There are many reasons Jonathan Babikow has continued to buy plants from Emerald Coast Growers since the company began 25 years ago. Perhaps the key factors for Babikow, perennial product manager at Esbenshades Garden Centers, are the quality and reliability of the product.
“They are good growers, and they produce a good product. It’s heavy when it comes in. It’s consistent, and I never think about whether it’s going to be too young or underdeveloped. I’ve never had that happen with their product,” Babikow says. “The product regionally around here is never as good as what comes out of Emerald Coast Growers’ nursery in Florida. I don’t bother ordering them anywhere else.”
Babikow is most familiar with the company’s ornamental grasses, and his favorites include their miscanthus and panicum offerings. Consumers are gravitating toward grasses with red hues, he says, and Emerald Coast Growers is right on trend, offering several scarlet colored grasses.
One of his older favorites with pronounced red foliage includes Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah,’ but he always looks forward to the new grasses the company releases.
“The new panicum introductions are always popular, and they are getting more red in the mix, which is what everybody is looking for. In some of the newer introductions, the red is more intense and it’s earlier,” he says, noting the newer Panicum virgatum ‘Hot Rod.’ “They try to stay ahead of the curve.”
The program is flexible as well and offers a range of sizes, which is important for Babikow. He orders 72 trays during the pre-season, when he has time to grow the plant until it is established. Later in the season, when he needs a larger plant more quickly, he can order a 38 or 21 tray when it’s available.
“They have a nice range of sizes and different options there. It’s a real benefit,” he says. “If I need something quickly, they have good inventory and produce everything in the field, so they have a really good stock base. You can count on being able to get what you want. That quick turn aspect means a lot for profitability.”
Their customer service, like their plant quality, is also top notch, and experienced, friendly plant people are there to help when questions come up.
“Their grasses, I think because they are grown in an area that is favorable for growing that kind of product, being in the panhandle of Florida, they have advantages over Northern growers,” Babikow says. “They have an earlier season. Not only that, they have many years of experience growing the grass product, and they have a good system worked out. So they provide a very reliable product at a good value.”