American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books - A Campaign to Cultivate Gardeners - June, 2014 - FEATURES

American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books - June, 2014

FEATURES

A Campaign to Cultivate Gardeners

The Plant Something program is taking root across the country, with states adapting the program materials to create their own promotions and events.
By Brooke Rockwell


The Plant Something Colorado seed packets encourage making planting a family event.
Image courtesy of Sharon Harris, Plant Something Colorado.

Last September, American Nurseryman featured an article on the Plant Something campaign, which was developed by the Arizona Nursery Association. This month, we take a look at how some of the partners are using this new campaign to promote planting and, in turn, local nurseries and landscapers.

Get Growing Colorado

The Plant Something Colorado website (http://www.plantsomethingco.org) urges the state's residents to "Get Growing." The site offers advice from pros; monthly lawn, gardening and landscaping tips; resources; and a calendar of local events. The "Find a Pro" feature allows site visitors to search for garden centers, greenhouses, growers, landscapers, nurseries and suppliers in their area.

Sharon Harris, executive director of the Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association, provided updates on what Plant Something Colorado is doing this year.

On May 5, the group started the lead-in to PlantSomething Day, which was scheduled for Saturday, June 7. During May and early June, a different discount was offered each week at participating member locations. Each week had a theme, such as "PlantSomething Edible!" and "PlantSomething Cool!" Printable coupons were available on the Plant Something Colorado website, enticing customers to visit the 16 participating nurseries, which were conveniently listed on the same page as the coupons, with links to their websites.

According to Harris, the participating nurseries are also promoting Plant Something Colorado through their websites, newsletters and social media.

The Colorado campaign has some help with getting the message out.



This group is ready to add some beauty to the town of Scituate for the 2013 Plant Something Day in Massachusetts.
Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy, Kennedy's Country Gardens.

"We have five Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association member co-op sponsors this year who pay an annual fee to have their company logo on our Plant Something website, promotions, bus tails, etc. They also get their logo on TV ads specifically in their geographic area," explained Harris.

Bus tail signs in the Denver Metro area read: "KNOW MORE. GROW MORE. Don't just sit there, PlantSomething Day is June 7th!" In addition, digital billboards were placed along Interstate 25, the main freeway from Colorado Springs through Denver and up to Fort Collins; billboards also were located on the Western Slope in and around Grand Junction.

Harris said, "We have a creative writer and a media buyer who help us get the biggest bang for our buck. For instance, our commercial ran during the Stanley Cup playoffs held in Denver."

In addition to the co-op sponsors, Plant Something Colorado received a Specialty Crop grant. "Most states have these grants through the Department of Agriculture via the farm bill that is administered by the USDA. These grants are how Plant Something began in Arizona," Harris said.

There were plans to get the word out on Mother's Day with a Colorado Rapids pregame event for kids and distribution of seed packets. The message on these packets "was specific for families to Plant Something together," Harris noted. "Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate; we had snow and 30-degree temps." The event was rescheduled for June 1. "The event prior to the game is called Soccer Fest, and children will make seed balls to take home and plant, and everyone who enters the game will get a seed packet with the banner ad, messaging and http://PlantSomethingCO.org on the packets," she explained.

Harris said the promotion won't stop after PlantSomething Day: "We will continue to promote how to successfully plant/garden in Colorado and will co-brand our program Grown In Colorado as well. In the fall, we will promote that fall is for planting."



Brooks Kennedy digs in and plants annuals for the 2013 Plant Something Day in Massachusetts.
Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy, Kennedy's Country Gardens.

Massachusetts digs in

Jim Stucchi, MCH, is vice president and designer at Ahronian Landscaping & Design, Inc. in Holliston, Massachusetts. This is the second year Stucchi helped to create a display at the Boston Flower & Garden Show for the Plant Something Massachusetts program.

The display featured a simple backyard greenhouse surrounded by plantings. Stucchi said, "Our exhibit is a hybrid educational/marketing piece to teach the public about the forgotten benefits of planting, or having something planted for them, as well as a vehicle to help drive new customers to the members of the Massachusetts Flower Growers and the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association."

During the March show, visitors to the Plant Something Massachusetts display were given a color-coded cup and a mystery seed to plant. When they returned home and logged on to the Plant Something Massachusetts website (http://www.plantsomethingma.org), they were able to find out what seed they had planted, as well as instructions on how to care for it. The seeds given out included the Simply Salad Global Gourmet Mix, including green leaf and red leaf lettuce and a spicy Asian green; sugar snap pea, which produces 3-inch pods that can be eaten fresh or used for cooking; and Sweet Pea Villa Roma Mix, an early-flowering, bush-type dwarf sweet pea.

"While they are on the website, they will have the opportunity to read about all the benefits of gardening, proper planting techniques, tips and even some of the members' favorite plants. They are able to click directly to our members' websites and find a professional in their area who can help them move forward with plant purchases, designs and installations," Stucchi explained.



Governor Deval Patrick helped kick off the Plant Something Massachusetts campaign in 2012, which included a visit to the Mather Elementary School in Dorchester. The governor demonstrated that Playing Dirty isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy, Kennedy's Country Gardens.

This year marked the second Plant Something Day for Massachusetts.

Chris Kennedy, owner of Kennedy's Country Gardens in Scituate, commented on the first Plant Something Massachusetts Day, which was held May 15, 2013. "We tried to get statewide exposure and support. The goal was to plant in every city and town in Massachusetts," Kennedy said. "We fell short, but we expected to."

According to a press release on the Plant Something Massachusetts website, there were plantings in 120 cities and towns across the state for the 2013 Plant Something Day. This year's event, also held on May 15, included the planting of blueberry bushes in a school garden and plantings at apartment complexes and along traffic islands.

Those who took part in Plant Something Day were invited to enter a photo contest showcasing their planting. Contestants could upload their photos to the group's Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/PlantSomethingMA). At print time the contest had just begun, so visit the Facebook page - you may still be able to vote for your favorite entry.

Plant Something Day was also the kickoff for the South Shore Great Pumpkin Challenge, with 30 South Shore garden centers giving out Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkin seedlings.

According to a press release, "The goal of the South Shore Great Pumpkin Challenge is to get kids in the dirt, understand where their food comes from and how to grow something." Schools that take part in the challenge can apply for the "Giant Pumpkin Grant." The $900 grant will be awarded to the school with the heaviest pumpkin and is to be used to help fund an agricultural project or program.

Genevieve Pollock, one of the project's co-founders, said, "We're very excited about our challenge." She noted that 600 seedlings were given out and 30 schools had signed up to participate in the challenge. You can track the growth of the pumpkins on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/SouthShoreGreatPumpkinChallenge.



The Buckeye State gets into the Plant Something spirit during an Earth Day celebration at the Columbus Zoo. Roni Shoemaker Petersen (left) and Amanda Domsitz of The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association were onsite to hand out packets of basil and sunflower seeds to zoo visitors.
Photo courtesy of The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association.

Buckeyes put down roots

ThePlant Something campaign is off to a strong start in Ohio. Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association, said the state's program started with 50,000 seed packets. The packets contained either Dwarf Double Sungold sunflower (Helianthus annuus) or sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) seeds supplied by American Meadows.

Approximately 5,000 packets were given out at the Columbus Zoo for an Earth Day celebration. The seed packets were also distributed during the Tunes & Blooms event at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, as well as at a breast cancer awareness event. Thompson said the plan was to distribute all the seed packets by Father's Day.

The goal, he explained, is to drive potential customers to the website (http://www.buckeyegardening.com/plant-something) and then direct them to a retailer. And it's working. He said there's been a "pretty dramatic" increase in the number of visitors to the site.

On the website, those who received seed packets will find plant descriptions, planting instructions and growing tips for the seeds, and for the sweet basil there's also a link to recipes for fresh basil pesto and caprese salad kabobs.

Thompson noted several advantages to participating in the Plant Something campaign. One is the availability of print materials - for example, a brochure on the benefits of landscape plants. Because the brochure was originally designed to be distributed in Arizona, the partners just have to swap out the plants for some that are better suited to Ohio and pay for printing. "The design is already there," he explained.

He said there are currently 14 members licensed to use the Plant Something campaign. These members share ideas and can share artwork, which is another big benefit.

Grooming Ohio's next generation of gardeners

Pat Frederick, nursery manager at Dues Nursery in Celina, Ohio, commented, "Our profession is kind of a dying breed. How do we get the next generation to come into our line of work?"

Frederick started working on a solution when he started the Little Growers program in 2011. This year, he has tied the program into the Plant Something campaign, working to make each town more beautiful with the help of some little hands.

Frederick kicked off the program the first week of April, visiting first- and second-grade students at seven schools within a 15-mile radius over a period of two weeks. Armed with soil, plastic cups, sunflower seeds and worms (of the gummy species), he sets up shop at the school and awaits his first group of Little Growers.



Helping to instill a love of gardening for future generations, Pat Frederick has incorporated the Plant Something campaign into his Little Growers program for first- and second-graders.
Photo courtesy of The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association.

Through his skit, Frederick teaches the children the basics of planting and caring for their seed. Once the children have successfully planted their seeds, they receive a card that identifies them as a "Certified Little Grower." The card also entitles them to a discount at the nursery, which "brings in parents," Frederick noted.

As the plants grow in the classroom, the teachers use them as a learning tool. By early May, when the sunflower plants are 8 to 12 inches tall, the children can give them as Mother's Day presents. They're encouraged to plant them outdoors and take pictures over the summer to post on the nursery's Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dues-Nursery-Ltd/218720631482280). The class with the biggest sunflower is presented with the Green Thumb award, which includes a plaque that can be displayed at the school until the following spring, a pizza or ice cream party and, Frederick added, "bragging rights."

He said the kids enjoy the program, and there's been a "nice response from the parents." It also brings more parents to the nursery, with kids requesting plants so they can plant their own gardens at home.

Approximately 3,000 Little Growers were certified this year, and with the help of the Plant Something campaign, there's no doubt that the number of gardeners, and thus nursery customers, will continue to grow.

Brooke A. Rockwell is an editor for Moose River Media. She can be reached at brockwell@mooserivermedia.com.

Quick Look

For a quick behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Plant Something Massachusetts booth at the Boston Flower & Garden Show, visit http://bit.ly/1kl09t9.