Everybody's a Critic

More Media News

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is filing for bankruptcy. Another robust garden section in peril.  Any garden writers out that way with news, send it our way.

The news also came this week that environmental/eco-lifestyle magazine Plenty, and National Geographic's Green Guide, are no longer. AdAge reports that a new 'green' magazine, Organic Beauty, is set to launch soon.  Should a so-called green magazine even exist in print?  Discuss.

And now, in the face of all this bad media news, I give you this bright spot:  a wonderful piece in Grower Talks magazine about the marketing strategies behind the 'Endless Summer' hydrangea. This is exactly the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that I find fascinating.  It's not an article about how to plant a hydrangea or how to prune a hydrangea or how to feed a hydrangea or what to plant next to a hydrangea.  It's about how a nursery in Minnesota found an interesting hydrangea in the backyard of an employee and spent a million dollars marketing it in the first year.  They had a million plants for sale, so they spent a dollar marketing each plant–and they still do.  The newest release, Twist-n-Shout, will be backed up by $800,000 in cable television advertising and consumer ads of $1.5 million. Advertising a plant on TV?  What a concept!  Tell me more!

I love it that industry magazines like Grower Talks run these kind of stories, and I wish consumer garden magazines would find a way to follow suit.  I mean, it's an interesting, gee-whiz kind of story about what goes into "the making of" a popular plant, and what I like about it is that it gets at this larger idea that gardeners are interested in the world of horticulture, a world that includes science, money, politics, marketing, and international intrigue. It's the kind of story you'd see in any number of other consumer/enthusiast magazines, from Wired to Wine Spectator to Gourmet.  So–Grower Talks!  Good work!

Posted by on January 20, 2009 at 9:32 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic.
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12 Responses to “More Media News”

  1. Dave M says:

    I’m with you! I spent two years studying interior design before jumping back into the landscape field, and one of the coolest talks I ever attended was given by someone from the Color Marketing Group. To actually hear that someone is actually telling us, “you’ll consider this color sexy this year” is a little creepy. But SO COOL!

  2. Hey Amy,
    Great piece and exactly the kind of “behind the scenes” story that I enjoy reading about. I’m sure some readers right now are questioning that “peculiar” plant they have in their yard and wondering if they have a “Endless Summer” of their own brewing.

    I lament the closing of so many newspapers, but what really hits me is the the toll it takes on our garden writers. Sure, the income many times is not great writing for these papers,but their voice is heard and great advice shared.

    I see exciting new opportunities though for garden writers in the horizon. An eternal optimist, I believe their work will translate well on the web, where curious gardeners look for information.

    Keep bringing us these nuggets Amy.
    Shirley

  3. Elizabeth Stump says:

    Gardening columnists are fading away. The San Jose Mercury News had a great garden editor, Jackson (forget her first name), and the gardening coverage hasn’t been squat since she left years ago. I MISS HER!!!

  4. Joe Lamp'l says:

    I’ve had the same observations about great gardening stories in horticultural trade publications. As Shirley said, I too think we can utilize media outlets like the web to provide those same stories to anyone with a computer. I believe the internet will soon be the primary media hub for information delivery. Much of what we seen on television and read in magazines and newspapers in the future will be repurposed FROM the web, rather than to the web.

  5. Kathy says:

    You know a plant has good marketing when you find a dozen of them sold by name in Sams Club, which is where I saw Endless Summer this spring.

  6. greg draiss says:

    Endless Summer at Sam’s Club?

    Talk about dilution of quality.
    On the subject of garden writing disappearing from print media it is indeed a shame.

    I write for several weeklys that are doing well beacuse the editors, publishers, writers etc are part of the communities in which they are published.

    However my advice is do not “craigslist” yourself by falling for the “build your portfolio” or for “the experience”.
    Hang tough out there………
    we could always grow and sell weed until editors realize what they have done to their papers.

    Who knows better than gardeners how to grow WEEDs anyway?

    The (still watches up in smoke) TROLL

  7. A perfect example to Greg Draiss’ comment about editors publishing tripe: SFGATE.com – San Francisco Chronicle’s online site published an article about perennial bloom times, written by Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post. I do not take issue with the content but the relevance of the info in the article to the local gardeners of the San Francisco Bay Area. When he talks about peonies blooming, that’s laughable! Peonies don’t grow in the Bay Area! IT’S TOO WARM! NOT ENOUGH CHILL! And bloom times for perennials listed in the article are way off by our local Mediterranean climate. ANother example of bad garden editing from a local paper.

  8. Barbara says:

    And what about Label lying? A blue spruce isn’t (purchased at BJ’s Warehouse) or is it?

    Two deer ate a third of our 3 foot high blue/green evergreen yesterday YET the full price, nursery chosen dwarf blue spruce is untouched up front.

    Re: Organic Beauty – - if they add “Cut or tear up this magazine and add to your compost pile” then it’s fine with me.

  9. Brian Boyce says:

    Speaking as a retailer, I think I can say with confidence that we all were very happy to see the marketing support for the Endless Summer hydrangea when it was released. We all made some honest profit with sales numbers in a plant category that we had rarely seen before. More importantly, from my standpoint as an independent garden center manager, Bailey’s Nursery let us have the first season’s release, rather than flooding the general marketplace. That meant customers had a good reason to come see us instead of the box stores. No one has anything but the highest praise for the way this plant entered the marketplace, and American gardens.

    And yet – please re-read the closing comments of Jonathan Pedersen:

    “The consumer today is buying by impulse. They don’t know plants. We know that from all the studies that have been done. The gardener is gone. The hobbyist is gone. Don’t overanalyze it. If you can improve your appearance at the point of sale, you’ll sell more stuff.”

    Well, the consumer had better learn at least a little about gardening if you want your money’s worth from an Endless Summer. First of all, for most of my customers, they don’t bloom all summer, not in the first year while they are establishing. Maybe not in the second year, if the site and soils aren’t just perfect. Anyone noticed how they also happen to be hogs for water? You come home from work in July, the poor thing is wilted to the ground. You hit it with the hose, it pops back up in 15 minutes. You do that every day in July and August in a typical midwest summer. Oh, and the color is prone to change, too, in the highly alkaline soils of our area. Want blue? Better learn to garden…

    It’s not a bad plant, it’s a very good plant, but it is a plant, as well as a product. There is a very real disjunct when we market these things as we did with Endless Summer. I don’t know if that is a good, or bad thing – it is simply how we conduct our business.

    Brian Boyce

  10. Tara Dillard says:

    Encore azaleas are marketed heavily in the southeast. Lecturing throughout the states I see them in a variety of zones. I have yet to see a thriving Encore azalea. Fair plants, but good or thriving? No.

    Soon, will only patented plants be available at the big box nurseries?

    When David Austin roses first arrived in the states they did horrible. The company then changed its root stock.

    New plants are thrilling but there are thorns in the process.

  11. David Austin Roses never do as they are marketed in my garden. Golden Celebration is not a 4′ x 4′ bush. It wound up becoming a huge monster with 8′ arching canes and thorns that put the blackberry brambles to shame. And Othello? What a disappointment! I give up on David Austin roses.

  12. lauraellen says:

    I love this site in general, but as to this column – you know you can’t logically complain in one paragraph about print coverage of gardening dying, and in the next paragraph say print journalism on gardening maybe shouldn’t exist at all, as you do?

    Maybe you’ve made internet coverage of gardening self-sustaining for your site, but if so you would be the exception for internet journalism overall. Print is dying and the internet doesn’t pay. Readers have to know there’s no such thing as free gardening coverage…

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