You can't grow that!

Here is a story that shows just how quickly the horticultural industry in diverging into two different types of business. On the one hand we have smaller, independent garden professionals and on the other hand we have the larger concerns who seem terrified of what the smaller concerns are up to. How else does one explain Scotts/Miracle Gro's recent actions? According to her website, garden writer CL Fornari decided last October to start a campaign titled, “You Can Grow That”. Once a week any garden writer who wished to participate would write an article under that heading. You can read about it here. Long story short, Scotts/Miracle Gro applied for a trademark on “You Can Gro That!”, after she had broached the idea on The Internet.

What’s up with Scotts? At a recent shareholders meeting in January 2012, Chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn said, "We are making a step change in fiscal 2012 and setting a new benchmark for our advertising investment," Hagedorn told shareholders. "Both our Scotts and Miracle-Gro brands will be supported by completely new campaigns. While we will continue to support individual products in each commercial, we will do so with a consistent approach and message that creates a halo effect for the brands. I believe this is some of the best creative work we have done in years and I am confident it will impact our business – not just in 2012 – but over the longer-term as well."

Then last August Scotts reported, “During today's conference call to discuss its third quarter results, the Company said it expects adjusted earnings for fiscal 2012 to be approximately $2.00 per share and mistakenly stated an expected loss in the fourth quarter of about 40 cents. To clarify, the Company anticipates an operating loss in the fourth quarter which will translate into an adjusted loss per share closer to 60 cents. The Company still expects adjusted earnings per share of about $2.00 for the year.”

Like all of us, Scotts is trying to figure out its place in the changing gardening scene. Its reputation has taken a beating these last few years, and people just don’t seem to want to garden in a way that helped build the company in the past. Garden centers no longer feel it necessary to carry their products, as there are better alternatives now available. Lawns are slowly loosing favor with the gardening public, and lawn care is where Scotts ruled. Finally, through actions like trade marking a phrase, “You can grow that” it shows a certain un-becoming characteristic. It seems destined to alienate itself even further from the very people it would normally count on for support, garden writers and their readers.