In 1979, American Nurseryman magazine had not yet started its annual New Plant Introductions issue. But the idea had sprouted …

From the February 15 issue, the editor’s column, “The Mirror of the Trade.”

New Plants

A recent issue of a trade journal serving the garden supply industry carried a feature article entitled “150 New Garden Products.” This article, describing and illustrating the products, comprised the major portion of the issue in which it appeared.

The term “garden products” has come to mean only those products that are intended for the care and culture of plants; plants themselves are not included. Numerous new garden products are constantly appearing on the market. The garden products industry is experiencing fabulous growth but depends largely upon the plant industry for its livelihood.

What about new plant introductions? In the past we have rarely read about desirable new plants being offered to the public. Not so long ago, the trend among growers was actually in the other direction – a reduction in the number of plants offered. This practice was based on the premise that it would be more profitable to produce only the most popular varieties and concentrate sales promotion on them; let someone else grow the slow sellers.

Currently, there seems to be some evidence of a reversal of this trend. Wholesale price sheets are offering longer lists of plants. Indeed, some firms are boasting of the large number of varieties they are offering. The Nursery Marketing Council has determined through its research that shoppers go to nurseries rather than garden centers, because they believe the nurseries offer a good selection of plants. And, both nurseries and garden centers have a decisive advantage over mass marketers, because they offer a wide assortment of plants in addition to their expertise.

The nursery industry cannot give new plant unavailability as a reason for not introducing them. New plants are available and in great numbers. All a nurseryman needs to do is visit some of the outstanding arboretums with which this country is favorably endowed. Not only are the multitude of new plants being grown, but the arboretums are eager to help nurseries introduce them.

If any nurseryman doubts the existence of great untapped sources of plant material, let him consider the following statement found in “Hillier’s Manual of Trees and Shrubs,” the catalog for Hillier & Sons, Winchester, England: “Hillier & Sons cultivate (sic), in all, some 14,000 different kinds of plants … .”

Many desirable plants that for various reasons are no longer produced could be reintroduced. And, many plants that have not yet been offered to consumers by the retail nursery trade should be introduced and promoted.

The nursery trade might well follow the example of the garden products industry of maintaining customer interest by constantly offering something new. This merchandising technique will not hurt the sales of “old favorites” but will enhance and increase overall plant and garden product sales.