The Top 10 Most Hated Gardening Trends

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1. Independent Brands Showing Up In Boxes

The most hated trend in the independent garden center industry is watching once-exclusive brands show up on the shelves at Home Depot, Lowe’s and other mass merchants. The trend has accelerated since the beginning of the Great Recession, when suppliers’ bankers began putting pressure on them to improve their finances. And it looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future.

2. Mass Merchants Getting Stronger

Home Depot and Lowe’s are here to stay and getting better at selling plants every year. You might think this item should be No. 1 on the list, however, the fact that big boxes are flourishing doesn’t seem to raise garden retailers’ ire quite as much as seeing them get access to formerly independent-exclusive products.

3. Fairy Gardening

Many plant lovers shudder when they hear the term “fairy gardening.” Some are quick to correct the speaker, saying it’s actually miniature gardening. Others just despise associating fairies with something they are so passionate about, feeling the term cheapens it. But bone-deep retailers love the category and the strong margins that come with it.

4. Painted Poinsettias

White poinsettias festooned with glitter and dyes were all the rage a couple years ago. Some painted poinsettias were attractive, others a muddy blend of colors almost hidden by a crust of glitter. Consumers loved them, though, giving a struggling plant a multi-year boost in sales. European countries saw similar success with painted heather and other bedding plants. So this trend may not be gone, just waiting for another plant to help it take off again.

5. Dyed-Blue Orchids

This is another trend that consumers adored but left many industry insiders cold. How many times did you hear horticulturalists complain that blue orchids would not rebloom blue? But the reality is that the consumers who love them contiue to buy each new color that’s introduced.

6. Greenwashing

When sustainability first became a trend, everyone wanted a piece of the movement’s popularity. Even cigarettes corporations would use green buzzwords like “low carbon footprint” to give their product a wash of green.

7. Gen Y Getting Too Much Attention

You’ll hear a lot of retailers complain at industry events when yet another keynote speaker talks about how different Gen X and Gen Y are from Baby Boomers. The reality, however, is that the younger generations will make or break garden centers in the coming years.

8. Breeding For Color Only

Breeders have a history of chasing certain colored plants, like yellow echinaceas. Consumers sometimes go crazy for a must-have shade for all plants, be it black or chartreuse. A lot of poorly performing plants resulted.

9. Overusing PGRs

It seems like growers fell in love with growth regulators over the past decade. Plants arrive in the garden center looking perfect, but once away from the controlled greenhouse environment, they began to revert to their genetic norms. And retailers got the blame. 

10. Colored Mulch

Bright red or blue beds were a hot trend that has faded away. Some garden centers got innovative and offered mulch in local school colors. The problem was that the color effect was difficult to maintain in the landscape. Retailers who grudgingly gave shelf space to the product were relieved once consumer demand faded.

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9 comments on “The Top 10 Most Hated Gardening Trends

  1. CJ Caine

    I think the blue orchids are ugly but I'm sure most people who buy them can't rebloom an orchid anyway. Or maybe the next hot thing will be dye kits for do-it-yourself blue orchids. (I remember when we used to dye carnations.)

  2. Delores Steinhauser

    I know it is an old trend, but "guaranteeing plants" still drives me crazy. We cannot guarantee the life of a plant, because we cannot guarantee how it is going to be treated once it leaves the store. Who came up with this idea in the first place? "Plant people" expect some plants to die. They know they're going to lose some and have to replace them. "Non-plant people" need to be educated about the laws of nature, instead of placated with a replacement.

  3. kctomato

    addendum: * Selling "heirloom" tomatoes that aren't really heirlooms – like 'Green Zebra'. Or for that matter having a viable definition for the term in the first place. It seems to mean different things to different people. It's become nothing but a sales hook like "green" or "sustainable" (see above). * Soil mixes with additives. If I want them I will add them myself. That would be better for the IGC's because it would be yet another thing I am buying. Instead we get products that over-feed or have "water saving crystals" that breakdown into cancer causing neurotoxins (poly-acralymides breaks down into acralymide but the MSDS doesn't require info on the breakdown products). * Selling one 4" annual for more than we used to pay for a 4 pak. Yes I get it the plant is bigger when sold but come summer, and assuming it wasn't rootbound when purchased, there is little difference in a properly cared for plant.

  4. westcoaster

    A new trend I see in the hardware/home ranch store category is getting rid of qualified nursery personnel, limiting choice of vendors, shifting buying to inside office buyers who no longer deal with reps but order only off a hot sheet, so their nursuries have devolved into well merchanidised and cared-for replicas of Box Store sea-of-color displays. No longer a place where one can shop for landscape plants, only seasonal color. The customers are being dumbed-down to accept this as 'gardening'. True independants should capitalize on this and snap up the qualified personnel who are being shunted aside. Being an 'enthusiastic ameteur' is not enough to help people make educated choices. I overhear SO MUCH poor advice, it's really shocking.

  5. Jeff Merritt

    Colored Mulch – Bright red bagged mulch seems to still be a hot item in our area – at least if it is sold at gas stations / convenience stores. Where did the concept of selling bark at gas stations come from anyway? There is a station not far from my house that probably sells at least two or more semi-loads a year – all in the ugly shade of red. We tried selling colored mulch a few years back in our garden center but did not have a big demand. I guess a lot of people around here want their house to look like a McDonald's Restaurant with that ugly red mulch.

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  7. Kyle Baker

    Everything to this list is on my hated list. I don’t buy Proven Winners anymore as they can be found in ALL box stores….Painted Poinsettias are just downright ugly and no customer I have ever helped has asked or commented positively on them.

    Box Store’s are growing because we’re not…we’re getting more expensive…because we buy in more stuff instead of growing it…we pay for marketed branded banners, pots, trays, fertilizers…etc instead of being what we are. Garden Store’s and Nurserie’s. Your Consultant may say that selling nothing but Proven Winners and Hort Couture is going to make you money…but as a customer as well as a Nurseryman…I can tell you…after my first walk through and seeing nothing but the outrageous priced annuals….I won’t spend a dime….and I will never be back.

    As an Orchid Grower personally, the cheapening of the plant by ‘dyeing’ it blue, was a disservice to the Industry…akin to dying your dog various colors by what mood you’re in today.

    Fairy Gardening was a bad thing to start with and then when Terrariums started taking off again people bastardized it into ‘Fairy Gardens’…Seeing as how Faeries are invisible to the naked eye what the bloody hell makes you think you know what their garden would look like????

    Greenwashing is an incredible marketing misnomer….and unfortunately more consumers are catching onto this blatant lie by merchandisers….if it isn’t 100% natural and Carbon foot print free…don’t mark it as such as customers will make comments…and they won’t be complimentary…

    All the focus on Gen Y or Gen X is akin to the focus on ‘Young single women with money’….if you go chasing one aspect of your customer base….you’re going to piss off the rest of your customer base…Look at it this way…ask yourself this simple question ….would you want to buy your clothes …at the same store as your Kids? Grandkids? Say the Gap? or AbberZombie and Fitch? or would you rather both go to a store that has items that both of you like????? That is how ALL Garden Center and Nurseries should be run…you have been warned.

    Breeding for color is like toting the new Pantone Color of the year…trying to make everyone ‘WANT’ the latest thing is going to back fire if YOU don’t know what you’re selling. Echinacea and Heuchera Breeders are both guilty of pumping out garbage plants that are NOT hardy north of Massacheusett’s and are just plain …..ugly. Yes I said it. Lets have more plain species instead of all these cheap jezebel’s of commerce eh?

    PGR over use….I’m speaking to YOU large Plug providers…you have NO idea how impossible it is when we buy hundred’s of dollars of product only to have it sit on the bench for three months…NEVER growing any bigger…..either cut back on your product or warn your customers that you’re using the PGR’s…you’re making money off of the small retailers losses…and its as disgusting as any practice by Wal-marts……

    Colored mulch is going to stay forever….but on the bright side…lets give thanks that it’s NOT Radiant Orchid…Blue Mystique…..or has Glitter in it..or is painted any other color….After all Mulch is what we make it…if you don’t like it…..don’t sell it…if you sell it…..be quiet.

    Have staff that knows what the bloody hell is the difference between z5 Arizona and z5 Maine….know the name of the plant and where its from not what company sells it….you can have nothing but American Beauties, White flower Farm and Proven Winners…but if your staff doesn’t know the first thing about the plants…then you ARE failing your customers.

    Fertilizers, Pesticides, fungicides etc…..Pick the best of each to sell…make a decision for god sakes…….you should know what the bloody hell works in your area…I don’t need to walk through the equivalent of Mal-Warts looking for a fertilizer , only to find 20-30 different types….pesticides…same thing…and have someone on staff who is State Licensed and knows what they’re talking about instead of reading the label that I JUST READ!!!!!!!!!

    Can we as an Industry PLEASE!!!! get back to growing plants….and leaving the commercialism and marketing at the curb?

    PLEASE?!?!

  8. Phin Tuthill

    To all plant breeders & those registering &/or marketing new introductions:
    It’s important to know how the new plant is better, but the cultural information is key to make the plant successful in the garden. Many of you don’t provide this information. Many times the species used to make the crosses have different cultural requirements, so please provide that information!