2002 Spring Season in Review

August 9, 2002 - 10:27

Find out what growers from around the United States and Canada had to say about successful crops, pricing, weather and other topics during the 2002 spring season.

From droughts and fires to unusually cool temperatures on
the side of nature, to recession, corporate earnings fraud and the impending
threat of terrorism on the side of man, circumstances this year may have been
enough to make you want to hide in a cave until things improve. And though some
growers may have wanted to, no one did; despite bad weather, poor plant quality
or low consumer confidence, they went forward with the same resilience that has
continued to make them successful year after year. GPN interviewed growers
across the United States and Canada to assess the spring season from various
points of view — here’s what we found out.

 

1. Which varieties or plant categories performed better
than you anticipated?

“Proven Winners, definitely. I think people are sick
of geraniums; they are not selling half as well as they used to. I think people
are looking for something a little bit out of the ordinary, not stuff
that’s been around for years and years and years. [Proven Winners] is
also doing a tremendous amount of marketing. [Customers] are not asking for it
by name, but everyone seems to be more familiar with them than they were a few
years ago.” —Susan Cadogan, owner/grower, Cadogan’s Corner
Greenhouses, Hopkinton, R.I.

 

“The big growth for us has been in perennials. Hanging
baskets and planters have always been big with us and then just the regular run
of bedding plants.” —Charlie Sprout, owner, Sprout’s
Greenhouse, Lander, Wyo.

 

“It’s hard to keep things like Bacopa in stock;
we keep increasing our numbers, and they keep increasing their buying.”
—Dorothy Bartlett, co-owner, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm Inc.,
Nantucket, Mass.

 

“Supernova from Proven Winners did a whole lot better
than I thought it would, and the stuff we got from Simply Beautiful did better
this year than last year.” —Dave Velde, head grower, Berns
Greenhouse, Middletown, Ohio

 

“Grasses surprised us; there were a couple of grasses
that we couldn’t keep up with demand. We grow a lot of little things like
little blue stem and prairie dropseed, which were huge sellers this
year.” —Harlan Hamernik, owner, Bluebird Nursery Inc., Clarkson,
Neb.

 

2. Which varieties or plant categories performed worse
than you anticipated?

“Roses. Growers think they’re hard to
grow.” —Danny Takao, president, Takao Nursery, Fresno, Calif.

 

“Regal begonias were disappointing.”
—Dennis Bengert, owner/operator, Bengert Greenhouses, W. Seneca, N.Y.

 

“Geraniums and tuberous begonias.”
—Garnette Monnie, owner, Edwards Greenhouse, Boise, Idaho

 

3. How did the weather in your area affect your
production?

“Weather didn’t help matters a whole lot; we
were slowed down more towards the end of May but made up for it in June. The
heat messed us up a bit for extended sales, but it wasn’t a bad
spring.” —Richard Anton, owner/manager, Anton’s Greenhouses
Inc., Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

 

“It was busy up until all the fires and the drought,
and then sales just died and killed us. Every place we sell to at the late
end-season was on fire or out of water. [The weather] put a clamp on the season
pretty bad. We went from being ahead from the year before to probably being
behind $100,000, or about 10 percent. We will not be able to recoup those
losses.” —Jack Manning, owner, Manning’s Greenhouse,
Kirtland, N.M.

 

“We had some rain for a bit of an extended period in
April or May, and I think the cool temperatures definitely affected things.
They slowed down sales so that things didn’t move on a regular schedule;
it seemed like things were moving along and then we got that cold weather, and everything
came to a standstill.” —Susan Cadogan, owner/grower,
Cadogan’s Corner Greenhouses, Hopkinton, R.I.

 

“It really had little impact. We had a bit tougher
winter than we’ve had in a couple years as far as cold and extremes. Now
we’re running into a drought problem, as a lot of Colorado is in a
disaster area. The fires have cut down on retail sales some. If the drought
continues the way it is right now, it’s going to be very difficult
— water restrictions.” —John Pinder, general manager, Little
Valley Nursery, Brighton, Colo.

 

“We cut back a little on our production. We
didn’t get all of our second planting in because of cold weather. [We
lost] probably $50,000, about 10 percent.” —Michael Rinzema,
Rinzema Greenhouse Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.

 

“We had a slow start because of the cool weather.
April is our biggest month, and we did have an incredible April, but we were a
bit behind in spite of that because of windy weather. It’s hard on the
retailers more than the growers. We surpassed last year’s sales by the
end of June and had a nice increase. Now we’re having drought conditions,
and we’re spending a little more time trying to keep the plants cool and
happy. We do have water restrictions; we’re doing our best not to
over-water anything.” —Harlan Hamernik, owner, Bluebird Nursery
Inc., Clarkson, Neb.

 

4. How were your prices in 2002 compared to 2001? Did they
hold throughout the season?

“Possibly up 3-5 percent.” —Donald
Anderson, owner, Anderson’s Greenhouse, Franklin, Pa.

 

“I didn’t change them at all because I had
raised them in 2001 due to gas and heat prices.” —Richard Anton,
owner/manager, Anton’s Greenhouses Inc., Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

 

“For the most part, it stayed the same. It started out
a different year mainly because of the economy and 9/11 — people were not
going to be spending as much.” —Susan Cadogan, owner/grower,
Cadogan’s Corner Greenhouses, Hopkinton, R.I.

 

“They’ve been more or less the same at least for
the first quarter of the year. You can’t do too much [price-raising]
since the market determines it, and it’s what the salesmen can get. We
have been getting a little more creative in the shipping; we have an
easy-shipping platform and have been asking more for the whole thing.”
—David Pfohl, production planner, Aldershot Greenhouses Ltd., Burlington,
ON, Canada

 

“We went up an average of about 5 percent across the
board. It hasn’t really restricted any sales as far as we can
tell.” (John Pinder, general manager, Little Valley Nursery, Brighton,
Colo.

 

“We raised certain prices in 2001, and we raised them
again in certain areas in 2002. We tried to pick out those things where our
cost production was rising. Other things we raised up to 10 percent.”
—Harlan Hamernik, owner, Bluebird Nursery Inc., Clarkson, Neb.

 

“Our prices increased by 10 percent. Prices held well
until the very end of the season when we had our closeout sale.”
—Garnette Monnie, owner, Edwards Greenhouse, Boise, Idaho

 

5. Do you have your own branding program, or do you grow
other branded product? How effective was it this past season?

“We grow about everything that’s on the market.
Flower Fields, Proven Selections…sales of the new brands are always
better than the old standards because customers expect more from these
selections.” —Donald Anderson, owner, Anderson’s Greenhouse,
Franklin, Pa.

 

“We use all of them. Proven Winners would probably be
the biggest one, and The Flower Fields. [Sales] are really good. I don’t
get people coming in asking for Proven Winners, but I get people coming in
asking for Bacopa — blue Bacopa, pink Bacopa.” —Richard
Anton, owner/manager, Anton’s Greenhouses Inc., Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

 

“We do have our own logo and tags and stuff, but we
don’t push the brand. Hines and Monrovia are two of our bigger suppliers,
and of course, Monrovia sells like crazy.” —John Pinder, general
manager, Little Valley Nursery, Brighton, Colo.

 

“People are much more interested in quality than they
are brands. We get a lot of Proven Winners and stuff like that in, but the
stuff that performs sells. Some of [the brands] have been exceptionally good,
like ‘Purple Wave’.” (Charlie Sprout, owner, Sprout’s
Greenhouse, Lander, Wyo.

 

“We carry Proven Winners and some Flower Fields
— a little bit of everything. We don’t tend to have people
necessarily coming in asking for Proven Winners or Flower Fields. They come in
looking for the plant they want.” (Dorothy Bartlett, co-owner, Bartlett’s
Ocean View Farm Inc., Nantucket, Mass.)

 

“We take selections out of Proven Winners and Simply
Beautiful and Flower Fields; we pick the stuff we like and feel performs better
in this area, and then we put it under our title of ‘Berns Select.’
We use those tags on the product so that the people know what it is, and also,
we tell them this is what we feel performs better in this area.”
—Dave Velde, head grower, Berns Greenhouse, Middletown, Ohio

 

“We use our own logo, though we aren’t really
aggressive about it. Some retailers want the world to think they grow
everything even though they don’t plant a seed. So we’re flexible.
We try to get along with everyone, but we do put our logo on our labels.”
—Harlan Hamernik, owner, Bluebird Nursery Inc., Clarkson, Neb.

 

6. How were your relationships with your retail customers?
What is the key factor that made them successful?

“Excellent. I work with them and help them out, like
when they’re not able to pay right away, and we work with them on
programs. We’re not a huge business, but we’ve been here and
we’ve had a rapport with the same people for a lot of years. We try to be
as helpful as we can and work with the florists and the garden centers in our
area. Customer service is definitely one of our pluses. You can always replace
a bad plant, but I can’t help it if somebody’s been rude to [the
customer].” —Karen Clesen, part owner, Bay West Nursery Inc.,
Naples, Fla.

 

“Really good. My salesman gets along with all of them
pretty well, and we try to make sure we deliver a higher-quality product than
what they can get from those that supply mass merchandisers because
that’s the only way we can compete since we have to have a higher price.
I’m selling pretty much everything I can raise when the weather’s
right.” —Jack Manning, owner, Manning’s Greenhouse, Kirtland,
N.M.

 

“Very good. I think it’s having a good-quality
plant and standing behind what you sell. If you have excellent plants, you hope
that people will come back for more and that you give them good information. We
do have a lot of customers who keep on coming back.” —Susan
Cadogan, owner/grower, Cadogan’s Corner Greenhouses, Hopkinton, R.I.

 

“I think not too bad. The quality of our mums could be
better; we’ve had to work a bit harder to move them. There are certain
flare-ups over trucking, like with Wal-Mart.  They can move a massive amount of product in a short period
of time. It’s been relatively smooth so far.” —David Pfohl,
production planner, Aldershot Greenhouses Ltd., Burlington, ON, Canada

 

“We try to be customer-driven and very
customer-friendly whether it be wholesale or retail.” —Dennis
Bengert, owner/operator, Bengert Greenhouses, W. Seneca, N.Y.

 

“We have very good relationships because we
don’t use brokers. We put out a decent catalog with lots of color and
lots of instructions, and everything is marked for how to use it. Then our
staff develops a relationship with these [customers] over many years;
we’re part of their family and vice versa. We try to make them understand
that they need to trust us as we trust them — that’s the way to do
business. You have to make the customer successful before you can be successful
in this industry.” —Harlan Hamernik, owner, Bluebird Nursery Inc.,
Clarkson, Neb.

 

7. How will you use your experiences from the 2002 spring
season to improve next year?

“First, remembering the bad times will keep us trim
and efficient; second, remembering how important our customers and brokers are;
third, remembering how very important our family and friends are; and fourth,
being aggressive to help our customers with sell-through.” —Danny
Takao, president, Takao Nursery, Fresno, Calif.

 

“Probably more signage. We have a little problem here
because we’re moving things around so much that sometimes the signs
don’t get caught up to where the product is. I’m short on space, so
I move things in the greenhouse, then outside. Hopefully when I get a chance in
the spring, when we start selling, I can get more outside and set up display
areas — that is sometimes rough because we’re starting up a
wholesale business, and we’re shipping out already. I may go back and try
that Proven Winners thing that they had on The Weather Channel.”
—Richard Anton, owner/manager, Anton’s Greenhouses Inc., Pleasant
Prairie, Wis.

 

“I think we’ll excel in moving on with our
orchids. We’re downsizing some of the more generic items, like ficus
trees and things that aren’t really special items — things that you
can get if you went to Home Depot.” —Karen Clesen, part owner, Bay
West Nursery Inc., Naples, Fla.

 

“That’s the $99 question I’m working on
right now. The biggest thing is the weather, and you can’t predict that.
Durango, Colo., and Show Low, Ariz., are big June sales areas, and when both
places had those big fires, it just shut everything down. Right now,
we’re worried about fall because all our fall crop goes to Phoenix; if
they continue to not get enough rain and they slap water restrictions on
Phoenix this fall, then I’m really up a creek because there’s
nowhere else to go with the product. And we do probably 100,000 geraniums for
the fall season for Phoenix.” —Jack Manning, owner, Manning’s
Greenhouse, Kirtland, N.M.

 

“I think I’m going to cut down on some of my
numbers for this coming year. It just seems like most of my customers did not
buy as much as they normally do, so I don’t want to end up being stuck
with anything.” —Susan Cadogan, owner/grower, Cadogan’s
Corner Greenhouses, Hopkinton, R.I.

 

“I’m not so sure that the spring season taught
us a whole lot, but now we’re having to deal with some drought issues
that Denver never anticipated. So I guess what I’ve learned there is to
try to look a little further ahead on some of these longer-term issues like
water in our area. We’ll probably expand our marketing areas outside of
the drought areas. If Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado are in the same throes
of drought as this year, we’ll have to go east and try to compete with
some of the growers in East Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.” —John
Pinder, general manager, Little Valley Nursery, Brighton, Colo.

 

“There may be an increase in larger containers —
4-and 8-inch — and a decrease in some flat material. It seems like the
trend is going toward a larger pot — instant gratification. We are
probably going to increase our larger pot program.” —Dave Velde,
head grower, Berns Greenhouse, Middletown, Ohio 

About The Author

Elizabeth Pensgard is editorial assistant and Brandi D. Thomas is associate editor for GPN.

Leave A Comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Email Subscriptions