Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Question deadline has been extended



                                       Elusive but worth it

No one has answered my question:  What is the next new ‘hot’ plants?


The problem could be: 1.  No one knows.  2.  No one sees my blog, but if they did, they would suggest 10 plants.  3.  Several people know the answer but want to keep it to themselves to steal the market.


I’ve seen top plant lists in trade magazines.  Many if these plants don’t fit into our small plant category, so don’t help.


Maybe, we are already growing the plant that will run away with the internet influencers.


We will pay attention.


Please comment with your plant selection.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

I have a vision...

                                            'wittle' hanging houseplants in production

            I have a vision (dream was taken) of how ‘wittle’ hanging houseplants can be sold.


            I have watched the eager buyers at Morris Farm Market on the way to the Outerbanks, North Carolina.  They load up wagons with cake, pies, vegetables, honey, candy, nuts, watermelon, and other good things.


            If there were a display of ‘Wittle’ hanging houseplants fully stocked with assorted houseplants, they could fly out of there.


            Many vacationers stop there coming and going, so if they are curious going in, they will buy a basket or two on the way home.


            I’m assuming most sales are made on the weekends, lining up with the weekly schedule of the beach rentals.


            How many could be sold in a weekend?


            At the rate they must restock everything else, it should be a lot.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

What would I do with three million dollars from a venture capitalist?

What would I do with three million dollars from a venture capitalist?


            The venture capitalist system is set up to give big sums of money in exchange for owning a percentage of the new company. 


            For a very small self-employed enterprise, it has intriguing trade-offs.  A stranger is willing to give you a lot on money for X % of the future value of the business { beginning value = almost nothing}.


            It is very enticing.  It’s not a loan, so I don’t have to pay it back.  But if your business is successful, someone else will own part of it and want to tell you what to do.


            In the current plant boom, a retail plant shop could use the money to open multiple plant stores in several cities to dominate a region quickly.


            A wholesale grower could build acres of greenhouses to support the large volume of fresh produce to supply national grocery chains.


            I’m glad this financial mechanism exists.  But it has nothing to do with me.


            My innovation of producing ‘wittle’ hanging houseplants is beyond the ‘minimum viable product’ test.  We already know they sell.



The limiting factor is supply.


Contract growing is available, if pursued. A slow rollout can test the market.  Grow 1,000 hanging baskets per week (50,000/year) and see what happens.  If demand pulls you in, double that.


If the ‘wittle’ brand can dominate the region {60 customers X 40 hanging houseplants/week} = {2400/week = 120,000/year}, then decide if three million dollars would help you?


Right now, I would not know what to do with three million dollars.


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Too much choice?

Sinningias -- Infinite variety


Too much choice.


            How can you possibly have too much choice?


            I’m convinced that if you have more variety of plants that you will sell more.


            There is a theory that humans, when confronted with too many variations of an item, will ultimately get confused and buy none of them.




            I tried to buy a toaster once and could not decide how its features were different or better.  I bought the $20 one.


            Too much choice conflicts with the long tail theory.  In music, all the money goes to the top 10 songs. But the least popular still may sell one or two.  Digital products allow this because there is no cost to stocking every song ever made.


            Physical products are more limited because they take up space in the store and may never be sold.


            Are plants like this?  Do plants follow the 80-20 rule, which says that 80% of the sales come from 20% of the plants shown.


            A Mum in the Fall, a Geranium in the Spring, a Poinsettia at Christmas.  You would be foolish to go against this 80-20 rule. But if you grow commodity plants, don’t expect to sell at higher than normal prices.


            However, if you grow a choice of unusual plants, price is irrelevant, and the long tail of variety works.


            More choice is what you want.

Monday, November 23, 2020

How do you maintain a shortage?

                                               Diastema comiferium grown by Ingrid

How do you maintain a shortage?


            Supply and demand.  High demand --- raise the price.  High supply --- lower the price.


            What every business tries to do is raise the price as high as possible to stay in business for the short term and the long term.


            If your product is perceived to be priced too high relative to the competition, sales go down, so you lower the price in the short term to sell your inventory.  If you must lower your price below your cost, then in the long term you go out of business.


            But we want to study the example of very limited supply and no competition. The sales price can be very high to satisfy the select few who are willing to pay the high price. (Hot Plant)


            If somehow the supply can be increased, what to do?


            My previous advice was: “The obvious marketing plan is to have 10 for sale but have a thousand in the back greenhouse.”


            If I have 100 pots per week that can be sold for $10 each, what are 1,000 pots per week worth?


            A plant buyer never knows how much it costs to produce the plant nor how many you have, only what they are willing to pay for it.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Panic --- What's the next 'New Hot' plant?

                                                          Sinningia 'Kaleidoscope'

Panic --- What is the next new ‘hot’ plant?


            Right now, just about any houseplant can be sold.


            What we are searching for is the plant that everyone wants.


            If there was ever a Catch-22, it is this dilemma.  The plant collector wants the plant that nobody has.  Then that means that there aren’t any to have.


            The original Catch-22 was when you could only get in to see the Major when he wasn’t there.  If he was in his office, you could not get in to talk to him.


            Who knows what plant should we be propagating so when it is sought after, we can have more than 10 to sell?  The obvious marketing plan is to have only 10 for sale but have a thousand in the back greenhouse.


            Fortunes have been made with guessing what scarce resource you should buy up and wait for the demand to hit.


            I knew a guy who bought a lot of slide rules anticipating that when nostalgia set in, slide rule jockeys from the 60’s would pay a lot to get one again. --- Don’t know how that worked out?


            You can comment below.  What is the plant?

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Raspberries and Hanging Baskets

'wittle' Hanging Houseplants in Production


What does a raspberry have to do with a hanging basket?


            Since I like red raspberries, I buy them often.  You can get them almost every week of the year.  How can they do that?


            Natural grown raspberries give one-two crops a year.  Eat all you can, then wait till next year.


            All the supermarket red raspberries that I’ve eaten are brought to you by Driscoll’s {all we do is berries}, the apparent dominant brand in berries.


            How does a minor brand exist?  You don’t care about Driscoll unless you care about berries.  Then if you’re going to buy a berry, may as well buy a Driscoll --- they’ve been good in the past.  Besides, you don’t know of any other brands.


            Can houseplant hanging baskets be dominated by ‘wittle’ Hanging Houseplants originated by Gary’s Specialty Plants?


            What are the parallels?  Minor product with no established brand name.  The brand name could be promoted in reverse.  You see the ‘wittle’ hanging houseplant, then notice the brand you never heard of.  The next time you want a small hanging basket you look for ‘wittle’.


            If it works for raspberries, it can work for hanging houseplants.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Anniversary Issue

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' - The life time project


The Anniversary Issue


            I missed the April anniversary story.  The plan never worked.  I was going to write it early, then on time, then a little later.


            So here it is.


            Started in April 2012, I have eight years done and moving into the ninth year.  Check other blogs, most can’t do that.  So, I have longevity.


            For me, it is incredibly difficult to find a topic, write with focus, type, and publish.


            My blog is about plants, but I can’t help but lean into philosophy.  I reject hundreds of ‘points of view’ in my head because --- who cares what I think.


            I have plant people ask for more information about ‘plant culture’.  I find that very boring and difficult because everyone’s environment is different.  Maybe someday.


            Anniversaries are for reflecting --- Past and future.


            I’ve had phases of Streptocarpus, Sinningias, and Primulina.  Then Strings of Things.  We constantly chase the hot new plant --- It’s where the money is.


            The future is the most interesting.  Sinningias need to come back.  Garden Centers are begging for them.  String of Hearts ‘Pretty Pink’ will be a gold mine if supply can be created.


            Who knows what new ‘hot’ plant will pop up?  By definition, there will be a shortage.


            Peperomias are hiding in the weeds.  There are hundreds of species and they ‘live’ as houseplants --- always a good value.  And we’ve barely touched Begonias --- one of the old original houseplants.


            Some of my blog stories strike me as very good.  Some --- who cares?  But you don’t know which is which, before you write.


            Seth Godin, genius blogger, knows --- Good ideas come from bad ideas.


            Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020




                   What's better than one handsome rooster?

                     Twin handsome roosters.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

We'll see!

                                                     Kevin Cohn

We’ll see.


            This story is copied without permission.  You can give the author full credit and see what he is applying it to at: .



“We’ll See.”

Once upon a time, on a fine fall morning, an old farmer went out to tend his animals and crops.

At first light, the farmer was dismayed to see his fence had been crushed by a falling tree during the night. All three of the farmer’s prized horses had disappeared.

The other villagers moaned in sympathy: “Whatever will you do?” they asked the farmer. “This is terrible,” they all cried, shaking their heads sadly, “and right before harvest time, too.”

“Your harvest will rot in the field. What will your family eat this winter? How will you get your crop in without horses?” one of the villagers asked the old farmer.

“We’ll see,” was the farmer’s only reply as he returned to his chores.

Later on that morning, the farmer heard the sound of hooves and, looking up, saw his three horses had returned! What was more, the three horses had two wild horses running with them.

Soon, the villagers were heard to express their delight at the farmer’s good fortune.

“What a wonderful thing to have happen!” the other villagers cried. “What a wealthy man you will be with this new stock of animals!”

“We’ll see,” was all the old farmer would reply.

After lunch that day, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the wild horses to the saddle. Suddenly, the wild horse threw the son to the ground. Running to his injured son, the farmer found his son’s leg badly broken.

The neighbors were soon around to give their opinions.

“What a terrible calamity,” the villagers said. “What a disaster.”

“Now you really won’t be able to get your crop in, without a strong son to help you. He will take months to heal. Whatever will you do now?” the other villagers asked the farmer in despair.

The farmer would only shrug and say: “We’ll see.”

Later that afternoon, military officials rode into the tiny village, with a great clattering of weapons and jostling of horses. Looking grim and serious, the soldiers announced an official conscription. Every young and able man was to be drafted into service that very day.

The farmers son, having just been injured, was left behind, even as other sons and husbands were taken.

No one in the village could believe the old farmer’s good fortune. And not everyone was entirely happy about it.

“Surely the most tremendous good fortune has smiled upon you today,” the villagers grumbled. “How can anyone be so lucky?”

But the old farmer would only reply, “We’ll see.”

The End



The parable applies to my plant world this year.  We were doomed and then we weren’t.


            Will the houseplant boom continue into 2021?


            We’ll see!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Rooster view


         Sometimes you just need to see a handsome Rooster to make your day

Sunday, August 30, 2020

State of the Business

Sinningia 'Gabriel's Horn' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants

The State of the business.


            Presidents give State of the Union addresses, trade magazines collect State of the Industry facts.  I should give a State of this Business report.


            This recession is not affecting me this time as houseplants are in high demand, contrary to the 2009 recession, which crushed sales of Annuals.


            If you don’t have a job, you really don’t have to buy a Petunia.


            Houseplants may be different.  They don’t cost much, and they could make you feel better.


            Some of those who are employed, which is over 80% of the work force, are interested in houseplants.  And on the collector side of things, don’t really care what rare plants cost.


            I have unusual plants and strive for the rare.  It’s where the money is.


            If there is a trend, it’s that price barriers are breaking, and we don’t’ have to get squeezed by high input costs.  We can charge more if necessary and garden centers are able to profit from higher prices.


            Price is a signal.  If indoor gardeners will pay higher prices, we should produce more uncommon plants.


            The State of this Business is very good.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Doomsday Update

We're going to be alright 

Doomsday update.

            On March 15, when the United States shut down, I didn’t think that we would ever sell another plant.
            The Horticulture industry was panicked.  With Spring plant sales in jeopardy, it was easy to predict bankruptcy ahead.

            But retail sales started to open up and doomsday was averted.

            The pent-up demand overwhelmed garden centers and most recorded extra high sales.

            What happened to us?

            We had several eCommerce customers who suddenly found themselves with double the orders.  Indoor gardeners were trapped at home.  Hey, “Let’s order a plant.  UPS will bring it to my house.”

            We have had difficulty growing enough plants to catch up.

            No one could have predicted this year’s events.  No one knows how to predict what’s next??

            If I continue the baseball metaphor, now I’m winning 46-23.  Impossible, unlikely game?


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Is there innovation in a small hanging basket?

Plastic Hanging Baskets

Innovation is intriguing.  How does it happen?

The history of innovations is well told by Matt Ridley in "How Innovation Works".  He has fascinating stories of how new inventions came into being and increased our standard of living.

            He argues that even the light bulb was not a lightning bolt of inspiration.  Edison built on all previous knowledge and then trialed and error-ed through 6,000 types of filaments until one worked.

            Ridley builds the case that innovative ideas are most likely a rearrangement of previous good ideas.  Sometimes ideas were ahead of the technology of machines or materials. 

            Hanging baskets was such a simple idea.  Why didn’t we think to do this before?

            Take a pot of flowers and put a hanger on it so it could be hung on your porch.

            That word from the movie ‘The Graduate’ was right ---- “Plastics”.  The development of plastic pots with flexible hangers saved Spring flower growers by giving them a new income stream. 

            Ubiquitous plastic containers replaced all those terra-cotta clay pots and associated broken backs lugging them around.

            So, with all these hanging baskets, how can a new size be considered an innovation?

            When I saw the little basket at Strange’s Garden Center in Richmond, I knew that this is what I’ve been looking for.

            Existing hanging baskets for houseplants are too big and too heavy.

            Through some detective work, I found that I could import this 10 cm basket from Holland by way of Canada.

            This 4” basket will replace our 4.5” and give indoor gardeners that ‘wittle’ hanging houseplant that they didn’t know they wanted.

            That’s how innovation works.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

'Nanouk' Tradescantea - Now you can see.

'Nanouk' Tradescantea

          Now we have a picture.  My son solved the upload a picture problem.

              'Nanouk' Tradescantea

          Everyone will want one.

Imagine if...

Not this plant

Imagine if this plant has pink and white variegated leaves, grows fast and is branched.

The ‘Hot’ new plant I want to show you is ‘Nanouk’ Tradescantea.  But right now, Google Blogger is broken, and I can’t upload any new pictures.  The only pictures I can access are ones already in use on the blog.

Since I could not imagine a new plant either, unless actually seen, you can search for ‘Nanouk’ Tradescantea.

When we had this plant 8-9 years ago, it was ahead of its time.  Due to the big leaves, it looks good in spring 10”-12” hanging baskets.

Now we need to squeeze it down into small pots for indoor gardeners.  It can certainly grow in small pots and baskets.  When it grows too big, just cut it back and give away your cuttings.

True to supply and high demand, there was no supply for unrooted cuttings.  But I was able to secure stock plants indirectly from Canadian growers.

It will be easy to produce and I’m looking forward to distributing it to all our garden center customers.  Since there can be no picture, you will have to see the real thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

What's going on with String of Hearts?

String of Hearts 'Pretty Pink'

What’s going on with String of Hearts?

String of Hearts is number 6 of our top selling plants for 2019.  It would have been much higher on the list if we could have had more to sell.  Our offshore propagators are only beginning to have stable numbers.

            This last week we put 900 2.5” pots on the availability list.  They’re gone.  Why?

            String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii) has a lot going for it.  It is an easy houseplant to keep alive and therefore, sought after.

            It grows quickly with warm, long days of summer.  It can be dry without harm and thrives on neglect.  If rooted in small pots, it takes up little space and will trail down with heart shaped leaves.

            There are three clones to pick from.  Traditional silver and green, heart shaped leaves, is the most common.  A solid silver leaf, ‘Silver Glory’, is very attractive but still carries a high price due to limited supply.  Since it is just as vigorous as the green/silver clone, it will show up at your plant store soon.

            The pink version is in a class by itself.  I don’t think the supply will ever catch up with the demand.  String of Hearts ’Pretty Pink’ has stable pink variegation but grows slowly.

            My previous blog stories about String of Hearts have attracted above average page views.  A lot of people want to know about String of Hearts.  Again.  Why?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

So Easy and So Hard

           If every human who has the virus did not transmit it to any other human, in 15 days the virus would be dead.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I choose not to participate in the recession

Primulinas have only just begun

    I choose not to participate in the recession.

The last recession of 2008 put me out of business.  I had to sell all assets and destroy my lifetime business.  My employees and customers were gone.  It was a stressful and sad time.

This devastating time will bring the same fate to many businesses who will not be able to maneuver around high debt, low sales and high operating costs.  It will be such a waste that this plague crushes businesses that were successful eight weeks ago.

            Those lofty advisors that tell you that what hurts you only makes you stronger, do not understand hardship.  You may or may not come out of this stronger.

            This time, ten years later, I have a better business model.  I moved away from annuals to houseplants.  I have no employees, few assets and no debt.  Is that smart or lucky?

            Indoor gardeners want to buy houseplants.  When stores are open, they will buy again.

            I choose not to participate in the recession.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Let it Shine!

Peperomia polyboytra 'Raindrop"

Peperomia 'Raindrop' - Natural shine

            Peperomia polybotrya ‘Raindrop’ is a solid foliage houseplant from the past.  Its current claim to fame is that it looks like the Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides).

            To get indoor gardeners to pay attention, we need the dominant characteristic to be obvious.

            It can survive in very low light, a great feature to give long life as a decorative plant.  But if you don’t notice it, you’ll never find out.

            Plants with shiny leaves are somewhat suspect --- Did you shine those leaves?  Did you spray it with leaf shine?

            With Peperomia ‘Raindrop’, shine is what you get.  It will be its dominant feature.  All its other desirable qualities will be apparent later.

            Many customers just want some no-nonsense greenery.  Why are Pothos and Philodendron so popular?  They just live, no matter what.  ‘Raindrop’ will do this, too.

            Costa Farms, the largest foliage producer in the United States, is promoting this plant in their foliage collections.  They have their production, I have mine.

            When there was a frantic demand for this plant two years ago, I found there was no supply.  I was fortunate to find a tissue culture lab that would take on this project. The media protocol was not known. Now, two years later, we have plantlets coming out as bushy liners that can be grown on for the houseplant market.

            And guess what --- they have shiny leaves.

            Peperomia ‘Raindrop’ is a much better plant than Chinese Money Plant.  It is upright and sturdy, doesn’t go flat with drought and lives.

            Will it catch fire like Pilea peperomioides?  We won’t know until you have one and you tell your friends.

            Let it shine!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Ready for Launch - Primulina 'Xuan's Party Dress'

Primulina 'Xuan's Party Dress' - Ready for launch

Maybe I’ve found it. 

I have known all along that Asian Violets have not taken off like they should.

It’s been proven that Primulina are good plants.  They survive houseplant conditions --- hot or cold, in high or low humidity.  They come back from dry but not drowning (nor does any other plant).  Many varieties have distinctive patterned foliage.  Many can be interesting even without flowers.

I’ve long judged P. ’Loki’ it be the best Asian Violet, sold as a small variegated, not in flower, houseplant.

One thing I’ve been waiting for is flowering when it is young---less that a year---better if 6 months.   Flowering needs to be precise, also.  I need high bud count on a sturdy short flower stem, capable of multiple flower spikes at a time.

Primulina ‘Xuan’s Party Dress’ is meeting all the criteria for the first commercial variety that can be grown quickly and sold “In Flower”.  This is a breakthrough worth talking about.

‘Xuan’s Party Dress’ has it all ---silver leaves and multi-flora light blue flowers.

It can be grown in our new 10 cm ‘wittle’ hanging basket which will show off the pretty flowers.

Early flowering is the breakthrough!