An EZ Scapes poster on display at Walters Gardens' booth at Cultivate'21.
HILA photos courtesy Shellee Fisher Photography

The horticulture industry converged on Columbus, Ohio, July 10-13 for Cultivate’21. After going the virtual trade show and education route in 2020, the event was in-person with on-demand education.

Here are a few highlights:

Dr. Charlie Hall discussed current events at his State of the Industry presentation on July 11. We’ve moved from the Great Recession to the Great Shutdown to the Great Conundrum, he said.

“We’re in a period of probable growth but we’re constrained,” he said, “but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Currently, there is a need for nearly 9.2 million workers, Hall said: about 6.5 million jobs that are open now and 2.6 million that would have been created if there were the workforce to fill them.

While many blame the issue on COVID unemployment checks, two separate university studies have found that the effect on the workforce has been very small, Hall said.

In the past few years, tariff costs have been passed on to the consumer and with a pandemic on top of that, there has been increased difficulty in obtaining raw materials. And the industry felt that pinch this spring as it drove up the cost of containers and plant protection materials. Hall said this drove up the cost of doing business by 11%.

“Input costs are rising so we’re going to need to increase prices to maintain margins,” Hall said. The way to do that is to increase the perceived value of plant material through marketing, whether it’s the economic, health, experience or quality of life benefits.

Because while consumers are spending more on houseplants, landscaping and flowers when they’re forced to remain home, that spending won’t continue at the same level without the proper marketing. “It’s incumbent on us to continue talking about the benefits of plants,” he said.

First Lady makes her debut

J. Berry Nursery and Genetics introduced the newest addition to the Hollywood Hibiscus series at Cultivate’21. First Lady is a prolific bloomer with fantastic disease and insect resistance, according to Tamara Risken, J. Berry’s marketing director.

First Lady joins the Hollywood lineup and will be available at retail in 2022.

“The flowers are a bit smaller here at the show because they’re not houseplants, but she blooms nonstop in the Texas heat, and in South Florida she’s a grower’s favorite,” Risken says.

The Hollywood Hibiscus line keeps expanding, with 14 “personalities” available currently and more in the pipeline, including First Lady and The Hustler, which is also planned for a 2022 release. Jim Berry, owner of Texas-based J. Berry Nursery and Genetics, keeps coming up with new ideas. However, each “star” that joins the Hollywood Hibiscus line is the result of a team effort, Risken says. Research and development at J. Berry makes recommendations, and Berry consults with sales and marketing on ideas, as well. Then from a production standpoint, the nursery sets up trials with its licensed g

First Lady at Cultivate'21
HILA photos courtesy Shellee Fisher Photography

rowers and contract growers. “We get a lot of people on the phone and ask their thoughts because something that performs well in Texas may not perform in South Florida,” Risken says.

J. Berry has growers in Florida, Texas, the West Coast and even Hawaii, where hibiscus run rampant. Risken says their no. 1 producer for the year was Native Farms in Hawaii. The grower provided feedback that even near the jungle, with every known pest and tons of humidity the Hollywood Hibiscus are successful and popular.

“Hollywoods are thriving and customers are paying top-dollar for them in Hawaii even though hibiscus is everywhere,” Risken says. “People want the Hollywoods because of the flowers, the fanciness, the neatness. That speaks to our grower maintaining our quality standards and doing a fantastic job with the presentation at retail. It’s a combination of effort the genetics, the growing, the marketing.”

Walters Gardens introduces EZ Scapes

Walters Gardens has created a way for its retail garden center partners to hang on to those new gardeners that picked up the hobby during the pandemic.

New gardeners picked up a houseplant or two or perhaps a shrub last year. If they had success in their first steps of their horticultural journey, they may be feeling ambitious enough to do some basic landscape design. The EZ Scape program was designed to help these gardeners learn the basics and set up their own three or four-plant perennial border.

“We had 20 million new gardeners last year and a lot of them have no idea what they’re doing,” said Karin Walters, vice president of product strategy for Walters Gardens. “Any way to simplify it and make it easy for them to understand is what we’re shooting for to help support this new explosive growth of the industry.”

EZ Scapes are curated perennial recipes, paired by similar growing needs and providing frost to frost garden interest. Each EZ Scape comes with a specifically designed planting guide showing the recommended ratio of plants to put together, and an approximation of how much space they will take at maturity. The EZ Scapes are chosen by collection, so gardeners will have a group of perennials with similar landscape performance and requirements.

The EZ Scape handout can be customizable with the plants the retailer sells. Walters has illustrations of the plants in the collection, so if a retailer has three of the four, the missing variety can be swapped out. That would be a difficult task with photographs, but the illustrations make it possible.

EZ Scapes offers marketing support to the retailer in three ways. First, point-of-purchase materials, including posters and banners designed to explain the program. Second, customized handouts with the planting plan, variety information and care tips.

“The home gardener can come up, look at the sheet, and say ‘I can do this myself, that’s easy,’” Walters said.

Third,, a mobile-friendly website is coming in Spring 2022 with more recipes, a tool to swap varieties and to find a desired color combination.

This 1971 Airstream trailer was the focal point of Suntory Flowers Cultivate'21 booth.
HILA photos courtesy Shellee Fisher Photography

Suntory’s sunny road trip

Suntory’s Cultivate’21 booth called to mind the great road trips of the past, with a vintage 1971 Airstream trailer as the centerpiece. The Airstream was completely retrofitted on the inside to be a comfortable space for Suntory and Sun-Fire Nurseries personnel to have meetings away from the noise of the trade show floor.

The Airstream made many attendees stop in their tracks, but as they looked closer, they would see the Granvia display complementing the silver trailer. The letters spelling Granvia were made from dried flowers.

Granvia Gold is a Bracteantha that is new for 2021. The common name is strawflower, and the flowers have a bloom size of 3-5 inches.

“I call it a super strawflower,” says Delilah Onofrey, marketing director for Suntory Flowers. “I’ve even called it a Bracteasaurus because compared to the strawflowers on the market not only is the flower bigger but the whole body is so much bigger.”

100% recycled containers and tags

Orora Visual introduced a new line of plant packaging made from recycled plastics. There are three options in the program. First, the EcoTag, which is made from 25-100% recycled plastics. Second, the ZipStick label display stake, which is made from 25-100% recycled plastics. And third is a 100% recycled black container that Orora Visual is offering as part of a partnership with Nursery Supplies.

The Mesquite, Texas-based marketing company is partnering with Nursery Supplies to feature their recycled pot offering. The typical black pot can be made out of 100% recycled content. Companies that want colored containers can be made from 70-85% recycled content.

The ZipStick is an Orora-patented design that securely locks into a pot. It elevates the tag so it can be easily seen. The zip tie loop allows for multiple tags and easy flipping from tag to tag or front to back of a tag. Orora Visual says the ZipStick is a good option for plants with hard-to-tag foliage.

One of Orora Visual’s EcoTags on a 100% recycled black plastic container.
HILA photos courtesy Shellee Fisher Photography

The EcoTag comes in several different types and sizes. The Eco25 contains 25% post-consumer plastic and it has the same outdoor durability and UV resistance as traditional tag stocks. It is made with recycled milk jugs, plastic bottles, and is 100% recyclable by the consumer. It’s affordable too, only 10-15% more than traditional stocks.

Orora Visual has options for both post-consumer and post-industrial plastics going all the way up to 100% recycled plastics. For instance, the EcoP100 contains 100% post-industrial plastics. These tags are made with recycled industrial plastics and are 100% recyclable by consumers. They offer the same outdoor durability and UV resistance as traditional tag stocks. The post-industrial plastic option is the most affordable of the recyclable tags, as only 5-10% more than traditional stocks.

Cultivate will return July 16-19, 2022. Garden Center editor Kate Spirgen contributed to this article.