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Modern Garden Marketing

News, ideas and opinion on marketing in the 21st Century for the Australian garden industry


Modern Garden Marketing is a collection of news, opinion, information and resources for those working inside the Australian garden and landscape industry in the 21st century, with an emphasis on:
1. expanding the industry in general by promoting gardens and gardening to the public and fostering their continued interest
2. effective promotion of individual businesses within the industry to increase their share of the garden and landscape dollar


Posh trees

A study has looked at the the number of trees and income levels in seven U.S. cities. The findings? "Simply put, wealthier neighborhoods, regardless of their ethnic makeup, are more likely to have more and denser trees." Source: Boise State Economist Gets to the Root of Urban Tree Cover (April, 2015)

Good gardens reduce crime

A study in Philadelphia has correlated well-maintained vegetation with lower rates of certain crimes such as aggravated assault and and burglary. This could be partly due to the calming effect of greenery on behaviour, and partly due to the strengthened sense of community leading to greater vigilance by residents. Furthermore, the message that people care about their community - and are watching - is communicated with well- maintained gardens and public spaces. Source: Study examines deterrent effect of urban greening on crime (April 2014)

Trees green anti-depressants

A survey of Wisconsin residents has shown that, independent of social factors like age and income, those who lived in a neighborhood with less than 10 percent tree canopy were more likely to feel depression, stress and anxiety. The findings suggest a simple way to improve mental health in urban communities. Source: Wisconsin Research Shows Green Space Keeps You From Feeling Blue (April 2014)

American landscape trends

A survey of American residential landscape architecture professionals predict outdoor living areas to be popular in 2013. A preference for sustainability and low-maintenance design are also anticipated. More at the American Society of Landscape Architects website: Survey Identifies Top Outdoor Living Trends for 2013 (February 2013)

Healthy trees, healthier people

Emerald ash borer, which is capable of killing all 22 species of ash tree in North America, has had a devastating effect in many parts of the continent since 2002. However, it has provided an opportunity for researchers to study the effects of trees on our own health. 18 years of demographic, human mortality and forest health data has revealed an increase in deaths from cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease associated with loss of trees in the community. The actual cause of this association is not yet known. Source: Tree and human health may be linked (January 2013)


(This editorial first appeared in Into Horticulture - Issue 12 (March 2013)

The Australian version of autumn is upon us. After many years of drought/bushfires/storms/floods, here's hoping for at least a few months of "just right" weather as we enter one of the best seasons for gardens and gardening.

Local readers might like to know that the 2013 series of Gardening Australia commences on Saturday March 16 on ABC1. Also, 7TWO (Seven Network) have been running episodes of BBC Gardeners World at about 6pm EST weekdays in Queensland (check your local schedules for exact times in your region). Although much of the specific information (e.g. species) won't be applicable in most of Australia, you'll find many basic horticultural principles clearly explained, plus lots of beautiful and inspirational UK gardens to view. How you do think this program compares to our ABC equivalent?

In Issue 9, the value of elite sports as a recipient of public funding that could otherwise be spent on parks and gardens was questioned. Well here's a postscript: The UK's world-famous Eden Project has announced that up to 70 people will be laid off due to a drop in visitor numbers in 2012. This has been partly blamed on the London Olympics [1], even though an increase in tourists had been hoped for [2]. So much for job creation!


American landscape trends

A survey of American residential landscape architecture professionals predict outdoor living areas to be popular in 2013. A preferance for sustainability and low-maintenance design are also anticipated. More at the American Society of Landscape Architects website: Survey Identifies Top Outdoor Living Trends for 2013 (February 2013)

Healthy trees, healthier people

Emerald ash borer, which is capable of killing all 22 species of ash tree in North America, has had a devastating effect in many parts of the continent since 2002. However, it has provided an opportunity for researchers to study the effects of trees our own health. 18 years of demographic, human mortality and forest health data has revealed an increase in deaths from cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease associated with loss of trees in the community. The actual cause of this association is not yet known. Source: Tree and human health may be linked (January 2013)


Goodbye Gutenberg

(This editorial first appeared in Into Horticulture - Issue 11 (January 2013)

Looking back on the horticultural scene here over last 12 months (as is customary about now), the demise of two of Australia's printed garden publications is worthy of note. Given that our small and geographically/climatically disperse population could only ever support a few such publications, this is more significant than it may at first appear.

Australian Horticulture was the nation's premier trade journal for the nursery and landscape industry and ceased publication mid-2012 [1].

Later in the year, an announcement was made that Burke's Backyard magazine will close in 2013 [2]. Its termination marks a further reduction of the Don Burke presence in the mainstream media after the cancellation of his popular lifestyle TV show some years ago.

It could be argued that years of bad weather, natural disasters and tightening water restrictions had something to do with these developments, but anyone familiar with the state of print media worldwide would not be surprised at the death of any printed magazine or newspaper. Incidentally, Australian circulation figures for about a hundred magazines can be viewed online [3], in case you're curious. Note the year-on-year drops across a range of titles.

Clearly, the future for both the dissemination of information and advertising is electronic and online. "Online" may mean the World Wide Web to most people at the moment. However, the convergence of internet in its various forms with traditional print media, television, radio and telephony that we're starting to see now will undoubtedly continue, and accelerate as the National Broadband Network is rolled out.

It's an evolving scene, but one that can't be ignored if the green industry is to compete with shoe shopping and sports betting for consumer dollars in the future. Perhaps the closure of these two paper magazines will serve as a sign to the industry generally, as well as individual businesses, to start thinking more seriously about their future online.

[1] Newsletter - Message from the AIH President Australian Institute of Horticulture


Some expansion of garden market in U.S.

National Gardening Association in the USA is encouraged by the results of their 2012 survey of American households. Although average amount spent was flat, more households participated in lawn and garden activities in 2011 compared with the year before. Source: New 2012 National Gardening Survey

Where the rubber hits the roses
The UK's RAC Foundation has estimated that seven million British front gardens have been converted into parking for cars, about a third of dwellings that originally had a front plot: Seven million front gardens disappear to make way for cars


Hooray for Trey

(This editorial first appeared in Into Horticulture - Issue 8 (June 2012)

With a fairly lengthy article about mussaendas this edition, just a quick recommendation here for anyone working in the nursery industry in Australia. If you haven't discovered him already, check out Trey Pitsenberger, The Blogging Nurseryman

An independant garden centre operator in California, Trey blogs about his experiences and insights in coping with "Big Box" competition, worsening economic conditions and changing social trends. The focus is on taking control and taking action. Trey's blog and industry Facebook groups are an example of that.

Pay Trey a visit today: The Blogging Nurseryman by Trey Pitsenberger


Garden spend falling in UK
The state of the UK economy is having an effect on their garden industry, according to the HSBC Gardens Survey, with average spend in 2012 projected to be down compared to 2011. The biggest drop is in items like new BBQs and water features. One category bucking the trend is new landscaping projects, which may involve a desire to increase property values. Source: Green-fingered Brits ditch outdoor luxuries in favour of garden improvements (May 2012)

UK garden market not recession-proof
Analysis released by the UK's Horticultural Trades Association in April 2012 has shown economic conditions are affecting consumers' garden spending. Most impacted were sales of items like garden furniture or tools, which could be delayed or the best deal found online. In contrast, plant sales only fell slightly. The HTA stresses the importance of sustaining the interest of younger consumers through this time, as they will be the industry's customer base in future. read more at the HTA website: Opportunities for garden retail growth in spite of the pinch (April 2012)

2011 a good year for UK garden industry
Sales figures in the UK indicate that interest in "grow your own" (GYO) remained strong in 2011. While tomatoes continue to be the most popular crop, increases in other lines suggest existing gardeners are further developing their interest. Results for the garden and nursery industry overall were up in 2011 and garden retailers there are "cautiously optimistic" in spite of the general economic outlook. Source: Positive year end for the garden market and good prospects for grow your own (February 2012)


Propagating good news - April 2012

(This editorial first appeared in Into Horticulture - Issue 7 (April 2012)

"Growing gardening" has been discussed in previous newsletters (Nos 2 & 3), and the issues of media coverage of gardening and of advertising and marketing for horticultural businesses were raised.

Often, I hear about a new plant, product, award or other piece of news in another media outlet, but in seeking more information find that the relevant website (e.g. business, professional association, amateur society) has not been updated.

Not only does this disappoint and frustrate individuals who might try to follow up on such reports directly (and thus potentially lose sales), but it hampers further coverage on other websites, blogs, social media, traditional media and newsletters like this one. That includes those valuable links to your own website.

Assuming you're able to make simple updates and upload media releases and fact sheets yourself (if having a website designed, be sure to ask about that), it's free publicity for you and your industry.

If you're responsible for your organisation's public relations, why not propagate your good news and help grow gardening?

Older News

Garden market trends in UK
Horticultural Trades Association has found this sector relatively healthy compared to many other parts of struggling British economy. Outdoor living and grow-your-own trends remain strong. Their study of the market highlights the increasing importance of mobile internet in retailing, and the role older gardeners play in passing on advice and information to younger relatives. There has also been a marked increase in people wanting to encourage wildlife in their garden. Media releases: HTA Market Update reveals opportunities to embrace new technology and reach younger gardeners and HTA report reveals bird care market is on the rise (October 2011)

America 2010: Food gardening strong, other gardening down slightly
According to the USA's National Gardening Association National Gardening Survey, sales representing food gardening in 2010 were consistent with 2009 figures at nearly $3 billion, compared with approx $2.4 billion in 2008. However, total sales for DIY lawn and garden fell 5% in 2010, and 8% fewwer households hired lawn or landscape services. Source: Food Gardening Sales Total $3 billion for the Second Year In a Row (June 2011)

A new type of plant tag
Microchip technology similar to that used to identify animals is being tested in plants. Scientists in Italy have developed a way to embed Radiofrequency Identification (RFID) tags in rose bushes that causes minimal damage. Potential applications of such technology include tracking of plants for research or quarantine purposes, identification of valuable specimens vulnerable to theft, and visitor guides in botanic gardens. Media releases including link to original HortTechnology article: Embedding microchips in ornamental shrubs


Growing Gardening (Part Two) - June 2011

(This editorial first appeared in Into Horticulture - Issue 3 (June 2011)

The first part of this editorial discussed the declining interest in gardening in Australia and some of the likely reasons for it. If you work in the nursery and garden industry, or if you recognise the many benefits to individuals and society that gardening (both private and municipal) can bring, you have a responsibility to help fight the decline.

So, what can be done to "grow" gardening?

Provide inspiration - Put that little extra effort into your front yard or business premises. Raise the standard.

Share your knowledge - It might sound obvious, but are you taking advantage of every opportunity to pass on the things you've learned to family and friends, especially the young ones? Perhaps you have gardening books or spare tools you can pass on, too.*

Take an interest, praise their efforts - Why not let a stranger know how nice their garden looks as you pass by?

Spruik - Remind your neighbours what landscaping could do for their property price or time on market (quite altruistically, of course).

Get political - Let your government representatives know about the economic benefits of both private and public gardens and attractive streescaping (from local employment in nurseries to the potential for international garden tourism). Ask candidates what they will do for parks and gardens if elected. Vote for the candidates that recognise the importance of parks and gardens.

Be community minded - Contact council and ask for street trees to be planted in your nature strip. Alert authorities to weeds or tree vandalism on public land. Support garden clubs and community gardening efforts, in whatever way you can.

Give gardening gifts - There are items to suit all levels of experience, all types of accommodation and all manner of celebrations (for more specific ideas go to Garden Gift Ideas. Besides introducing new players to gardening, it also helps support the industry in the short term.

More thoughts for nurseries, garden centres and other garden businesses:

Advertising and marketing is important to your own business, but you're also doing your part for the industry as a whole by keeping gardening in front of the public and reminding them that it's an important and worthwhile activity.

Another consideration is whether you're making it as easy as possible for the potential customer to find out information about products (growers, manufactures) and where they can buy them (retailers). If someone has seen something they want to purchase, all but the most highly motivated will give up if they need to hire a private detective to find out where to buy one. A properly designed website with attention paid to search engine optimisation (SEO) and online marketing would be a starting point in this day and age, but traditional media, even TV, may also be an option if your budget extends that far.

Technical information including video can be made available to a wide audience at small cost via the internet these days. Why not print your URL on the plant label, leading customers to more cultural information and landscaping ideas available on your website? Besides helping the customer, it makes you look authoritative and you can cross-promote other lines.

There may be opportunities for professionals to share their knowledge, and promote their own businesses along the way, via articles in local publications or talks and demonstrations at various community events. On the other hand, you might bring the public into your business by making space available to clubs or charity events (not necessarily garden-related organisations) where they can see your stock and/or display gardens. Could you offer some of your products or services as a prize for a charity raffle?

International Trends

June 2011

A theme that seems to have been popping up a lot lately is the idea that non-native species aren't necessarily bad. This would appear to result from recent comments by some ecologists in the journal Nature, which suggest that a "nativism" ideology has often gotten in the way of a more scientific assessment of alien species and the beneficial roles they might be playing in ecosystems. (Media release here: Ecology biased against non-native species?. Restricted access article here: Don't judge species on their origins). Perhaps a more pragmatic attitude to non-native species might stop gardeners being denied (whether by guilt or actual legislation) attractive and easy-to-grow plants because those species caused a perceived problem in certain localities or even because they might cause such a problem in the future.

Meanwhile, many look to big garden shows like Chelsea to spot trends, but one wonders to what extent the exhibitors are trend setters or trend followers. The much-talked about Irish Sky Garden would appear to be simply the interest in veetical and rooftop gardens taken to an extreme. Nevertheless, if you'd like to check out the scene at Chelsea this year, there is still extensive coverage online even though the show is now over. For pictures, videos and commentary, visit:
RHS Chelsea Flower Show Official website, Royal Horticultural Society
Chelsea Flower Show The Telegraph newspaper, UK
The RHS Chelsea Flower at the BBC website

The "Grow Your Own" trend has been talked about for a while now, but for many, the backyard vegetable patch might soon represent the difference between eating and not eating, even here in "The Lucky Country":
Families forced to steal food The Daily Telegraph


Growing Gardening (Part One)

(This editorial first appeared in Into Horticulture - Issue 2, April 2011)

We all know there are many ways to help plants grow. However, the practice and status of gardening needs cultivation too if we - as individuals and as a society - are to enjoy the many benefits of gardening and landscaping into the future.

If you're reading this newsletter, you've probably already experienced the pleasure of nuturing a plant to flower and fruit, enjoyed more than one day out at a garden show (and "stimulated" the economy in the process) and you are probably aware of the many social and environmental benefits of gardening/landscaping in private and public spaces.

Unfortunately, gardening (which here will be used as shorthand for private gardening as well as cultivated public parks, street trees, commerical landscaping etc) seems to be in a downward spiral at the moment, for a variety of reasons. For example:

  • rising cost of living and household indebtedness
  • stretched public budgets
  • shrinking yards
  • lack of spare time
  • water restrictions
  • plethora of competing recreational activities
  • loss of a gardening culture and the passing on of practical knowledge with social isolation and fragmentation of families.
  • suburban garden centres closing, high barriers to entry for new garden centres
  • move away from flowering plants toward more utilitarian landscaping lines in the retail market place

Gardening also seems to be increasingly side-lined in the broadcast media lately, although without knowing what is going on behind the scenes, it is difficult to say whether this is just a response to a decrease in listeners/viewers rather than a cause. It is part of a viscious circle, however, as the new generation of gardeners are less likely to become interested without such easy access to information and inspiration.

Do we just shrug and accept these trends or can we fight back? If you're working in the garden industry, your livelihood may depend on it.


Some older news items are archived here

Related Topics:


Worried about a downturn?
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Into Horticulture

Into Horticulture is a free newsletter aimed at the expert amateur gardener plus professionals in the nursery and garden industry. It will feature news, opinion, and articles about plants, soil, techniques and the garden and landscape industry, with an emphasis on items of interest to Queensland gardeners.

Any breeders or distibutors who have interesting new plant releases or other products they would like to have included, please get in touch. Original articles, news items etc are also sought.

To view the online archives and subscription information, go to Newsletters


Useful Links

Industry Associations (Aus)

(for contacts for other state bodies, visit the national website)

Advertising and Marketing (horticulture, landscape)

John Stanley Associates The marketing expert well-known to many in the field of horticulture
The Blogging Nurseryman The Golden Gecko Garden Center Blog (California)
Making Cents of Green Industry Economics Blog of Dr. Charlie Hall, Texas A&M University
The Revolution! Blog from the editors of Today's Garden Center (USA)
Planning, Opening, and Operating a Garden Center! Someone starting a garden center from scratch blogs her experience (USA)

Advertising & Marketing (general)

Australian Newsagency Blog News about newspaper and magazine sales
Seth's Blog Marketing guru Seth Godin

Cultivars, Trademarks, Breeders Rights, Nomenclature, Taxonomy

Australian Cultivar Registration Authority Australian National Botanic Gardens
Plant Breeders Rights Dept Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry - Australia
Plant Breeders Rights useful NZ site
Intellectual Property Australia (trademarks, patents)
Copyright Australia
International Society for Horticultural Science including information on International Cultivar Registration Authorities and International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

Other Resources

Links to online books, articles and other material from a variety of international sources that may be of interest to horticultural marketers in Australia (consumer trends, plant promotions, merchandising etc). These have been moved to a separate page here: Other Resources

Industry Associations (horticulture, landscape) - International


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