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GCA Summer Tour Portland Hotel

This Year's All-America Selections Winners

This Month's GCA Member Profile

Registration Open For GCA Summer Tour Portland, Destinations Revealed!

All aboard the GCA Summer Tour as it heads to Portland, OR, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the garden centers that make this Northwestern market a hub of retail innovation. Portland has been called a treasure trove of merchandising and retail inspiration, so be sure to pack your notebook and camera! Click here to register.

Day One: Monday, June 27

Garden Fever, Portland, OR
A truly urban garden center located in a scenic Portland neighborhood, the company opened in 200
3 on the grounds of a former grocery store. Creative merchandising, respect for the historic nature of the property and product signage with personality all enhance the feeling that you’re shopping for plants and supplies in a one-of-a-kind setting. Serving avid gardeners, Garden Fever is a retailer obviously in touch with its market. Small in size but big on personality, this is a tour stop with numerous surprises.

Portland Nursery, Portland, OR
With a rich history in horticulture that goes back 100 years, Portland Nursery prides itself as “A Nursery for Plant People.” Even though the store is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, there are acres of plants that create “an oasis in the city” for flower and vegetable gardeners along with landscape project enthusiasts. The center has strong ties to the Portland community, working with more than 150 schools and organizations to develop a wide range of garden-related projects.

Al's Garden Center of Gresham, OR
While some stores debate the decision to only open seasonally, this Al's Garden Center location made the move to go from seasonal to year-round. It's a 13,000 sq. ft. greenhouse positioned in the front of 2.5 acres of production greenhouses. The location stocks "Grown By Al's" plants along with garden accessories, plant care products and patio furniture.

Sester Farms, Gresham, OR (lunch)
This wholesale nursery located in the Willamette Valley began in the 1890s as a potato and berries farm. With fertile soils and moderate rainfall, the location shifted to nursery production in 1981, focusing on deciduous trees and shrubs along with conifers. Some of the newest product offerings include a 5-gallon cold-hardy shrub program with quantity price breaks designed for garden centers.

Tsugawa Nursery, Woodland, WA
Tsugawa Nursery opened as a retail garden center in March 1981 with a vision for things to come. Since then, it has grown to become the area's place to shop for garden and landscape plants and supplies, specializing in fruit trees, bonsai and Japanese maples, as well as pond plants and supplies. Unique and hard-to-find plant material is sourced by request. Not far from the retail store is a 10-acre greenhouse and nursery operation growing annuals, hanging baskets and nursery stock branded as "Tsugawa Grown" products. Landscape and container design service is available on-site. In the summer, "Tsugawa Grown" fresh-picked berries arrive daily at farm-direct prices.

Shorty's Garden & Home, Vancouver, WA
Voted "Best Garden Center in Clark County" six years in a row by readers of The Columbian, the company places high value on a close working relationship with local communities. One highlight is their annual Oktoberfest, which raises over $20,000 for their local library. Shopping for plants, gifts, bird feeding products and garden accessories sourced by the "Blue Team" takes place in the multiple buildings located on the property. Bulk product delivery along with a tool rental service helps Shorty's capture the area's landscape project business.

Day Two: Tuesday, June 28

Gardener's Choice, Tigard, OR
Much larger than what it appears from the street, the location consists of different levels,
several buildings and plenty of parking. While providing garden center shoppers with staples in all plant categories, the store really shines in their assortment, merchandising and quantity of pottery and containers. In a market filled with high quality garden center shopping options, the company has focused on finding a way to stand out from the crowd by becoming the area's first choice when it comes to pottery and container gardening accessories.

Farmington Gardens, Beaverton, OR
Beginning in 1994 as a roadside stand, the company has grown into a farm-setting environment with expansive display gardens to address what they call a "plants and imagination grow here" experience. Most of the plants they sell are grown on-site, creating a "fresh from the farm" approach and differentiating them from other stores. While the company is known for the extensive plant selection, including a "Green Team" delivery and planting service, there is a large selection of unique gift and garden accessory products. This is a great example of a large and open plant sales area that still feels intimate and inviting.

Cornell Farm, Portland, OR
Founded in 1921 as a goat dairy farm, the property was converted to agriculture and nursery production in the '50s. Then on Mother’s Day 1987, Ed and Deby opened a retail plant stand on the property. Cornell Farm produces all their annuals and perennials for the garden center and recently went through a major redesign of the entire property, including a newly opened cafe operating from a former family home on the property. Even though they're located in a residential area, the family farm-like setting invites shoppers to explore numerous retail areas throughout the site.

International Rose Test Garden, Portland, OR (lunch)
This garden serves as a testing ground for new rose varieties. The City of Portland Gold Medal Awards are issued annually to the best introductions. These award-winning varieties are planted in the Gold Medal Garden.

The International Rose Test Garden is one of 24 official testing sites for the internationally respected All-America Rose Selections (AARS). The garden is also one of only six testing grounds for the American Rose Society (ARS) miniature rose test program. The National Annual Winners from both ARS and AARS associations are displayed in the middle of the garden along the center aisle.

A popular spot of the gardens is the Shakespeare Garden. Dedicated in 1945, this garden, donated by the LaBarre Shakespeare Club, was originally designed to include only herbs, trees and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. The informal design features graceful trees, brick walls and hundreds of annuals and perennials besides roses. Over the years, this garden has been the site for hundreds of weddings. A favorite spot for picnics, its shady lawn quickly transports visitors to faraway lands.

Good News Gardening, Hood River, OR
While some companies are still considering adding a cafe to their garden center experience, this tour stop is confident that including plant sales with a cafe makes perfect sense. Visit their website and you'll first be invited to come eat at the Garden Cafe, specializing in organic, sustainably-grown menu choices. There are couches, comfy chairs and local artwork to enjoy while overlooking the gardens and extensive plant selection. Locals call it "a cozy little coffee shop located in a great gardening stop."

McMenamins Edgefield, Troutdale, OR
McMenamins has been a neighborhood gathering spot throughout Oregon and Washington since 1983. They handcraft their own beer, wine, cider, spirits and coffee, and offer an eclectic mix of pubs, historic hotels, movie theaters, concert venues, spas, events and just pure fun!

Our tour will take us to their historic Edgefield location for dinner and a night out! Built in 1911 as the county poor farm, it is a destination resort in the Pacific Northwest that blends Oregon's natural beauty with McMenamins' signature whimsy: original buildings carefully restored with cozy interiors, gardens grown using organic methods, great food and drink, live entertainment and more. Edgefield encompasses a 74-acre parcel of farmland at the mouth of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Wander about the extensive gardens (glass of wine or pint of ale in hand), visit the on-site glass-blower and potter, have a look at extensive artwork on walls, pipes and more, watch a recently released movie in the theater, listen to live music or pick up souvenirs in the gift shop.

Day Three: Wednesday, June 29

Bauman's Farm & Garden, Gervais, OR
What a great way to start our day! A trip to the farm filled with fresh-baked treats along with
berries and veggies right from the fields. For over 100 years, the Bauman family has provided fresh food for the table. But over time, the addition of home-grown plants were added to the mix. Now shoppers will find over 10,000 hanging baskets, over 100 varieties of vegetables and herbs along with trees, shrubs and garden accessories merchandised in a way that customers never forget they're shopping right from the family farm. Retail is about creating shopping environments that stay true to the owner's values. It's obvious Bauman's does exactly that.

Al's Garden Center of Woodburn, OR
Even though this store occupies over six acres in the heart of the city's business district, there's an intimate shopping experience created throughout the property. As the original Al's Garden Center location, established in 1948, this garden center has gone through a number of changes with now close to half of the shopping area under cover. With a wide selection of plant material and plant care products, shoppers also find patio furniture, home decor and women's apparel. This stop is a great lesson in how a garden center evolves with market changes.

Monrovia, Dayton, OR (lunch)
Monrovia, one of the largest producers of ornamental plants in the West, is popular among both IGCs and consumers alike. Monrovia's large scale demonstration garden meanders through 6 acres of arboretum-like grounds that wrap around a large pond and waterfall. While visiting, Monrovia will share details on their POP and online shipping programs, as well as results from their multi-phase consumer research.

The Garden Corner, Tualatin, OR
Owner Jonn Karsseboom says the garden center is located at the corner of “Desperation and Ingenuity.” Opened in 2000 literally in the backyard of the owner's home, the site creates a shopping environment reminiscent of strolling through a park in search of that perfect plant. Exploring the unique nature of the woodland setting is done along what the company calls their “IKEA path.” As the provider for their community’s hanging basket program, the store believed that being "the hanging basket passion place" meant creating the world's largest hanging basket - so they did. Small on space, big on character. Make sure your camera is fully charged.

Al's Garden Center of Sherwood, OR
Selected as the "2005 Garden Center of the Year" the first year it opened, this store has quickly become one of the finest in the country. The 10-acre site houses a retractable roof greenhouse the size of a football field! Shoppers find the full gamut of garden center home-grown plants and products along with patio furniture, indoor and outdoor decor and women's apparel. But this stop is at its most valuable, witnessing the evolution of a company. We've seen two earlier versions of what it means to be an Al's Garden Center. Now we get to experience first-hand how a garden center owner takes what he's learned over many years to create a retail environment built for today's shopper. It's a journey filled with lessons garden centers can use in every stage of their own development.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Selected for GCA Summer Tour Portland, June 26-29

Garden Centers of America is pleased to announce that Embassy Suites Portland has been selected as the host hotel for the GCA Summer Tour in Portland, June 26-29. GCA organizers were able to negotiate a fantastic discounted rate for Portland in the summertime of $199 a night for tour-goers. The hotel's downtown Portland location is in the heart of the Pearl District surrounded by a vast number of restaurants and food carts, offering a delicious variety of cuisines to satisfy the most discerning of palates. But this isn’t just any Embassy Suites. This Portland classic was built in 1912 and renovated in 2014, offering historical ambiance with all of the modern conveniences including two-room suites, free in-room Internet access, a heated indoor pool, two hot tubs and discounted $10 self-parking for those who will be driving in. Click here to reserve your room.



June 24, 2016 (EDT) • Winners Honored at IGC Show, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
June 26, 2016 7:00 PM (PDT) • Portland, OR
August 02, 2016 (EDT) • Valley Forge Casino Resort, Philadelphia Metro Area, PA
August 16, 2016 (EDT) • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
August 16, 2016 10:00 AM (EDT) • Room 324, Navy, Pier, Chicago, IL
August 17, 2016 11:30 AM (EDT) • Room 324, IGC Show, Chicago, IL


Rhonda Lowe, Owner
Rock City Gardens, Wabasso, FL
Community Ties Make Rock City Gardens Strong Gardening Force

Pristinely landscaped grounds of lush tropical foliage and natural Florida beauty create the 7-acre garden oasis just north of Vero Beach that the locals know and love as Rock City Gardens - some even call it the “secret garden.” Owned by husband and wife Thomas and Rhonda Lowe since 1983, Rock City is an active force in the Vero Beach community, sponsoring and hosting numerous benefits for non-profit organizations. And the community’s seasonal beachside and barrier island residents, as well as the permanent residents, are taking notice.

Over three decades ago, the Lowes entered into a partnership with Ed Chapin, purchasing half the nursery under the agreement that after three years, they had the choice of a refund or purchasing the entire property.

After they decided to purchase Rock City, the Lowes have steadily been making updates to the retail store and property, renovating their way into the hearts of the customers and establishing their store as the community’s garden experts.

The business has grown beyond the retail store to include a landscape division, a lawn maintenance division, a hardscape division, a container-scape division, and an interior and container maintenance division. “We offer a pretty wide scope of services,” Rhonda says.

They grow all their own annuals, which are used in landscape jobs and planted all throughout the nursery - even along the frontage space bordering Highway 1. They carry all of the common plants that customers shop for, but they also try to specialize in the more unique, unusual plants that can’t be found in most other garden centers. “We’re always searching for that unique hybrid or variety,” she says.

Several greenhouses and a large flower house - a recent addition to the property - serve as Rock City’s growing facilities, where they also grow perennials, herbs and other plants.

The garden boutique - equipped with a wraparound porch that overflows with pottery, statuary and fountains - houses unusual decorative accessories for the home. “In the last few years, we’ve brought in items that anyone who walks in here could afford to purchase,” Rhonda says.

Other major renovations and additions to the business include a several acre pond with a viewing platform (a great place for events), a new parking lot, new entrances at each lot, an endless waterfall, an outdoor checkout area, and an outdoor living and hardscape area - a major improvement that was implemented after the general manager came on board and started the hardscape division. Pavers, a fire pit, a fireplace and an outdoor kitchen set the scene in the outdoor living area.

Outdoor furniture is another area the Lowes have considered branching out to, which they saw plenty of on the 2015 GCA Summer Tour Milwaukee. “The tour was just wonderful,” Rhonda says. “You always get new ideas from every nursery you visit.” In 2010, Rock City Gardens was even a featured destination when the GCA Summer Tour traveled to Orlando, FL.

Rhonda explained they’ve also been researching store layouts, signage and the best ways to display hanging baskets. “We got several ideas for those categories from the stores on the Milwaukee tour,” she says. She admits that talking with the destinations’ owners, managers and other staff has been helpful, especially since everyone is so willing to share.

“Everyone is so willing to talk about their experiences and what worked for them,” Rhonda says. “There’s a real camaraderie in GCA. It’s a nice, secure feeling to know that if you have a problem, there’s someone you can turn to that has probably experienced some of the same problems.”

Serving the Community

Rock City is a hub for community events in Vero Beach - the store serves as the venue for many special parties and functions. “Every year, we host the Indian River Land Trust fundraiser - this will be our 13th year hosting it - and it brings in about 500 people,” Rhonda says. “It’s a huge event that kicks off the season. People really look forward to this fundraiser.”

Other special events, such as weddings, Chamber of Commerce meetings and fundraisers for organizations like Healthy Start, turn Rock City into a friendly community meeting place. The landscaped setting is the perfect fit for customers to linger and spend the day with friends or family enjoying the natural Florida beauty.

Rhonda says, “The landscaped grounds are as much a part of the ambience of our store as the retail part.”

In addition to the grounds, Rock City’s unique product offerings and displays create an exceptional in-store experience for customers. Rhonda says, “We’re constantly changing and updating. We get customers in all the time asking what plants we used in our displays because they want to duplicate the planting.”

Click here to read more Member Profiles.

All-America Selections Introduces Nine Exciting AAS Winners for the 2016 Garden Season

Anyone watching the movements of All-America Selections lately will notice an ever-increasing number of exciting and wonderful plants that are being named AAS Winners. This announcement is no different with nine new plants that have been trialed by horticulture experts throughout North America and deemed worthy of the All-America Selections® brand.
All of the following new varieties were trialed during the 2015 growing season and exhibited outstanding garden performance as noted in each of the following descriptions.
This grouping of AAS Winners for 2016 includes:
Geranium Brocade Cherry Night (National)
Geranium Brocade Fire (National)
Pepper Cornito Giallo F1 (National)
Pepper Escamillo F1 (National)
Pumpkin Super Moon F1 (Regional: Southeast and Great Lakes)
Salvia Summer Jewel™ Lavender (Regional: Southeast, Heartland, Great Lakes)
Strawberry Delizz® F1 (National)
Tomato Candyland Red (National)
Tomato Chef’s Choice Green F1 (National)
With this announcement, these varieties become available for immediate sale to the commercial market. Brokers and growers can purchase these varieties immediately. Retailers and consumers will find these Winners for sale for the 2016 gardening season as supply gradually becomes available throughout the chain of distribution. Garden communicators are free to begin writing about these varieties now, in preparation for next year’s gardens.
The first group of AAS Winners for 2016 was announced in July 2015 and are also interesting additions for the consumer’s gardens and table:
Bunching Onion Warrior (Regional Winner: Southeast, Mountain/Southwest)
Mizuna Red Kingdom F1 (National Winner)
Radish Sweet Baby F1 (Regional Winner: Southeast, Great Lakes)
A complete list of trial grounds and the judges behind our awards can be found here.
A complete list of all AAS Winners since 1932 can be found here. Note that this list of AAS Winners can be sorted by Flowers from Seed, Flowers from Cuttings, and Vegetables.

Geranium Brocade Cherry Night
AAS 2016 Ornamental Vegetative Winner
National Winner

Striking foliage with large double blooms of cherry pink make Geranium Brocade Cherry Night an AAS Winner this year.  Gardeners looking for unique and distinct foliage to accent their containers and gardens will be delighted with Brocade Cherry Night.  The bronze leaves with green margins are a remarkable and unusual addition to any design.  Add the double bright cherry blooms and this heat tolerant geranium is your winner for any planter, container or garden!  More Info...  Bred by Dummen Orange

Geranium Brocade Fire
AAS 2016 Ornamental Vegetative Winner
National Winner

This 2016 AAS Winner, Geranium Brocade Fire, has unique bi-color foliage with a nonstop display of orange flowers that gives it an exceptional look in any garden.  Geranium Brocade Fire is ideal for combination planters, landscapes and garden beds. This robust plant keeps its distinguishing foliage color and brilliant blooms throughout the hot summers then becomes a fantastic transitional flower going into fall.  The orange flowers contrast with the striking foliage making this geranium a much appreciated and talked about new annual winner. More info...  Bred by Dummen Orange

Pepper Cornito Giallo F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

“DOUBLE YUM” was one judge’s response to our new AAS Winner Cornito Giallo F1 pepper, “The flavor on this one is totally a winner!”  Starting as small green fruits, this AAS Winner develops into bright yellow jewels with a delicious sweet and fruity flavor.  The peppers themselves are plentiful and durable, yet easy to eat fresh. Being an early bloomer, you will be able to enjoy these peppers throughout the growing season and well into the fall.  Plant Cornito Giallo F1 in your garden this year and you can join our judges in exclaiming “YUM!” More info...  Bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Pepper Escamillo F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

A wonderful sweet taste on a golden yellow pepper makes Pepper Escamillo F1, one of our 2016 AAS Winners.  An early bearing pepper plant with a compact habit makes it an ideal choice for any home garden. Gardeners will be captivated with the high yield of peppers per plant and how the fruit itself is held off the ground for easy picking and less rotting. This plant is a winner with its all around qualities of excellent taste either raw, cooked or fire roasted; its compact size and high yield. More info...  Bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Pumpkin Super Moon F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
Regional Winner: Great Lakes and Southeast

Love the look of white pumpkins for your fall holiday decor?  Then you will love our first-ever white pumpkin AAS Regional Winner Super Moon F1.  Our judges loved the nice, eye-appealing ghostly white coloration on the large, blemish-free round pumpkins.  Grown for their size, up to 50 lbs, and their clean white color, these hardy plants are known for their early fruit development and vigorous growth. Their stems are tough, hardy, disease-resistant and unstoppable!  When done decorating with these beauties, consider trying the yellow flesh for roasting or in your fall harvest soups.  More info...  Bred by Seeds By Design Inc.

Salvia Summer Jewel™ Lavender
AAS 2016 Ornamental Seed Winner
Regional Winner: Southeast, Heartland, Great Lakes

The fourth AAS Winner in the Summer Jewel™ series of popular AAS Salvia Winners is the newest in color, Summer Jewel™ Lavender.  The unique flower color of dusty lavender purple is a delight in the garden and flower containers as well as a major attractor of pollinators including bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. An extra bonus is how much the Goldfinch loves these flower seeds in the fall.  It’s a photo-ready moment when these complementary colors of gold and lavender connect!  The early blooming, stable, compact uniform growth, and continuous flowering of this plant are additional positives to this plant.  More info...  Bred by Takii & Co. Ltd

Strawberry Delizz®  F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

What’s not to like about our first ever AAS strawberry winner Strawberry Delizz® F1?  These vigorous strawberry plants are easy to grow, from seed or transplant, and produce an abundant harvest throughout the growing season.  The best part though is the wonderful sweet strawberry burst of flavor from every handpicked berry. To enjoy fresh home-grown strawberries throughout the season, even in hot summer heat, look to Strawberry Delizz® F1.  These plants have a nice uniform and compact size making them perfect for containers, hanging baskets or garden plots. The hardest part of Strawberry Delizz® F1 won’t be the growing but having some strawberries left for anyone else to enjoy!  More info... Bred by ABZ Seeds

Tomato Candyland Red
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

Tomato Candyland Red is the only AAS award winning currant-type tomato. Currant tomatoes are smaller in size than cherry-type and are ready to “pop” in your mouth straight from the garden.  Gardeners will appreciate the dark red, sweet flavored fruit that can be enjoyed throughout the season.  The tomato plant itself has a nice tidier habit than other currant-type plants with the fruit tending to form on the outside of the plant making them easier to harvest. More info...  Bred by PanAmerican Seed Company
Tomato Chef’s Choice Green F1
AAS 2016 Edible Winner
National Winner

Looking for a uniquely colored yet delicious tomato with which to impress your foodie friends?  Then look no further than this AAS Winner, Tomato Chef’s Choice Green F1. The newest addition to the Chef’s Choice series produces beautiful green colored fruits with subtle yellow stripes and a wonderful citrus-like flavor and perfect tomato texture. You’ll enjoy this disease free plant throughout the season with its dark green leaves and well-behaved form. You’ll be the envy of all your tomato loving friends! More info...  Bred by Seeds By Design Inc.
All-America Selections® was founded in 1932 and continues as the oldest independent testing organization in North America. Every year, new, never-before-sold varieties are trialed in our Trial Grounds and professional horticulturists determine which varieties will be deemed winners based on their garden performance. AAS relies upon a public relations program to inform gardeners about AAS National and Regional Winners that are announced three times each year.
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