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  • Author or Editor: Susan S. Barton x
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Few good texts for use in teaching a garden center management course are currently in print. But a wealth of excellent information exists in the form of trade journal articles and business management publications. The second edition of The Garden Center Management Manual combines pertinent articles into 21 categories (chapters). Each chapter begins with a “fill-in-the-blank” summary designed as a guide for note-taking. A teacher's edition is available with the completed summaries. The articles in each chapter appeared in trade journals or other publications between 1985 and 1990. This text can serve as the basis for a garden center management course or as a reference for garden center managers.

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The retail portion of the green industry, valued at $50.55 billion, continues to provide a major connection between the industry and consumers. Given the importance of retailers in the green industry and little research exists that documents their advertising practices and impacts, the 2013 Trade Flows and Marketing Practices survey included questions to capture data for retail-only firms. This paper reports on the percentage of sales retailers allocate to promotion and advertising, including a breakdown of media used; point-of-sale (POS) materials and how they are acquired; how green industry retailers are using social media and mobile marketing [in particular, quick response (QR) codes]; the methods retailers use to collect customer demographics; customer loyalty programs (CLP); and how they are managed by retailers and a comparison of retail firms’ advertising practices by size of firm. A combination of mailed and Internet-distributed surveys resulted in a total of 699 useable retail business responses with greater than or equal to $1000 in annual revenue. The median expenditure as a percentage of sales on advertising was 3.6% for all retail firms responding with 33.7% spending no dollars on advertising. In examining the distribution based on media type, the Internet was the most frequently listed by firms (32.3%) with a mean expenditure of 42.5% of total advertising dollars. Social media was listed second most frequently (21.5%) with a mean expenditure of 29.6%. Newspapers were listed as the third most frequently used type of media (18.0%). Social media use is strong and among social media platforms, Facebook (60%) far exceeds any other platform. A third of the respondents (34.2%) reported the use of POS materials. A very small percentage of firms (3.0%) reported using QR codes and 19.4% reported having a CLP. Of those, 45.8% used customer purchase cards, whereas 35.4% used POS software. Nearly 33% of the firms collected demographic information about their customers. Of those, the method with the highest percentage use (multiple responses were permitted) was social media (50.7%) followed by CLP (48.9%), web visits (34.5%), questionnaires (15.7%), social coupons (13.5%), census data (3.9%), and marketing firms (3.1%). There were firm-size differences in seasonal employees and mean sales per employee with large firms having greater numbers than hobby, small- or medium-sized firms. There were no differences in the percentage of advertising media allocations based on firm size, but large firms used web visits, social coupons, and social media more than other types of firms to collect customer demographics. While, green industry retailers are currently using social media for marketing green industry goods, they have much more opportunity to use electronic media for CLPs and to begin using QR codes or other mobile-centric technologies to deliver in-store promotional information to consumers.

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In the 2015 Delaware (DE) Master Gardener training, instructors synchronously delivered content to two trainee cohorts (Cohorts A and B) who met at three locations (Sites 1, 2, and 3) via video web conferencing (VWC). This reduced instructor delivery and travel time but warranted close examination of trainee learning outcomes and experiences. To evaluate the pilot implementation of remote delivery, trainees [number of trainees (N) = 30] answered two open-ended application questions after 11 instructional sessions. One cohort received instruction face-to-face, while the other cohort synchronously received instruction via remote delivery [number of participants in cohort 1 (n1) = 17; number of participants in cohort 2 (n2) = 13]; each cohort was remote for about half of the sessions. The overall average face-to-face score assessing session content mastery was higher than the overall average remote score by 0.1, a 5% difference given the possible scores range of 0 to 2.0. When we grouped sessions by remote delivery site, delivery mode only significantly predicted average session scores for those sessions delivered remotely to Site 2 and not those delivered remotely to either Site 1 or Site 3. When we considered each session individually, delivery mode significantly predicted session scores for 2 of the 11 sessions, both broadcast remotely to trainees at Site 2, where the bandwidth was 10% of those at Sites 1 and 3. We suggest the VWC system performed particularly poorly for these sessions due to limited bandwidth. Posttraining survey results suggest the VWC system did not function well enough to approximate face-to-face instruction. The overall educational rating of the training was significantly higher than the media naturalness rating suggesting poor technical functionality did not substantially undermine trainees’ perception of the education they received. This study indicates remote delivery is a viable strategy for improving the efficiency of training programs if it is consistently implemented with the appropriate technical infrastructure.

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Two students at the University of Delaware participated in independent study projects that helped the University of Delaware campus progress in their efforts to become a sustainable campus. Student projects included a volunteer organization for invasive plant removal, design of a wildlife habitat garden, development of an interpretive signage policy, coordination of publicity, development of interpretive signs, authoring fact sheets, and creation of a sustainable landscapes website. Students benefited from faculty mentoring, collaboration with other university and agency personnel, and real world project coordination. Both students are currently enrolled in graduate programs that will further develop the skills they learned in their independent study projects.

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Little information has been published on the business and marketing practices of landscape firms, an important sector of the green industry. We sought to profile the product mix, advertising, marketing, and other business practices of United States landscape firms and compare them by business type (landscape only, landscape/retail, and landscape/retail/grower) as well as by firm size. We sent the 2014 Trade Flows and Marketing survey to a wide selection of green industry businesses across the country and for the first time included landscape businesses. Herbaceous perennials, shade trees, deciduous shrubs, and flowering bedding plants together accounted for half of all landscape sales; 3/4 of all products were sold in containers. However, landscape only firms sold a higher percentage of deciduous shrubs compared with landscape/retail/grower firms. Landscape businesses diversified their sales methods as they diversified their businesses to include production and retail functions. Landscape businesses spent, on average, 5.6% of sales on advertising, yet large landscape companies spent two to three times the percentage of sales on advertising compared with small- and medium-sized firms. Advertising as a percent of sales was three to four times higher for landscape/retail/grower compared with landscape only or landscape/retail firms; most respondents used Internet advertising as their primary method of advertising. The top three factors influencing price establishment in landscape businesses were plant grade, market demand, and uniqueness of plants, whereas inflation was ranked as the least important of the nine factors provided. A higher percentage of small and medium-sized firms perceived last year’s prices as more important in price establishment compared with large firms. A high percentage of large landscape companies said the ability to hire competent hourly employees was an important factor in business growth and management, but this was true only for about half of the small and medium-sized landscape companies.

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Two focus-group sessions were conducted to determine the market potential of a new horticultural product—wildflower sod. One session included homeowners with suburban lots and an interest in wildflowers. Another session included landscape professionals, property managers, and garden center operators. Participants viewed a slide presentation about the uses of wildflowers and wildflower sod, a videotape illustrating wildflower sod installation, and a demonstration plot planted with wildflower sod. The discussion was conducted by an unbiased facilitator. Participants cited the instant effect of wildflower sod as a major advantage. The price was viewed as acceptable for small areas, especially if sod was broken apart and spaced as plugs. Comments from the participants were used to develop an ideal product description and yielded merchandising recommendations.

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This research examines student perception of sustainable landscaping at the University of Delaware (UD), Newark and the impact of interpretation on student perception of the landscape. Students living on UD’s Laird Campus were surveyed before and after an interpretive campaign designed to describe the benefits of sustainable landscaping. The results of this study found that the majority of students surveyed perceive the landscape to be attractive, sustainable, well maintained, and functional, providing encouragement for the use of sustainable landscaping practices on university campuses. Reduced mowing (once per year), as it is implemented on Laird Campus, was identified as the sustainable practice least likely to be considered acceptable by students. Sustainable landscaping interpretation improved student awareness and acceptance of sustainable landscaping practices. Greater levels of engagement with the interpretation campaign increased students’ awareness and acceptance of sustainable landscaping. In contrast to students’ increased awareness and acceptance of sustainable landscaping practices, students’ perception of the landscape’s appearance did not significantly improve after the interpretation campaign, suggesting the need for future interpretation campaigns to directly address aesthetic issues in addition to interpretation of environmental benefits.

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Online advertising is becoming a mainstay business practice to reach firms’ customer bases. Yet, the adoption and use of online advertising in the green industry are topics that have not been adequately researched. Using a national survey of green industry firms conducted in 2019, this research uses a double-hurdle model to investigate factors that impact firms’ adoption of, and amount spent on, online advertising. Our results show that one-third of the companies invested in online advertising. Of those investing in online advertising, the average percentage of online advertising as a share of all advertising expenditures was 46%. Small businesses were less likely to invest in online advertising compared with larger businesses; however, once they invested in online advertising, the percentage of investment was 25% higher among small firms when compared with their larger counterparts. Increasing years in operation as well as trade show participation was related to a 3% decrease in likelihood to use online advertising. Business owners who perceived hiring competent employees as a barrier to business growth invested 19% less of their advertising budget in online channels, which may indicate a lack of human resources to advertise online. We also compared the industry results with data from a 2014 survey and found the amount invested in online advertising increased ≈3% to 5% between studies. The percentage in wholesale sales influenced the amount spent on online advertising in 2014 but not in 2019. Being a small firm in 2014 increased the amount spent on online advertising, but the effect was 14% lower in 2019. In 2014, firms located in the Pacific, Southcentral, and Southeast U.S. regions invested more in online advertising compared with other regions, but in 2019, the only geographic difference was that firms in the Great Plains spent less on online advertising. Despite their lower adoption rates, the increased expenditures on online advertising implies that smaller firms that implement online advertising receive value through that channel and are willing to allocate more resources to leverage its reach. Firms contemplating adopting and investing in online advertising should consider their resource availability and marketing goals related to reaching different customer groups through online advertising.

Open Access

The landscape service sector is an important part of the environmental horticulture industry. However, research addressing factors impacting its business and marketing practices are scarce. This manuscript uses data collected via online and mail industry surveys in 2014 and 2019 to investigate U.S. landscape service firms’ advertising and marketing practices and different factors that influence their business strategies by firm type and size. Product mix, advertising method, and the importance of different business factors were impacted by firm type. Landscape service only firms had the most diverse product offerings, while firms with wholesale production had the least diversity. Landscape service only firms primarily used in-person and telephone advertising, while firms with wholesale production used a broader swath of advertising medias to reach a more diversified clientele. Overall, weather and labor-related factors had the most impact on landscaping firms’ business practices. Larger firms perceived labor factors as more important than smaller firms.

Open Access

Based on a survey of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), membership need was identified for an online peer review system to validate innovation and recognize excellence in science-based teaching and extension scholarship for promotion and tenure purposes. This system would also provide a clearinghouse for instructional materials of merit for use in classrooms, laboratories, and outreach education, which fall outside the parameters of the three academic journals of ASHS. It was determined HortTechnology already provided a valued outlet for peer review of manuscript style teaching and extension scholarship; however, a need was identified for a mechanism to provide peer review of instructional materials which did not conform to a traditional manuscript format. Herein we describe the process that led to the development and launch of HortIM™, a new peer review system for teaching and extension instructional materials. An online peer review process for juried assessment of instructional materials such as articles, bulletins, case studies, fact sheets, instructional videos, teaching modules, and laboratory exercises was developed. A beta test of initial solicited materials in each category was piloted resulting in an initial database of these scholarly materials. This activity culminated in an initial opening of the system for submissions in Fall 2016. This article documents the development of HortIM™, including the submission and review process.

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