Based in Millsboro, Delaware, East Coast Garden Center is in a part of the state with beaches and a boardwalk that attracts tourists in droves. The business plan, says co-owner Rick Cordery, is to take the same approach with plants.
A grower-retailer that also has a landscape division, East Coast sells a mix of annuals, perennials, houseplants and trees in roughly 70 greenhouses. A big part of their annuals program are Proven Winners genetics, which they began growing in 2017. According to Cordey, they’ve increased the number of Proven Winners products they’ve grown over time because of how they’ve resonated with their customers.
“We like the name recognition,” Cordey says. “People started recognizing Proven Winners while shopping here. There’s a big push now for quality material and plants that are going to perform well for the customer.”
He adds that the quality of Proven Winners plants also sets the company apart from other breeders on the market.
“We go to their calibrachoas, a lot of their petunias and some of their specialty products like Lemon Coral [sedum],” he says. “We also use a lot of their products in our container program. We do about 4,000 containers a season for different businesses and such, so we use a lot of Proven Winners material there too. ... We feel like the plant material is superior and we can promote that to our customers.”
East Coast’s relationship with Proven Winners reached a turning point five years ago when they started their first Destination — an area dedicated to Proven Winners annuals, perennials and shrubs — in 3,000 square feet of retail space. Today, that area has been expanded to cover to 9,000 square feet due to growing demand for these plants. It turned a space that Cordey says wasn’t being used into something that is now a main feature of the business.
In the annuals space, some of the plants Cordey is most fond of are ‘Bubblegum’ Vista Petunias, 15 varieties of calibrachoa and the aforementioned Lemon Coral. He also loves the new line of caladiums that he says have done “fantastic” and have been run into the fall and the holiday season as some customers want a different kind of plant than what is traditionally available in those times of the year.
“It’s just absolutely gorgeous,” Cordey says. “I love what we’ve done with Proven Winners.”