year to year, animal décor remains a big seller in the marketplace. At Studio M, the demand for these animal-themed items has driven them to create additional pet-themed lines.
“We developed our new Wings of Whimsy Pet Angels because of the growing demand for pet-themed items,” Bingle says. “While this collection is launching at the summer shows, early response to marketing and editorials has been very strong. We expect to see continued growth in this category.”
At Pottery Express, animals have performed extremely well over its 15-year history. Talavera animals accounted for 42% of its total Talavera sales for each of the last three years.
At SPI, animal décor items continue to sell at a greater annual rate than previous years, says Knutson.
Marketing animal décor
Products that feature animals tug at the heartstrings of the consumer, Tantau says, but showcasing these items in the right setting or light is the key to increasing sales.
“Items that foster together time, such as projects for kids or gifts that send a message for family or special friends, are evergreen,” Tantau says. “Bundling items is always a great way to move. Show the consumer how to create fun, unexpected gifts and how to make their garden even more personal, and they’ll be back again and again.”
Displays and products placement are also key in influencing customers buying behaviors. Knutson says to place items in real-life settings so people can picture them in their yards and gardens.
“Don’t put them in the indoor giftshop; put them in your plants and beds,” Knutson says. “Let people see them in the wild where they belong. The key is to show the consumer how cute that frog with a wheelbarrow or that four-foot-long alligator will look in their yard.”
Knutson also recommends having fun with the merchandising by incorporating funny, whimsical signage and making customers smile. Ortiz agrees that the way you display an item can go a long way in increasing the sales of these products.
At Pottery Express, Ortiz created a doghouse out of a $50 sheet of plywood to showcase their hand-painted ceramic dogs.
“We used to sell about 100 dogs every two months,” Ortiz says. “I decided to invest in a $50 plywood sheet that I made into a little house. I then put one of the dogs in front of it, along with a fire hydrant. Next thing you know, that little display that cost me $50 helped me sell ten times the number of dogs than I was selling before.”
As the animal themed trend continues to thrive, companies such as SPI Home, Studio M and Pottery Express will continue to produce these whimsical items as long as consumers demand them and because they make people happy.
“It is an ever-growing category,” Knutson says. “We have made a lot of frogs and bunnies in our time, but consumers continue to want more so we will keep at it. Anything to make the consumer happy.”
Offering a potting service can help your garden center reach new customers — and turn them into annual clients.
Whether it’s the convenience factor or a desire for a professional touch, some shoppers simply prefer to outsource planting of their container gardens.
“I think [offering potting services] really helps us to be well-rounded as a garden center,” says Robert LaHoff, co-owner of Hall’s Garden Center & Florist in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, which has included potting services in its business model since opening 42 years ago. “We try to offer everything that anyone could ever ask for in our industry.”
At Barlow’s Garden Center in Sea Girt, New Jersey, which has been offering potting services for around 25 years, repeat customers bring anywhere from two to 30 pots to be replanted every spring, says Stephen Barlow, the company’s president.
“They come in for our signature look — a beautiful container that they feel they couldn’t recreate themselves,” he says.
Interest in potting services has been increasing steadily for the past five to six years at Rutgers Landscape & Nursery in Ringoes, New Jersey, says Jeff Dallesander, nursery manager. “We have returning clients every year who bring in pots and say, ‘I’d like to do the same as last year,’ or ‘I’d like to change it up this year,’” he says. “I think part of the attraction is the low maintenance [of container gardens]. People don’t have the time anymore to care for large annual and perennial gardens.”
Here are a few best practices for launching — or expanding — a potting service at your garden center to keep customers coming back for more.
1. Charge a flat fee.
Rather than trying to price out each individual plant, Dallesander and Barlow feel it’s far easier to charge a set fee based on the size of the pot. Rutgers charges $30 for a 10- to 15-inch pot, up to $145 for a 60-inch pot or $220 for a 60-inch urn, for example.
Alternatively, Hall’s charges a flat planting fee — over and above the cost of the plants themselves. There, customers are charged $1 for a 4-inch pot and up to $20 for a 20-inch pot, with anything over 20 inches charged at a rate of $1 per inch. At Hall’s, the flat fee includes the soil preparation, the soil mix, the drainage material, the fertilizer, the mulch, and the transplanting costs, LaHoff says.
2. Encourage customers to bring in empty pots.
Barlow’s charges more if customers bring in pots for replanting that are still filled with soil. “Disposal costs have gone through the roof,” Barlow says. “We charge an added fee if a customer does not bring their pot back in empty because it takes my guys time to cut out the root-bound soil, and we have to get a separate dumpster for debris.” To avoid those headaches, it’s good to incentivize clean container return.
3. Find staff with a keen eye for design.
Perhaps the biggest factor in ensuring your potting service’s success is finding plant-savvy employees with a knack for beautiful design. Finding this unique skill set can be hard. In fact, it’s the deciding factor in Barlow’s decision to not grow its potting services beyond a busy, eight-week spring and early summer season. “Our head designer is amazing. She’s set the bar really high and everyone wants her to do their pots,” Barlow says. “When we’ve tried to bring on new employees, it’s sometimes been difficult to train them and have them produce containers of the same quality.”
A staffer with a magic touch has also been key at Rutgers. “We have a designer who does all of our container gardening, and she has an amazing eye for color and what works together really well,” Dallesander says.
4. Stock a wide variety of pots in your inventory.
Rutgers has found its customers use its potting services when it stocks a wide variety of pot types on site — a dynamic that is boosted when their designer stages the containers with colorful and engaging plant combinations. “If we have a line of pottery, we try to plant one of them up for display so people can get an idea of what can be done,” Dallesander says.
5. Consider your client base before launching a potting division.
Be prepared for the possibility that clients in your area may not gravitate toward a potting service as quickly as you’d like. After working at a garden center in a high-income area of New Jersey that had a thriving potting division, Kristi Vince decided to launch the service at a garden center in Richmond, Virginia, where she now works. But the demand hasn’t been the same. “It’s totally due to demographics,” she says. “I’m still determined to make it work, but clients here haven’t seemed as receptive to the service.”
6. Provide year-round design services.
Rutgers and Hall’s both offer year-round potting services to help clients’ containers stay fresh throughout the seasons. It’s a way of increasing foot traffic and adds another layer of value to the overall potting service model. (Hall’s also has an active commercial client base for whom they offer on-site container planting and management throughout the year.)
At Rutgers, a typical progression might be an early spring mix with tulips or primrose, then summer annuals followed by fall grasses, cabbage and kale, and finally, Christmas greens and berries, Dallesander says.
Similarly, at Hall’s early spring pots might feature pansies, followed by a summer transition to tropical annuals or zinnias, then fall pumpkins flanked by cabbage or ornamental peppers, with Christmas greenery and pine cones going in for the winter, LaHoff says.
7. Let clients be hands-on (or hands-off) when selecting their plants.
You can either involve clients in the selection of the plants for their pots, or not. Both approaches work.
At Barlow’s, clients who opt for potting services don’t select their own plants; all the pots there are custom designed by staff. If a Barlow’s client wants to have an active role in plant selection, staffers instead direct them to available planting instruction sheets or offer assistance in helping them select plants they can install on their own.
On the other hand, Hall’s and Rutgers allow clients to have input in plant selection when using their potting services. At Hall’s, customers always select their own plant materials with the help of an associate. “We’re able to provide a personal touch, but we want them to have input also,” LaHoff says.
At Rutgers, clients have the choice to leave plant selections to staff or to help. “We have clients that we’ll walk through with,” Dallesander says. “They’ll select the items and the pottery and everything, but we’re able to offer direction on what plants will or won’t work together.”
8. Do house calls.
Hall’s Garden Center & Florist not only offers planting services for annual and perennial containers, but also tree, shrub and landscape planting at customers’ homes or businesses. For this service, LaHoff’s team charges a flat installation fee equal to the cost of the landscape material. So, installation of a $100 Japanese maple would cost the client an additional $100.
9. Use potting classes as a fundraising event.
At Rutgers, Dallesander’s team has found a winning formula by partnering with local school PTAs and other nonprofits to host “planting parties” as fundraising events.
“They’ve been very, very popular,” Dallesander says. “We offer them a few times a year. Participants can bring a pot or buy one of ours, and we offer instruction on how to select their items and put everything together.”
In addition to supporting a community cause, the planting parties have helped broaden Rutgers’ client base.
“It’s a way of bringing new people in, who maybe have never been in before,” Dallesander says. “And at the same time, going forward year after year, they’re going to think, ‘Oh, maybe I should go back and get my pot filled there.’”
Poinsettias are the typical staple of the holidays at IGCs. But there are opportunities for garden centers to do more than business as usual.
Gary Vollmer, poinsettia technical manager for Selecta One, says the time is now to develop a plan for poinsettia pairings.
“Poinsettia sales have been pretty flat for the past couple of years,” he says. “There is increasing volume and formats for poinsettia combinations, and this seems to be a strong trend.”
Timing is an important factor for IGCs that need to know when shoppers will be looking for those typical Christmas gifts.
“The market is shifting a bit later, and with a late Thanksgiving this year, it will move even more,” Vollmer says. “Large retailers continue to move the most volume and use Black Friday poinsettia promos to drive traffic.”
When you compare it to other crops, poinsettia continues to be the volume leader. Vollmer says the other holiday crop that is really getting a resurgence is amaryllis. Katie Rotella, spokesperson for Ball Horticultural Company agrees.
“There is a growing interest in amaryllis bulbs — especially the decorative ones dipped in colored wax or glitter accents,” she says. “They’re quite gift-y and are good for all skill levels.”
She also suggests Christmas cactus, an easy-care houseplant that prefers humidity, not the arid environment we typically associate with cacti. Interest in Christmas cactus feeds into the succulent craze, while herb rosemary can serve as both a functional and fragrant item to have around the holidays. Rotella says some can be turned into wreaths or topiary art and used right in the kitchen.
Other year-round items that could work alongside traditional poinsettias are cyclamen, gerbera and ornamental peppers.
Natalie Carmolli, marketing and promotions specialist for Spring Meadow Nursery, says boxwood is also a very popular evergreen holiday plant.
“I grew up in the floral industry and we sold tons of boxwood at Christmas,” she says. “What makes them fun is that they are small and so adaptable to shaping, so they can be trimmed into a pyramidal shape, put in a container, then decorated like a Christmas tree.”
North Star Buxus is one of Spring Meadow’s most popular varieties. For those concerned with boxwood blight, North Star has shown good resistance in trials.
If your IGC is in a warmer climate, Carmoli asks that you consider Juke Box pyracomeles.
“I love this plant. It’s super soft, thornless and the glossy leaves are a very pleasing … dare I say holiday green,” she says. “Plus it’s a petite 1 to 3 feet — great for containers.”
Another popular holiday item is the classic “Christmas Holly.” Ilex meserveae, commonly known as blue holly, is known for its thick, shiny, pointed leaves and red berries. However, if your customers want those iconic red berries, there are a few steps to ensure they take. One tricky aspect your staff may have to explain is that only the female bushes produce fruit. The berries won’t be produced at all unless there is also a male holly bush in the area to pollinate the female flowers. Spring Meadow Nursery introduced a brand new cultivar at the 2019 California Spring Trials, Castle Keep holly. At 3 to 5 feet, it’s a good contender for a patio pot. While Castle Keep has a rounded habit, the Michigan wholesale nursery also carries a pyramidal blue holly, Castle Spire. This shrub, however, is quite big, filling out at 8 to 10 feet at maturity. Spring Meadow’s male variety is Castle Wall.
Rotella offers a few marketing suggestions to help sell holiday items.
“An easy way to market holiday items is to include a gift tag with the pots — something easy to take-and-go for seasonal parties and hostess gifts,” she says.
She also suggests sleeving black pots in decorative colors or upgrading to a deco pot for more styling. Offering smaller sizes for place settings is a way for shoppers to wow guests at their next dinner party or give as party favors. Stores can also create mixed containers for indoor design. Rotella suggests including something fragrant, like herbs.
An unexpected holiday idea
Did you know that pomegranates symbolize prosperity and good luck over the holidays? In Greek culture, a single fruit is hung up above the door or p;aced on the table) on Christmas Day. On New Year’s Day, just after midnight the fruit is smashed on the front stoop to ensure another year of good luck for the household.
Punica is not a cold hardy plant, but it will do well in a pot inside over the winter. Carmolli suggests Spring Meadow’s Peppy Le Pom ornamental pomegranate.
“While I wouldn’t recommend smashing the tiny ornamental pomegranates, perhaps just presenting the bright cheery plant to someone special over the holidays is already lucky?” she says. “Growers would need to plan a little to get them to flower for garden centers over the holidays, but we already do that with poinsettias, right?”