Martha's Wisdom from IGC, New Products, Ireland Ideas

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Ellen Wells Subscribe
IGC Welcomes Martha Stewart
Martha’s Lesson from Dad
Plant Picket
Old Truck Organics
Dramm Revolution
Hudson Valley Seed Library
Fresh From Ireland
Bagged Goods to Go
Powerscourt's Wall and Shelves

IGC Chicago Welcomes Martha Stewart

Talk about pulling a big name as a keynote speaker. Jeff Morey may have pulled off the biggest keynote lure to ever have happened in the horticulture industry. He dreams and dares big, Jeff does.

And of course Martha didn’t disappoint. The format for her keynote was relaxed, with she and Jeff in comfy chairs chatting like friends up on stage. No real prepared remarks (that we know of), just Martha talking about her interests, her opinions on the role of garden centers, and, of course, her own gardens, with a slideshow of her garden behind them.

Here are a few takeaways from her time up on the IGC Chicago stage:

Her gardens are not realistic for average folk like us. But if you changed her statements from, for example, “I planted 900 rose bushes” to “I planted nine rose bushes,” than you can start to imagine her to be more like one of your customers.

She shops at wholesale nurseries quite a bit because of orders like those 900 rose bushes, but she also shops online and thinks it’s a great opportunity for garden centers and nurseries of any size.

Martha may have her name on a few lines available at The Home Depot, but she does recognize that when it comes to plants, the big boxes offer minimal variety. That’s where local stores can excel, in offering way more variety.

Drones at garden centers to get overview shots—she’s totally into the idea on a number of levels.

“I’m an organic farmer.” Here’s a woman who grew her name and ideas about “home living” into a global corporation and household brand. She doesn’t say she’s a businesswoman who has an organic farm. She’s an organic farmer. She has the right to label herself in multiple ways, and I just think it’s cool that “organic farmer” is one of them.

How to best engage younger folks? With lectures and demos on Saturday mornings, perhaps with pre-planned and pre-packaged projects ready for grabbing and going afterward.

Pet products in garden centers? She’s not really for it. She finds it distracting and sending mixed messages for your products. I have to say I disagree with Martha on that one.

“Sell the best stuff” for the garden. To Martha those are things that can be summed up in four words: well-made, affordable, practical, beautiful. Any store can sell regular stuff, dime-a-dozen hand tools and such. Sell variety. Sell well-crafted merchandise. Sell well-grown plants. Sell yourself. And that way you create not only a personal brand, but also a personal bond with your customer.

Martha’s Lesson from Her Dad

Patience, Martha learned from her father, is the most important character a gardener must possess and nurture. Sure, we can have “grab-and-go” garden stuff available for customers, but gardening is an exercise in patience.

It reminds me of a Zen parable that goes something like this” An old man planted an apple orchard. His neighbors scoffed at him, saying things like “old man, you’ll never be around when those trees bear fruit, so why bother?” He planted the orchard anyway, tending it diligently and with patience. And of course, the old man was not only around for the first harvest but enjoyed many years of harvests.

Martha, who recently celebrated her 73rd birthday, just finished planting a maple grove at her house in Maine. She must be familiar with that Zen parable.

Plant Picket

Speaking of well-made and beautiful, one of my pick items from IGC Chicago happens to be the 2014 Crafts Finalist for Martha’s American Made awards.

Jed Darland of Plant Picket crafted his first plant markers from rot-resistant lumber he reclaimed from an outdoor furniture project. He added a fun handmade clay image of a plant, encased the image in resin, and stuck the marker in the ground. It’s one of those stories where a friend comes over, sees the product and says, “Hey, those are cool. Where’d ya buy them?” Plant Pickets are available with 191 different flowers, herbs, veggies and other garden-related images.

Old Truck Organics

Mycorrhizae might not look very exciting, but Mykos from Old Truck Organics has an interesting claim to fame. These easy-to-use microbe and fertilizer packs have been used in some form or another during the growing of each of the world’s largest pumpkin since 2006—one weighing in at well over a ton! And rumor has it that there’s a 29-in. diameter tomato in Minnesota that can credit its girth to this product, too. It’s a bonus that the packaging is old-school cool, too.

Dramm Revolution

Well-made, practical, affordable and beautiful products are what Dramm is known for, and they have something new for your customers to fall in love with. It’s called the Revolution, and it’s a nozzle that combines the 9-pattern easy-dial settings of the Revolver nozzle with the thumb-activated spray control of the One-Touch sprayer.

And hey, next time you are at a trade show and Dramm is there, stop and talk to these guys. You’ll learn so much about the whole product, from tip to tail, and what it’s designed for.

Hudson Valley Seed Library

I’m pretty sure you’re not going to find prettier seed packets than those offered by Hudson Valley Seed Library. Each variety packet is commissioned from an artist and is an artist’s rendering of the actual plant or take on the variety name. The outer packet unfolds into a design that can be saved or even framed. Set up for retail, it becomes quite the can’t-miss art display! Hundreds of open-pollinated varieties to chose from. Plus, they have POP materials that encourage fall planting (which I am very much into as an avid vegetable gardener).

Fresh From Ireland

Last week’s Acres Online was full of good stuff straight from Ireland, thanks to boss Chris Beytes. Two of the items really struck me as easily repeatable and something you could start in your own store. Here’s what Chris shared about those two items …

Bagged Goods to Go

“Two things to note in this display at Newlands Home & Garden Centre: First, supplier Westland (one of the tour sponsors) offers these attractive discounts on their bagged goods—buy two, get one free, two for 12 Euros, five for 40 Euros (depending on the product). Makes consumers feel they’re getting a deal. Second, Newlands keeps carts in front of each stack, prefilled with the three or two or five bags, so the consumer can just roll them to the register.”

(Proven Winners’ Marshall Dirks wrote in to say that the chevron, or angled, layout is an eye-catching way to configure a display. It's most effective, of course, when laid out in the direction of traffic.)

Powerscourt's Wall and Shelves

“Possibly my pick item of the trip thus far is this wall system at Powerscourt Home & Garden, which is associated with Powerscourt Estate, voted recently by National Geographic as the No. 3 garden in the world, behind Versailles and Kew. Anyway, the wall is made up of vertical boards connected by horizontal rails—just a fence, really, but of alternating heights, as you can see.

“The real magic comes with these shelf brackets that fit between the fence slats and hook over the rails. The dowel you see stabilizes the bracket against the fence.

That’s Jim Wallitsch of Wallitsch Nursery & Garden Center, Louisville, Kentucky, who discovered the trick brackets and showed them to me.”

That does it for me, folks. Enjoy what you have left of the summer. Comments? Questions? Drop me a line at

Ellen Wells
Green Profit

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