Container trial gardens at EuroAmerican Propagators in Bonsall, Calif.
PHOTO BY KAREN E. VARGA

Fashion-forward dianthus

On day one of the California Spring Trials, the team headed over to the GroLink stop in Oxnard, Calif., where we visited two of our Ornamental Breeder breeders, PlantHaven and Suntory Flowers.

Left Photo: Pinks by Whetman. Middle Photo: Pinball Wizard dianthus promotion at PlantHaven.
PHOTOS BY KAREN E. VARGA

We had the chance to chat with Robert Bett, CEO of PlantHaven, about the great display elements showcasing the newest variety in the Pinks by Whetman line, Pinball Wizard, set to hit the market in spring 2017. “It’s very fashion-forward,” Bett says. “It’s the first one of our varieties from Whetman that have this beautiful, highly painted bloom.”

The dianthus was front-and-center in the two main displays in the PlantHaven area. In the first, it was presented among simple but elegant props that consumers could use to recreate the look in their own homes. “[Pinball Wizard is] so great for people to pick and bring into the home, even in this shabby chic look,” Bett says. “Even a guy can do it! Nine little milk bottles, nine little flowers and it looks fantastic.” The simple silver reflecting ball also provided a nice complement to the showy flowers. These types of displays could be easily mimicked at retail and answer the question many consumers have — “What can I do with it?”

PlantHaven took it a step further and played off the variety’s name with a fun, redecorated pinball machine. Attendees (or even the folks at PlantHaven during break times) could linger at the booth, get in touch with their competitive side and try their hand at the game. While this concept may not be easily repeated at retail, it was still good food for thought. Whatever you can do to increase consumers’ time at the store — such as providing them an interactive, plant-themed activity like this one — is worth considering.

Getting to the heart of the matter

Meanwhile at Suntory Flowers, the variety that made the biggest splash was the newest addition to the Surfinia petunia line, Heartbeat. The name is a play on the heart-shaped pink markings on the white petunia’s blooms and it was a theme that was carried throughout the marketing materials. At the booth, Suntory offered visitors boxes of the archetypical Valentine’s Day candy hearts (top right) as a take-home gift.

Suntory Flowers display at the 2016 California Spring Trials.
Photo Courtesy of Delilah Onofrey
PHOTOS BY KAREN E. VARGA

The heart pattern on the blooms varies depending on the care given to the plants. In a product release about the new variety, Suntory says, “The hearts grow with love, care and adequate fertilizer.” In other words, it’s easy to tell if the plants are receiving sufficient care because the pink hearts will be more prominent on the blooms. At the booth, there was a poster with photo examples and graphics that made it easy to understand. (Bottom right.)

This is a great marketing message that could be carried through to the consumers; they’ll be able to easily “get to the heart of the matter” by comparing their blooms to the examples.

International and intergalactic celebrations

Compact Tropical Rose
PHOTO BY KAREN E. VARGA

A nearly floor-to-ceiling birthday “cake” layered with SunPatiens to celebrate the launch of the plant 10 years ago.
PHOTO BY KAREN E. VARGA

While Benary celebrated art, fashion and horticulture, another type of celebration was happening at Sakata Seed America in Salinas, Calif.

The plant breeder commemorated the 10th anniversary of the launch of the well-known sun or shade, rain or shine SunPatiens line with a nearly floor-to-ceiling birthday “cake” layered with the impatiens collection and a MINI Cooper decked out in decals of the plant. Although the plant went to market a decade ago, development of the line began eight years before the launch, says Mark Seguin, global marketing manager, cuttings, for Sakata.

“It was one of our breeders at Sakata who was touring an island in Indonesia where they spotted impatiens growing in the full sun,” he says. They introduced four new varieties to the series at this year’s spring trials, including Compact Tropical Rose, which features bright, bold blooms and variegated yellow and green foliage.

P. Allen Smith, lifestyle and garden expert, was also on hand — well, at least in life-sized cardboard cutout form — to celebrate SunPatiens anniversary and the recent partnership between Smith and Sakata’s SunPatiens brand.

Profusion zinnia on Instagram
PHOTO BY KAREN E. VARGA

The Ornamental Breeder company also gave special recognition to its Profusion zinnia line and its success on both Earth and in space. In January, Scott Kelly, expedition commander on the International Space Station, shared photos of a blooming Profusion Orange, announcing that it was the first flower grown in space. Screenshots of Instagram posts were blown up into posters and displayed, and this idea could be replicated to market the plant at retail. If the plant can grow in the unideal conditions of a space station, surely it can thrive in a garden.