I took this photo this past summer, at the OFA. I really like everything about it. The packaging is fun. My boys have suggested to me countless times that I should grow flytraps. “Kids would buy a lot of them,” they tell me. I have no plans to do so, but I thought this was interesting to pass on in light of our most recent video, Spooky Plants. ~Art
Archive for October, 2011
Acres Online is pretty much the pulse of the industry, so if you aren’t already one of the 18,079 (wow!) loyal readers, you’re missing out. Check out the latest edition here, and sign up to get it in your inbox here. ~Art
In plenty of time for Halloween, we have our newest OpenHort video, Spooky Plants, ready for you to use. Last year, we had a lot of success with our Plants vs Zombies video, so we thought we’d follow that up with a look at some creepy flora that scares the plants off us. (There’s just something about Halloween that gives you permission to be cheesy.)
Want to use this video to promote your own company? You have three options: 1) simply link to the video on YouTube, 2) download a free copy that you are welcome to customize in any way you’d like (right click this link and select “Save Target As…”) or 3) hire Moche Media to customize it with your logo for $75.
We encourage you to “do-it-yourself.” It’s not that hard. If you need to be pointed in the right direction, you might want to check out the tutorial we made for the video “Shovel Ready.” We’ve never offered this service before, but it seems that some folks need a little more help. Moche Media is a company we’ve set up because I don’t want OpenHort to be commercial in any way. Send us an e-mail if you’re interested or have any questions.
Thanks! ~Art & Leon
Its been about a year since I wrote about the video game “Plants vs Zombies.” As I predicted, the game has continued its popularity, becoming a cultural phenomenon and cementing itself as the top search on the web that includes the word “plants.” Our own video that we made spoofing the game has been successful, being seen over 50,000 times. But that pales in comparison to the official PvZ music video that has gone from 4 million views a year ago to over 9 million today.
I think its safe to say the Zombies aren’t going anywhere for a while. The makers of the game, Pop Cap, have ported the game to every major popular gaming system, and there are rumors that a sequel game as well as a movie or tv show are in the works. I think its interesting that Pop Cap have not aggressively licensed the brand for merchandise, a fact that the fans of the game bemoan. According to the US trademark electronic search system, Pop Cap appear to have plans to make official spin-off products including board games, plush toys, comic books, trading cards, Halloween costumes, lottery scratch-off games and “entertainment in the nature of a television comedy series.” There is no indication that they or anyone else plans to market plants, gardening tools, seeds or anything actually related to the one thing in the game that is actually real: plants.
In the past, Pop Cap did produce some seed packets which they did not sell, but used as a promotional item for the game. I have also seen a metal tin which looks like a grow-it-yourself package, but has never been offered for sale.
Part of me really respects Pop Cap’s reluctance to exploit their Plants vs Zombies franchise by flooding the market with all kinds of products. That’s kind of refreshing. It doesn’t appear that we’ll ever see a Plants vs Zombies section in a garden center. But another part of me thinks that this is a huge missed opportunity to get kids and other young-at-heart gamers interested in gardening. Just as millions of kids have been inspired by games such as Guitar Hero to actually pick up a real guitar and begin learning how to play real music, perhaps the same could have been true with this game. But we’ll never know.
Pop Cap won’t enter the garden center because they don’t believe that gamers want to garden. They want to gamble. They want to dress up. They want to be entertained. Who wants to get their hands dirty?
What do you think?
Back in the winter at the fantastic ANLA Management Clinic, I said that the new motto at my farm was, “If it ain’t got no bloom, we ain’t got no room.” (Forgive the double negatives; I’m a Southerner.) This is a pretty radical statement since my business was basically built on evergreen shrubs. In the past few years growers like myself have lost a lot of money--easily millions--because the green shrubs we thought we could sell when we planted them…didn’t. We threw them away. The video below was from last summer (2010), and at the time I thought the market for green shrubs couldn’t get any worse. It hasn’t gotten much better. Thankfully, this year we haven’t had to discount, but there remains a huge amount of unused production space and we’re still throwing away many thousands of plants nobody wants to buy.
Even though I said “No Bloom, No Room,” I’m still in love with green shrubs and am alert to any hint that they may become fashionable again. Last month, I posted here about a catalog from a furniture company that loves green shrubs too, and I promised to share a few other things that I’ve been sitting on.
Here’s one: again, from all the way back at the ANLA Clinic, where Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm provided many of the plants for the decorations. While they’re not shrubs, they are green.
And then, in July at the OFA, the Peace Tree Farm booth was a very happening place with lots of traffic. Here’s a cool video from GrowerTalks magazine:
So, that’s one grower in my own market region that seems to be bucking the “gotta bloom” tyranny.
Here’s two magazine covers from Garden Design this year, the one on the left from August and the current issue (Oct/Nov) at right.
Here’s another: an article from the British newspaper The Telegraph titled “Return of the Unsung Shrub.” It begins by saying:
Give a shrub to your average garden designer and I am not sure that he or she would know what to do with it. They are so out of fashion. In defiance of the grasses-and-perennials tyranny, however, one leading designer has stood firm.
And ends with:
Other designers need to wake up to the potential of this forgotten treasure chest of plants. The revival and rehabilitation of shrubs is long overdue.
Nice to hear, but it’s not going to change my plans. We are going to only plant what we sold at full price this year, and maybe a little less. We’ll have several acres of empty beds and hopefully we’ll sell out.
Still, part of me thinks that a “revival and rehabilitation” is possible, that the color GREEN is close to a tipping point and could become the new trend with some creative work and the right marketing. I recently came across Sara Tambascio’s blog, ‘Sara’s Green Space,’ where she mentioned:
As someone said during the Town Hall, we are just one tweak away from going gangbusters, like that little kid who’s dancing slightly off beat. I believe it, too. We may need just one little tweak to really rock it. How about these? (She continues with 5 “crazy” ideas that might edge us closer to a tipping point.) Read it here.
I really love that image of a kind of nerdy kid who’s just not quite in time with the music…and then he gets it. Is it possible to make the nerd (green shrubs) cool? That’s what I’m thinking about. “Do the Urkel!” ~Art
I like to keep things positive, but it looks like I’m a naysayer today. If you haven’t read Nursery Management‘s “State of the Industry Report,” it’s worth reading. Well, there’s actually not that much to read, but there’s a lot to look at, mostly info-graphics from a survey they did, with a little bit of editorial. Here’s how it starts:
There’s a lot to think about in those few paragraphs. First, the pressing question: is the plant business in crisis or is it only in a slight slump? Maybe 40% is a bit strong, but the “overall nursery market” is down at least 33%. I have no data to support that opinion. What does their data reflect?
Take a minute to look over these numbers and see if they fit with reality. 52% of growers say their sales have grown or remained the same? Ha! I just can’t trust these numbers, and the reason it’s a misleading graphic is because they asked the wrong question. “Over the past three years…” The economy and industry were already in a big mess 3 years ago. Perhaps respondents to this survey (and I was one) just confirmed that after the big crash in 2008 we’ve recovered slightly? Still, if you think that only 20% of growers have seen sales slide more than 20%, I have to be a naysayer. There’s probably only 20% of growers that that are on sound financial footing today and have been able to continue producing their crops on schedule. I guess that makes me a naysayer.
“If it ain’t got no bloom, we ain’t got no room.”
As the saying goes, what’s selling now has blooms. It appears that the industry en masse is heading for the same exit (lifeboat, yellow brick road, parachute, clown car, pick your analogy). We’re all dumping evergreen shrubs and shade trees and getting more into flowering shrubs and perennials.
What this graphic really reveals is which market we growers are aiming for…and increasingly the answer is the retail market.
While individually these are probably the right moves, it makes one wonder what the ramifications are if we all do the same thing. But the truth is that it’s not so much about deciding what you’ll grow anymore as it is about who you’ll grow for. We used to have the mentality, “grow it and they will come.” That’s a broken paradigm now. It’s not about picking the right plants to grow; it’s about picking the right customers to grow for. The paradigm isn’t “grow it and they will come,” it’s “go where the action is and find a way to be useful.”
Next on my to-do list for OpenHort: With the new paradigm in mind, I want to address the questions: Where is the action? What’s it look like? How do we growers make ourselves useful? Valuable? Hint: it all centers around the independent garden center green goods buyer.
Please, send me your thoughts! Thanks for reading, and big thanks to Nursery Management for doing the “State of the Industry Report.” Sorry I just ripped it apart!