You can dazzle clients and customers with clever designs and gorgeous plants … But can you provide a few interesting facts about what you do, or what your plants can do?

Trivial pursuit

You learn something new every day.

What I learned today comes from the last page of the December 2010 issue of Harper’s magazine (which shows you how far behind I am in my leisure reading). In the regular department called “Findings,” I read that “Neurobiologists created mice that can smell light,” and “New clocks made it possible to measure the effect that one-foot changes in altitude have on the speed of time.” Seriously!

However, what’s more apropos to our little corner of the world is that Paris japonica, a lovely plant, “was found to have the largest known genome, 15 times the size of the human genome and surpassing even that of the marbled lungfish.”

Imagine that! I’ve never met a marbled lungfish, and wouldn’t recognize one if he showed up in my bathtub. Simply reading that this critter has the largest documented genome (“Largest animal genome size: 132.83pg, Protopterus aethiopicus, Marbled lungfish,” according to the Animal Genome Size Database, www.genomesize.com), however, makes me want to meet one. And now that I know that the genome for Paris japonica is even larger, gosh darn it, I want that plant!

Most of this was reported last October (I told you was behind in my reading), but it’s still exciting. On ScienceNOW’s website, it states, “A rare Japanese flower named Paris japonica sports an astonishing 149 billion base pairs, making it 50 times the size of a human genome – and the largest genome ever found. Until now, the biggest genome belonged to the marbled lungfish, whose 130 billion base pairs weighed in at an impressive 132.83 picograms. (A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram).”

Do I know what any of this means? Not really. But it’s impressive. And it made me want to know more about the plant. (And the fish. And a genome, for that matter.) Which brings me to my point. Finally.

Dollars are precious these days – for everyone. We’re told nearly every day that the Great Recession is officially over, but the green industry is among the last to experience what will be a long, low, slow recovery. So proving that your goods and services are important – not just pretty, but important – is critical.

You can dazzle clients and customers with clever designs and gorgeous plants, and so can a lot of your competitors. But can you provide a few interesting facts about what you do, or what your plants can do? Aside from its ornamental characteristics, isn’t there some bit of interesting information about that plant? A bit of trivia? Some folklore? A scientific fact that proves just how valuable your customer’s new purchase will be?

Your presentation needn’t be pedantic – no one wants to be lectured. But a sign that says, “Did you know … ?” piques anyone’s curiosity. A brief comment – in passing, perhaps – about a plant’s soil-cleaning properties would hook me. (Utter the word, “phytoremediation” and I’m yours.) The dogwood tree enjoys a place of honor in Christianity as well as Native American lore. I waffled about a memorial tree for my Siberian Husky until I found ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood – what could be a more fitting tribute?

The quality of your plants and your work are first and foremost what should sell. Given good competition and a bad economy, though, a little edge wouldn’t hurt. It may seem like trivia, but each little nugget of information makes you stand out. And that’s no trivial pursuit.