More on plant branding

hortcouture.jpgHere is a link to one of our more popular posts concerning plant branding. There are lot’s of great comments including this one from last night. It’s from Jim Monroe of Hort Couture who’s business, “offers the most sought after new plants and genetics from the world’s best breeders and plants people. The marketing of upscale plant products as ‘couture’ quality identifies with our industry’s leading demographic. Fashion conscious women make up the vast majority of consumers purchasing color for their gardens and containers. Upscale packaging, marketing assistance and gorgeous plants are what make this program so appealing.”

We had quite a conversation back in August when the subject was “Where is the Passion?” The conversation got very interesting after author Amy Stewart was quoted saying,”We told Hort Coture that their handbags-and-high heels marketing was sexist and insulting–that it assumed that women were only interested in plants as fashion accessories. (And that women give a shit about fashion accessories. Have these people met any women?)”

Jim’s comment from last night includes this, “Hort Couture is a brand that will never be in the box stores. My wife and I grew up in the industry and truly feel impassioned to help the IGC (independent garden center). We have yelled this from the roof tops since the day we started our company in late 2007. It is an important message for the independent to hear from us.” This dovetails with the recent news that Monrovia Nursery is exploring the idea of selling to the box stores. Monrovia has for the last 15 years dealt exclusively with independents. According to Monrovia the economic downturn has forced them to take this route for their very survival. The independents have supported Monrovia for years through advertising, and paying more for Monrovia’s plants than other wholesale nurseries charge.

Jim’s message is timely as I was thinking about this last night. While I support Monrovia’s right to sell to whom ever they wish, I feel a bit let down. We have supported Monrovia for years and to receive a letter threatening to sell to the boxes if we independents don’t pony up an add, additional $22 million in booking’s leaves one with a bad taste. They had hired a box store specialist from bankrupt Hines nursery before the letter was ever sent out. We only found out about this yesterday. This has been in the works for awhile. We have heard from quite a few people who say Monrovia has no choice but to sell to the box stores.  How in the world did they ever get to this point? This make Jim’s statement, “Hort Couture is a brand that will never be in the box stores,” that much stronger.

Whatever you think about Hort Couture and their branding efforts, the fact that Jim say’s they will never sell to box stores is quite a statement. Jim’s comment continues, “I hope independents will support our efforts to help the industry. We really do care and are working tirelessly to help right now. Our sales are very strong in the midst of so much bad news. We are blessed with this. I enjoy all of the opinions here and learn from them.”

My blog has always been a work based on a passion for the nursery business.  By having a forum for all to speak their minds it helps the business of horticulture. It wasn’t that long ago when our trade was very insular and not good at changing with the times. By allowing a forum for gardeners, garden bloggers, garden media, horticulturalist, nursery owners, etc. we become a more open minded and nimble trade. Jim is able to hear someone who doesn’t like his branding, and speaks her mind. He also here’s from those that approve of his efforts. This is valuable information as we go forward into a new era for the trade. We must become a more open industry, willing to listen to different points of view.

About Trey Pitsenberger

Trey is a nurseryman, author, and speaker.

15. December 2010 by Trey Pitsenberger
Categories: , , , , , , , | 27 comments

Comments (27)

  1. Trey,

    I had never heard or read the comments from August from Garden Rant’s Amy Stewart. I am not sure who she told that our ideas were “sexist and insulting” but it was not me or anyone on my staff. I did respond to a thread on her sight one time that we were not taking our ideas near as serious as some of her readers did. I appreciate the passion but I wish Amy would sometime call me to discuss what our goals and passion is for our company. If she did that, she would realize that we provide a great opportunity for the independent that is looking for change. “Differentiate or die” is what my friend Lloyd Traven says and I think he is dead on. There is no attempt to insult anyone- the very idea that someone could be insulted by a plant tag is a little ridiculous when there is no malicious content, images or vulgar language associated with it.

    We are not trying to make any grand statement but merely make gardening more fun and in turn more inviting to a larger audience. Anyone who wants to discount the idea that plants can be fashionable and that developing a luxury brand for the IGC is a bad idea has probably never worked a day in a garden center or nursery. Our company is called Hort Couture for Gods sake that evokes a chuckle from consumers not any great idea that we are trying to be Louis Vuitton. A luxury concept can lead to better margins for retailers and growers (we all need that!).

    As for the future generations not being interested in an idea like Hort Couture I find close minded. Young consumers are exposed to more pop culture, fashion and marketing than ever in the history of our planet. Fashion and plant trends evolve and change. We surely are smart enough to adapt with the trends and changes that our industry will face.
    Because of internet growth and retail growth (malls) over the last twenty years, there are many more consumers that understand what the term “haute couture” means and in turn get “Hort Couture”.

    Amy asked if I have ever met any women. Yes Amy I have. My wife and I have worked hard to develop an idea that resonates with the largest market in our industry (women betwen 26 and 54 make us 82% of the purchases in the garden center) and we get compliments and letters nearly every day from people who love the concept of making plants fashionalbe and fun. We have interviewed women in this demographic to develop every tag, pot and sign we have. It is important to remember that the market is made up of lots of different kinds of consumers- not all are like the ladies on Garden Rant or any other specific group. A blog such as garden rant attracts a readership that identifies with the content and opinions of the blog. A blog about fashionable plants would attract a certain crowd too. Neither is necessarily wrong or right in their opinions. Democrats like liberal blogs and Republicans like conservative blogs…

    We will never appeal to everyone. We do have fantastic, cool new plants and an idea that can be a vehicle to getting people to notice them. For the IGC that is looking to be different than Home Depot or Walmart it is hard to find fault in that.

    We started our company with no money, an great idea and a few good plants. We own a small nursery and two garden centers. We are not some huge company like PW or Monrovia. We are very proud of the business we have created and the growth we are having in the midst of industry chaos. Our industry needs branding of products that will stay in the IGC channel to be successful in the future.

    Our brand is the ONLY brand in the history of our industry developed by an IGC for the IGC. That perspective is important.

  2. @Jim
    Glad you we’re able to read what Amy said. Yea, it’s not flattering, but it is important to hear the good, bad, and ugly. Now Elizabeth at Garden Rant seemed to like your marketing efforts and said as much at a post of Garden Rant. Here is the link.

    You are right in that none of us in biz can appeal to everyone. We have to decide what direction we are going and then go for it, expecting that some will not like what we do. I do like hearing the ugly, just to know we are at least being noticed and making an impact.

    Keep it up. By being here, and being involved people see that and realize at least you guys care about what is going on. Nobody from Monrovia has bothered to comment here. As a customer I find that a bit odd. Perhaps they are afraid that it will put them at a disadvantage. When I wrote about my local Home Depot being a mess I heard back from them the next day! And you know what, it got cleaned up. I think Monrovia is still trying to control the message.

    One thing to remember is people generally start blogs because they are passionate about something. Sometimes passion can get a bit carried away, but that is the nature of the new world and media we find ourselves working with. Best to say what you think, give people a chance to respond, and the digest what was said. As I said in a earlier post, there are no secrets anymore.

  3. If there is demand for another plant brand out there good for them at Hort Couture for finding and filling a niche. That being said I take all pronouncements of “IGC only” with a grain of salt. I recall the same thing being said by Proven Winners not that long ago. Or look at the IGC show in Chicago and how much booth space companies like Scott’s and Bayer take up.
    The best tactic is to simply promote your own brand. Find and grow the best plants regardless of the brand. We grow Proven Winners, but only those varieties that I feel are the best performers in their category – whether it’s a Petunia or a Hydrangea. We also sell Ball, Syngenta, Selecta, etc. depending on who has either the best-performing or most unique varieties.
    As for finished plants we also sell a lot of Proven Winners, but not because of the brand. It’s because the “local” grower generally has the best-looking Petunias, Osteos, etc. I don’t have to worry about quality and the delivered price is good. It’s an extremely rare day when somebody asks if we have Proven Winners plants (slightly more occasionally Wave Petunias or Endless Summer). They are much more apt to ask for Vista Bubblegum or Royal Velvet Petunia, however not typically by those names unless they have saved tags from a previous year. Usually, it’s “where can we find that pink petunia growing all over the place at the mall next door or the purple petunia in your flower boxes”. Regardless of what they say about their pots, tags, etc. customers are going to buy the best looking plants if the price is right regardless of the container they’re in.

  4. Nice work Jim Monroe on your company. I like the concept. I wish you well. I remember when Benjamin-Moore introduced paint colors to piggy back the new colors of our spring selections. I liked that concept also.

    It just is true that there are many reasons to buy plants and trendy designer products standing with our plant colors is just another allure.

    Of course, I have to chuckle a little; Never is a very long time.

    Monrovia stayed nearly always committed to the independent marketplace. Frankly, they just caught with a lot of plants and no where for them to go. I believe that, absent, this terrible economy that has caught us all, they would not be entertaining other ways to empty their fields.

  5. I will stand up on my computer desk and yell it again- We will never be sold in the box stores!

    It is not a marketing ploy, it is simply the truth. I have worked in an IGC since I was 12 years old. I am in this for a different reason.

    Again, we are a brand for the IGC developed by an IGC. That has never happened before. All previous brands have come from wholesalers or breeding companies. We have a much different agenda than PW, Ball, Syngenta, etc…

  6. I happen to like very much what Jim Monroe at Hort Coutoure is doing. I hope they never have to make the choice between selling to chains or shutting down their company. Hopefully his own banking agreements will always be clear about this conviction and he will never be in a position to be forced in the same direction as Monrovia is in order to survive.

    There is not a good model of someone going through this before Monrovia and doing this either right or wrong to learn from. They have probably already learned a lot from it, and hopefully many others will learn by watching closely what they are going through so they can avoid the same predicament.

    Monrovia’s dilemma is also such that if they were to refuse the banks direction to explore and prepare to sell to the boxes to stay solvent that they would also leave a lot of independents hanging if they shut down. Not only that, but if they folded their product would hit the market at fire sale prices further damaging value in the industry. At least there is a corresponding effort to avoid going down the box store road.

    While I don’t like it that Monrovia is exploring the box store market I can understand and empathize that they are between a rock and a hard spot. These are largely uncharted waters that they have entered. Someone else commented a few days ago on your blog that the business was going to regional companies. I agree completely with that and believe that is one reason why Monrovia opened or bought operations in the North and South Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon.

    In times of crisis we should increase communication over all other priorities. Perhaps Monrovia should be posting comments on blogs and the like. I imagine they’re pretty busy trying to sell 40 million or so worth of their plants for 20 million dollars by the end of January. Sometimes when we’re in crisis mode it is difficult to see the forest for the trees, or even some of the trees – new trees, or the “new media” especially.

    I also like Jim Monroe’s idea that it would have been at least a nice, if not honorable idea to have been contacted prior to criticizing his product without understanding. Too often we are all as a society quick to criticize, complain and condemn. This is what Dale Carnegie is all about. Whether it is done in person, in traditional press, or on the Internet good manners, integrity, and honor are always better ideas, but that is just my opinion. Eventually I believe the majority of the “new media” will find this to be true as well. On the other hand the grocery store checkout lines continue to be filled with publications that push the envelope on these ideals. I don’t know if they are also bleeding readers, advertisers, and cash at the same rate as traditional newspapers.

  7. I have been thinking about all that is going on in the “industry” right now and I think it is just what happens in business. Everything goes through cycles. Look at the cattle market, one year you are up, the next you are down. It is all about hedging our bets.

    I have been waiting for someone to say “never say never”. I like the Hort Couture branding and their “fun” with what some could say are “boring” info tags. They have changed the way one could market their goods to the consumer. Their niche is unique. A 50 year old man looking for a solid shrub in front of his house to replace the one he planted 20 years ago is not their target audience and you know what, that is okay. We cannot be all things to all people but what we can do is be great to a smaller group that think we are great, too.

  8. @Sid
    Communication is critical when a company Monrovia’s size is going through a situation like the one it finds itself in. Yes, they are likely busy trying to sell 40 million in plants. But what are they doing? There is only so much energy that can be expended “selling” plants. I know the depressing feeling that can come with trying to make sales while the stack of bills gets higher. Eventually you realize that there is only so much you can do. So it’s time to reach out. They have reached out to the typical players, industry trade publications. Meanwhile you have customers, like myself who have questions, or concerns. As a customer I am going to speak my mind. I have supported Monrovia for well over 30 years. Then I get a letter telling me to up my pre-bookings with them or they are going to start selling to my competition, the box store.

    This is the new reality. Customers have a voice. I am a customer. Someone at Monrovia, or any company doing business needs to Google their company name. See what shows up, besides their web page. This is what people see when they look for information concerning what is going on. I tried today. Google Monrovia Nursery and see what shows up on the first page.

    At this point having Monrovia comment at my blog really doesn’t matter. The information is out there. If they had reached out it would have played better with myself, and I think others who are customers. I like many of the trade publications, and am friends with lot’s of the people who work at those places. The new reality however is companies need to look beyond the traditional media outlets. Garden bloggers have a voice now. A company the size of Monrovia, with the brain power and talent they posses should be a little more “hip.” I am just a guy with a computer, but I have figured out where people get their news these days.

  9. @Lynne
    You right! It is a cycle, albeit a long one this time. After a lifetime in this biz I have never seen the quite the changes we are going through. Yet I know it’s a cycle and we will see the sun again. I don’t know how soon…

    We cannot be all things to all people. I also appreciate what Hort Couture is doing. They don’t appeal to some people, but others will like what they are doing. We can’t obsess with trying to please every single person, lest we please no one.

    Being new in the business, you are blessed with a fresh view of what’s going on, and are not encumbered with a lot of baggage from having done it differently for so many years. I enjoy what you are doing at your nursery, and think your efforts to reach out via new media are to be applauded.

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  11. Trey, I am enjoying the varied view points in this Monrovia issue. The fact is that they have allowed themselves to be put into this position. If they were a publically owned company the shareholders would be screaming for a new CEO, some of the Board Members would be replaced, and we would be reading press releases where they have layed off 25%+ of their workforce trying to get their costs in line with their revenue.
    They must be in a cash flow crisis based on their statements that one of their 3 banks wants out. But instead of asking their customers for excelerating their payments for the products that they shipped in the fall and gave April billing, they are asking their customers to “book” $20 Million more in product for SPRING delivery. With the bulk of their business being in the Midwest and Northeast that means that they won’t ship until April and want get a huge chunk of cash until June. Does that sound like a company that is in a cash flow bind or a company that has produced more inventory than they can sell?
    This is beginning to sound like another bail out of Wall Streat except the role of the government is being played by their customers and the chains.
    I was pleasantly surprised to read in their last interview that you linked us to ,where their sales manager stated that they had already booked 50% of their target of $20 million. That is a pretty amazing accomplishment in less than 30 days. Their sales team and their customers should be commended and their commitment to helping Monrovia survive should never be forgotten by the owners of Monrovia.
    I for one pray that they make it because a strong Independent Garden Center industry is crucial for the overall heath of the Nursery Industry.

  12. Yes, it is a let down that Monrovia lost their focus on the independent garden centers. The independents know how to care for, use and recommend Monrovia’s plant line. That, for the most part, will be lost at the box stores. I hope that the plants don’t go to waste.

    What I don’t understand is, why aren’t IGC’s challening their local government on the allowance of displaying plants outside the box store’s allowed zoning for display and sale? Have you ever seen how carried away these places get? They have plants ALL OVER their parking lots and more.

  13. Just give me your paints and I will paint my own picture.

    I am an INDEPENDENT nursery and I want to reflect my message INDEPENDENTLY of any other nursery.

  14. Sue…

    Now your talking!

    Having spent many years as a planning and zoning commission in a medium sized midwest town, that approach is worth a pursuit! I would suggest several independent nurseries, maybe a half dozen from different areas of the country test the thing out with their local governments.

    Generally, all retail stores, have to provide one parking space for every 125 square feet of first floor square footage and 250 square feet of second floor footage (that means total square footage including back rooms) Don’t know about the requirement beyond the second floor.
    A simple calculation on their building plans approved by the agency can reveal if they are over or at that limit.

    If they are using this dedication parking space for other then parking, they are in direct violation of the zoning ordinances of the community.
    And of course, if they are selling retail in these parking lot nurseries, that too requires additional parking space beyond the original store footprint.

    In addition, there are always the violations of electrical hookups, bathroom facilities on the site, that are fixed and not just sani-cans..
    Just a whole bunch of violations are probably occurring.

    Of course, that opens up the entire discussion of a local Rotary selling Christmas trees or fireworks the same way using parking lots of large stores. Elected officials do not like the politics of this.

    As a result of the huge expansion of some of these stores into their parking lots, I think that it is high time that a light be shown on this issue. Believe me, if a small store used a lot of their parking lot for retail stuff, they would be getting a visit from the city or county zoning compliance officer!

    I think a few test cases around the country may warrant our national organization looking at it. But, it is a little can or worms, as that will mean your store will have to be squeaky clean from now on out!

  15. @Trey
    Thanks for your confidence! I appreciate that. I hope the conversation that is going around with all of us can continue in a positive way. I enjoy hearing what is going on. And on that note, how a business does business with their fellow suppliers and customers makes a big difference to me as to my decision to do business with them. I learned a long time ago it is important to do business with like minded people. You will get to your goals faster and more efficiently.

    I am sure by now the Monrovia officials have seen the threads and hopefully they will take the info and use it to the good. I hope if any other nursery is in a similar position will reach out and open the conversation with their customers instead of not responding.

  16. And the marketing at jewelry counters and pocket book stores is not sexist? It amazes me that a female who represents 80% of the biz at IGCs questions marketing that aims at that 80%.

    Sexist would be a photograph of a man planting a tree while the wife brings him a glass of iced tea or a beer. That’s the way it is in my garden because I do the gardening. My wife hates to garden so I sweat and she brings me tea or beer.

    Greg Draiss

  17. I am all about the independent garden centers differentiating themselves, but it’s also important to consider that the IGCs aren’t just competing with the big boxes now; they’re competing with everything else in the world that costs money.
    Fixating on “OH GOD THE BOXES HAVE THE SAME PLANTS AS WE DO” is a little counterproductive when fewer and fewer people are buying plants, period.
    Independents will succeed because they offer something valuable to potential customers above the boxes AND above other things that are tempting people to pull out their wallets.

    Being pissed that Proven Winners and Monrovia are selling plants at Home Depot is kind of missing the point, IMHO. Whether Jim Monroe markets his plants to the boxes in the end — which I believe he won’t — isn’t important. The fact that he’s outsmarting the competition in GENERAL by reaching out to his potential customers in new ways, using social media and embracing the marketing of tomorrow, while also introducing gorgeous, high-quality plants…
    He’s got this.

    But what do I know?
    I’m just a silly 27-year-old who may or may not be a homeowner someday and in need of plants…and I see a lot more outreach from Home Depot and Lowe’s commercials than I do from y’all…

    Oh, and Amy: I’m a woman. Androgyny and not giving a crap about handbags and jewelry may be “in” in some circles, but I do care about fashion. A lot.
    And suggesting that some women still care about more traditional ideas beauty isn’t sexist, even if it doesn’t represent your values.

    /exit soapbox

  18. I see a lot more outreach from Home Depot and Lowe’s commercials than I do from y’all…
    That’s not surprising, since Home Depot has an ad budget exceeding a half-million dollars per store per year. Small nurseries are limited to local newspaper ads, some local media, and whatever we can do to get the word out by public speaking opportunities, donations to local groups and schools, and otherwise being civic-minded community members.
    My reaction to Hort Couture’s ads and logo was that they are interesting, distinctive, and thus probably effective. Sexist? That would the old Chapin sprayer ads with the comely models in hot pants and platform shoes.

  19. they’re competing with everything else in the world that costs money.

    I hit Submit too fast! This is a really good point, Paige. When I first went into business somebody told me that my competition wasn’t the store down the street, it was the other things people do with their leisure time.

  20. As much as the small nurseries and IGCs complain about the box stores they are not going to go away. We have to learn to be marketers and promote our products. Having a nice display of Proven Winner plants or HC plants does not automatically mean we are going to sell them on brand recognition. We have engage the customer in any way we can– e-mail, facebook, twitter, open houses, landscape displays, contests, seminars, on line polls,etc. We alone must know our customers and what turns them on. We have to do the promotion don’t depend on others. Last year we grew the Lobularia “Snow Princess” and made a point to engage customers in promoting this great heat resistant annual. We planted a bed of the Titan vinca out in front so people could see what great plants these are with our dry summer conditions. I got two of my larger customers to try the Sunpatiens instead of the regular New Guineas and they came back this fall with a larger order of Sunpatiens. Same with promoting the Caliente and Calliope series of geraniums. Newspaper ads in our part of the country are no longer effective. It’s more cost effective to use any type of electronic media which fits your marketing strategy. What is costs us for one newspaper ad I can send out an indefinite amount of e- campaigns and be much more effective.

  21. Another of the GardenRant authors weighing in here to say: If Hort Couture’s branding works, great! I doubt that many (any) IGCs could stay in business appealing to JUST the readers of GardenRant, anyway. Bring in the young! Bring in the stylish! Just bring ‘em in!

  22. Thanks for the comments Susan- we are trying hard to help the IGC. We all need to work together to make gardening more popular and fun. What you guys are doing is just that and it is great. I agree that our target demographics may be somewhat different but our goals are the same.

    Gardening is, unfortunately, a declining activity with consumers. Your readership are true gardeners. Most customers at a garden center in todays market are “decorators”. The hope for all of us is that if we can get them interested and get them informed that maybe we can get them gardening.

    One other thing– Elizabth Cicata of Garden Rant makes references to discussions with me at HC at the IGC Show this past Spring. I was NOT there nor was anyone else from our company. I am not sure where the mix up is but Elizabeth claims to have had a “disconcerting” (her term) conversation with me last year there- impossible and I have no idea who she is. Her comments are hurtful to all of us here and again, I wish she would call me to discuss what our goals and plans are. We have never used the terms she implies in any marketing pieces or discussions in four year of being in business. I own two garden centers and a growing nursery and have the perspective of what it is like to work seven days a week and struggle to make ends meet in the garden center industry. If Elizabeth finds people like me (even though it was not me she spoke to) so “disconcerting” because I have “worked in this nursery business my whole life”- then why does she come to an industry trade show? Our job is hard work but the rewards are great if you truly have a passion for the plants (which I do). I would love the chance to meet her and really have a conversation with her about the industry and how together we can make it better.

    Our company is growing in the midst of the industry struggling. We are using the dress image on our tags not to make some great statement about feminism or anything like that. I am not sure why some of your writers seem to have such a problem with this. We have seen from the first day we drew up the original “PAPER DOLL” tags that people love the concept of the dress being the plant. The idea is to connect fashion with horticulture. The fashion industry has used horticulture as its inspiration for centuries. It is a natural connection of the two genre. I had a note this week from a lady in Chicago area who “loves our tags and has kept them because her six year old daughter likes to play with them”.

    We are proud of our company, the concept and the great plants that we have. We are about the only company out there right now in the plant business that is doing anything to help the IGC. I think that would be a great story for your readers who I am sure want to see the local garden center do well.

    Thank you Susan for being open minded and for wanting to see new gardeners get excited (and shopping) for new plants.

  23. Jim,

    I went back to the two posts in which I mention Hort Couture and in neither did I claim to have talked to you. I did mention talking to some PR guys at an IGC Hort Couture booth (well, it had a big sign with that name on it) in this post:

    So I don’t quite know how to respond here, but in any case, I don’t see why my (actual) comments would be considered “hurtful.” I was merely reacting to a conversation and giving my opinion on how IGCs can best serve gardeners like me. That’s why we (Garden Rant) were invited to the IGC conference–to talk about IGCs as garden writers and consumers.

    But thanks for reading Rant.

    And Trey, thanks as always for reading and mentioning Garden Rant! You are very generous.

    Elizabeth Licata

  24. @ Trey – Who posted and where is the blog that stated a Hort Coutre sales person asked “What is a New Plant” or something similar and was ripped apart in the blog for asking such a stupid question. I think it was aslo the blog that ripped the whole Hort Coutre marketing. I am wondering if the blogger took it off their blog maybe?

  25. In response to Elizabeth…

    Once again I nor any employee of Hort Couture attended the IGC Show this past year. We did have a small display in the booth of a broker company that sells our product. No PR people from our company were there. You more than likely talked to a sales rep. There is a big difference between discussing our consumer strategies with a qualified person from our company versus a sales rep that sell our products as well as probably 200 other lines. I hope that you will contact our company to learn more about the facts of what we do. The phone number is 866.955.HORT.

    Here are a few of the quotes you make about our company with really no understanding of what we do…

    First you say that we are “assuming that most homeowners would rather be stabbed through the heart with a dull spade than create a bed with plants in it”. What company would assume this in our industry? We are all trying to get gardeners more engaged. I think you are the one making assumptions. I do understand your point but Hort Couture is a company that sells annuals for mixed containers and baskets. We are not being disconcerting at all with our marketing. We have never used terms like outddor living as you infer. But what is wrong with using a term such as that if it describes what a company is about. I noticed today that Burpee Gardens described vegetable gardening as a lifestyle. For many that is true. I do not view the people at Ball Seed as disconcerting or attempting to keep people from gardening by saying this.

    You then go on to say that “the come-on of companies like HC—homeowners need to be tricked into liking perennials through savvy marketing techniques.” First of all we do not offer any perennials at this point. We offer annuals for containers. We are not trying to trick anyone. The remarks are absurd and yes, hurtful when you are trying so hard to help the IGC. Our “come on” would be no different than Ball, Proven Winner, Monrovia, Steppables or any other brand in our industry. Marketing ideas are what the industry needs to grow. There is more competition not only for the gardening dollar but for just dollars. If we do not make gardening attractive then we lose those customer to other hobbies and interests.

    I do agree that the IGC should raise its game and not dumb it down. At our garden centers we certainly cultivate the intellectual thirst of the better gardener with harder to find plants and more sophisticated sales people that can answer the more difficult questions fo the true gardener. Most better IGC’s realize this and struggle with the balance of offering this type of service for a small portion of their customer base. Most customers are looking for instant gratification and are more decorator than gardener. Companies must cultivate all kinds of customers to survive in todays market. Yes you may be a gardener and have a different agenda than the average consumer. It is not that the people in our industry don’t care- they just have to be open minded to appeal to a larger audience.

    I will say it again- please contact our company to learn the facts about what we are doing. We are a progressive company that is the only company offering exclusive plants to the IGC. We have a great marketing concept that may not appeal to you or Amy Stewart but does appeal to the mainstream consumer.

    I hope we can get this issue behind us. We all need to work together to make gardening more interesting, accepted and fun. We are on the same team here!

  26. I have over one hundred species covering the whole spectrum. Less than ten bought n nurseries. If I can do it you can too. No nurseries are necessary when propagation skills, swapping or wise collecting are put
    into consistent practice….

  27. Jim,

    I am a journalist. When I critique a book or play I feel no need to contact the novelist or playwright before I give my opinion on it. Same thing here. I see the labels and the marketing. I give my opinion. That’s all it is—my opinion—but I don’t feel I should clear it with your company or anyone before giving it. So it doesn’t really matter who exactly I talked to; they said what they said at a booth filled with Hort Couture plants. And I reported on that–accurately. I never said they were HC employees.

    Consumers will form their opinion about HC by looking at the labels and the plants, just as I did–not by calling anyone. And if as you say, the consumers love you, then you’re all set! No worries.