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  • Author or Editor: Robert M. Ricard x
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To assess the current state of willow (Salix) cultivation for specialty cut flower production, a mail survey following the tailored design method polled willow growers in North America (n = 52). The instrument posed questions on business identity and cultural practices, including plant spacing, fertilization, irrigation, and pruning methods. A 69% response rate was achieved. The general grower profile was of a specialty cut flower producer with multiple years of experience growing willows. For the majority of respondents, willow was a supplemental source of income, complementing a larger product selection of woody and herbaceous species for cut flower production with annual sales for the crop of less than $25,000. The majority of producers had a generally positive outlook on this crop as growers expressed strong support for the importance of willow in their product selection, for customer satisfaction, as well as for future intentions to increase production acreage, and even to extend seasonal markets. However, the non-scientific nature of willow production was revealed by wide variations in basic cultural practices and by very limited use of scientific plant names by the growers and frequent inability to accurately identify their selections, as well as the identification of growers' own personal experience as a main source of knowledge. The results of this survey helped researchers to identify a set of questions to improve the understanding of the fundamentals of willow production through the development of precise commercial production practices, standardization of variety names, and stimulation of further development of this crop through market expansion.

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An online survey was developed to investigate Master Gardener perceptions of and preferences for a novel horticultural product, “Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Living Structures Kits,” which include live willow (Salix sp.) stems, instructions on how to build various forms, ties, and cultural guidelines. The survey consisted of 37 items to assess the interest level in this product, to examine the likelihood of consumers’ interest in purchasing this product, and to evaluate preferred designs and potential price points. A total of 249 Connecticut Master Gardeners completed the survey. The respondents provided valuable insights on product popularity and potential. The majority of them were between the ages of 56 and 65 years, female, Caucasian, married, without children in the household, and own a house with a yard in suburban areas. Most of the respondents represented plant purchasers and experienced gardeners. The two most popular structures were the decorative fence and the arbor, and Master Gardeners indicated specific preferred price ranges for the products. Aesthetic appeal was perceived as the main attractive aspect of the product. Among the major factors affecting their decision to purchase DIY Living Structures Kits, most respondents indicated design/type and price as “very important.” Forty-four percent of people were interested in buying one of these kits as a gift for someone. Results revealed that there is potential for a niche market as this group of consumers was enthusiastic about the new product: 74.1% of Master Gardeners responded positively that DIY Living Structures Kits have potential to become new horticultural products. More in-depth product evaluation studies using trial kits and marketing research targeting additional segments of consumers should be conducted in future.

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