Monday, October 4, 2010

Plant Delights Nursery

The liner grower has traveled alot this year but one of the place that sticks out is Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, NC. This place is a plant nerd's dreamland! If you want ordinary run of the mill plants, this is not the place for you. If you like unusual never before heard of crazy outstandingly beautiful plants, you have arrived at the proper destination. I visited the nursery during a recent trip in August to the Raleigh area for an IPPS Southern Region board meeting. I had some extra time and a car so of course I had to go see some plants! I have heard of PDN many times, see their website often on my google searches and get the catalog which I love, love, love! If you don't have a clue what I am talking about, just visit the website here: to get a little taste. You can signup for their newsletter as well as request a catalog, highly suggested!  Not only are they informative, they are entertaining as well!

To top of the great visit to PDN I got to tour the Botanical Gardens and my tour guide was none other than Tony Avent, what a wealth of knowledge!  Here are some of the pictures I took along the way.  Now, time to get online and order a few plants!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Athens Select June 30th Meeting

Two business trips down, I was now on my third in a span of a week! I headed to Georgia to meet with the Athens Select group for the annual board meeting. I was excited about this trip because this would be my first visit to Athens and the UGA Trial Gardens. I got there later in the afternoon so I didn’t have anytime for any visits that day. We did get to stay at Dr. Armitage’s awesome lake house overnight, making for a relaxing evening! The next day I was up early to visit the trial gardens on campus, as the meeting was at the field trial site. I went to the gardens early just in case I would not have time after the meeting for a visit. It was a great site to see, so many plants packed into a small area, Unfortunately, it was dreary and had rained the nigh before so I could not get any good pictures and boy did I try! Well, maybe I got a few but I hate pictures of wet plants so most were trashed. Luckily, the meeting got out in time for another visit before I had to leave to catch my flight. The sun had come out by then and dried the plants. The sun also provided better lighting for some fantastic shots, which are in the slide show at the bottom of my post!

The Athens Select Board meeting went well. We saw the field trials, many plants will still need more testing. We did decide on a new Gaillardia for the collection. I know what you are thinking, “Another Gaillardia on the market, plus you already have two in the collection now!” Personally, I feel the same way, hmm, maybe these were my thoughts. This is why I voted to only include the one that we eventually chose, as there were 3 in the running. This one is much different than other Gaillardias on the market and in the collection, which is a must! It has a nice full bi-color flower, lemon yellow outer ring with a rosey red inner ring. The things that stands out the most though is the habit. This one is very full, high branching, short, all with NO pinch and NO growth regulators. This is great for growers who are wanting to grow smaller sized perennials, it looks good in quarts as well as one gallons. Also it is not high maintenance like other perennials and will not get floppy like other Gaillardias.

From the meeting I learned a lot and met a lot of great people in our industry. You will see a lot of what I learned reflected on our availability. We have added many of the Athens Select plants as well as tweaked pricing to reflect patent fees and tags. With all Athens Select plants tags are automatically included, the price of the tag is included in the price of the liner as we are trying to keep things simple. I have changed this on all items that automatically ship with a tags, so hopefully our availability will be simple and easy to read, sometimes all of the fees involved just make things crowded and confusing! To help support the program we will carry most all of the collection, we will have some on open stock availability but my goal is to get customers to pre book orders as well cannot hold these items for very long before they get overgrown. Also the Southern Living collections of perennials that are part of the Athens Select program will now be listed on our availability. For these, there is a tag/pot requirement. Currently we do not have the tags in stock but I will get with PDSI to get tags to a customer if they should order some of the collection and not have the tags. Unlike the Southern Living shrub collection, customers do not have to be in the grower group to grow this selection of perennials, they just need to meet the tag/pot requirement. Pots are only required for one gallon and higher, so 4” and quarts will not need a special pot, just a Southern Living tag. Well this is all I have to report from the meeting. I am always learning new information! Enjoy the pictures!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dallas Arboretum Plant Trials 2010

The day was June 23rd, 2010, the place, Dallas, Texas.  If you know Texas then you should not be surprised that it was boiling hot that day.  While I do love the heat, I hate being soaked sweaty in front of everybody at a conference!  I think I won the award for most sweaty shirt that day!  I arrived about 12:30pm, yes, just in time for the heat to really start kickin’!  This was the first time that Magnolia Gardens Nursery or I had attended, so I was pretty excited.  We got a table to display some of the many new items we are carrying, all of which we donated to the Arboretum so they can continue to have cool new things on display!  There were plenty of annuals on trial which I tend to tone out a bit since we do not grow these.  All was good because Jimmy also has plenty of grasses and perennials on trial.  My favorites were the UGA Pennisetums, as Jimmy would say “Purple Corn!!!!” and the Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy’.  Both of which we carry, wink wink!!  There are a ton of new products out there so I look forward to sending Jimmy plenty of samples to play with.  This way we can see how these puppies actually perform!  I don’t want to ramble and bore you any further so I will now let the pictures speak for themselves.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The June Grower's Report

Ahhhh yes, it is hot now! I love the heat though, I would much rather be sweating than freezing to death! As spring winds down it allows me more office time, wait, I know I said I love the heat and now I go off hiding in the office, hehe! I start my day off in the office and usually finish up outside, so I still get my heat! Recently I started working on a database project...maybe not recently....hmmmm wondering when this began? Maybe I started in April, it is all starting to come together now so I have come out of my database bubble. Last night this reminded me of a scene in the Sopranos where one of the guys is quoting The Godfather.

"Right when I think I'm out you pull me right back in."

HA! This is exactly what the database is, I add new things, only to find more new things that it can do! Oh it is so smart and hopefully it is making everybody's life easier. So why did I even start this whole thing? Another quote comes to mind.

"The belief in a thing makes it happen" Frank Lloyd Wright

I definitely had a belief, it just took me awhile to figure out how to make it happen. I had a vision of making our booking system much more user friendly. The old system was very simplistic in an Excel file. This worked for us in the past as we only had a few offerings as products. As our product line increased, this file started giving me nightmares! Ok, maybe not that bad. It was hard to update with new orders and hard to keep up to date as items shipped, not really hard I guess, more time consuming. Also the file was on one computer so it had to be emailed out to others if anyone needed updates.

In college I worked with Dr. Dan Lineberger who designed and maintained Aggie Horticulture. One of the programs he used was a database, Filemaker Pro. I used this for my thesis so I had experience with this program and I knew how powerful it could be. First I started with the invoice solution that came with the program. From here I just start making modification to suite our needs. I added in all of our products and customers first. Next I started learning about reports, these took me awhile to get right, but I finally got them to do what I wanted! Of course there is still plenty of room for improvement but we are getting somewhere now. It is light years ahead of what we had, plus there is so much more it can do in the future....hence the first quote! The interesting thing is how a booking solution has become so much more. Now I can run ship sheet for the week, pick tickets for the week (this was added after I noticed about 4 people were all summarizing the flats needed per week, oh no, the database can do that!) I also added a report that we can send to our inspector for orders that need inspection for the week so it does not need to be typed out each week. Just today I came up with a new report for our breeders, now we can run it and show how many of a particular plant was shipped and to whom it was shipped to.

The future: I have already figured out how to update the inventory from my iPhone. there are some glitches but it works! So I can update while in the greenhouse! This reminds me, I did find a company to host the database so now we can all access it anytime and the copy we work on keeps up to date. This is how I can update from the iPhone. So I have hopes of fixing the glitches and expanding on the iPhone working with the database as we all have iPhone in the office, well except Stephen, sorry Stephen, maybe we will get you one! I can update pages with the online version of the database, Filemaker Pro will write pages that can be viewed online, while not perfect, they do work. This is nice because I can make simple updates at home without needing another copy of Filemaker. I will mainly update product pages at home, to try and keep up with all of the new ones we have! This has lead me to the need for an iPad, oh yes, this is where quote #2 come into play again, hehehehe! But seriously, we can use this powerful system to add orders to our system while on the road with the iPad, also I will use it to make updates to the system while in the greenhouse, too cool! Currently I am starting to work on getting the information for our products in the database to display on our web site. This is the reason I have not updated the web site in awhile! I want to only update something once, not here, then there...wastes my time! So if I can keep our products up to date in the database and have them display on the web site....well that's just brilliant!! This is a work in progress, I hope to have it complete before the summer shows pending I don't hit any major road blocks.

Well I sure if you are reading this you might be tired of reading my ramblings of how I became a database nerd, hehe! So enjoy the video where you don't have to read about it, you can watch it too!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The May Grower's Report

and now for the May Grower's that it is June, haha! Don't worry I will start working on June tomorrow. Now that shipping is slowing I will have more office time. Got to get some inside project completed ASAP! The May Grower's report I show some of our new Nandinas, you would think I might be a little bias, seems like I keep showing these! I also show everyone how to plant an easy succulent bowl, so fun. Enjoy and stay tuned for the June grower's report where I will show you my database masterpiece, well a masterpiece in progress but it is another reason you have not heard from me in awhile, I have been in a database bubble!

April Grower's Report

I just realized how far behind I am on my posts. So much has been happening at the nursery it gets hard to keep up at times! Here is my April Grower's Report Video. I show some of our new palletized boxing. I must say this new system has been working like a charm this system. Also the addition of a staple gun was brilliant, no more tape that does not stick in the first place! Thanks to Bennett at Victory Packaging for all the help in getting this implemented. Also of interest is my scary forklift driving, I got Mad SkillZ, haha!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pack Trials Stop #6 - Westhoff

In an area next to PlantHaven was Westhoff, more color was seen here so I was not that interested as we don't grow these type of products and I was starting to get cross-eyed by this point. One thing did catch my eye, that was the Verbena Estrella, very nice! Also they had tasty sandwiches, thank you!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pack Trials 2010 Stop # 6 - PlantHaven

Bright and early Monday morning I went to visit my friends from PlantHaven. I got see the whole gang plus I got to meet breeder and facebook friend John Cho. I had such a good time here I think I was there for over 3 hours! Great new products coming through the pipeline that are more in line to what we are doing at Magnolia Gardens, i.e., not all bedding plants! Can't wait to get my hands on some of these new plants!

Pack Trials 2010 Stop #5 - BallSeed

After a LONG drive from EuroAmerican I ended up in Thousand Oaks California where I was able to get in a quick bike ride before stopping in at the BallSeed location in Santa Paula. Another stop with lots of color but there were a few items of interest. I was lucky enough to get a tour as the Home Depot group was there at the same time. They asked if I was part of that group...should have pretended to be, hehehehe!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pack Trials 2010 Stop #4 - EuroAmerican Propagators

Finally I was able to upload my photos! The connections have been so so at the places I have stayed making for slow work of this project! These were taken Saturday April 10th, 2010. Great stuff seen at EuroAmerican and they were nice enough to give me a behind the scenes tour of production! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pack Trials 2010 Stop #3 - Plug Connection

Very nicely done, I really enjoyed this stop!  Plug Connection does more than just color, which is great because we do not grow annual color!  I love, loved the succulents, especially the topiaries!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pack Trials 2010 Stop #2 - Oasis Water Efficient Gardens

Ok, not in the Pack Trials either, but I love succulents, so I had to visit.  Plus it was on the way to Plug Connection!  Oh and I figured out how to put my captions in the slideshow, yippee!

Pack Trials 2010 Stop #1, Rancho Tissue Technologies

RTT is not officially on the trial stop but Heather and Susana where nice enough to let me stop by and snap a few photos of some of the great succulents they carry!  Enjoy!

Monday, March 29, 2010

La Ruta de los Conquistadores 2010!

Things are getting busy around the nursery but I still feel the need to keep even more busy? I have applied to ride the La Ruta in Costa Rica with Chris Carmichael. For some odd reason I won this contest and will now be one of 10 that go, yippee! Below is the video I sent in with my application. I am thinking to start a new blog for this adventure, if I do I will post the link!

We are about to send out our April availability email. If you are not on our mailing list, now is the time to sign up! It is super easy and takes 2 seconds of your time.
Sign up today because we have some really cool things in the pipeline!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The March Grower's Report

So it was about 80 degrees and sunny today, yes!  The plants are starting to take off, finally!  It has actually been so bright and sunny we are seeing some sun burn on the plants, time to get the paint on and shade cloth out.  Also it is time to take the plastic off of the quonsets, it was a scorcher today in there!  Below is the video I made about 10 days ago.  Hope you enjoy the tour!  Close your eyes if you get car sick, HA!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spring is Here?

Well I think Spring could be here in Texas, the day is gorgeous and the daffodils are blooming!
  About 65, sunny, not to rub that in anyone's face up north...but that is the reason I live in the South.  I know, you will be telling me the same when I am melting in July, sunny 100% humidity, 100 degrees...but this is the way I like it!  To celebrate the day I am doing a little gardening.  First I had to trim so dormant grasses.
Indeed the garden is looking a bit, shall I say, shaggy to put it politely?
  Well the cold weather has kept us Southerners inside bundled up...too cold to go out and trim plants we said!  My poor Furcraea melted with the 20 degree weather!
  Oh but what did my little eye spy today?  Life!!!
  So we will see how long this little pup takes to get back to the size it's Mom was before meltdown!  Just a shot of the garden in front of the office, pretty bleak, but it will soon be lush!

  Today I went to the local retail garden center, mainly because I needed some powdered hormone that I did not order from a supplier in time but being surrounded by plants it is hard to resist buying something!
  I came out with 3 scented geraniums, mmmm, and a curry plant!  Note in the picture all the coffee grounds, yes I am a frequent visitor to Starbucks, the least I can get for my $4.00 coffee is some used grounds to perk the plants up.  I bet the used grounds have more caffeine than new Folgers, LOL!  We are still going strong with the parking lot garden, herbs are lush and we had a nice crop of cabbage and greens.
  Tomatoes and Peppers to come!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Belated Valentine's to all my Sweethearts!

Plants that is, yes I heart plants!  I especially like new and usual plants.  I suppose I do hate some plants too, or maybe I am just being a plant snob now?  Some plants have been around too long and are way overused, yawn!!!  **Cough** Burford Holly **Cough**  Perhaps I choose this one as I see it everyday at the nursery, then I see it planted all over town in these terrible monoculture mini mall parking lots, uugghh!  Mini malls are ugly and ugly plants are not going to make it better!  Let's enhance that dry cleaner/nail salon/tanning salon with some diversity please!  Grasses, perennials, vines and more, oh my!  Such a pallette to choose from, why be so boring, say I?  Oh wait, I know, because it is easy, ha, I forgot!  Most people know us as the people that grow Nandinas, that we do.  But wait a minute, there's more!  Yes we grow all sorts of things, see our new site at for a full list, I am so excited about our 2010 product lineup!  Could it be because my patio is bound to be the best in the neighborhood with this supply of goodies at my fingertips, perhaps!  But mainly it is because I really love plants and go to great lengths to bring a wonderful diversity to the lineup.  Hunting, here, there, everywhere to bring you some of the coolest stuff from around the world.  New stuff is added all of the time, hence the reason we have not printed a catalog as of late, it would be out of date before it got back from the printers.  Below is my February Grower's Report, enjoy some of the shots of the new items we have and of all my sweethearts!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The GSHE Report 2010

Ok, ok, so this show was 4 weeks ago!  I know, but now I finally have some time to write about it.  Holly and I went to Mobile, AL a day earlier than we needed to so we could attend the Southern Living Plant Collection Grower Group meeting.  We  flew into New Orleans because it was about 300.00 cheaper per ticket, then drove the rest of the way to Mobile.  We had a nice Chrysler Sebring, I like to call it a Seabreeze though, nice!
  The meeting was at the Hampton Inn which was convienent since that was were we were staying already!  When we got to the entrance a nice little Nandina welcomed us!
  PDSI did an outstanding job of hosting the group and gave a great presentation.  The presentation consisted of an update on how the program is currently doing, new plant introductions for 2010 and plants in the pipeline for 2011 and beyond.  Of course Holly and I were tickled to see all of the literature on our 3 Nandina babies!  They even had a very nice 83" tall pop up banner highlighting the Nandina trio!  The banner said 'Superior Nandinas' and was at the front of the room, I'd say we agree!

I think we will have to order one of these for our office, oh yes!  This banner is just one of the items that the grower group and retailers can order from PDSI to help promote the brand, whether at tradeshows or in their stores. All in all things were positive and we got several orders by being there, so the extra day definitely paid off!  There was one non-believer if you will...em...em McCorkle.  But I stood up and told Andy I would make a believer out of him!  Andy is correct in his thinking, I will give him that.  Many new Nandinas on the market these days just are not that different from what is already on the market.  I have seen many Nandinas come through our doors so I know this, the new one we have are totally different than anything I have seen and they are interesting!  After a long day Holly and I relaxed to get ready for day 2.  The second day we got to tour Flowerwood Nurseries and PDSI, after this we had to set up our booth, yeah!  The visit to PDSI was great ebcause we got to see all of our little babies starting to grow up!  The pictures show Obsession, then Flirt, then Blush Pink, Beeeeautiful!

Also we saw some Queen Mum Agapanthus that we do here in the lab, another great new plant in the collection.
  After our visit we got the booth set up then went to relax again so we would be ready for 2 days of tradeshow.  Our booth turned out great and Stacie once again stole the show! 
People love to take pictures of her and with her.  Also I got some pics of the PDSI booth since they had such a nice display of some Superior Nandinas!!!  The mood was positive at the show, I hope Spring sales are way positive!  Remember plants are a necessity not a luxury!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What did I learn?

A quick update of something I learned at the conference.  As you can see for the most part I do use most of the major social media sites.  One thing Terry Brock stressed was the use of YouTube.  We do have an account with several videos posted already so I decided to take it a step further.  We put out a monthly emailer with news and our availability.  For January I decided to add a video component that would show customers what we are up to for the month.  Also I tried the video camera in my new iPod Nano, not too shabby!  All done in under a hour using iMovie as the video editor.

Relationships + Technology = Success!

 The title of the workshop was Relationships + Technology = Success!  This was a TNLA Management Workshop held in Galveston, Texas January 15-16th, 2010, yes is does still exist post hurricane Ike and it was not too far from my house.  Too bad it was January, cloudy, about 50 degrees for the high and let’s not forget the 20-25 mph winds.  No surfing for me, not that I would on a good day, the creatures of the sea might get me! 

I was happy to see this all come together as it had started as just a seed of an idea in a TNLA Educational Committee meeting.  For me being a Gen Xer in this industry can really drive a person mad, if you are a Yer you must be full blown insane, as this industry is so slow to adapt to technology.  Hey I am not the only person to think this, just read “Time to Change…My MANTS Epiphany” by Plants Nouveau’s President Angela Treadwell Palmer  I am a fan of her page on Facebook so this is how I saw this posting, yes a person in the industry in Texas is reading what a person in Maryland is thinking, this is the magic of social media.  I did comment on it as well, mentioning this very conference I was about to attend, more on that later.  There are still people that tell me they don’t do computers.  Really?  Why????? How do you stay in touch with the world?  You are not staying in touch with me if you only see me 2 times a year at a meeting.  The people who choose not to adapt to technology will be left behind. 

The up and coming customer is young and they use technology, including social media to communicate.  To get new customers and to retain old customers we must speak their language, times are a changing and quickly!  If you are using print media to get the word out, sorry, whether you like it or not print is going away, digital is faster and cheaper so if you are not digital you are already falling behind.  For instance, if you do not have a Website, how will people find you?  How many people actually use the Yellow pages anymore?  Why, if you can just google it.  If you do have a website the next step is to make sure that you are near the top when a person searches for key words related to your business.  If you are a Houston retail garden center, make sure you are in the top results if somebody googles “Houston Retail Nursery”, for instance.  If you are not, there are ways to get there, just do the research!  I do not own any yellow pages books, they are just useless clutter in my opinion, btw I am not the only person who thinks this.  Perhaps you are old school and think word of mouth will get customers to your business.  This is true, it will, but this is a slow method and can take years to build clientele, this is like comparing snail mail to email.  If you want to move things along faster I think social media is your answer, the new word of mouth if you will.  Not only is it faster, the reach is a lot further!  For example, you have a garden center, I go there, tell a few people, maybe they go there, tell a few people and so on.  Now let’s fast forward to the age of social media.  You have a garden center, I go there, I tell my 150 friends on facebook that it rocks, so the message is already getting to more people in the first step and even better, instantly.  This can work against you as well, if a person has a bad experience they can spread the word via social media too, so be on your toes and make sure to please the customer!  One way to see what people are saying about you is to use Google Alerts, just found this out at the conference from Terry Brock.

  So I have set alerts for both Magnolia Gardens Nursery and April Herring.  Already I am getting hits.  For Magnolia Gardens I found the Houston Chronicle has used photos from our Website, hopefully they have asked somebody…not me!  Also I got a hit on my name.  Remember the MANTS Epiphany I commented on, well, leave it to Google Alerts to let me know Angela has written another blog article with my response!  This is great, now I can be sure to tell her thank you in case I would have missed it otherwise.  Now you can see what people are saying about you, good or bad, so you can respond, let technology work for you!

Now let’s talk about how a business can promote their product or service via social media.  There are rules to follow if you want to be successful!  You need to first focus on a few sites if you are new, Terry Brock says YouTube is the first thing you should do.  I also think a blog should be first.  So get some video to compliment what you are writing about in your blog.  Consistency is key, if you are not active on your sites you will not be successful.  Once you have content you can spread the word via Facebook and Twitter.  Nobody wants to hear about you getting up to use the restroom but they would love to hear you have just posted a new blog article or a new video on YouTube on topics that are of interest.  For me that usually involves new plants or something I am doing at the nursery.  It is very important to be real on these sites.  People want to know you are human.  Damian Skinner mentioned that 80% of your post should be about your life while 20% can be about work.  This way people get to know you as a person.  You become more approachable especially when people feel they have common interests with you.  So, no posts saying “Buy, Buy, Buy today only 50% off!!!!!”  Instead, provide people with information, build relationships and the orders will come later once there is trust, just give it time.  A good example of somebody that has done a good job of this is an Irish man I know by the name of Pat FitzGerald.  Pat is just a good, honest nurseryman is Ireland that loves his new plants.  He is truly genuine in what he says and people love to chat with him about all sorts of things and because of this he has built up a fan base he now has people all over the world talking about his plants.  Black Adder, Tuxedo and Everillo to name a few…and yes I want some too!  Wow, that rhymes, HA!  This is one example of being real and how you can get social media to work for you.  While at the conference I saw another very specific instance of social media working for a retail nursery.  There is a nursery in California that sells plants online called Annie’s Annuals.  There is a website in California that posts all sorts of information for us apartment dwellers who want to garden called Life On The Balcony.  Annie’s Annuals sent Fern, the young lady who runs LOTB a box of veggies that they are trying out as a new product.  I am not for certain but I believe these two have met via social media.  Anyway Fern planted the veggies and wrote all about it.  She has a ton of followers so this is a good way to spread the word of great product.  I read some of the comments and people were asking if she had visited Annie’s Annuals, she said no.  Another person said you must go visit because a visit to Annie’s Annuals is better than good sex.  To me that is good advertisement for a company.  All of this through the magic of social media, just remember the relationship comes first.