An Open Letter to The Green Industry

Nov 7, 2011

An Open Letter to The Green Industry

This is here for archival purposes only. There has been a gardening and plant revival, thanks to so many people being interested in houseplants, and those who turned to the garden during the COVID pandemic. There is still work to do as we keep horticulture in popular culture, but as I write this in 2022, things are looking up!

Time to plant something new?

How thrilled I was to read Danny Takao’s letter in the Greenhouse Grower, advocating a national promotion idea. The time is right, Danny. Let’s make it happen.

For a few months I’ve been thinking that there are two phrases I’d like to plant into the average American’s vocabulary: “You can grow that” and “Passionate about plants.”

Personally, I think that over the last fifteen years we’ve all been mistaken in catering to people’s desire for ease. With all that talk about low-maintenance gardening and foolproof containers we just set people up for disappointment and frustration. They discovered that composting is just a tad complicated and that combination planter takes a bit more tending than we’d led them to believe. And then there were the insects and diseases…

Why aren’t we speaking of the range (hell, the magnitude) of worthwhile results that plants and gardening cultivates?

Beauty? Fun? Stress relief? Fitness? You can grow that.

I agree with Danny that we need an industry-wide campaign. We need everyone on board: growers, independent garden centers, garden writers, sales people, PR firms, plant breeders, bloggers, and branders. Solidarity? You can grow that.

In the same way that the phrase “Fall is for planting” cemented the idea that it was good to plant in autumn, we need to thoroughly saturate people with the belief that plants and gardening are worth doing because of the benefits gained. We need to repeat the messages, over and over: “You can grow that” and “I’m passionate about plants.”

This campaign needs to address everyone, kids, gen x, y and z, baby boomers and the family dog. Each segment of society needs to be reminded that much of what makes life satisfying can be grown in our own backyards.

The message should range from serious (Healthy food? You can grow that!) to the fun or surprising. (Sex?  You can grow that!). We want it to be the starting point in plant descriptions and punch line for advertisements, videos and blogs. I want to see David Letterman and Jay Leno make fun of it. I want Seth Godin to blog about it. I want “You can grow that” to enter the popular phraseology in the same way that “Got milk?” has.

Laughter? You can grow that. A tasty, organic meal? You can grow that. Flowers for a wedding? You can grow that.

Why? Because it’s good for our industry, certainly, but also because I absolutely know that it’s true. Gardening one of the most life-affirming things we can do.

We put a great deal of time, money and effort into our own products, businesses and brands, so how can we not band together to cultivate this industry as a whole? We can’t just focus on the latest plant, fertilizer or organic insecticide; we’ve got to sell the excitement first.

Call me an unrealistic, naïve hort-a-holic, but I truly believe that it’s possible. A resurgence in gardening? We can grow that.

C.L. Fornari

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