Help AFE help the Floral Business

I recently had the opportunity to visit Clemson University in South Carolina as part of a visit by members of the AFE Trustee Board.  AFE stands for the American Floral Endowment.  The Endowment raises money in the floral industry for scholarships for college students studying various aspects of the floral industry and also research projects.  These research projects are awarded to land grant universities all over the country.  Univ of Vermont, Clemson, Perdue, Colorado State, and Rutgers to name just a few.  The Endowment requests research projects on certain hot topics such as Botrytis, Thrips or honeybee die-offs.   Here are a few of the projects going on at Clemson:

Botrytis Prevention

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Katie Bennett, (pictured above with James Faust PH.D) a Clemson graduate student, talked to our visiting group quite a bit about the work they have been doing with calcium.  Calcium, as you will recall is the mineral that makes our bones and teeth strong.  Well calcium also seems to have a great effect against Botrytis.  They have done a lot of studies using calcium and control groups, and they have found that calcium inhibits the development of Botrytis.  Currently, farms in South America use fungicides to battle Botrytis.  These cost $170.00 per acre.  Using calcium costs 1.71 per acre.

Honey Bee Deaths

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Dr. J.C. Chong, also employed by Clemson, has an extensive study going on with honeybees.  The current theory espoused by environmental activists and some bee experts on honeybee die offs is that insecticides used by cut flower and flowering plants growers eventually end up in the bee and kill the bee.  Here is the supposed flow cart - Insecticides are sprayed on the plant.  They end up in the soil, are drawn up the roots and they are absorbed by the pollen and nectar, both of which bees come in contact with. 

Neonicotinoids, the active ingredient in some insecticides, is receiving adverse publicity in the mainstream media.  There are demonstrations all over the country and companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s are receiving the brunt of the negative publicity.  Still, there is no proof that the neonicotinoids are to blame.  That’s why AFE is sponsoring this study with Clemson.  Dr. Chong is trying to measure levels of neonicotinoids in pollen and nectar, expose bees to these active ingredients underneath a tent and then measure the amount of bees that die, and the amount that live at various ranges of exposure.  Upon completion of the study, Dr. Chong will write a paper and also host a webinar to explain his results.  The Horticultural Research Initiative and USDA have also funded Dr. Chong for this study with AFE.  There are three other universities around the country doing bee studies also.  Once the webinar gets scheduled, we will let our customer know, in case they want to take part in the webinar.

Using VIGS Technology to Increase Flowering of Roses

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Clemson Grad student, Johnathan Windham, is working with a garden rose variety known as “Old Blush.”  The gene that stops the bush from re-blooming is broken, so the plant keeps re-blooming.  Mr. Windham is trying to recreate this broken gene in other varieties to make other also re-bloom.  This is not GMO, for they are only breaking existing genes, not making new genes.

Daily Light Integral Maps

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Dr. James Faust recently completed an Updated Daily Light Integral Map for the entire United States.  In the past, a farmer that was deciding what crops to plant in what field would walk out to the field with a light meter and measure light intensity for 5 minutes or so, and then based on what his/her light meter said, would make a decision about what crop to plant.  This light map gives that same information, just more accurately and for every position in the country.  AFE didn’t fund this, but Clemson presented this to our trustee group, and I felt it was interesting enough to pass along.  The light map in the US had not been updated for a long time, and was overdue for an update.  Last time they did this Hawaii and Alaska weren’t even included on the light map.  If you know someone that would be interested in this information, email the professor at jfaust@clemson.edu

Understanding Botrytis Resistance to Fungicides

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Dr. Schnabel laments what is happening with fungicides in the flower business.  These fungicides are overused by flower farmers and now the Botrytis disease had mutated and developed resistance to many of the name brand fungicides on the market.  Dr. Schnabel says that if a farmer would alternate the various fungicides, that would prevent the Botrytis disease from developing resistance.  But what sometimes happens is a farmer will just use the same fungicide over and over, and that’s when the mutation/resistance happens.  He has looked at what Florida strawberry growers have done to combat Botrytis.  He has taken their ideas and graphed them onto the floral business.  He has developed a smartphone app.  The app looks at weather data (the farms would have to install a weather station) and uses a computer program to tell the farmer when exactly to apply the fungicide.  So, instead of multiple sprayings of a fungicide, the farmer can spray more sparingly.  The app knows when the danger of Botrytis exists.  So this will drastically reduce spraying of the fungicide, reducing both costs and also preventing the disease from mutating, or at least slowing down the pace of mutations.


AFE funds many other studies at many other universities, all to benefit the floral industry.  If you would like to invest in the floral industry by donating to the Endowment call me at 201-599-3030.  Donations do not have to be large.  How about a 5 year pledge of $10 per year?

-Eric Levy
AFE Trustee
President, Hillcrest Garden, Inc.

 


Fourth of July avocado sales record

 

Fourth of July avocado actual sales figures indicate 118.3 million pounds were sold in the United States in support of holiday festivities, making it the highest Fourth of July consumption period for avocados on record.

The results were stronger than the 100-million pound pre-holiday projection and surpassed the 2016 actual by nearly 20 percent. Memorial Day, which kicks off the U.S. summer holiday season, also accounted for 118.3 million pounds.

The California Avocado Commission kicked off its programming in April with season-opening activities followed by its American Summer Holidays program in May, California Avocado Month activities in June and programs for the Fourth of July. 

The commission’s California Avocado Month advertising incorporated print and in-store radio as well as Pandora audio targeted to where California Avocados are in distribution. It was supported by social media that generated more than 8.2 million impressions. Digital advertising has played a big role in California avocado marketing this year.


Houseplants help improve air quality, beautify indoor spaces

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HILLCREST GARDEN REPRINT| BY RICHARD LUTES at PRODUCE NEWS | JUNE 21, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that indoor air pollution can be two to five times higher - and in some cases 10 times higher - than outdoor air, due to airtight buildings and improper ventilation, according to a news release. This can even lead to "sick building syndrome" -- a situation where building occupants experience acute health effects linked to time spent in the building.

"These findings are of particular concern because the EPA estimates that most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors," said Mark R. Sneller, indoor air-quality expert and author of Greener Cleaner Indoor Air, in the release. "It's been proven that many houseplants help clean the air by absorbing common indoor pollutants."

The houseplant varieties in the O2 for You collection from Costa Farms have been scientifically proven by NASA to be some of the best plants for cleaning toxins from the air.Adding two to four houseplants for every 100 square feet can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in just 24 hours.

"Many of us underestimate how much pollution we encounter indoors, only thinking of it when we smell things like new paint, nail polish remover, or cleaning products," said Justin Hancock, garden expert at Costa Farms in Miami, in the release. "Being mindful of what we're breathing in and taking small steps to improve air quality can go a long way. Our goal in creating the O2 for You collection was to make it easy for everyone to purify the air around them."

The plants in the O2 for Your collection have been scientifically proven by NASA to be some of the best plants for cleaning the air. Included in the collection are Peace lilies, snake plants, dracaenas, Chinese evergreens, ferns, dieffenbachias, ZZ plants, philodendrons, and houseplant palms.

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"Our mission is to educate people to understand the importance of indoor houseplants and how they clean the air and beautify our homes and offices," said Jose Smith, president and chief executive officer at Costa Farms, in the release.

"Our industry needs to clearly communicate to consumers that live indoor houseplants are nature's air purifiers that release oxygen, remove carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds from indoor spaces, and brighten up any room with beautiful color and foliage."

See Specials at  Hillcrest Gardens

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How a Houseplant Helped a ‘Depressed Spinster’ Find Joy

How can you mend a broken heart? For one New York Times associate editor, the path to healing started with houseplants, specifically pothos.

In the newspaper’s regular “I Recommend” column, Jazmine Hughes recently suggested that the humble houseplant deserved more credit.

“[Pothos] is among the hardiest houseplants and thus one of the most common: My bodega has one, my laundromat has two and my own home, I am somewhat ashamed to confess, now has three,” she wrote. “A pothos is an undemanding plant, capable of thriving in various light strengths (bright, indirect, low) and hosts (sitting water, soil). They are easy to find — you can get them in a grocery store — easy to pot, easy to prune and near-impossible to kill. It is the perfect plant to lend to a mildly depressed spinster with a black thumb, a black heart and nothing else to do.”

Hughes goes on to note that there’s been a noticeable uptick in interest in gardening and houseplant in recent years: Five million Americans between 18 and 34 took up gardening for the first time in 2015; in all, 37 percent of millennials are growing plants and herbs indoors.

Read Hughes’ entire entertaining column, which includes info on how that first pothos became a “gateway drug” to 25 additional plants.

The column could be great fodder for your social media pages—or consider referencing Hughes’ pathos love in your next blog, with a link to university research from the Society of American Florists that proves the health benefits of flowers and plants.

Look for much more on the new wave of plant love, along with insight from florists who are successfully finding and selling unique houseplants, in the July issue of Floral Management.

 

Posted By: Mary Westbrookon: June 21, 2017

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How can you mend a broken heart? For one New York Times associate editor, the path to healing started with houseplants, specifically pothos.

In the newspaper’s regular “I Recommend” column, Jazmine Hughes recently suggested that the humble houseplant deserved more credit.

“[Pothos] is among the hardiest houseplants and thus one of the most common: My bodega has one, my laundromat has two and my own home, I am somewhat ashamed to confess, now has three,” she wrote. “A pothos is an undemanding plant, capable of thriving in various light strengths (bright, indirect, low) and hosts (sitting water, soil). They are easy to find — you can get them in a grocery store — easy to pot, easy to prune and near-impossible to kill. It is the perfect plant to lend to a mildly depressed spinster with a black thumb, a black heart and nothing else to do.”

Hughes goes on to note that there’s been a noticeable uptick in interest in gardening and houseplant in recent years: Five million Americans between 18 and 34 took up gardening for the first time in 2015; in all, 37 percent of millennials are growing plants and herbs indoors.

Read Hughes’ entire entertaining column, which includes info on how that first pothos became a “gateway drug” to 25 additional plants.

The column could be great fodder for your social media pages—or consider referencing Hughes’ pathos love in your next blog, with a link to university research from the Society of American Florists that proves the health benefits of flowers and plants.

Look for much more on the new wave of plant love, along with insight from florists who are successfully finding and selling unique houseplants, in the July issue of Floral Management.

How can you mend a broken heart? For one New York Times associate editor, the path to healing started with houseplants, specifically pothos.

In the newspaper’s regular “I Recommend” column, Jazmine Hughes recently suggested that the humble houseplant deserved more credit.

“[Pothos] is among the hardiest houseplants and thus one of the most common: My bodega has one, my laundromat has two and my own home, I am somewhat ashamed to confess, now has three,” she wrote. “A pothos is an undemanding plant, capable of thriving in various light strengths (bright, indirect, low) and hosts (sitting water, soil). They are easy to find — you can get them in a grocery store — easy to pot, easy to prune and near-impossible to kill. It is the perfect plant to lend to a mildly depressed spinster with a black thumb, a black heart and nothing else to do.”

Hughes goes on to note that there’s been a noticeable uptick in interest in gardening and houseplant in recent years: Five million Americans between 18 and 34 took up gardening for the first time in 2015; in all, 37 percent of millennials are growing plants and herbs indoors.

Read Hughes’ entire entertaining column, which includes info on how that first pothos became a “gateway drug” to 25 additional plants.

The column could be great fodder for your social media pages—or consider referencing Hughes’ pathos love in your next blog, with a link to university research from the Society of American Florists that proves the health benefits of flowers and plants.

Look for much more on the new wave of plant love, along with insight from florists who are successfully finding and selling unique houseplants, in the July issue of Floral Management.


Protect Your Business from New Round of Hackers

 

A new wave of ransomware attacks this week has targeted businesses around the world, including Merck, the U.S.-based pharmaceutical company; Mondelez, the company behind Oreos and Cadbury; and DLA Piper, a prestigious law firm in Washington, D.C.

“The ransomware infects and locks a computer, and then demands a $300 ransom to be paid in Bitcoins,” according to CNN. “Many firms, including Symantec, have suggested the ransomware is a variant of Petya, a known ransomware. But according to security firm Kaspersky Lab, preliminary findings indicate the attacks are from a new ransomware that it’s now calling ExPetr.”

CNN also reported that the ransomware is using multiple techniques to spread, including one that was addressed by Microsoft with a security patch released in March. Both Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are monitoring the cyberattacks.

Floral industry members should take the threat seriously, said Joe Aldeguer, the Society of American Florists’ director of IT. Best practices to avoiding a malware attack include:

Don’t click. “Think before you click or open any email attachment or link. When in doubt, contact your IT manager (if you have one with your business) or call the sender to verify the email,” Aldeguer said.

Act fast.  “If you make the mistake of opening or clicking any suspicious attachment or link, immediately push the on / off switch of the computer until it turns off,” Aldeguer said. “This could prevent the computer from contacting the hacker’s computer to download the encryption key. This will also prevent the malware from spreading into your network, affecting other computers.  Call your IT provider next.”

Update. “If you have a Windows computer, in the office or at home, make sure you have the latest security update,” he said. “If your Windows OS is older than Windows 10 or Windows 7, you are a prime target.”

Get additional tips from Aldeguer.


Increase Revenue: Guide Gen Y Brides to Promote Your Wedding Business

People born between 1981 and 1994, known as Generation Y or Gen Y, are reaching the stage of life when they are getting married. They are your wedding customers. To better understand the minds and buying behaviors of Gen Y brides, turn to SAF’s Generations of Flowers Study. Below are key findings as well as marketing and promotional ideas to help you attract Gen Y brides.

Most Valuable Gen Y Bridal Data

Value Individuality

Members of Gen Y can be been described as “single stem exotics,” meaning their desire to express their individuality is highly valued and cherished, as well as actively demonstrated. Tech savvy Gen Y has grown up with customized everything – from iPOD playlists to clothes, cell phones and even computers.

There is no doubt that when wedding bells are ringing, Gen Y brides will seek out the florist who can best meet their individual needs and wants. Communicating to Gen Y brides how your shop and your designs can help them create their own modern twist – from personal colors to signature designs – will give you a leg up over the competition.

Value Entertaining

Gen Y also loves entertaining, and with weddings come parties of all kinds – from engagements to brunches and dinners. After the wedding, the couple has a lifetime of get-togethers. The SAF Generations of Flowers Study shows that Gen Y likes to impress guests in their home with flowers. Be more than their wedding florist — be their florist for life. They are just beginning their adult lives and facing lots of firsts. They are settling into new homes, making new friends, celebrating parenthood and most importantly, they have new sources of income.

Reach Out to Gen Y Brides

According to SAF’s Generations of Flowers Study, only one-third of Gen Years feel knowledgeable about where to buy flowers. So you need to be where they are.

The most effective way to reach Gen Y is through word-of-mouth communication, which is the top influencer of what people decide to purchase. Word-of-mouth buzz can be shared face-to-face or digitally. The following ideas provide ways you can tap the power of traditional and social media to grow your wedding business in the months and years to come.

Brag Online: Post Pictures, Videos and Testimonials

Because Gen Y has grown up with social media technologies (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube), to reach this tech-savvy demographic, you must learn and employ social media.

Start with the basics – enhance your website.

The most appealing reasons to enhance your website are:

  1. to have an exciting web presence when people log on and connect via social media and
  2. to provide an online environment that allows you to interact with current and potential clients.

So that future brides can find your wedding resources quickly and easily (with as few clicks as possible), create a new website devoted to your wedding business. The URL could be: www.yourshopnameweddingflorist.com. On your current site, add a text link to your new wedding website. Be sure to include a link back your current site from your new wedding website. If you can’t create a new website, at the least create a comprehensive wedding section on your current site that is visible and easy to find from the homepage.

Your wedding website should feature images of weddings you’ve done, to give local and out-of-town brides a chance to see your work and get some ideas.

  • Take pictures of your wedding work to post.
  • Consider asking photographers servicing your brides’ weddings to take photos of your arrangements for you, and in exchange provide a link on your site to the photographer’s site.

You also might consider bringing your wedding stories to life through both photos and testimonials. Ask bridal clients to share a photo or two from their wedding day for your website with a video or a quote to accompany the photos. Most Gen Y brides will be flattered. You could sweeten the exchange by offering a free arrangement or a floral consultation for their newlywed home.

Other Resources for your Wedding Website:

  • Feel free to use SAF’s FAQs
  • List of what to bring to your first consultation
  • Wedding Flower Calculator.Give busy brides-to-be help when it comes to making their wedding plans and budgets.
  • Color Scheme Selections.To help brides pick their wedding colors and flowers, on your website, showcase a variety of arrangements and bouquets in different color palettes. This will be particularly helpful for brides who are just starting their planning and looking for florists.
  • Floral Checklist. From engagement parties and bridal showers to family brunches and thank-you gifts, provide a floral checklist, to help ensure they consider how to build flowers into their entire wedding experience.
  • Flower Library.Gen Y brides may not be familiar with the wide variety of flowers available. Create a flower library or link to the Flower Info section on aboutflowers.com.
  • Post design trend information and ideas for decorating engagement parties and first homes. And, get creative! When celebrities get married, track down images of their wedding flowers in magazines or online and describe them in detail for your readers.

Use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr to Grab their Attention

Once you’ve created a wedding website, use social media to drive Gen Y brides to the site and engage them in an ongoing dialog to build your relationship.

  • Florists who are on Twitter (if not you should start an account at twitter.com), can easily post a link to your Twitter feed directly onto your website homepage or your wedding page. You can Tweet (what a Twitter posting is called) a wedding planning tip of the day, a wedding flower trend or even a picture of what you are designing for a wedding.
  • Facebook (facebook.com) is another powerful and popular tool to help foster a dialog with potential bridal customers. For example, you can create a weddings group within your Facebook fan base to enhance and expand the conversation and buzz for your shop. You can post discussion questions for brides on which to comment. For example, you can post the question – “Which flowers do you feel make a great gift for guests coming in from out of town?” and let your fans respond.
  • Other common social media tools to use are YouTube (youtube.com) and Flickr (www.flickr.com), which allow you to share video and photos (respectively) with millions of potential customers. Create short videos featuring your wedding designs and post them to YouTube. Each time you post a new video, photo or other item, post a link to your website, post it on Facebook and send a Tweet that there’s something new to check out on your site.

Now that you have the building blocks for reaching Gen Y, it’s time to develop and offer unique services to deepen your relationship with your Gen Y bridal customers. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Ask for a Link.Many brides create their own wedding websites to share their wedding activities with family and friends. (Many of the friends are future brides so they are great prospective customers.) Ask your customers to include your shop as part of their nuptials news coverage. Email your brides “content” for their website, including snapshots of the bride choosing her wedding flowers and images of wedding arrangements with a listing of the flowers used.
  • Ask them to mention you on Facebook.When they post pictures of their wedding, as them to mention your shop or tag your shop as their wedding florist. Then all of their friends (and potential customers) will see your work. Or ask for a picture of them with their flowers and post if on your page with a comment about how much you enjoyed working with the bride. Tag them in the picture so that all of their friends also see your post.
  • Design Reviews Live.Create a link on your website that brides can visit to view and share potential wedding flowers and designs for their weddings. She can easily share the link with friends and family – including the groom and his family – to post instant feedback on which flowers and colors they prefer. Best of all, you can see the comments, too, and offer solutions to meet even the pickiest bridesmaid’s needs.
  • Skype Consultations.Skype is a free online service for making voice and video calls right from your computer. Offer using Skype to connect with brides anywhere, anytime, and make great use of both your time. Make sure your Skype Consultation area shows the “We’re Married to Perfection” poster in the background.
  • Same-Day Pics.Brides may not have the time, budget or forethought to take pre-wedding pictures of their wedding flowers and décor. As part of your wedding package, offer to snap shots of the flowers being set up and installed for their posterity.
  • Ask the Wedding Florist.Invite brides to ask a question about wedding flowers on your website. Share your answers on Facebook and your website. Post a Tweet to let your followers know there’s new information on your website with a link to the page.
  • iPhone Color App.Paint manufacturer Sherwin Williams has created an iPhone App that helps you find the exact color of paint to match anything you take a photo of. Keep a palette of Sherwin Williams paints in your shop to let brides know you can help create designs to match virtually any color they find.
  • Color Her World.Show her you’re keyed into current color trends by logging into the Pantone Wedding Guide. Together, you two can browse different palette combos — and create an inspiration board, where you can upload inspiration photos, see flowers in those hues and check out dresses that coordinate as well.
  • Free Home Consultation.As a follow up to the wedding day, offer brides an in-home floral consultation, where you bring flowers to their home and help them create a custom floral signature for their homes.

Here are some fun, promotional ways to create word of mouth buzz about your wedding day services to Gen Y brides.

  • Search Engine Marketing.It’s easy and cost effective to place digital link ads on search engines such as Google – and the great news is you only pay for clicks to your website! Consider buying ads for search keywords such as “wedding flowers in (insert your city name)” or other relevant searches in your area.
  • Strategic Digital Advertising.Check out rates and availability of buying strategic digital ads on sites such as the knoteWeddings or WeddingWindow.com, where brides can set up their own custom wedding website. You might also consider checking into rates for the websites of other local wedding resources such as party halls, bridal shops and caterers.
  • Host a “bridal reception.”This is something you also can do in your shop or digitally if you have the resources! Invite brides past and present to connect for a reception in their honor to showcase the latest floral and bridal trends. Help them recreate their wedding flowers for a bouquet that can adorn their homes. Ask them to bring a friend who could become your future customer.
  • Ask for Good Reviews.Online review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List offer online florist and wedding flower reviews from real customers. Ask your brides to post a listing on your shop’s behalf. Consider offering a free arrangement in exchange.
  • Go to the Show.Attend wedding expos in your area for meeting and greeting new clients. Personalize the “We’re Married to Perfection” postcard or flier with your shop contact information and hand them out so brides will remember you. And use the expos as a way to enhance your social media activities. Take digital pictures of new trends and ideas and upload them to your website and on Twitter.
  • Reach Bloggers.Send images/stories from weddings you’ve designed to national and local wedding blogs such as stylemepretty.com and www.swsmag.com. These and other wedding bloggers frequently post photos of real weddings on their blogs, which also can translate into you becoming a preferred vendor.
  • Wedding photographers are active in the social media space, as pictures are highly valued online. Ask a local wedding photographer if he or she would like to partner in a joint promotion to reach brides who are searching for service online.

Don’t be scared of social media. If you’re not ready to dive right in, start slow. Fan SAF on Facebook and fan other florists –see how they’re using Facebook. Subscribe to other florists’ Twitter feeds. See how they’re using it. If they can do it, you can, too. Once you do, you’ll start meeting Gen Y brides who will become your lifetime customers.

Target Gen Y’s Parents: Baby Boomers

Gen Y is the bride, but her parents are Baby Boomers and they’re most likely footing the bill. While you want to hook the bride, you also have to keep her parents happy, too, and turn them into lifetime customers. While you can likely reach some Baby Boomers on Facebook as well, here are some ideas for reaching them in the traditional way:

  • Target Moms:Build visibility for your shop by tacking the “We’re Married to Perfection” flier on bulletin boards in grocery stores, malls, gyms and craft fairs.
  • Thank You Gift:After the first consultation, send mom a small mixed bouquet as a congratulations and thank-you gift. Send it with the “We’re Married to Perfection” postcard with the bouquet.
  • MOB Corsages:Post pictures of Mother-of-the-Bride corsages on your wedding website.
  • Buy ad space and use the “Married to Perfection” ads. Publish the ad in the weddings section of local newspapers, homeowners association newsletters, garden club newsletters, etc.
  • Mailing List. Add mom to your mailing list. Be sure to send her an “Impress Beyond Words” postcardand include her on your e-newsletter distribution list.
  • Put your website on everything you do.