How’s that weather? Plus new roses, finalists and giving back

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Ellen Wells Subscribe
What’s the Weather?
Houseplant Comments
Q&A With GrowIt!
Three New Knock Outs
The Bee List
Water Quality Research
And the Finalists Are …
Flowers for Office Space
Doing Good and Giving Back

What’s the Weather?

Two weeks ago I told you my 1-year-old hellebores were about to bloom. This week, this is their status:

Some of my tulips, which made it about 3-5 in. out of the ground, are a bit frozen, too. And there was that blizzard/not-blizzard (complete with thunder snow!) in the Northeast, a plethora of tornados in the Midwest, and just a general state of weather confusion happening throughout most of the country. 

I received a garden center e-newsletter today that basically said, “Our spring opening is March 25! We think. Depends on the weather. We’ll let you know …” The non-traditional weather patterns are making spring plans difficult to nail down. And you know that better than I do!

So tell me, has the recent weather fluctuations impacted your business in any way? Share your story below or drop me a line HERE.

Houseplant Comments

Also a few weeks ago I mentioned the video/online information that suggested the attributes of certain houseplants would make sleeping easier/more restful/etc. My response to it? Mostly it was a bunch of hooey, as obviously these plants were not suggested by plant professionals. It’s up to us to set matters straight when customers come in looking for plants to fit certain purposes.

And you agreed! Several folks wrote in with comments, including Judy Alleruzzo, who said, “We do our industry a disservice if clients are unsuccessful in growing the plants. They get discouraged and maybe disillusioned with indoor houseplants if they try to grow all of these plants in a bedroom setting. I'm sorry, but the ‘Better Sleep’ message is kind of feel good hype with less than honest information.”

This observation came in from Tami Adams, who puts some of the responsibility onto social media. “We will once in a while get a customer who ‘found it on Pinterest’ and we will have to tell them that plant is not truly meant for indoors—but makes a heck of a pretty picture. We try to educate our customers as to how to take care of their plants because we want them to be successful and not disenchanted with plants.”

Your thoughts?

Asking Questions, Getting Answers

One social site aimed specifically at gardeners is hoping to buck the sketchy plant info trend like the example above by crowdsourcing the answers to gardening and plant questions.

The folks at GrowIt! have just released a Question and Answer feature. GrowIt! users—who have found both the plants that suit their location and how to grow them—can now ask any plant- or garden-related questions to the greater GrowIt! community. Any one of the 250,000 members of the GrowIt! community can provide the answer. Users can also see what questions are being asked by other users in their own area. And best yet, it’s free.

You likely have someone on staff who is the go-to garden pro for customer questions. It’s a no-brainer for your garden center to make answering these GrowIt! community questions a regular part of your day. You can take a look at the way the Q&A works by watching this VIDEO.

Three New Knock Outs

Maybe those gardeners have questions about roses. Or photos of roses to share. Or need recommendations for what roses to plant. Add to your list of recommendations these three new Knock Out roses from Star Roses. The new varieties are Coral Knock Out, Peachy Knock Out and White Knock Out, shown in that order in the below photo.


It’s been 10 years since the last Knock Out came onto the market, so they don’t release new ones until they know they can fit in line with the rest of the family. But like any member of a family, each have their own characteristics. Coral brings a new color to the Knock Out family, and with a more humid environment, it’s even more coral-ly. Its young foliage is somewhat bronze, which brings out that flower color. Peachy is pink but with an overall peach effect due to pink petals becoming yellowy in their center. The color, they say, is much more intense with cooler spring and fall temperatures. And White is a shrub rose, compact in habit, and has a slightly citrusy scent and very dark green foliage.

The other thing to note with these intros is the performance of Coral and Peachy. These two varieties, when tested at regional trials, performed at the level of other Knock Out roses in specific geographical regions. Coral hit that level in the Southern states as well as some Midwest states. Peachy is Knock Out level in the Northeast and into Illinois and Minnesota. Because of this regionality, Coral and Peachy will only be available in those regions where they reached the Knock Out level of performance. You’ll be able to find White throughout the country.

It’s nice that Star is doing this regional release, as it gives certain markets some wonderful roses while not disappointing gardeners where those two varieties don’t perform up to snuff.

The Bee List

After declines in worldwide bee colonies, strategies for dealing with this issue continue to be developed. For some, it’s simply exposing consumers to the plight of the bees—like Honey Nut Cheerios’ recent campaign that removed its mascot Buzz the Bee from its boxes and its accompanying #bringbackthebees social media component.

Then there are the industry folks who are encouraging the installation of bee-friendly plants. The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI)—AmericanHort’s research affiliate—just released a new publication that lists bee-friendly trees and shrubs. The list, “Plants Bees Like Best,” was published to help garden centers and nurseries create awareness about bees’ roles in the environment and how the plants consumers purchase can play a role in their support.

The list, which is broken out into a general tree and shrub list, “Top Tens” for both bumblebees and honeybees, and an “attractive to relatively few bees” list, is research-based, having been developed by HRI-funded scientists at the University of Kentucky. Best of all, it’s been released just in time for retailers to influence their customers’ purchases for spring tree and shrub planting. This list also gives retailers a way to connect with their customers on cause-related topic.

The “Plants Bees Like Best” publication is part of HRI’s larger “toolkit” for getting pollinator info out to the public. You can check out the signs, bench cards, graphics, flyers and all the other materials in the toolkit at

Water Quality Research Survey

Pollinator health is just one issue that HRI and AmericanHort are helping to address. The organizations are elbow-deep into other research and legislative issues that impact our industry. One of the most pertinent issues in horticulture (and all of agriculture) is water and water quality.

A national group of researchers was awarded by the USDA NIFA a 5-year, multi-million dollar grant to encourage the use of alternative water sources in nursery and floriculture production. Their research areas include nutrient, pathogen, and pesticide fate in recycled water before and after treatment. One of the project’s objectives is to help growers make decisions about irrigation water recycling by providing cost analyses and creating site-specific guidelines.

But they need your input! How do you, a grower, make your decisions? Through this 15-minute survey they hope to determine exactly that, so they can create a decision-support system that you’ll actually use.

Go ahead, take the survey. It’s your way of giving back valuable service to your industry.

And the Finalists Are …

Last week our crack team of editors (or team of crackpots?) convened to determine the finalists for the Green Profit/Dümmen Orange Young Retailer Award. Friends, your quality nominees make it a difficult task! But we did it. I’m pleased to announce that our three finalists for the 2017 edition of YRA are:

  • - Stephanie Genrich – Genrich’s Garden Center, Florist & Greenhouses, Rochester, New York
  • - Vashti Kern – Bird’s Botanicals, Kansas City, Missouri
  • - Andrea Bickley Snelgrove – Wingard’s Market, Lexington, South Carolina

Over the next few months—when these young retailers are at their most frantic in the garden center!—they’ll be asked to write an essay question on a most-pressing industry concern, and then they’ll be interviewed via phone by our esteemed panel of judges. Who do you put on hold—our judges or your customers? (That’s a no-brainer.)

We’re doing the same thing over on the grower side of things, too, with the GrowerTalks/Dümmen Orange Young Grower Award. Those finalists are:

  • - Adam Heimos – Millstadt Young Plants/ NG Heimos Greenhouse, Millstadt, Illinois
  • - Jill Mullaney – Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, Texas
  • - Tiffany Watson – Ritter Greenhouse, Bridgeton, Missouri

Stay tuned for the finalists’ essays in our June issue (and judge them yourself). We'll announce the winners at Cultivate'17, and feature them on the covers of the September GrowerTalks/Green Profit.

Flowers Exchanged for Office Space

Some of you have been following the story of the sale of the Boston Flower Exchange in Boston, Massachusetts. I’m following it, anyway, because the property is just 1.5 miles from me, and used to be just two blocks away until I had the good sense to move out of what was becoming a too-congested neighborhood.

The Abbey Group, the developers of the 5.5-acre site of the Boston Flower Exchange, see the space becoming lab and office buildings with “thousands” of new tech and life science jobs. There’s open space planned, too—a 1-acre plaza with eateries and retail. All of this will be literally a stone’s throw from the Southeast Expressway, a.k.a. Boston’s elevated parking lot on summer Friday afternoons. Here’s a look at what the developers envision:


Funny how renderings never have much color other than green when it comes to open space. Where’s the tip of the hat to the Flower Exchange? As for the Flower Exchange operation itself, I hear they are looking for space not too very far away—Chelsea, perhaps, not too far from the airport.

Let’s hope the new development has a flower shop, at least. Read about what’s planned in the Boston Globe ARTICLE.

Doing Good and Giving Back

I’ve been asking you to send in the ways you’re giving back to your communities, and by golly, you’re doing some great work! This week’s story about doing good works locally comes from Karen at Brohl’s Flower Garden in Michigan. She and husband Jim plant the extra row (or two or three, by the looks of it) and donate the produce to a local food bank. “Depending on the year, we get one, two or three skids picked by fall,” Karen said.


That’s a lotta peppers! About 521 pounds, actually. “Could have picked two,” she said, “but I was having hip issues.”

Keep sending those great Doing Good and Giving Back stories, folks. Hopefully they are inspiring your peers throughout the country to give back to their communities in their own ways. Drop me a line at

Comments? Questions? Something to get off your chest? Well, tell us about it! Just drop me a line about it, or about anything on your mind, at   

Ellen Wells
Green Profit

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