Inspiring garden centers and outdoor living retailers
August 25th, 2010
After presenting to a welcoming audience at last week’s Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago, I’m more convinced than ever that there is a huge passion and vitality among the “indies” of horticulture.
These are the women and men who adore plants, love to share their knowledge about growing things, don’t mind getting dirt under their nails, and who understand that connecting with other gardeners is what it’s all about.
If you can run a business like that, well, then you are blessed. I’m not saying it’s easy. These are hard-working plantswomen and men; some of them are from longtime nursery families who grew up growing and selling plants. Others come to garden center life through different paths. But people find their way. And in the face of competition from big box retailers, the “indies” are almost as threatened as small-town booksellers (Although I just read an article in New York magazine about the return of independent book stores.) From what I saw last week, with the aisles of Chicago’s Navy Pier teeming with thousands of trade showgoers, I’m convinced the “indie” garden center and outdoor living retailer is a force to be reckoned with.
My talk highlighted some of the successful participants in this movement. I promised to post an excerpt of this talk and some highlights here for my audience members to read. I”m also interested in comments and suggestions for other “indies” who are doing things right in their own community. Please let me know where you gain inspiration and make a “connection” with the local garden center in your community. I really do want to know!
INSPIRING GARDEN CENTERS AND OUTDOOR LIVING RETAILERS are . . .
Style-makers & Trend-setters:
There isn’t space (or time) for me to post all 107 images from my talk, but I wil go through each of the above points and feature one or two examples. At the bottom of the talk will be the names and links of all the garden centers and outdoor living retailers I’ve included in the lecture.
Above: Pot-ted Store in Los Angeles created a hipsterish outdoor textile line of their own using color-blocking and an interior palette.
Above: Swansons Nursery in Seattle sells $200 Fermob French café chairs among perennials and meadow plants, color coordinated for a stylish presentation.
Above: Botanik in Summerland/Santa Barbara presents wall pottery and plants as a gallery-like installation.
Above: Flora Grubb Nursery in San Francisco planted this dazzling wall tapestry of succulents and sedums, and as a result, it became the hottest editorial “green wall” image around.
Above: Gillian Mathews of Ravenna Gardens in Seattle hits local flea markets and antique shows for “found objects” that inspire merchandise displays, products and the unique, one-of-a-kind vibe of her store.
Above: Simple yet effective, this edible-themed display at the Atlanta Botanic Garden caught my eye. These are unrelated products but they tell a story when displayed together.
Above: Here’s another example of what I mean, from Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle – a Poultry-themed vignette.
Above: Who wouldn’t want to be submerged in a tub filled with spring flowering bulbs? It’s a romantic notion – one that expresses this idea perfectly. I discovered this display at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in 2010.
Above: Rolling Greens Nursery in Los Angeles has an interactive “Arrangement Bar” where customers can sit on stools and collaborate with staff in a theatre-like experience to create their own floral designs and container plantings.
Above: At Living in the Garden in Pullman, Wash., bags of compost are displayed in a pretty-in-pink outhouse. At Sperling Nursery in Calabasas, Calif., red and green lettuces are used in an alternating pattern.
Above: The tiny porcelain vases by Idaho artist Farmer Julie are arranged on a bed of turf; the one-of-a-kind vessels by Arizona artist Mike Kon are displayed with the cactuses and succulents for which they are intended.
Above: A happy shopper enjoys Bowood Farms in St. Louis, while grown-up garden lovers attend and return to Atlanta Botanical Garden’s fun summer soirees.
Above: Encourage customers to “make a day of it” and combine shopping with social destination. . . the ultimate one-day getaway for stressed consumers in search of sanctuary.
Above: Culinary events, as well as music, art, health/wellness-oriented activities involve customers in your own “community” of gardeners.
Above: At Flora Grubb, this Mother’s Day hands-on floral design course was a huge hit with customers wanting to learn new techniques in a sustainable way.
The Bottom Line:
Garden Centers featured:
Flora Grubb Gardens
August 26th, 2010 at 4:20 pm
Oh, how I wish I could have heard/seen this talk! I am inspired from the few photos you did post. I would love to have seen them all.
Thank you for the work you do! Inspiration abounds in this post, I’ve already found 2 ideas to ‘steal’.
Of course I love the “bottom line”. Did I tell you that this spring one of my customers came in and recited the
whole Rumi poem to me….magic!
August 26th, 2010 at 8:14 pm
Fabulous post; I too wish I could have heard your presentation, but this has given me several ideas on which to build. We’re going to IGC next year, can’t wait.
August 28th, 2010 at 7:09 pm
Thank you for the tour! And Rumi.
September 7th, 2010 at 9:33 am
Dear Debra – you’ve perfectly captured the wonderful world of owning and running an indie nursery (OK, maybe you left out a few cash-flow, employee, weather woes!) It is a hugely creative act and the good ones are making a tremendous contribution to their neighborhoods and communities. How good is this post? You’ve made me miss my tiny little nursery! THAT’s how good this post is!!!
September 8th, 2010 at 11:37 am
My wife recently studied with the county to become a master gardener. We find our inspiration in shops just like yours – where great design and ideas always spark her creativity. Thanks for the inside look at how it all happens!
October 27th, 2010 at 11:44 pm
[…] can see some hightlights of that talk here. I had a wonderful audience of engaged and energized nursery owners. And I am encouraged by the […]