Bedding plants including antirrhinum and African marigolds are best sold as packs in the green for optimum garden performance, yet we all know colour sells. If someone in the selling chain specialised in producing large plants in full flower to be placed among the green younger stock, there is no doubt showing customers the green plant’s potential would stimulate sales.
There is nothing new here, but in the past we were afraid of putting a good price on the specimens. Labelling and pricing at £25-£50 for 12-15in specimen pots could well prompt a new market for the living label size and become profitable. There are people with money and others holding special events who are prepared to buy instant effect.
Take the new Osteospermum ‘Little Writtle’, bred at Writtle College, multiplied up by Hargreaves and grown on by Bransford/Webbs. Students at the college might take on as a project growing some living label plants, tie in with Webbs/Bransford deliveries and do some market research on how effective having specimen plants in full flower among a large batch of standard size increased sales for both.
A few specimens would be put on display in the HTA co-operative Chelsea exhibit to help gain publicity for the new osteospermum, which would be on sale at garden centres during show time.
We also have good garden cultivars that are not particularly attractive as small young plants. Large, possibly overwintered plants among 9cm and 11cm pot-grown young stock will demonstrate the flower power of these recent introductions. The Santa Cruz produces large tubers in the first summer so it should be pretty straight forward to get big plants of this cultivar in full flower by the third week of May.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster