A group of folks from NHG attended the Southern Regional Sustainability Conference of the Perennial Plant Association this past Monday in Dallas. The event was coordinated by local horticulture expert and green industry consultant Leslie F. Halleck of Halleck Horticultural, who is also PPA’s Southern Regional Director. It brought together professionals across our industry–growers, retailers, landscape professionals, and educators–to discuss trends on sustainability in plant selection, production, and use. Several useful themes emerged during the day’s presentations, but one in particular stuck with us: ‘Beauty is no longer enough.’
As retailers, we depend on beautiful plants to inspire our customers. If this is no longer reliable, what do we need to do?
Modern consumers increasingly depend on social media (the ‘new word of mouth’) as well as mobile data to do the work for them ahead of time. Both new and experienced gardeners seek photos, detailed descriptions and performance reviews from other consumers before making an investment in a plant or product. This is particularly true with younger consumers, who are prone to ask of a product–or plant–“what’s it going to do for me?” That, says Leslie, is why beauty is indeed no longer enough.
Now, we must look beyond colorful foliage or bright flowers to answer questions of R.O.I., be they for the end consumer or the wildlife she or he is hoping to support.
What additional benefits does this plant provide? Do the flowers provide nectar for multiple pollinators? Will it stand up to and thrive through our area’s hot summer? Does it offer edible produce, such as leaves, roots or fruits? How much input of water and maintenance does it demand?
As Leslie puts it: “Choosing plants just because they are pretty simply isn’t a good enough reason anymore; we have to take our choices a step further and better match plant to habitat.” We agree–while good, old-fashioned beautiful blooms may still hold sway in the hearts of some, additional benefits are important.
So we ask you, our gardening friends–is the beauty of a plant enough to influence your choices in a nursery? What additional benefits matter most in your garden? Let us know on our Facebook page.