Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Poinsettias Are Kinda Lame

This is the first holiday season in a long time that I have felt downright depressed, and it's a shame when from Thanksgiving to January 10th is my absolute favorite time of year - holidays, birthdays, Advent, parties, pretty SNOW. Even though Marketplace Morning Report keeps telling me that retails sales are up and therefore consumers are indirectly communicating they are tired of the sluggish economy, all I'm hearing are complaints, disappointments, and an overall lack of excitement - pure torture for an extrovert like myself.

"Well, poinsettias are... well... kinda lame."

That's what one young Gen-Y consumer said to me last week. To be honest, she has a point. Poinsettias in the classical sense have become lame - your generic red and white 6" poinsettias from a box store just don't cut it anymore. Granted one can argue that a red poinsettia isn't just "red", as there are dozens of red varieties in different shades, but to the consumer (and honestly, in the end she's the only one who matters) red is red. Obviously the consumer needs something different, and in recent years there have been huge strides in poinsettia breeding to bring new colors - marbles, speckled, variegated, bright pinks. However, you won't find these colors at a box store, you'll find them at a locally owned, independent garden center, which is desperately in need of your business. Tell them you didn't want a plant from a box store and they'll take you in as family.
"But the wire is showing... the bracts don't meet in the center. I don't get it - I can't work with this - I can't sell this."

A florist called me early one morning in regards to the new Poinsettia Wreath Topiary we had delivered the day before to the store. The wreath is the newest topiary shape for 2010 at work, and being in its experimental year there were some kinks to work out. Yes, the two plants trained along a central wire hoop don't meet in the center to create a fully closed wreath shape. So you turn lemons into lemonade - decorate the wire and add value to the product. Other customers of ours sent in their photos of the wreaths with the wire covered in greenery and fabulous gold bows. One mentioned she let the consumer pick and choose their own decorative additions to match the color scheme in her living room. The holidays are for decorating your living space so you can enjoy it with family and friends when the weather is downright crappy outside. Bring the beauty of the garden INSIDE and inspire your customers with YOUR passion - using beautiful plants to beautify homes. That IS why you're in the floriculture business, right?

There is one comment that has been a beacon of light, hope, and happiness however. Quite possilby the one event that keeps putting a smile on my face is a phone conversation I had with my brother in early December. We chatted about gift ideas for our parents, and about my boss' appearance on The Martha Stewart Show on November 30th. Martha had invited us back for a second visit this year, and wanted to see all the new poinsettia colors and topiary shapes we specialize in for the season. The show's segments were posted online the following day, and my brother had shown them to the students in his after-school program to teach them about poinsettias as part of a holiday themed afternoon.

"[Lloyd] did a great job and my kids really liked the show! We all, myself included, had no idea about the cyathia and bracts, and one kid said he'd check his mother's plants that evening since she purchased them on Black Friday at Lowes."

This was killer! My brother, teaching his 6th graders about plants, and he's not even the gardener in the family! His students getting excited about PLANTS and wanting to go home and tell their parents about what they'd learned. Absolutely killer! Take that, industry folk who think the horticulture industry is making its way to the trashcan!

The excitement my brother and his students had is what I'm talking about. Plants, gardening, and the Christmas Season should not be about commercialism and making money, complaining about the weather and how it's snowing (people, it's winter, it's supposed to snow), complaining about poinsettias and the overall lack of diversity and inspiration in Holiday plants, or seeing who can sell the most pionsettias at a specific price point to meet a predestined profit margin or percentage sell-through. It's about being excited for the beginning of winter, wanting to spend time with family, taking a break from work, hosting wine & cheese parties with friends, burning fires in a fireplace, catching snowflakes on your nose, dancing like the Charlie Brown characters in the movie, laughing when your sibling calls you and cries with joy "IT'S A ZEPPELIN!" Pure joy and sharing that joy with others. That's what the Christmas Season, and gardening, in my mind is all about.

Plant on and rock on,

Song for the Garden: "Skating" - Vince Guaraldi Trio
Photos taken by LRT