Trends from the Trials By Jasmina Radjevic and Tim Hodson

Each spring, the GPN crew heads west to California for a week-long journey visiting breeders and industry suppliers. It's always quite an adventure, and this year was no different. Starting in Encinitas and ending in Gilroy, we made a total of 18 stops and met with more than 50 companies!

We learned a lot during the 2011 California Spring Trials, and for those of you who were unable to make it or if you just need a refresher, we compiled a list of some of the trends we saw along the way.

In the July issue of GPN we will highlight many of the new varieties that made their debut during California Spring Trials.

Adding Value

It seems each year that merchandising and promotion of new varieties becomes just as important as the flowers themselves. Having attended the California Spring Trials for the past several years, one thing that continues to grow and develop is the way we market our market to both retailers and consumers. Breeders and suppliers join together to create inspiring displays that really make an impact at the consumer level.

At Ecke Ranch, we loved the "Eat. Pray. Love." theme they put together along with Braun Horticulture.

The folks at Suntory created a beautiful lifestyle display where they actually filmed some commercials during Spring Trials!

We always see great packaging at the Hort Couture stop. They create beautiful tags, pots and other items targeting the female consumer's inner diva.

Schoneveld Breeding seems to always show off new ways to gift miniature plants as well as creative ways to garden indoors.

Research tells us that consumers choose plants based on color. At Sakata, we saw wonderful color block displays.

At Golden State Bulb Growers, they showed us how calla lilies can be used for almost any occasion with the help of a few added accessories and decorative pots.

Syngenta Flowers displayed food and wine items cross-merchandised with flowers, showing how plants are just as much a part of "lifestyle" as chocolate!

Tuned in to Technology

As more and more consumers purchase and get comfortable with smartphone technology, the horticulture industry is looking for different ways to use this technology to its advantage.

One way that the growers and breeders are doing that is with quick response or QR codes. These two-dimensional codes allow easy access (via a smartphone) to different online resources where consumers can learn more about the products.

At Benary, the QR codes take you directly to the company's Facebook page where consumers can interact with each other on the company's different varieties.

During our stop at Imagination Canyon, we saw how the John Henry Co. was using the technology in conjunction with its Bloom IQ website ( to help educate consumers about gardening. JHC also was showing a prototype of a kiosk that retailers might want to use in their stores that provide shoppers access to the Bloom IQ website.

At the Sakata location, MasterTag was also demonstrating different ways growers and retailers can use QR codes on its tags and other branding material.

An Appetite for Edibles

For the past few years, many growers have been looking for ways to diversify their product lines. Flower gardening has struggled as an industry in the recent past. With fewer discretionary dollars, consumers are spending more on necessities and less on luxuries.

And growers are going beyond selling produce to grocery chains. With homegrown edibles continuing to grow in popularity among consumers, growers are offering more and more starter veggie and herb plants as well.

Ball Horticultural Co. continues to expand the Burpee Home Gardens line. They are heavily focusing their efforts on targeting the end consumer with advertisements as well as branded pots and retail carts.

At the Floranova stop, we got to see all the new Vegetalis products introduced this year. One of our favorites was tomato 'Cherry Falls'. Just one plant grows 600 to 800 fruits per season!

The vegetable category is most definitely not new to Sakata, but this year the company introduced its Home Grown division, which was created to serve companies that supply home gardens.

Plug Connection had its Mighty 'Mato on display this year. These heirloom tomatoes are grafted onto rootstock typically used for hydroponic production.

Greenex added a few new chili peppers to its line of capsicum. One of the most interesting was 'Paracho', which starts black and brightens to orange as it matures.

Effectively Efficient

Growers continue to look for efficient solutions that make their jobs easier from eco-friendly container options and they were on display at California Spring Trials.

At Ecke Ranch we learned about the Ecke SNAP System 78 that arrives to growers with just two weeks remaining to complete the propagation cycle. ES78 includes callused, pre-stuck cuttings in 78-cell trays with a proprietary packing material in each cell. As a result, two weeks and three costly propagation phases are saved "in a snap." Growers can use that extra space to turn another crop through propagation.

Jiffy and Proven Winners announced they are working together to develop "fully plantable alternatives" to Proven Winners' branded white containers. The peat pot containers are fully biodegradable and have a compostable four-color printed PLA wrap with planting instructions on it.

Ball Horticultural Co. was also showing its SoilWrap biopacckaging material. This bottomless biodegradable pot encourages fast rooting with no transplant shock. It also allows the root system to come into contact with soil immediately.

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Jasmina Radjevic and Tim Hodson

Jasmina Radjevic is managing editor and Tim Hodson is editorial director of GPN. Jasmina can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1004 and Tim can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1019.

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