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Garden Centers of America:
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This Year's All-America Selections Winners

This Month's GCA Member Profile


GCA Summer Tour 2017 Full Lineup & Host Hotel Announced - Newport News, VA, Here We Come!

Next year's GCA Summer Tour is headed to Virginia, June 25-28, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at garden centers' operations from Richmond to Newport News to Virginia Beach. Be sure to pack your notebook and camera to capture all the merchandising and indie retailing inspirations!

Registration for the 2017 GCA Summer Tour Newport News/Virginia Beach is now open with Early Bird Savings in full effect! 

Behind-the-Scenes @ These Top Garden Centers!

  • Anderson's Newport News, Newport News
  • Anderson's Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach
  • Atlantic Garden Center, Virginia Beach
  • Cross Creek Nursery & Landscaping, Richmond
  • The Great Big Greenhouse & Meadows Farms Nurseries, Richmond
  • Ken Matthews Garden Center, Yorktown
  • McDonald Garden Center, Virginia Beach
  • McDonald Garden Market, Williamsburg's Monticello site
  • Sneed's Nursery & Garden Center, Richmond
  • White's Nursery & Garden Center, Chesapeake
Plus These Local Interest Stops
  • American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Yorktown
  • Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square, Williamsburg
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk
  • ViBe Creative District, Virginia Beach

GCA Tour organizers are also excited to unveil the GCA Summer Tour 2017 host hotel is the Newport News Marriott at City Center. This hotel is located in the new downtown neighborhood in Newport News, just steps away from dining, shopping and entertainment. To reserve your room, click here or call the hotel at 757-873-9229. Be sure to tell them you are booking for the Garden Centers of America event.


2016 GCA Summer Tour Social Media Recap

In case you missed all of the coverage of this year's GCA Summer Tour in Portland, OR, here are some of the highlights from social media:

"Opening night festivities were in high gear as the 2016 GCA Summer Tour in Portland kicked off Sunday with a lively discussion on hot IGC retailing topics, including the importance of IGCs receiving early market rights to new plant introductions from growers. Owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, Thomas Birt, known for his ever-present white cowboy hat and a regular GCA Tour attendee, was among those taking place in the multi-topic discussion led by Tour Director Robert Hendrickson. The room traded insights on Internet sales, and those garden centers on the tour who are having great success with them shared their strategies. The three-day tour of Portland-area garden centers starts early Monday."




"Yesterday [Monday], GCA Summer Tour buses hit the Portland area under glorious, bright, sunny blue skies for a robust first day that took them to five leading garden centers. An amazing lunch was featured on the grounds of grower Sester Farms in Gresham, OR, who - along with the delicious mid-day meal - gave a tour of its growing grounds, a hands-on session on how to refresh tired plant material that's still in your sales area and a raffle with a grand prize of $3500 of delivered wholesale-valued plants from the grower, won by Sandi Hillermann of Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington, MO. Sester Farms generously provided all retailers on the GCA Tour with a $1000 certificate for free plants on any Fall 2016 orders. Two more busy days lie ahead, and weather reports call for a bright day, and spirits are sky high. For those who are missing this great networking experience among 120+ IGC retailers, make plans now to attend the 2017 GCA Summer Tour, just announced to take place in Norfolk/Virginia Beach!"




"First stop for Tuesday on the GCA Summer Tour Portland was Gardener’s Choice in Tigard, OR. One of the intriguing highlights from this stop includes these display units that are actually built on repurposed pallets. The overall concept for these is that when store management wants to rearrange display units, a forklift can easily be brought in to pick up and relocate the entire unit. It’s an experiment in progress for the store, but certainly an interesting concept - just another example of the insights you get by attending the GCA Summer Tour."


"On Tuesday night, the GCA Summer Tour Portland dined in the historic setting of McMenamins Edgefield - a renovated turn-of-the-century "poor house" that is now a restaurant, bar and entertainment center on the outskirts of the Portland metro area. Our special guest after dinner was Jeff Stone, Executive Director and CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, (pictured with GCA Executive Director Jeff Morey). Stone spoke on the unique implications of the recent laws in the state of Oregon that legislated minimum wage on both growers and what the end effects will impose on finished plant prices from Oregon to retailers across the country, as well as the forced wage minimums on local Oregon garden center retailers. A lively discussion ensued for nearly an hour between the 120+ attending IGC retailers on the tour and Stone. This dinner and discussion followed a day of garden center stops that earned rave reviews from all. By every measure, there seems little doubt that this is the best GCA Summer Tour in many, many years!"




UPCOMING EVENTS

June 25, 2017 5:00 PM • Newport News, VA
August 15, 2017 • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
August 15, 2017 10:00 AM • Room 324, Navy, Pier, Chicago, IL
August 16, 2017 11:30 AM • Room 324, IGC Show, Chicago, IL

GCA MEMBER PROFILE:

David Snodgrass, President Dennis' 7 Dees, Portland, OR

Portland IGC Retailer Thrives in Modern Era of Garden Retailing

Even though family-owned Dennis' 7 Dees Landscaping and Garden Centers, which celebrated 60 years in business last year, has deep roots in the traditional model of garden retailing, all of the retailer's locations throughout the Portland, OR area are migrating toward the same merchandising scheme and store flow that takes customers on a "tour of experiences."

"We want to tell stories and offer inspiration or solutions for our customers - whether it be privacy solutions, edible ideas, container and small space innovations, or even a reinvention of conifer growth," Terry Rummerfield, Dennis' 7 Dees' General Manager, says. "We lay out our stores strategically to lead them through a winding path lined with landscape features, supported with outdoor decor and seasonal live product. We offer areas of rest and reflection that have been set up on themed outdoor patio vignettes."

He continues, "We have entryways that explore color, offering up ideas and enticing our guests to explore deeper into the garden center. Then we have beautifully designed hardscapes that support themes of the season providing inspiration throughout the garden center."

Dennis' 7 Dees President David Snodgrass (pictured above, from left: Drew Snodgrass, David Snodgrass and Dean Snodgrass) explains that this tour of experiences really helps differentiate their stores, which are located in Cedar Hills, Lake Oswego, Portland and Seaside.


"More than just selling product, we want to differentiate ourselves from box stores and others by really making this an experience," he says. "We know avid gardeners don't just go to a garden center because they're looking for something specific. They're looking to get away and take a break to do something they really enjoy. Being in a garden surrounding is a perfect place for that garden enthusiast."

David stresses to his staff that it is incredibly important to deliver that experience every time, so customers come back for it again and again. But he admits it can be challenging to find new ways to keep it fresh in the stores, so that customers come in regularly to see what's new.

One of the keys to keeping the store experience uniform across all locations is the merchandising. Terry says they have a team of merchandisers who collaborate at each location to create that "wow" factor that is their visual stimulant in each garden center.

"Through coordinated planning, product support and market alignment, we offer these similar themes at each location, but we also have a unique touch at each of the garden centers that is distinct to their demographics," he says. "What makes it all come together is our team of skilled associates who engage customers at a creative level and provide solutions to their needs. Our goal is that every customer not only leaves with their initial needs met for what they came in for, but a new idea or thought that they didn't have before they came to visit us."

Some of Dennis' 7 Dees' skilled associates have been with the company for a long time, creating a real depth of knowledge and experience at the garden center, according to David.

Terry explains that their hiring and training process creates an environment for employees to succeed and thrive.

"We want to engage our employees just as much as the customer, so it starts with a great recruiting and hiring practice," he says. "Then, we build a comprehensive orientation to engage those new employees so they feel like they are appreciated."

Dennis' 7 Dees has ongoing educational opportunities in the form of a unique university program that was established by one of the store's key staff members. It takes new employees through four levels of product knowledge and horticultural care to get everybody to a good solid point.

"We offer positive feedback and an encouraging work environment with a clear career path and growth opportunities, too," Terry says. "Most of all, we set that expectation of what experience we want to deliver to our customers."

Garden Centers of America's annual Summer Tour is another great educational tool that Dennis' 7 Dees takes advantage of - they sent a couple key staff members to the GCA Summer Tour in Portland last year.

Terry and David also find that the IGC Show Monday Store Tour is increasingly beneficial to training staff and improving their in-store customer experience.

"I’m a big fan of borrowing other people's good ideas and tweaking them to fit our vision," Terry says. "Validating the good things that we're doing is important, too, as we communicate and talk to peer groups that are on the right path. That's equally as good as finding some of those new, exciting products."

David says, "We've always participated in national associations for the last 30 years. Really, if I look back at what is the best thing I could've done to grow our business, it is absolutely going outside of our marketplace and going to a national conference where the best of the best are in attendance. When I look at how we have grown, it's because we've learned from the best of the best who have shared their best practices."

Terry elaborates, "In my position as General Manager, my biggest benefit from the networking was a peer group that I can talk to about best practices, the latest product mix trends, staffing structure, pricing and margin strategies, and other operational topics.

"Then, I like having people to call on when I reach a roadblock to get different perspectives outside of my own blinders. When you're doing the same thing in the same buildings day after day, you lose perspective on what may be going on outside of your own realm."

David says, "The only place you can get the big picture of the industry is by becoming a member of GCA and participating. There's a lot of learning not only in what works for others, but what didn't work. The last thing we want to do is learn everything from our own experience, because that's extremely costly. If you really want to grow your business, this would be the absolute best trick of the trade."

Deep Roots in the Community

Dennis' 7 Dees celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, but the company's roots go much further back to 1927, when David's grandfather Bernard Esch started a lawn maintenance business, and later a wholesale rhododendron nursery. David's father, Robert Snodgrass, got involved in 1956, operating the family retail garden center, nursery and landscaping business, which he named Seven Dees. Over the years, David's brothers Dean and Drew were brought into the business as Partners.

Terry says the company is the "total solution" for its customers, with the retail garden center, design/build program and landscape maintenance services. But they're looking to expand their relationship with the landscape side of the business.

To better bridge the gap between the garden center and landscape services, they've created a "planscaper" service, where the store provides the landscape design to a customer who has committed to purchasing the materials necessary to achieve the design. "They're not paying anything for the design," David says. "It comes with the project buyout."

Terry says, "A junior design/build staffer in the store will help with that DIY customer who is ready to dig some holes, but doesn't have a confident design in mind. As we grow this planscaper service and align it with the design/build portion of the business, it's going to be a huge point of differentiation and a big win for us as a garden center in serving those customers."

David admits, "Our strength is designing, building and landscapes - that's the biggest part of what we do. That is in our history."

As far as getting the next generation of gardeners into the store, Dennis' 7 Dees has been targeting them in the manner in which they want to be marketed to - on social media through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blogging.

Then, the company looks to store merchandising to grab that next generation customer. "In terms of instant gratification, we focus on those next generation hobbyists by tailoring different product mixes to them and partnering with others in the industry," Terry says. "These customers have that immediate need for visual success, so we sell more mature plants, grab-and-go colorful containers - which is a huge category for us - and low-maintenance product.

"I was at a seminar last summer that mentioned that you don't want to use terminology that denotes harder work than it really seems. You have to be very specific about how you communicate to those generations."

David believes there is at least one category garden centers can offer to the next generation of consumers - edibles.

"I think the Millennials and Generation Z all have an interest in producing vegetables and growing more of their own food in their gardens - whether that be a container garden in a small space on a porch or in a traditional large garden," he says. "We understand that we need to reel in these next generations slowly, start them off small and get them hooked. Once they're hooked, they'll understand and enjoy gardening like the past generations did."

Dennis' 7 Dees has been known for generations in the Portland community. "The company has been a very significant part of the community for 60 years now," David says. "We try to contribute to the community, trying not to turn anybody down. You can't contribute to all of them in a big way, but we can support in some way, so we always start with a 'yes.'"

One of the company's bigger projects is the charity golf tournament that benefits Human Solutions, a local facility for homeless children and families. "We've been hosting the golf tournament for seven years now, and we always choose Human Solutions," David says. "They help pay bills and provide food, shelter and jobs to homeless families."

Dennis' 7 Dees has invited its network of vendors, friends, customers and employees to support this cause every year. "In the past three years, we've raised more than $100,000 to support Human Solutions," David says. "So over the full seven years, we've given more than $500,000."

Click here to read more Member Profiles.


All-America Selections Introduces Nine Exciting AAS Winners for the 2016 Garden Season

Anyone watching the movements of All-America Selections lately will notice an ever-increasing number of exciting and wonderful plants that are being named AAS Winners. This announcement is no different with nine new plants that have been trialed by horticulture experts throughout North America and deemed worthy of the All-America Selections® brand.
All of the following new varieties were trialed during the 2015 growing season and exhibited outstanding garden performance as noted in each of the following descriptions.
 
This grouping of AAS Winners for 2016 includes:
Geranium Brocade Cherry Night (National)
Geranium Brocade Fire (National)
Pepper Cornito Giallo F1 (National)
Pepper Escamillo F1 (National)
Pumpkin Super Moon F1 (Regional: Southeast and Great Lakes)
Salvia Summer Jewel™ Lavender (Regional: Southeast, Heartland, Great Lakes)
Strawberry Delizz® F1 (National)
Tomato Candyland Red (National)
Tomato Chef’s Choice Green F1 (National)
 
With this announcement, these varieties become available for immediate sale to the commercial market. Brokers and growers can purchase these varieties immediately. Retailers and consumers will find these Winners for sale for the 2016 gardening season as supply gradually becomes available throughout the chain of distribution. Garden communicators are free to begin writing about these varieties now, in preparation for next year’s gardens.
 
The first group of AAS Winners for 2016 was announced in July 2015 and are also interesting additions for the consumer’s gardens and table:
Bunching Onion Warrior (Regional Winner: Southeast, Mountain/Southwest)
Mizuna Red Kingdom F1 (National Winner)
Radish Sweet Baby F1 (Regional Winner: Southeast, Great Lakes)
 
A complete list of trial grounds and the judges behind our awards can be found here.
 
A complete list of all AAS Winners since 1932 can be found here. Note that this list of AAS Winners can be sorted by Flowers from Seed, Flowers from Cuttings, and Vegetables.

Geranium Brocade Cherry Night
AAS 2016 Ornamental Vegetative Winner
National Winner

Striking foliage with large double blooms of cherry pink make Geranium Brocade Cherry Night an AAS Winner this year.  Gardeners looking for unique and distinct foliage to accent their containers and gardens will be delighted with Brocade Cherry Night.  The bronze leaves with green margins are a remarkable and unusual addition to any design.  Add the double bright cherry blooms and this heat tolerant geranium is your winner for any planter, container or garden!  More Info...  Bred by Dummen Orange

Geranium Brocade Fire
AAS 2016 Ornamental Vegetative Winner
National Winner

This 2016 AAS Winner, Geranium Brocade Fire, has unique bi-color foliage with a nonstop display of orange flowers that gives it an exceptional look in any garden.  Geranium Brocade Fire is ideal for combination planters, landscapes and garden beds. This robust plant keeps its distinguishing foliage color and brilliant blooms throughout the hot summers then becomes a fantastic transitional flower going into fall.  The orange flowers contrast with the striking foliage making this geranium a much appreciated and talked about new annual winner. More info...  Bred by Dummen Orange

Pepper Cornito Giallo F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

“DOUBLE YUM” was one judge’s response to our new AAS Winner Cornito Giallo F1 pepper, “The flavor on this one is totally a winner!”  Starting as small green fruits, this AAS Winner develops into bright yellow jewels with a delicious sweet and fruity flavor.  The peppers themselves are plentiful and durable, yet easy to eat fresh. Being an early bloomer, you will be able to enjoy these peppers throughout the growing season and well into the fall.  Plant Cornito Giallo F1 in your garden this year and you can join our judges in exclaiming “YUM!” More info...  Bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Pepper Escamillo F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

A wonderful sweet taste on a golden yellow pepper makes Pepper Escamillo F1, one of our 2016 AAS Winners.  An early bearing pepper plant with a compact habit makes it an ideal choice for any home garden. Gardeners will be captivated with the high yield of peppers per plant and how the fruit itself is held off the ground for easy picking and less rotting. This plant is a winner with its all around qualities of excellent taste either raw, cooked or fire roasted; its compact size and high yield. More info...  Bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Pumpkin Super Moon F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
Regional Winner: Great Lakes and Southeast

Love the look of white pumpkins for your fall holiday decor?  Then you will love our first-ever white pumpkin AAS Regional Winner Super Moon F1.  Our judges loved the nice, eye-appealing ghostly white coloration on the large, blemish-free round pumpkins.  Grown for their size, up to 50 lbs, and their clean white color, these hardy plants are known for their early fruit development and vigorous growth. Their stems are tough, hardy, disease-resistant and unstoppable!  When done decorating with these beauties, consider trying the yellow flesh for roasting or in your fall harvest soups.  More info...  Bred by Seeds By Design Inc.

Salvia Summer Jewel™ Lavender
AAS 2016 Ornamental Seed Winner
Regional Winner: Southeast, Heartland, Great Lakes

The fourth AAS Winner in the Summer Jewel™ series of popular AAS Salvia Winners is the newest in color, Summer Jewel™ Lavender.  The unique flower color of dusty lavender purple is a delight in the garden and flower containers as well as a major attractor of pollinators including bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. An extra bonus is how much the Goldfinch loves these flower seeds in the fall.  It’s a photo-ready moment when these complementary colors of gold and lavender connect!  The early blooming, stable, compact uniform growth, and continuous flowering of this plant are additional positives to this plant.  More info...  Bred by Takii & Co. Ltd

Strawberry Delizz®  F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

What’s not to like about our first ever AAS strawberry winner Strawberry Delizz® F1?  These vigorous strawberry plants are easy to grow, from seed or transplant, and produce an abundant harvest throughout the growing season.  The best part though is the wonderful sweet strawberry burst of flavor from every handpicked berry. To enjoy fresh home-grown strawberries throughout the season, even in hot summer heat, look to Strawberry Delizz® F1.  These plants have a nice uniform and compact size making them perfect for containers, hanging baskets or garden plots. The hardest part of Strawberry Delizz® F1 won’t be the growing but having some strawberries left for anyone else to enjoy!  More info... Bred by ABZ Seeds

Tomato Candyland Red
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

Tomato Candyland Red is the only AAS award winning currant-type tomato. Currant tomatoes are smaller in size than cherry-type and are ready to “pop” in your mouth straight from the garden.  Gardeners will appreciate the dark red, sweet flavored fruit that can be enjoyed throughout the season.  The tomato plant itself has a nice tidier habit than other currant-type plants with the fruit tending to form on the outside of the plant making them easier to harvest. More info...  Bred by PanAmerican Seed Company
 
Tomato Chef’s Choice Green F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

Looking for a uniquely colored yet delicious tomato with which to impress your foodie friends?  Then look no further than this AAS Winner, Tomato Chef’s Choice Green F1. The newest addition to the Chef’s Choice series produces beautiful green colored fruits with subtle yellow stripes and a wonderful citrus-like flavor and perfect tomato texture. You’ll enjoy this disease free plant throughout the season with its dark green leaves and well-behaved form. You’ll be the envy of all your tomato loving friends! More info...  Bred by Seeds By Design Inc.
 
All-America Selections® was founded in 1932 and continues as the oldest independent testing organization in North America. Every year, new, never-before-sold varieties are trialed in our Trial Grounds and professional horticulturists determine which varieties will be deemed winners based on their garden performance. AAS relies upon a public relations program to inform gardeners about AAS National and Regional Winners that are announced three times each year.
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