Committed to Customers’ Success By David Kuack

Linder's Greenhouse and Garden Center in St. Paul, Minn., consistently strives to ensure the success of its customers. The fourth-generation company operates a year-round greenhouse and garden center in St. Paul along with more than 50 Flower Mart seasonal retail outlets throughout the seven county metro area. Most of the production to supply its retail stores is done at the company's 10-acre facility in Lake Elmo, Minn.

"We try to grow what we know best," says Linder's marketing director Mark Armstead. "We grow over 90 percent of our own annuals and about 85 percent of our own perennials. Trees and shrubs are purchased in.

"As growers we try to make sure that our end customers are successful. We had been growing 10-inch hanging baskets and two years ago we realized the likelihood of success was very minimal especially if consumers skipped watering them. So we were looking at products that we could put in the baskets to help our customers be more successful."
Initially Linder's tried using a plastic saucer inside the hanging baskets that held a reservoir of water. That trial lasted one year. In 2011, the company switched to an 11-inch basket which provided a larger soil volume.

Finding a Successful Solution

Armstead says that at the same time Linder's made the switch to the larger hanging basket, Joanne James, who is the company's director of annual production, began using MagniMoist planter inserts in the hanging baskets. The 100 percent natural kenaf fiber inserts fit into a variety of containers and act as a fabric valve to improve the water holding capacity of the growing medium.

"We do a full line of baskets including the 11-inch along with moss baskets and coco fiber," Armstead explains. "We used the MagniMoist inserts in every type of basket that they would fit into. We didn't use them in some of the odd shape containers like cone baskets."

To help promote Linder's use of the inserts in its baskets, the company purchased a 4- by 6-foot point-of-sale display of MagniMoist products for its main garden center. The display helped to show customers the company's commitment to helping them succeed with their plants as well as the advantages of using the inserts. Linder's also posted signs on the display that indicated the company used MagniMoist products in its hanging baskets and combination containers.

"Last year Joanne and the growers tried to identify the varieties that were more prone to dry out," Armstead says. "These would be plants that would be affected more if the growing medium dried out as opposed to those that might be more forgiving. Last year we used the inserts in 99 percent of our 11-inch baskets, which included crops like geranium, calibrachoa and petunia. We also used the inserts in our combinations, which included Proven Winners specialty annual baskets. We also used the inserts with a couple of mono-crops such as 12-inch pots of geraniums and New Guinea impatiens."

Making a Commitment

This year Linder's is using the inserts not only in its baskets, but also in its 10-, 12- and 14-inch container garden pots.

"We said if we believe in the product then we are going to use the inserts in everything," Armstead says. "We used them in everything unless the functionality of the container, like the cone baskets, didn't allow for the inserts to be used."

This year Linder's worked with Think Mint Inc., the manufacturer of MagniMoist products, to develop a promotional "Grown with MagniMoist" tag to attach to its containers. Armstead says this is a relatively easy way to let customers know that Linder's is using the MagniMoist inserts in its baskets and combination containers. He says Linder's is also preparing POP signage materials with more information to promote the MagniMoist products along with a website that customers can link to for additional information.

Making it Easier to Grow

While the use of the inserts should help customers be more successful, Linder's growers are studying the advantages the inserts are having on the production side. Armstead says this year the company's growers will be quantifying the savings realized from using the inserts.

"Using the inserts has resulted in having to water the plants less," he states. "The inserts have enabled us to lengthen the time between waterings, and the inserts provide a more thorough watering with less water. With the inserts, the baskets hold the water a little longer in the root zone so the plants can hydrate."

Linder's produces 130,000 hanging baskets that are irrigated by a Netafim drip system. The larger containers are hand watered.

"The staff that waters the containers noticed that once they started using the MagniMoist inserts they didn't have to water the plants as often," Armstead says. "I would expect this will be one of the things that the growers will be measuring this year to determine how frequently they are watering.

"Since there is less waterings and less water leaching out of the bottom of the containers, I am sure there has been a savings on fertilizer too. We are still mixing our own soil and adding a time release fertilizer to the soil. Incorporating a time release fertilizer helps to ensure our customers are successful with the plants. We also use a liquid feed."

Simplifying Consumers' Choices

Armstead says Linder's has gone through an evolution this year in regards to plant offerings.

"In 2012 we had over 480 different varieties of specialty annuals," he explains. "For 2013 we looked at what we had grown previously and said this is ridiculous in terms of how many different varieties we were growing. How many different red calibrachoas or red verbenas do we need to offer?

"We simplified the process. We made a commitment this year to Proven Winners. We went through our plant list and simplified it to make it easier for our customers. But we also offer some other breeders' plants including geraniums and New Guinea impatiens that are not in the Proven Winners program."

For more information: Linder's Greenhouse and Garden Center, Think Mint Inc., (800) 713-6188;; Proven Winners,

Committed to Customers’ Success

David Kuack

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas;

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