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on the needs of Independent Garden Centers.
America's only association focused exclusively
on the needs of Independent Garden Centers.

Garden Centers of America:

Together We're Better!                          

This Year's All-America Selections Winners

This Month's GCA Member Profile

2017 GCA Summer Tour Destination Announced - Norfolk/Virginia Beach, VA, Here We Come!

Next year's GCA Summer Tour is headed to Norfolk/Virginia Beach, June 25-28, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at garden center's operations from Virginia Beach to Newport News to Richmond. Be sure to pack your notebook and camera to capture all the merchandising and indie retailing inspirations!

Among the list of featured destinations is Anderson's Home and Garden Showplace's newly opened location in Virginia Beach. The 7-acre site opened in June and features a 25,000-square-foot garden center filled with a plant nursery, pottery, outdoor furniture, women's clothing and accessories, as well as a cafe called Sage Kitchen.

Registration is open. More details coming soon!

2016 GCA Summer Tour Social Media Recap

In case you missed all of the coverage of this year's GCA Summer Tour in Portland, OR, here are some of the highlights from social media:

"Opening night festivities were in high gear as the 2016 GCA Summer Tour in Portland kicked off Sunday with a lively discussion on hot IGC retailing topics, including the importance of IGCs receiving early market rights to new plant introductions from growers. Owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, Thomas Birt, known for his ever-present white cowboy hat and a regular GCA Tour attendee, was among those taking place in the multi-topic discussion led by Tour Director Robert Hendrickson. The room traded insights on Internet sales, and those garden centers on the tour who are having great success with them shared their strategies. The three-day tour of Portland-area garden centers starts early Monday."

"Yesterday [Monday], GCA Summer Tour buses hit the Portland area under glorious, bright, sunny blue skies for a robust first day that took them to five leading garden centers. An amazing lunch was featured on the grounds of grower Sester Farms in Gresham, OR, who - along with the delicious mid-day meal - gave a tour of its growing grounds, a hands-on session on how to refresh tired plant material that's still in your sales area and a raffle with a grand prize of $3500 of delivered wholesale-valued plants from the grower, won by Sandi Hillermann of Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington, MO. Sester Farms generously provided all retailers on the GCA Tour with a $1000 certificate for free plants on any Fall 2016 orders. Two more busy days lie ahead, and weather reports call for a bright day, and spirits are sky high. For those who are missing this great networking experience among 120+ IGC retailers, make plans now to attend the 2017 GCA Summer Tour, just announced to take place in Norfolk/Virginia Beach!"

"First stop for Tuesday on the GCA Summer Tour Portland was Gardener’s Choice in Tigard, OR. One of the intriguing highlights from this stop includes these display units that are actually built on repurposed pallets. The overall concept for these is that when store management wants to rearrange display units, a forklift can easily be brought in to pick up and relocate the entire unit. It’s an experiment in progress for the store, but certainly an interesting concept - just another example of the insights you get by attending the GCA Summer Tour."

"On Tuesday night, the GCA Summer Tour Portland dined in the historic setting of McMenamins Edgefield - a renovated turn-of-the-century "poor house" that is now a restaurant, bar and entertainment center on the outskirts of the Portland metro area. Our special guest after dinner was Jeff Stone, Executive Director and CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, (pictured with GCA Executive Director Jeff Morey). Stone spoke on the unique implications of the recent laws in the state of Oregon that legislated minimum wage on both growers and what the end effects will impose on finished plant prices from Oregon to retailers across the country, as well as the forced wage minimums on local Oregon garden center retailers. A lively discussion ensued for nearly an hour between the 120+ attending IGC retailers on the tour and Stone. This dinner and discussion followed a day of garden center stops that earned rave reviews from all. By every measure, there seems little doubt that this is the best GCA Summer Tour in many, many years!"


June 25, 2017 5:00 PM (EDT) • Norfolk/Virginia Beach, VA
August 15, 2017 (EDT) • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
August 15, 2017 10:00 AM (EDT) • Room 324, Navy, Pier, Chicago, IL
August 16, 2017 11:30 AM (EDT) • Room 324, IGC Show, Chicago, IL


Joe Stoffregen, President
Homewood Nursery & Garden Center, Raleigh, NC

Second-Generation Owner Reflects on 'Classic Success Story' of His Family's Business 50 Years Later

Homewood Nursery & Garden Center's mission created nearly 50 years ago still rings true to this day: "We are committed to having the finest quality plants and service provided in a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere." Now, with its second-generation of leadership at the helm, President Joe Stoffregen, the Raleigh, NC-based garden retailer continues to emphasize the values of attention to detail and creating a beautiful environment established by Founders, and Joe's parents, Bill and Peggy Stoffregen.

Take a trip back to 1967 to find Bill building a 19'x100' greenhouse in the backyard of his family's home, following his passion for gardening. To support this venture, Bill sent out postcards to his neighbors and friends from church, letting them know he would have extra flowers and produce for sale.

About two years later, Bill quit his full-time job as a Wake County forest ranger to devote his time to growing plants out of his backyard greenhouses, mainly for wholesale to other garden centers and florists. Joe reflects on his family's business, calling it a "classic success story."

"My dad liked being a forest ranger, but he loved gardening, so he quit his job to do what he loved,” Joe says. “It was a big risk, but here we are nearly 50 years later."

He continues, "My dad and mom were really good growers, and they paid a lot of attention to detail, since the business was always located where our home was. They just took a lot of pride in how things looked. We never had a messy greenhouse."

From an early age, it was drilled into Joe that his family grew beautiful plants that enhanced landscapes, so the plants and the shopping environment needed to look good. He says their nursery was always known – and still is – for having clean greenhouses and a really pretty place of business.

Now, Homewood Nursery, which will celebrate 50 years in business next year, grows and sells plants for 100 percent retail – a transition made once Joe started taking over the family business.

"My entry into the family business was to explore and grow the retail part," Joe says. "My dad always focused on the greenhouses and growing plants. I was able to focus on visiting other garden centers for ideas and implementing them."

Homewood's greenhouse range covers about two acres – three-fourths of which is actual growing space, producing roses, annuals, vegetables and herbs, and about 30,000 poinsettias (during the holiday season) for sale in the garden center. Trees and shrubs, as well as other plant materials, are sourced in.

Coincidentally, Homewood's stock of trees and shrubs are grown in Oregon, says Joe, so he was particularly pleased to tour Monrovia and Sester Farms during the 2016 GCA Summer Tour to Portland, OR.

"We've never done business with Sester Farms," Joe says. "When I came back from the tour, I told my nursery manager, 'I really like that farm. We need to place an order.' Next thing I know we're talking to their sales rep, and we're setting up a time to come visit them. That would not have happened if it hadn't been for the GCA Summer Tour."

Joe was so inspired by the stops on the Portland tour that he's returning to a couple of the featured retailers. In addition to tours of Sester Farms and Monrovia, he'll visit three or four other nurseries.

"The GCA Summer Tour was fantastic," Joe says. "We had good weather and a wide variety of featured stops. They were all unique. It wasn't like we kept seeing the same kind of garden center. Even though we were in the same market, every garden center we went to was a little bit different."

To Joe, every site brought excitement and enthusiasm to the table of garden retailing, breathing fresh inspiration into his own business practices.

"I saw a lot of good visual merchandising, especially some incredible pottery displays," he says. "I took note of this Portland-based business that makes a range of plant displays, from plant stands to hanging baskets. Also, I picked up some signage ideas that we’ll be implementing in the store soon."

It's not just the GCA Summer Tours that Joe enjoys as a GCA member – it's also the networking opportunities that are provided as part of his membership.

"It is a broken record in our industry, but I think we are one of the most sharing industries that you can be in as far as people being willing to say, 'This really works for me,' or, 'This is where I buy this product.'"

In fact, since he's gotten back from the tour, one of the attendees, Sandi Hillermann McDonald of Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington, MO, has sent out a couple of questions via e-mail to her fellow GCA members.

"Those type of connections are facilitated by being a GCA member," Joe says. "GCA provides the environments for us independents to connect in."

'A Unique Relationship'

Situated on a 33-acre site, Homewood utilizes about 12 acres for retail and growing space. Bill's values of keeping a clean, beautiful environment are still carried over to this day in Homewood's current setup. The retail nursery is built under a canopy of native pine trees, providing shade for customers as they explore the display gardens and vignettes set along the winding paths and bridges in the nursery area.

The garden center and checkout counter are located in a Nexus greenhouse, which connects to the retailer's gift shop and greenhouse range.

But even with Homewood's extensive portfolio of plant and gift offerings, the retailer does not provide landscape design/build services – instead, they lease out an office on property to a local full-service landscape firm, Landvision Designs, and send their customers there if they need assistance with their gardens or landscapes.

"Homewood's never been in the landscape business," Joe says. "I always believed that if you can't do something really well, don't do it because you can damage your reputation in other areas."

Landvision has been on the property for over 20 years. According to Joe, they're Homewood's largest customer, since they purchase plants from the nursery for their landscape jobs. They've even had a hand in setting up the display gardens at Homewood, advertising their landscape services and expertise to shoppers.

"The gardens enhance our retail environment," Joe says. "Our setup with Landvision has been really good. It's a unique relationship."

Joe is planning to create several raised vegetable garden beds on property in conjunction with Landvision.

"I'm going to call it 'adopt-a-box,' where our employees will take responsibility for maintaining their boxes and growing vegetables for themselves," he says.

A percentage of what is grown will be donated to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, which collects food from restaurants and other organizations to give to the homeless shelter and other people in need.

"I'm excited about it," Joe says. "We're going to name the raised bed garden after my dad. That'll be part of our 50th anniversary."

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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