Visions Of Sugar Plums By Roger Styer

The first week of November I had the opportunity to visit Holland and attend Horti Fair, the biggest trade show in the world for our industry. In addition, I toured some greenhouses, retail garden centers and, of course, Amsterdam at night. I had not been over to Horti Fair for five years, so I was very interested in what had changed since my last visit. If you have never been to Horti Fair, you must go at least once in your lifetime. It is a real eye-opener!

Imagine how big the OFA Short Course trade show is, and then multiply it by at least 10. Companies from all over the world exhibit at HortiFair. You cannot see the show in a day, but I did spend two full days taking it all in. I also got to visit the Aalsmeer Flower Market (and the flower auction on a different day), which is a trade show featuring growers and companies marketing their products through auction and wholesale.

On this trip to Holland, I was looking at cut flowers, potted plants, greenhouse automation, new products and new ideas that will probably be coming to the United States soon. My mind boggled over the products and added value that growers and companies were coming up with for seemingly mundane plants, many of which we already grow and sell. It showed me how much things are changing. We are in the business of decorating, not just selling plants and flowers.

Trends And Added Value

If you don't know it already, potted orchids are hot, hot, hot! I saw so many different types and colors of potted and cut orchids, I still can't believe it. And the prices were a lot cheaper than in the United States. Quality was phenomenal, and there are some Dutch growers looking to grow more potted orchids. Another hot item was cut amaryllis. Now most of you know potted amaryllis, but cuts are the hot item for wedding arrangements.

I saw a number of growing media products containing coir (coconut fiber), as some countries are requiring growers to use less peat to save the environment (or something like that!). I even learned about an interesting organic phosphorus product from Indonesia used in Australia; it is high in calcium and silica, and labeled for organic use.

What really caught my attention were the techniques used to add value to all sorts of potted plants and cut flowers. Painted and glittered poinsettias were still very evident, but I also saw gold and silver paints being used. And glitter was on everything, including foliage plants and cyclamen. Good thing my daughter was not along on this trip, or she would have bought anything that had glitter on it. I saw potted plants with colored balls, snow and cute characters stuck in them (Santa Claus on skis comes to mind). And pots are not the drab colors of old. You can get designer colors and any kind of pot cover to make that plant part of your interior decoration. Vases for cut flowers are more than just vessels. Now they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. And if you still like clear vases, you can use colored gels (the layered approach works best) to add to the beauty of the flowers in the vase.

A simple but highly effective idea is to put four mini poinsettias (in 2-inch pots) into a handle pack and add some glitter. I saw a handle pack with two white and two red minis in it. I was immediately struck by the possibilities of selling more of these cute points as gifts. And this was being sold through the Aalsmeer flower auction. So, why aren't we doing this in the United States?With the pressure our growers and retailers face with rising costs and flat prices, it becomes more and more important to look at what kind of added value you can provide your customers. If you can think more along the lines of decorating, both interior and exterior, you are only limited by your imagination. When consumers perceive added value, price is no longer an issue. Remember, we are selling emotions, not logic. People want different colors in their lives, and those colors change with the seasons. Are you up-to-date on what colors are being used for interior decorations? Do you offer color-coordinated products or at least choices? How much customization are you willing to do? And finally, how many of you painted and glittered poinsettias this year? Stop being a purist and start becoming more of a decorator!

Roger Styer

Roger Styer is president of Styer's Horticultural Consulting, Batavia, Ill. He can be reached by phone at (630) 208-0542 or E-mail at [email protected]

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