January 7, 2019
Over 70 nursery growers, retailers and suppliers gathered at the Landscape Ontario’s Growers’ Sector Group Fall Dinner Meeting on Nov. 27 at Piper’s Heath Golf Course in Hornby, Ont.

The annual end-of-season event provided an excellent opportunity for growers to catch-up and discuss the challenges and successes of another year of operations and look ahead to the challenges and trends they will face in the future.

Added to this year’s itinerary was the presentation of plaques to winners of the 2018 Growers Awards of Excellence program. Entries were judged live on Sept. 13, 2018 with winners announced at the annual Industry Auction. In the past, the plaque presentations were made during the annual Garden Centre Symposium, held in conjunction with the Congress trade show and conference. The Grower’s Fall Dinner is a more appropriate venue, and the award presentations were well-received by those in attendance.

A networking hour and delicious dinner kicked off the evening, with a panel discussion on “What Do Our Retail Buyers Really Want?” taking place after the awards presentations. The panel included buyers from garden centres and retailers, including: Maria Fernandes, National Category Merchant-Floral & Garden Centre, Sobeys; Judy Shirriff, Category Business Manager, Canadian Tire; and Art Vanden Enden, Vice President, Garden Centre Operations, Sheridan Nurseries. The panel was moderated by Serge Leclair from Kam’s Grower Supply.

The panel discussion included a number of questions, comments and topics from both sides of the table, with a focus on what characteristics buyers are looking for in plant material supplied by the grower community. Retailers said they are looking for packaged, branded plant material with lots of colour and blooms, that is shelf-ready and can easily sell itself. Retails also want very hardy plant material that is not “babied” at the growing stage, (making it harder to maintain after leaving the nursery).

Growers related the many challenges presented by a short growing season, where often the best plant material is not in full bloom or at its best until mid-summer; well after retailers have already closed up temporary parking lot sales areas. Growers also noted that many retailers open too early in the season and the only way to provide the colourful plants they require is to force plant material, which brings up other costing and environmental issues.

The thought-provoking and interesting discussions provided some great dialogue between the two groups who are working together to elevate the plant-buying experience for all customers.

The LO Growers’ Group would like to thank the following event sponsors for their support of the evening: Kam’s Grower Supply, Braun Wire Baskets and HortProtect.

For more information on Growers’ Group activities, visit HortTrades.com/growers-group.