Photo courtesy of Megan Armstrong

On any given day at Millcreek Gardens, a plant grower in Ostrander, Ohio, thousands of varieties of plants — from quarts of peonies to trays of trendy succulents — will be leaving the facilities. Of the million units Millcreek sells per year, most of its stock finds its way into the hands of independent garden centers (they don’t sell to chains), landscapers and municipalities.

And for the new generas and old, in the past 15 years, Millcreek has been trying to better what could be an overlooked part of the plant-selling process: How to best design their tags.

“It was getting to the point where we were buying from so many different types of tag vendors that the product was looking kind of — well, let’s just say there wasn’t a lot of consistency,” says Megan Armstrong, assistant general manager. “So, we designed a custom label.”

Rather than ship out stock with tags from a mixture of vendors, Millcreek custom-made a branded tag that would accompany just about every one of their 1,450 products (save for “required company tags” like Proven Winners Shrubs).

The result were sleek, uniform descriptors that contain a plant’s Latin and common name, care how-tos and a unique UPC code that makes for efficient inventory control.

Armstrong says that although current tags have QR codes — linked to online info pages — Millcreek is slowly phasing those out due to evolving trends, limited real estate and an easier shopping experience.

“We decided it would be more valid to have information for people to read as they’re shopping,” she says. “‘Center shade?’, ‘OK for hummingbirds?’ ‘Ah, good.’ We wanted it quick and clean.”

What began 41 years ago by George and Lynda Pealer as a nursery to provide herbs wholesale, Millcreek is now a highly successful greenery supplier that ships stock to five surrounding states, and to independent sellers as far as Chicago. With 25 full-time staff members, including five specialized section growers working on 20 acres, Millcreek’s consistency in its day-to-day process seems to match their high-quality branding efforts.

Fred Higginbotham, Millcreek’s growing operations manager, says this is no coincidence: form follows function. Every single plant line tallying over 100 is added to their tag print and redesign.

As both Millcreek and its product line grow — they’re in the works of adding a growing facility — Higginbotham says that every hanging basket, half-dozen succulent tray or decorative annual will be markers of the latest in the grower’s greenery advertising.

In essence, the tags rep the plant. Consistency with your label should translate to consistency in your product.

“We want to stay abreast with everything new in advertising, what’s being pushed out there,” Higginbotham says. “What we’ve done well over 41 years, I think, is making sure we’re up to speed with the freshest stuff. Why stop now?”

The author is a freelance writer based in Ohio.