Begonia rhizomatous hybrid
BRED BY DR. CECIL POUNDERS OF INNOVATIVE PLANTS AND INTRODUCED BY J. BERRY GENETICS
How long has it been on the market?
Introduced at Spring Trials 2019
Consumer care requirements
Water two to three times a week. No pruning is required. Mulch is recommended. Use a slow-release, granular even ratio (10-10-10) formula in early spring and repeat as directed.
Grows to height/width
Mature size is 0.5 feet by 1.5 feet
Shade to partial shade
Hardy to Zone 8
Stunning as a mix planter component
This beauty brings positivity and light to the landscape. Burgundy-speckled chartreuse, ruffled leaves reaching toward the sun, inspire us to look on the bright side of life. It’s impossible to be blue with Positively Peridot in the garden. Positively Peridot is perfect as an indoor houseplant or outdoors planted in the landscape under the canopy of a shade tree. Thick leaves help the Crown Jewel Begonias withstand higher temperatures and the foliage color gets darker with cooler temperatures.
Hundreds of craft beer aficionados and aspiring plant parents converged on Seventh Son Brewery on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was March 8, a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the denizens of Columbus, Ohio, were eager to leave the house on the first truly nice day in months. It was the perfect set-up for Baker’s Acres Greenhouse’s first pop-up plant shop of the year. This is the second year that Nick and Pamela Baker have partnered with Seventh Son Brewing Co. on pop-up plant shop events. Baker’s Acres’ growing operation and retail store is in Alexandria, 20 minutes outside of Columbus. They pack one van-load of plants, a printed tablecloth and some postcards with a map to their store.
A line began to form 15 minutes before the pop-up shop opened and only lengthened once Nick and Pam opened the doors. The couple hustled nonstop from 1 p.m. until about 4:30 p.m., selling plants and answering questions for the houseplant-hungry customers. They made $3,000 in sales over a few brisk hours.
About 90% of the crowd fell into that coveted 20s and 30s demographic that gardens centers desperately want to convert into customers. The Bakers know that, like many IGCs, their core customer is older.
“A lot of them are either dying or downsizing,” Pam says. “We all need new customers. If we continue to rely on those older, downsizing customers, we’re not going to exist as retailers anymore.”
The pop-ups are a way to tap into a new generation of gardeners. Baker’s Acres has tried pop-up plant shops at farmers markets, orchards, grocery stores and even other retail stores. But they’ve had the most success at breweries for three main reasons. First, the demographics. Their target market is millennials and those millennials are driving the craft beer boom in the U.S. Second, these customers don’t mind paying a little more for a product they perceive to be better. Otherwise, they’d be at a corner bar buying cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $2 instead of paying $6 at the brewery for a pint of the latest double dry-hopped IPA. Third, they find value in buying a locally produced product.
“People right now are really into knowing where everything comes from,” Pam says. “People are getting more invested in their communities. They want to see us; they want to see the person behind the product.”
A new breed of customer
The pop-ups have been an opportunity to engage a new market of potential customers — apartment-dwellers or first-time home-buyers, people who have only bought plants from a box store or grocery store and never got to see the face of the person who grows the plant. There definitely is some crossover between the beer voyagers who scour local breweries for well-regarded hidden gems and the houseplant hunters looking for the rarest, hippest items.
Nick Rodgers, 24, and Bridgette Mueller, 25, are frequent visitors to Seventh Son and follow the brewery on Facebook. They saw a post about a plant sale and made plans to go. They were looking for houseplants in general, and succulents specifically.
“I like the weird-looking ones,” Bridgette says. “I’m getting more into houseplants now. I never really had houseplants before. I was more into outside walking, explore nature in nature. But I definitely enjoy having plants at home now so I can be in nature at my house too.”
This was their first plant sale at Seventh Son, but they visit the brewery often, especially when events featuring local businesses are happening. The pairing makes sense for the venue and its clientele, Nick says.
“We always associated Seventh Son with plants because they have plants everywhere,” he says. “I associate the people who are super into breweries with plants and the outdoors,” Nick says. “A lot of other breweries have activities that are outdoor-focused, sustainability-focused, so plants are probably a good fit.”
That sentiment was echoed by Michele Holmes, who was sporting a Seventh Son T-shirt. She loves to hang out at the brewery with her friends, but she is also is a proud plant parent.
“I have about 30 plants,” she says. “I typically only let myself buy new ones when I let ones die. And I did just accept death to one of my plants, so I’m allowed to buy more. When one dies, I buy two more.”
Holmes decided to attend the plant sale when she received a text message about it that morning from her friends Taylor and Taylor Olsen, a couple who just bought their first house in February. The same-named husband/wife pair was looking for indoor plants to outfit their first house. Husband Taylor is the gardener of the couple, and he wanted something low-maintenance that needed minimal sunlight and was about 1 to 2 feet tall.
“Inside plants are easier to take care of because I’m inside more often,” he says. “So I am more aware that they’re around, rather than my outdoor plants which I might stumble on after a week and say ‘Oh, I should water that.’”
The friends, who are all in their late 20s, waited nearly an hour in line before they got their chance to see what the Bakers brought to the plant sale.
John and Ally Foryt are also recent first-time homeowners in their 20s who were looking for houseplants. John is the gardener of the two, but he has mainly has stuck to outdoor plants, flowers and vegetables.
“As far as indoor plants go, we don’t have any,” he says. “But we might in 20 minutes or so.”
Although the line wound through the brewery and outside past picnic tables, culminating near a parked food truck, no one seemed to be having a bad time. The ability to have a beer and chat on a beautiful day while talking plants and beer with like-minded people contributed to the overall good mood.
“The plant sale was a good excuse to come here,” John says. “The weather was so nice. The brewery does a lot of events like this where they have people bring in local art or in this case, plants. People end up coming for other things besides just beer.”
Planning the pop-up
Although the pop-up plant shops have become more successful as the Bakers have refined their formula, making a ton of money has never been the primary goal. The top priority is to introduce new customers to their brand. Nick and Pam spent a lot of trial and error finding the right venue for their pop-up and forming partnerships with breweries.
“Bars and breweries tap into the houseplant craze,” Pam says. “That’s what the generation that needs to come into these garden stores next wants. That’s what’s going to be their gateway into the plant world.
“Bonus, people are drinking so maybe they’re going to spend more money than they wanted to on plants,” she laughs.
IGCs that are considering planning their own pop-up should choose their partners carefully or their time could be wasted. And as any IGC owner can imagine, sending some of your best employees or leaving your retail store yourself to run a pop-up on a spring weekend is a risky move. But the Bakers signed up for the plant shops at breweries every Sunday in spring, even on Mother’s Day.
“It was a big leap for us,” Pam says. “We left and we did it. But the return was fantastic. It was so worth it.”
Pam says Seventh Son is a great partner because they have a tremendous social media reach and do a great job promoting their events.
It certainly helps that, unlike at a farmers market, Baker’s Acres is the only retailer at their event, so they don’t have to compete with other vendors for shoppers’ cash, and they don’t have to pay for a spot.
Baker’s Acres has 4,400 likes on Facebook and 1,600 Instagram followers, compared with 17,000 Facebook likes for Seventh Son and 33,000 Instagram followers. When Seventh Son promotes the pop-up plant shop to its followers, it’s a huge boost.
“We never get close to those likes on anything we do, but 717 people liked their post of us doing the pop-up,” Pam says. “Most of those people have never heard of us. So even if they weren’t at the pop-up, they know who we are because of that. That’s what hitting your target looks like.”
For summer 2020, Baker is branching out to visit more breweries, like new partner Wolf’s Ridge Brewing. Before coronavirus concerns shut down breweries as gathering places, the Bakers had a full schedule of pop-ups planned.
Many of the people who attend Baker’s Acres’ pop-ups at breweries have never set foot in a garden center, let alone visited their retail store. Pam says it’s important for the pop-up to represent your brand and convince new customers to come to your store. A secondary goal of the pop-up is to get new people to think plants are cool. The brewery buffs may not be gardeners yet, but they’re generally open to the idea.
“If you get somebody to love a plant, you get a customer,” she says.
For the first several pop-ups Baker’s Acres did at a brewery, Nick and Pam were selling plants to people who didn’t even know they were going to be there that day. But those people walked out of the brewery with one of their plants and newfound brand awareness of a local IGC.
Think big picture. If you can get 100 of the people that passed through your pop-up to come to your store, and each of those people spends $100 over one season, that’s $10,000 in revenue.
Consider who you want to reach with the pop-up store. Then, craft the message you want your pop-up to convey.
“I know I want more young customers,” Pam says. “I want to tap into the houseplant craze. I want all those people who love houseplants. Because we’ve always had a ton of houseplants. We have weird ones that people have never heard of and we had them before it was cool to have houseplants. Now that’s our niche. I see people falling in love with houseplants that we have in stock.”
That makes the next step easier for them: figuring out what to bring to the pop-up. You only want to take one van-load of plants, so you need to use your space wisely and transport only the items that give you the most bang for your buck.
“Where we’re going now, where we’re hitting the houseplant craze, I don’t take a single perennial, single herb, single vegetable,” Pam says. “When I know what the market wants, I sell everything. I don’t bring anything back.”
Sizing and pricing are other variables to consider for IGCs planning their own pop-up. Do you want to bring a bunch of $1 and $2 items or slightly more expensive items in the $10-15 range that are still small enough to fit in the van? Baker has done it both ways, from gallon perennials to 3-inch succulents. Her advice is to fill your vehicle with small, easy-to-carry items.
“We have sold some things in 10-inch or gallon pots,” she says. “But a lot of it is going to be impulse buys. You want to get that person who wasn’t there that day to buy a plant to buy a plant. If it’s something that can fit in their hand, great.”
Once you’ve decided how many price points you want to have at the pop-up, another consideration is whether or not to charge slightly more than you would at the retail store. Baker does, because those plants are technically being delivered. There’s also labor involved in loading the van, manning the booth and time away from the main store.
IGCs also have to answer the payment question. Baker’s point-of-sale system is accessible off-site. Make sure you know if your current POS system supports that option. Can you bring an iPad with a card swiper and still access your main system? The other option is going cash-only, but that presents its own set of problems.
Also, make sure you have what customers need to protect their plant on their way to the car. Consider the temperatures on the day of your event. Depending on your location, you may need to provide bags or boxes. Many breweries are in downtown or walkable areas. It might be cold enough outside that a plant could freeze on the way to the car.
Marketing materials are important so that these new potential customers remember you. At most pop-ups, you won’t get a ton of space. The Bakers bring one solid black tablecloth with the company’s logo, address, phone number, social media handles and website. The Bakers printed a bunch of 6 inch by 8-inch postcards with the same info as the tablecloth on one side and a map on the other.
Track how many new followers you got on social media after a pop-up shop. Every postcard you passed out is a potential new customer. And track when someone follows the map on the postcard back to your store.
“We saw so many people with those postcards,” Pam says. “The postcard was not a coupon. It wasn’t saying ‘Come here and we’ll give you money and take money off our sale.’ It was just a map saying, ‘come see us.’”
For more info: bakeracresgreenhouse.com
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit North America, retail stores everywhere scrambled to find ways to make sales without jeopardizing the health of their staff and customers. Shoppers started staying home, staffing became challenging and navigating the new landscape was increasingly difficult as rules and regulations on in-store shopping at IGCs continued to change.
In an effort to continue serving customers, especially with the crucial spring months fast approaching, independent garden centers began offering new options or expanding existing alternatives like accepting orders by phone and email for curbside or in-store pickup, and delivering straight to customers’ homes.
But all of those options can be extremely time-consuming for garden centers, many of which are struggling with busy phone lines and reduced staff. An online shop allows customers to browse at their leisure and make orders without the help of IGC staff, but setting up a virtual store can be expensive and take months to put together. Inputting images, descriptions and prices can take hundreds of man-hours that garden centers just don’t have right now.
To streamline that process, two companies have found new ways to help IGCs get their plants and products online on a shortened timeline in recent weeks — one by modifying an existing ordering platform for restaurants pickup and delivery, and another by leveraging an existing plant database.
Sell My Plants, a web option from True Mtn Marketing, is working with suppliers to gather images and descriptions to populate garden center websites. Garden Center Marketing’s web platform, which hit the market at about the same time in April, is offering up its online plant database, used previously for custom bench card and marketing purposes.
By bringing the garden center inventory online, they’re hoping to increase sales capacity amidst social distancing mandates, ease customer concerns and decrease physical traffic at retail stores.
Here’s how each platform is innovating and adapting to bring garden center stores online fast.
Sell My Plants
Alsip Home & Nursery had most of its inventory online before the coronavirus outbreak hit, but CEO Richard Christakes says his phone is still ringing off the hook. “I can’t imagine if we didn’t have our website,” he says. “I would be terrified.”
Seeing the huge demand for online ordering during the pandemic, Christakes, who is also co-owner of True Mtn Marketing, decided to take a platform he uses for his restaurant customers and customize it to help IGCs get their inventory online.
The system, called Order Launch, allows restaurants the ability to take food and drink orders online for pickup or delivery. “Essentially, we take a line of code and embed it into their menu, and it turns their menu into an online store,” Christakes says. The idea is that restaurants can use their own delivery drivers to avoid the high fees and potential service issues associated with other delivery services.
At the end of March, the marketing company decided to put its efforts into modifying the online ordering platform for garden centers. “That’s just kind of something on the side that we’ve been doing but it’s the same concept where we just wanted to take it and put garden centers’ plants on their websites,” Christakes says.
Customers can shop the online stores and choose between in-store pickup, curbside pickup and local delivery at the end of their transaction. Each IGC can customize delivery prices by zip code or however it chooses to tier pricing. Stores can also limit the distance they’re willing to travel for deliveries.
By partnering directly with suppliers, True Mtn Marketing started gathering up a database of plants and products to launch Sell My Plants. Proven Winners, Ball, Sun Gro, FoxFarm, Midwest Groundcovers and Bailey Nurseries’ First Editions grown at Willoway Nurseries are some of the brands on the service so far. Finding images not under copyright and compiling the data has been challenging, Christakes says, but the online catalogue is now up and running with more than 11,000 items.
There are three IGCs on board with the platform as of late April — one in Wisconsin, one in Iowa and another in Illinois — and several others have signed up for the service, Christakes says.
Each garden center populates its individual online storefront by choosing what it offers from a list of options sorted by brands, categories and product names. Those are then imported to the online shopping site. “That’s actually what takes the longest is for the garden centers themselves to actually fill out the items and put their pricing in,” Christakes says. “We have no control over that because everybody is different. But outside of that, it’s pretty quick.”
The online store is a subdomain customers can access from the garden center’s home page. Christakes says the shops can be customized to match the IGC’s colors and logos to keep branding consistent. Signing up for the platform offered by True Mtn Marketing takes just a few minutes, and from there, garden centers need to add products, pricing and other customization.
For products not in the database already, IGCs can add their own on the back end. “People make custom baskets; people make custom planters. This is a very unique industry we’re in here and everybody’s different. Everyone has strong opinions and they’re passionate. So we’re just trying to do what’s best for everybody and help them out,” Christakes says.
Sell My Plants does allow for point-of-sale integration, but that would be a much longer process. To move as quickly as possible, IGCs can simply manage inventory on the back end themselves.
“Unfortunately, point-of-sale integration is not something that is done overnight,” Christakes says, noting that there are competing services. “We could do it just as fast as them, probably for the same price. But that solution is for the big boys — I mean the really big boys. This is really for the small and medium-sized garden centers that need to be set up and they need to be set up now. They can’t afford an over $20,000 solution that also takes over six months.”
The setup fee for Sell My Plants is $895 up front with a $99 monthly charge. “We wanted to keep the price low to make it accessible to everyone,” Christakes says. “We need garden centers now more than ever and we’re just trying to help.”
In April, Garden Center Marketing announced that it had created a web solution that would allow garden centers to get their online shops set up in days using the company’s database of images and descriptions. The database, originally created to offer customizable bench cards and marketing materials, is now being used for online ordering capabilities.
The company has been building e-commerce sites for nearly 20 years, and introduced IGC QuickSite Soltuions three years ago as a way for garden centers to sell online. So, in the midst of social distancing due to fears of spreading the coronavirus, the company started working on a way for IGCs to set up online stores with options for delivery and pickup to reduce contact.
Current GCM customers who use the company’s web platform can simply work within that framework. But for those with their own existing sites, a subdomain is created. While hosted on the GCM server, the site can be customized to be consistent with the IGC’s branding. It can mirror the original site’s navigation to link back to the homepage, making it easy for customers to go back and forth between the two.
The average site takes four to five days to complete, according to the company. As of press time, GCM had six garden centers on board with the platform. The setup fee for the online marketplace is $1,990 with a monthly payment of $190.
Any plants or products not in the database of roughly 21,000 items can be added manually with images and descriptions from garden center staff. The real goal was to make plants available online for garden centers when they need it most, says President Timothy Howard.
“If you have your bag of soil that you have in July, you can still sell it. Those calibrachoa that you’ve got right now, you’re not selling in July. So I was really trying to get something out here that would allow our core customer base something that they can make a smaller investment in, be up and running and start selling plants,” Howard says.
The platform offers options for delivery and in-store or curbside pickup, and IGCs can edit orders based on availability. For example, if a customer orders two rose bushes and there’s only one in stock, a manager can delete the second bush from the order and the customer won’t be charged.
When a customer orders from the site and enters their credit card information, a pre-authorization is done, but the customer only pays once the IGC orders the payment to be made.
Howard says that while this is a quick solution to a problem that arose suddenly, he doesn’t see online shopping going away anytime soon. “Normal is now going to be different because people who are now buying groceries online think, ‘You know what, for a lot of this stuff, this is better than me spending my Saturday in the grocery store.’ They had never done it before. There are going to be people who have purchased other things now online that they hadn’t before and they think, ‘You know what, this works.’”
And while many garden centers will keep the appeal of the IGC experience, online shopping is likely here to stay.
Mayflowers Nursery & Garden Center
Elizabeth May, co-owner of Mayflowers Nursery & Garden Center, sent some photos of the IGC’s signage featuring spring blooms. Mayflowers Nursery & Garden Center is located in Canandaigua, New York, and opened for the season on April 4. Prior to opening, the IGC shared a lengthy Facebook post detailing the steps it would take in order to ensure customer and employee safety.
“Our garden center is open,” says Josh Olive, marketing director for Tallahassee Nurseries in Tallahassee, Florida. The IGC’s cottage gift shop is still open, but it’s a concierge service due its small size, he says. Tallahassee Nurseries is following suggested guidelines from the CDC, sanitizing throughout the day and closing at 4 p.m. to ensure there is time for cleaning. While open, the nursery asks customers to remain 6 feet away from each other and urges them to pay with their cards or through their accounts, instead of using cash. Additionally, it offers curbside pickup and delivery options.
This photo was submitted by Karen Vanduyvendyk, owner of Dutch Growers Home & Garden in Regina, Saskatchewan. Dutch Growers has been very active on its Instagram account, and the IGC has been sharing pickup information using the Story feature. Dutch Growers regularly shares photos of items for sale — such as succulents, containers and ornamental plants — which customers can purchase through its online shop.