For Garden Centers

This article was originally published in Garden Center Magazine

Ways For Us To Cultivate a Love of Plants and Gardening

There are two phrases I’d like to plant into the averages American’s vocabulary: “You can grow that” and “Passionate about plants.”  A couple of months ago I started thinking about a national You Can Grow That! campaign. Recently I was thrilled to see a proposal for a similar national marketing of horticulture written by Danny Takao. Maybe it’s time to grow this.

In the same way that the phrase “Fall is for planting” cemented the idea that it was good to plant in autumn, we need to thoroughly saturate people with the belief that plants and gardening are worth doing because of the benefits gained. As an industry: growers, independent garden centers, garden writers, sales people, PR firms, plant breeders, and branders…it’s in our interest to gather behind a slogan that will promote the multitude of worthwhile results that plants and gardening cultivate. I propose You Can Grow That.

Laughter? Stress relief? Fitness? A wedding bouquet? You can grow that!

Why use “You can grow that”? Because this tag phrase can be applied to all aspects of our industry and it can be made regional, informational, inspirational, funny or surprising. It could be used in all climates and seasons. Think of the things that go viral…they’re often humorous. Think of the Got Milk? advertisements, and phrases such as “Where’s the beef?” and “Sorry, Charlie.” They all have an element of fun, and can be made fun of.

This campaign needs to address everyone: kids, gen x, y and z, baby boomers and the family dog. Each segment of society needs to be reminded that much of what makes life satisfying can be grown in our own backyards.

The message should range from serious (Healthy food? You can grow that!) to surprising. (Sex? You can grow that!).

I’d like to see it as a starting point and punch line for advertisements, videos and blogs. I want to see David Letterman and Jay Leno make fun of it. I want Seth Godin to blog about it. I want “You can grow that” to enter the popular phraseology.

Although the ultimate goal would be to start a non-profit group and national ad campaign supported by all segments of the green industry, I believe that this movement can begin from the ground up. Nowhere is the term “grass roots” better suited than it is for our business.

In embracing the same message, we build on each other’s efforts and strengths, and cultivate our enterprise as a whole. In joining together and making it a national campaign, we help grow a wide spread awareness of the value of plants and gardening in everyone’s lives.

I’m interested in this because it’s good for our industry, certainly, but also because I absolutely know that it’s true. Gardening one of the most life-affirming things we can do.

We put a great deal of time, money and effort into our own products, businesses and brands, so how can we not band together to cultivate this industry as a whole? We can’t just focus on the latest plant, fertilizer or organic insecticide; we’ve got to sell the excitement first.

A resurgence in gardening? We can grow that!

Ten Ways Garden Centers Can Start Their Own You Can Grow That! Campaign:

  1. Pick a new YCGT message every week. Every message starts with a plant, landscape outcome, or quality of life. (See examples below.) Make some strictly informational and others touching or funny: surprise people. End each with a tag line from your garden center: “We’re Hyannis Country Garden, and we’re passionate about plants.” Or “I’m C.L. Fornari, from Hyannis Country Garden, and I’m passionate about plants.”
  2. Write these YCGT messages and send them out to your email list or include them in newsletters.
  3. Print them up on 3-hole paper and invite people to come into the store to pick up a new one every week or two. By the end of the year they’ll have a notebook filled with recipes for landscape success in your area that extends from their foundation plantings to their hearts and souls. Write the majority of these in the winter, and you’ll have them already done during your busy season.
  4. Post them on your website, facebook page and twitter account. Use the hashtag #youcangrowthat on twitter.
  5. Put them on your message boards near the road. Take photos of the funny or surprising ones and send them to the local paper.
  6. Make videos of various YCGT messages and post on YouTube.
  7. Have a YCGT contest: ask kids and adults to submit ideas for future messages and offer a gift certificate for three or four winning ideas. Send a press release about the contest to local media.
  8. Ask local master gardeners and confirmed hort-a-holics to submit photos of the weirdest, hardest, funniest, plant they’ve grown and how they did it. (Possible funny subgroup contest: You really grew that? Ask for photos of vegetables that look like people or odd shapes.)
  9. Offer to record short YCGT messages for a local radio station to play a new one every week. You could do this in conjunction with local non-profits…the charity does 30 seconds about the cause they want to grow and you do 30 seconds that is garden and plant related.
  10. Start a YCGT club for kids. Give each child who signs up a few free seeds of an easy to grow plant such as pole beans. Supply them with instructions. If they bring in or email you a photo of their plant they get entered into a drawing to win a prize.

Here’s an example that would be of interest in my area: A Blue hydrangea? You can grow that! Many types of mophead hydrangea (H. macrophylla) flowers can be made pink or blue…it all depends on the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. In the Northeast we tend to have naturally acidic soils so in most landscapes the flowers stay blue. But in some situations soil liming or surrounding concrete makes soil alkaline, so if your hydrangeas have turned pink you’ll want to use sulfur or aluminum sulfate to make the soil acidic again. Want to be blue? Come into Hyannis Country Garden and we’ll tell you all about it. I’m C.L. Fornari and I’m passionate about plants.”


A few ideas for topics for a garden center #youcangrowthat! campaign. Imagine “You can grow that!” after every question mark.


Flowers in the snow?

Christmas herbs?

Continual color?

A spring flower garden?

A kaleidoscope of color?


Qualities of Life

Flexibility (changing seasons and plants remind us to be adaptable)

An at-home “gym” (gardening is a good workout)

A kid-safe lawn (organic turf care)

Wonder? (plant something from seed)

Meditation? (weeding)

Life-long learning? (The natural world allows for endless discovery)



Just picked salad for dinner?

A tasty tomato?

Buried treasure? (potatoes)

Mouthwatering meals? (fresh herbs)

A garden-to-grill meal?  (summer squash, chard wraps etc)


Better Gardening

An easier way to weed?  (weeding tools)

Perfect pruning?  (tools and techniques)

Healthy soil?

A sense of place? (décor and local stone)


Fun Stuff

Bouquets for the workplace?  (cutting flowers)

An indoor air purifier?  (houseplants)

A room with a view?  (dwarf evergreens under windows)

A plant that shrinks at your touch?

Party Venue?

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