Hollywood Hibiscus is a groundbreaking tropical hibiscus collection from J. Berry. Each unique personality is a star in solo container gardens, mixed combos and the landscape. Long-lasting flowers and outstanding bud and bloom counts have made the plants smash hits in the garden center. They’re also highly disease resistant, compact and easy-care. Hollywood Hibiscus varieties come in every color a gardener could want, from clear yellow to vivid golden, pink, fire-engine red, white, orange and multicolored blooms.
Like the clownfish and the sea anemone, plants and Obtego Fungicide and Plant Symbiont from SePRO have a mutualistic relationship.
“Obtego benefits by having a host, or root structure to colonize and proliferate on,” says Mark Brotherton, Portfolio Leader at SePRO. “The benefit to the plant is, through its natural biology, [Obtego] protects the plant, and kills harmful fungi that would normally attack the roots.”
For growers, the benefits of the newly released Obtego — labeled for ornamentals and vegetables — are twofold, Brotherton says. As a fungicide, Obtego controls soil-borne diseases such as Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Phytophthora, Fusarium and Thielaviopsis. “But at the same time,” he says, “it will help with nutrient and water uptake, and enhance the overall root system.”
The biological’s plant symbiont functions, Brotherton says, are owed to the presence of two different Trichoderma species — Trichoderma asperellum strain ICC 080 and Trichoderma gamsii strain ICC 012. These fungi colonize in and around a plant’s root system and protect it. Compared to untreated plants, crops treated with Obtego grow healthier and more robust root systems.
Obtego recently hit the market after SePRO saw successful trials throughout the United States, says C.J. Coy, Technical Specialist at SePRO.
“The buzz has been great about Obtego,” Coy says. “[I have] been out trialing products with growers, and there’s nothing but praise for it up to this point.”
Growers who have trialed Obtego have consistently noticed improved root mass, Coy says. There has also been another benefit. “With all these trials I’ve done, there hasn’t been any disease present,” he says.
Four modes of action
Obtego protects plants through four unique modes-of-action: preventative biocontrol, direct fungicide and parasitism, competition and plant defense activation.
The first mode-of-action, preventative biocontrol indicates that Obtego inhabits space in the soil and rhizosphere that would otherwise be occupied by potentially harmful fungi, Brotherton says. Through another mode-of-action, direct fungicide and parasitism, Obtego releases enzymes that break down the cell walls of pathogenic fungi. A third mode of action, active competition, can be described by Obtego winning the natural battle for water and nutrients versus harmful fungi. The final mode-of-action, plant defense activation, allows Obtego to trigger the plant’s natural defense systems and help it preemptively fight diseases in the event that they occur.
A low chance for disease resistance
Because Obtego utilizes four different modes of action, the likelihood is very low that diseases will develop resistance to it, Brotherton says. However, some growers like to rotate Obtego with other products. “You can use it in combination with synthetic fungicides or even other biofungicides for that matter, too, to strengthen your control and potentially expand the spectrum of control,” he says.
Growers with existing disease infections should use synthetic products to eradicate anything they might have, Brotherton says. Then, after the plants are disease-free, they could implement Obtego for continued protection.
Effective in a variety of conditions
Growers will find that the success of Obtego will fit nicely within the environments growers are accustomed to, Brotherton says. “In all environments of active plant growth and soil properties, it’s highly active metabolically,” he says.
“What’s unique about Obtego is that it’s always active,” Brotherton says. “It’s working in a wide range of temperatures, a wide range of pHs, soil moisture, soil types.”
Numerous application methods
Growers can use several application methods to apply Obtego, Brotherton says. These include a drench, dip, media incorporation and chemigation through irrigation system. “The flexibility of application allowed with Obtego makes it easy for growers to use,” he says.
With Obtego, growers can maintain a healthy and dense root system. And coming from the turf industry, Coy says he knows all about how a plant’s above-ground growth rests in that root system, and he relays that to growers. “I say, ‘Let’s get some healthy roots, because if it’s taking up water better, it’s taking up nutrients, it’s taking up pesticides, that’s only going to give you a healthier plant on top,” he says.
Obtego is a trademark of SePRO Corporation.
Departments - Business Minds
Technology can enhance client relationships, but it’s no substitution for face time. Make better use of high-tech tools without losing the personal touch with clients.
Technology does a lot, but it can’t do everything. Sometimes we forget that. We can get so dependent on email and social media that we lose sight of what people really need from us — especially in business. Yes, clients expect to connect with us in various high-tech ways, but they also crave the deep and meaningful connections that can only come from face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) connections. It can be tricky to walk the line.
Too little tech and you’ll seem out of touch, too much and you’ll lose the personal touch that keeps customers loyal and engaged. As you’re trying to find the right balance, just remember this: Your client relationships are built on emotions and trust, so use technology only in a way that maintains, enhances, and propels those relationships to the next level.
Human needs don’t change. Relationships mattered in the days of pencil, paper, and snail mail, and they still matter in the days of Facebook and Skype.
Don’t let "faceless" and "voiceless" technology become your primary communication tool.
Nothing can replace the effectiveness of a face-to-face encounter (even if it’s by Skype), especially in the early phases of your client relationship. And meaningful phone conversations can be great, too. It’s fine to use less powerful tech solutions like email, texting, and e-blasts to enhance and strengthen a well-established relationship. But they should only be supplemental.
Skype important meetings if you can’t be there in person.
Ideally, “in person” interactions are best for relationship building — especially with your top clients — but of course they can’t always happen. Video conferencing is second best. Use this tech tool often; it’s a great way to read body language and facial expressions.
Pick up the phone regularly.
Many people dislike the phone. Conversations can be long and meandering, and we’re all busy. But you must overcome your phone phobia. In terms of relationship building (not to mention problem solving), there is no substitute for the give and take that happens voice-to-voice. Schedule actual phone conversations with clients, and keep that human connection alive.
Pay attention to how the client communicates.
If a client seems to prefer phone, text, or in-person communication, make a note of it and honor their preferred style while maintaining your own dedication to person-to-person contact. This shows them you care about and respect their preferences. Find a happy balance between the client’s style, yours, and the demands of the day.
Match the medium to the message.
If you want to distinguish yourself and have something very important to say, write a letter! If you are trying to book an appointment with a busy person, figure out something complex, or discuss a potentially sensitive issue, pick up the phone. If you only want confirmation of a small piece of information and you’ve recently spoken with a client, use email. Let your instinct be your guide.
Keep your website young and agile.
Is your website in alignment with your business image and your mission? Make sure it’s as professional and sleek as your own personal appearance when meeting a client for the first time. Successful companies have streamlined, up-to-date websites with modern fonts, colors, and layouts.
Email links to articles you think your client might enjoy.
Trusting relationships thrive on frequent contact. To solidify your connection to clients (especially when you haven’t talked in a while), send them links and articles you know they will enjoy. This gesture shows you are thinking about them and know where their interests lie. Just keep these communications in balance. Bombarding clients with superficial links and articles may actually weaken the value of your contact with them and undermine your relationship.
Send e-newsletters to all your clients.
This a good way to engage regularly with clients and stay on their minds. Create compelling content that connects with the various lines of services you are currently offering and craft interesting articles for your clients around related topics.
If you harness the power of technology correctly, it can do wonderful things for your business. But it is only one tool in your toolbox. Don’t let technology overshadow your mission to keep trust-based client relationships at the center of everything you do.
2019 Greenhouse Greats
Features - Cover Story
Meet nine industry leaders advancing the industry in breeding, research, marketing, specialty plants and more.
WHY THEY’RE GREAT: Ray Wiegand’s Nursery dedicates 800 acres to a variety of deciduous and evergreen trees, alongside production of about 12,000 roses and more than 600 varieties of perennials. Patio furniture, seasonal gifts and garden supplies are on offer as well, requiring a robust online presence the company uses to attract new customers and supply beneficial information to the larger gardening public.
“It’s surprising a lot of the time when people don’t know who we are or what we carry,” says graphic designer Kristan McDonald, who spearheaded a redesign of the nursery’s website, wiegandsnursery.com, several years ago. “Our site lets people know how long we’ve been around, and makes them comfortable when making purchases on big-ticket items.”
A SITE TO BEHOLD: The Macomb, Michigan, grower-retailer updated its online and marketing presence to include high-resolution images and detailed information about the plants and other items it sells. An expanded “About Us” page tells the history of the family-owned and operated nursery, beginning in the 1860s when Francis Wiegand grew crops from a small farmstead in Warren, Michigan.
Television ads and the company’s Facebook page drive potential patrons to the site, which also carries event announcements and a “gardener’s journal” replete with growing advice and seasonal decorating tips. While journal content is not created in-house, the nursery’s marketing team revises the information for content and relevance. A site overhaul scheduled for spring, meanwhile, will allow visitors to purchase items via a simple click, an update set to coincide with a reconfigured wholesale business page and a brand new farming website.
“We do many different things and do them well, and want people to know about it,” McDonald says. “We’re trying to build trust with customers when there’s so many corporate options available. People can go to a big-box store, but it’s a unique experience going to an independent store.”
When planning a website, a grower-retailer must complement its overarching marketing message with strong content and exceptional design, as discerning visitors will react to sloppiness accordingly.
“If content isn’t consistent with what the company is saying, you’re not going to be comfortable with the company,” McDonald says. “The message is to keep up on digital worlds and not get left behind. It’s something business owners should be talking about.”