Monday, August 24, 2009

The Farwest Show

How lucky am I? I was part of a small group of gardeners invited to attend the Oregon Association of Nurseries Farwest Show at the Oregon Convention Center last weekend. The show is normally only open to people “in the industry,” this year they decided to include a few gardeners or “end-users” as I called myself when talking to the vendors. Why did they do it? I was told it was to help build community within the larger gardening public in Oregon.
Sometime ago I signed up for the Random Acts of Gardening email newsletter, in the last issue they asked readers to respond to the question “what does gardening mean to you” and from these entries they selected the people that they invited to the show. Honestly I was pretty excited when I found out I was one of the folks who they were inviting, I am a plant nerd after all, plus the whole idea of going somewhere I wasn’t normally “allowed” to go also held a little intrigue.

I stopped to check out the sign for the seminars being offered. Good to know that the online gardening market is being recognized with seminars titled “Unleash you Inner E-Marketer,” “Who’s Searching and Who’s Buying Gardening Products Online? Your Customers!,” and “Marketing Strategy for the Internet.” The title of the next seminar on the schedule “Save Money Through Spray Efficiency” scared the bejesus out of me and reminded me why I am not a nursery professional. Yuck. During our meet-up and introduction I learned that Oregon is 2nd only to California for the number of commercial nurseries in the state, and we are actually #1 for the amount of acreage given over to plant propagation. Upon walking onto the show floor I was stunned at the size, I am a 5 year vet of the Yard Garden and Patio show, which is also held at the Oregon Convention Center. I thought they would be pretty much the same size. Nope. This was MUCH bigger.

We were formally toured through 4 grower/nursery booths (Terra Nova, Fisher Farms, Blooming Nursery and Monrovia) and something called the ‘New Varieties Showcase,’ before being set free to wander on our own. Each of the 4 grower/nursery booths were prepared for our visit.
The folks at the Terra Nova booth shared information on their tissue culture propagation methods and were very generous, not only giving us our choice of the plants on display but also inviting us to take a few ‘plugs”. I learned that these little plugs (and something else called liners) are the first step in the plants long, multi-step journey from propagation to retail nursery. For my plant gift I chose a Heucherella ‘Golden Zebra’ (below) how could I resist? Chartreuse and burgundy….it was calling out to me.
I also couldn’t resist taking a couple Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’ plugs, along with a Tiarella ‘Cascade Creeper’ and just for the hell of it an Echinacea ‘Pink Poodle’ – free is the very best price.
On to the Fisher Farms booth where we learned they are now the #1 most “branded” grower with 7 brands signed. I wanted to ask for specifics on this concept and why that was their goal, but could tell I was the only one a little put-off by the concept of branding of plant material, so I chose to keep quiet. This Yucca, Fern and Hibiscus ‘Crown jewel’ (with the fabulous burgundy leaf color) were part of their display.
Branding is an interesting subject and one that I want to learn more about. Reading the show magazine later I came across this quote from the Marketing Director of Fisher Farms “Not all independent garden centers embrace the concept but research shows that the younger generation is very brand oriented.” The amateur sociologist (or is it psychologist?) in me loves to learn how and why people respond to branding and product packaging. Branding doesn’t have to mean trade-marking but often does...Note to self: research this.

Next up was the Blooming Nursery booth.
They had some beautiful Echinacea, Conitus and Bananas. We were also introduced to their Blooming Advantage Plant Finder online. I was too busy staring at/touching the plants to really watch the demonstration, I’ll have to check it out and see if it is a useful tool, click on the link to try it out for yourselves. On to Monrovia. I spent most of the time in this booth mesmerized by this beautiful Agave The striking yellow Crocosmia
And the Abutilon
We did learn that Monrovia has teamed up with Dan Hinkley to introduce new varieties to us, the gardening public. Go Dan.

Tomorrow the ‘New Varieties Showcase’ and the rest of the show…


  1. Looks like the OAN is reaching out to consumers...about time. They made a good choice in asking you to be one of their guests.

  2. It's nice to see what's behind the scenes for gardening customers. Way to go on scoring that invitation.

  3. Looks like fun - I wonder what you wrote in response to the question...

  4. Congrats on your selection and it looks like it was great fun. I love that Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’. Oh I love those Monrovia plants-they are also big on branding.
    I could tell you more about plant branding and protection as that's part of what I do. To simplify, you can patent or trademark a plant.
    A trademark is a brand, its just a name used to identify a plant, it does not give any exclusive right to then plant breeding, just the name. Anyone can propagate the plant and sell them, once they do not use the trademark/brand. A branded/trademarked plant may or my not be patented.
    A patented plant is one that is bred and the breeder has the exclusive rights to propagation (including via licensing) under the laws on plant breeder's rights. A patented plant may or may not be trademarked/branded.

  5. Looks like you had a wonderful time. Not really thrilled to hear that Dan Hinkley is working with Monrovia...... seems far below his calibre as a true plant hunter! Part of the thrill is knowing that his plants will be hard to locate and that it won't end up with a silly name like Pinky Winky! (Even though I one in the garden!) Sorry if this sounds snobbish but I am not a Monrovia fan!

  6. I think I would have found a poisonous plant in the building, made a poisonous blow dart, injected the dart into the Monrovia sales person and made off with that Agave.
    Seriously, that is one stunning plant !

  7. Wow what a fun day you had and lucky you! I wish we have shows like this here.

  8. DG~~ Kudos to you for being a winner. And what a prize! And kudos for sharing your winnings with us. I bet it was torture not being able to take that Agave home. ... I suppose I'm not the "younger generation" because I have absolutely no use for the "branding" of plants. Usually branding means more expensive and if I can save a few bucks by buying the identical generic I will. ... A few years ago I attended a Tera Nova talk at a local nursery. I found the tissue culture is a fascinating science. After the talk, the speaker gave each of us 4 plugs of Heuchera 'Paris.' They seem to be very generous.

  9. How cool you got to go to that. My favorite are the ones who give you free plants. Interesting stuff from Nicole. I guess I hate when plants are patented because it prevents them from becoming widely offered. I found an evergreen variegated magnolia I might have wanted at Gossler, but because it was patented, they couldn't make more, and because the grower decided to stop making them, they were dead stock. I didn't get the tree when they had it, and that was that.
    That plant finder... hmm. My usual complaint with these things. The user experience sort of, well, sucks.
    Fantastic agave there, I wonder what it is.

  10. Jerry dude at Fisher Farms.

    First of all, thank you for coming to our booth and having the opportunity to share a little about what we are up to.

    Plant branding in itself means more than what I shared. What it ultimately will mean is a cooperative effort by everyone involved in bringing new plants to the market.

    I can tell you were all excited by the 'new stuff' you saw at the show.

    At this point in time, breeders lean on these various brands to assist them in getting their new work into the market. The brands themselves work with their growers to utilize the marketing dollars we pay to get the word out through various media forms.

    You are correct in that the 'brands' themselves may not be embraced by the garden centers right now but we do see them choosing many new selections from each of the brands. Brand recognition will take time. This is a fairly new concept for our industry but the future benefits hold great promise of the best new plants and growing our garden community for today and our future generations.

    Kudos to all of you.....happy gardening!

  11. Megan, Danger Garden: Note that if ornamentsal plants could not be patented most of the patented ones will not have existed at all. Not many people have the time to spend years breeding plants for free.
    If you are a plant beeder by profession and took the effort and time to breed plants of course you deserve to be paid-that's your job. The payment comes in the form of a small royalty from each plant. You wouldn't expect someone to work away for years for free, would you?
    Actually, rather than reduce the availability of ornamental plants, patenting actaully increases it. Most of the new ornamental hybrids simply would not exist today if the breeders could not recoup their investment.

  12. Ricki, thanks! I wondered if you would be among the guests, unfortunately there was nobody there that I "knew."

    Pam, hope you see Tuesdays post - I have pictures of a few new introductions.

    how it grows, me too! I sent in my response and then realized that I didn't have a copy! I chattered on about all the garden related things that I do. I think I might have came across as slightly obsessed.

    Nicole, ‘Tiki Torch’ is HOT! I agree. More response to you below and in the next post...I do REALLY appreciate your input. Thank you.

    Teza, Not snobbish, I appreciate your input too! I was also a little taken aback about the Dan Hinkley news, but the more I thought about it I decided it must be a good thing. Lord knows the guy has been "done wrong" (big over simplification and I don't know the full story!) by the big guys before, if he is signing up for this it must be a good thing?

    DD aka Michelle, HA! The drama,I like it! A smart person (not me) would have just interrupted the fellow and found out what it was an how much it was. Instead I was just dumb-struck.

    Stephanie, I did feel lucky and don't take the opportunity for granted.

    Grace, you were another that I thought might be there! I was hoping to meet you.

    I really do think that the folks at Terra Nova are very generous. At the one Master Gardeners of Multnomah County meeting I went to someone from Terra Nova came to talk to us (sorry don't remember his name) and he gave away plants, very nice. I the tissue culture part is very interesting. I think I want to hit them up for a job! :)

    Megan, there is more from Nicole...hopefully you will be able to read it. I have so much to learn! Your experience with the Magnolia is an unfortunate one, definitely. I still have not had a chance to check out the plant finder link.

    Jerry, thank you for taking the time to visit and comment. And for helping shed more light on this complicated (for me) subject.

    I should have asked more at the show but I didn't want to infringe on the others pure excitement about the plants. I do really find the subject of branding interesting, after all I have a retail background and currently work in marketing. Getting new plant material to the market is definitely a plus, for us all. Nothing new = boring. I understand that.

    I also realize I am part of the in-between generation where I appreciate, but don't fully embrace, branding.

    Nicole, the Terra Nova folks spoke about how they were not yet selling in China because they (the Chinese) do not respect intellectual property rights and their developments would be on the open market as soon as possible (3-5 years). I completely understand your point about people not toiling for free, god yes! We want it to be worth their time to bring us fabolous new plant material. Thank you for taking the time to help educate me on this subject!


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