By Katie Elzer-Peters
When I left the GWA Annual Conference in Atlanta this summer the bellman who helped me load my plants and wheel 17 bags to my car said, “All of this dirt…it just appeared out of nowhere!” he exclaimed. “What were you AT?”
Leaves, flowers, and potting soil are all but inevitable in the wake of GWA conferences, thanks to exhibitors such as Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs (PW), and we love them for it. My garden is a bit of a showcase for plants from GWA exhibitors – that is, when I actually get the plants in the ground. I admitted as much to Mark Osgerby, who handles Public Relations and Marketing for PW, when we chatted on the phone recently.
“I’m either your best friend or your worst nightmare when it comes to plant trialing,” I confessed. “Other people will send you beautiful photography [of your plants]. In my case, IF the plants actually make it into the ground, they’re in the harshest area of the garden that is farthest from water. I’m also quite good at trialing bench-worthiness, a.k.a. letting them sit too long before planting.” I admitted this, knowing I might be taken off the plant sample list for next year.
“That’s great!” Mark said. “We need that kind of information just like we want to see the beautiful color combinations.” Well, sign me up!
Mark works at Spring Meadow Nursery, one of the four nurseries that form the Proven Winners brand. Mark came to the plant development world two years ago from the nonprofit world. He quickly recognized the impact that GWA has had on the success of the PW brand. “Proven Winners would absolutely not be who we are and couldn’t do what we do without the support of GWA members,” he said. Knowing the high regard members have for PW I can say the feeling is mutual.
“Members are so important in building exposure for existing varieties and new introductions. I track every single one of our media mentions.” This feedback to GWA exhibitors is priceless. When you feature one of their plants in your stories or photographs, drop them a line.
There’s always something new in the PW lineup for GWA members to grow or write about because they keep pumping out slam dunks. One of their best-known plants is the ‘Invincibelle® Spirit’ hydrangea. “It was the first pink Hydrangea arborescens, so the company wanted to do something special with it,” Mark explained. “Donating money toward breast cancer research seemed like a good fit.” At the end of 2015, $903,000 had been donated by PW to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation from sales of the original and its offspring.
In 2017, Proven Winners will be coming up roses, specifically the Oso Easy® roses. “Oso Easy roses are the rebels of the rose world,” he pointed out. “They’re disease-resistant, long-blooming, and very easy to grow. They’re great for creating no-spray, no-prune mass plantings in residential or commercial landscapes.” The ‘Double Red’ and ‘Petit Pink,’ which grow 3-4 feet tall, are already garden favorites in Zones 4-9. The ‘Urban Legend™’ rose is a semi-double bright red new introduction that will hit retail shelves in 2017.
“We’re also excited about ‘Let’s Dance® Rave™,’ a compact hydrangea with an abundance of intensely colored flowers.” The bloom color ranges from a rich violet-purple on acidic soils to a saturated pink on basic soils. Hardy in Zones 5-9, the shrub grows to be only 2-3feet tall.
‘Let’s Dance® Rave™’ is an example of the recent trend to offer garden favorites in smaller sizes, suited for patio homes and smaller yards. “Let’s face it,” Mark said, “not everyone has room for a six foot by six foot shrub.” I agreed with his observations and added, “…and many of them grow to be twice that size if left alone.”
We closed the interview with the “business tip” question I ask of each of our GWA sponsors. “This is really just going to sound like a sales pitch for GWA.” Mark said. “I started two years ago in March, coming into the industry and knowing nobody. The GWA events have helped me immeasurably.”
“Networking is important for anyone and everyone,” he continued. “Between the annual conference, GWA Connect and Regional meetings, getting those face to face interactions and building relationships has been really important. I would see names on spreadsheets, but until you’re actually shaking hands with someone and talking about plants and what gardens they went to today, you haven’t cemented that relationship.”
I agreed. The difference in my business after the conference this year has been significant. Thinking about skipping the next GWA networking opportunity? Think again!
Meet the Author
GWA member Katie Elzer-Peters is a freelance writer, editor, and marketer. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she reads literary fiction and trash, runs, cycles, gardens, and takes her dogs for walks. If you want to talk business, you can visit her online at www.thegardenofwords.com