Seed World

Enjoying the Beauty and Function of Flower Seed: Q&A with Norm Poppe

Norm Poppe, CEO of Applewood Seed Co., says his No. 1 priority is ensuring customers everywhere get to enjoy the simple joys of flower seed.

Seed World (SW): What podcasts are you currently listening to? 

Norm Poppe (NP): My two favorites are The Explorers which relates many of details of adventurous individuals who have shaped our world over the years. My other favorite is National Geographic’s Overheard. This podcast shares many of the topics that National Geographic staff are involved with. 

SW: Do you have a favorite flower cultivar?

NP: I really enjoy Zinnias. At Applewood Seed, we have worked hard to bring many of the older cultivars back into the marketplace. We now have over 20 cultivars and several mixtures of complimentary colors. If I had to pick one, it would be Zinnia elegans ‘California Giants’.

SW: How’d you get started working with flowers and natives? 

NP: I started in the horticulture industry while I was still in high school. My early involvement seeing the beauty that could be brought to a home landscape had an influence on my first job in horticulture which was at a company named European Flower Markets. That job in large part paid for my degree in horticulture from Oregon State University. After graduation, I worked for two large floral companies before moving to Applewood Seed Co. in 1988. Over time it became increasingly apparent that working in the flower seed business is a balancing act between the science of the native and ornamental items and beauty that these species, varieties, and cultivar bring to a landscape. Even after 30 years, I can feel like I am just getting started on working on another aspect of how to bring the beauty or functionality into natural or man-made environments.

SW: Any big concerns or challenges that you’re facing right now?

NP: There are a few concerns that will continue to be challenging in 2022. Shifting and unpredictable weather patterns have caused and continue to be a source of concern as it relates to production planning and inventory control. Shipping logistics and increased shipping costs continue to be an issue that we try to manage carefully but the global supply chain issues that have become nearly everyday conversation are a challenge to deal with so that we can mitigate these cost increases. Government policies are an ever-present concern that we actively monitor for possible positive or negative impacts on our business.

SW: What’s your top priority for 2022?

NP: As a newly formed Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), it is imperative that we manage Applewood Seed Co. for the benefit of the employee owners, our growers and our customers. Continued investment in mentoring and training of the Applewood Seed Co. staff will be an important component of this succession plan. We are working through collaborative efforts to improve policies, processes, and procedures. Through these activities we plan to improve our customer experience so that they can enjoy the beauty and function that flower seeds bring to landscapes or ecosystems.