Strange How Things Work By Bridget White

It seems like forever ago, but when I first entered the industry, a grower I met while on my very first greenhouse visit warned me that I was getting involved with a strange bunch of people. Nice, but certainly more than a bit odd.

I remember being kind of confused…was he joking, disgruntled or trying to tell me something about himself? I've since come to learn that he was absolutely right on both accounts — we're definitely nice and definitely strange.

Come on, be honest about yourself. This is not your average nine-to-five, suit and tie, hardline kind of industry. We think differently about our product, our livelihood and just about everything we do. Sometimes that's good; sometime's that's not so good.

Which Way Is Up?

When you think about how the floriculture industry works, it actually makes sense that those who work in it would be a little less than "normal." After all, we are never thinking about things at the same time or in the same way as the rest of the world.

For example, try to think for a minute about poinsettias — not as a crop, but as a seasonal plant. What ideas do poinsettias bring to mind? Christmas, snow, everything about the holidays? Now think about poinsettias as a crop. What does that bring to mind? Certainly not holidays and good times. You think about whiteflies, heat delay and a shrinking margin.

To put it bluntly, growers are never in sync with the rest of the world. It's a necessary aspect of the grower's occupation that holidays and seasons get turned upside down. We think about poinsettias every other time but when consumers do — we talk about them in February, after the trials (see page 22 for an update on which cultivars the consumers like best); we talk about them in July and August when growers are actually receiving cuttings; and we talk about them through the fall, as the crop progresses. In fact, the only time we're not talking about poinsettias is during the holiday season, when the rest of the world is looking for perfect plants for their holiday displays.

And the same is true for pretty much every other crop. Bulbs show up on our radar screen in the summer, well before even the earliest fall planting and long after spring flowering. Bedding plant season for us starts way before the first signs of spring, and I don't think anyone wants to talk about dealing with pansies during the heat of summer.

Reaping The Benefits

There certainly are some perks to marking time differently than the rest of the world. Take Pack Trials, for example. Next month, six of us from GPN, plus two from the University of Florida, will hit the California highways for a week. Amid endless cookies, naps and car games, we'll get to see some of the best new genetics the industry has to offer…and you can't buy any of them yet.

Like every other industry, our breeders and manufacturers work well ahead of even us in the industry they serve. And when it comes to getting sample plants that you can't even buy yet or seeing the back-rooms during Pack Trials (breeding in progress), it can be pretty cool. It certainly helps you understand that you're not the only one out of sync with the rest of the world.

Planning Pitfalls

But does all this planning give us a different perspective on our product? When you invest so much time and energy into a crop, does it make you more likely to nurture it through disease or hold it past prime?

Think about how much time and money you have in a poinsettia crop, for example. When you start investing in those plants in February (don't forget the time you spend researching new cultivars and making your order), aren't you a little more likely to grow as many as possible or try to recover stunted plants?

In this respect, I think we are justifiably different than other industries. Who am I to say whether you should or should not try to save a damaged crop? All I know is that this is one of the many unique aspects of floriculture that sets us apart from the rest of the world.

Bridget White

Bridget White, Editorial Director

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