Editor’s Note: In celebration of Today’s Garden Center‘s 10th anniversary, we are looking towards the industry of the future. We predict that several demographic shifts (like urban gentrification, downsizing empty nesters and cash-strapped younger homeowners) point to consumers living in smaller spaces. Many garden centers will need to adapt their merchandise and services to meet their customers’ needs.
This article offers ideas occurring today that we think will help you thrive in the next 10 years.
Chicago-based Jayson Home caters to an urban clientele, who squeeze gardening onto roofs, stoops and sidewalks. Garden manager John Haskins offers advice on how to help these customers succeed with plants.
1. Carry containers that can sit outside all year in your climate and require little maintenance. In our Chicago climate, fiberglass and resin containers work best as they don’t crack from the winter freeze/thaw cycle and are lightweight enough to go on balconies and rooftops. They also don’t require the maintenance that wood, painted surfaces and metals may require over time.
2. Many of our customers want containers with four-season interest, and trees and shrubs that can remain in containers year round. Dwarf evergreens like mugo pine standards, hinoki cypress and dwarf blue spruce are some of the options we offer. Find out customers’ needs. Are they just looking to soften their patio area, or are they trying to block their view of neighbors? Are they talking about a ground-floor patio or a 47th-floor balcony or roof deck?
3. Provide detailed information about how to best care for container plantings year round. Offer annuals as an alternative to customers who don’t want a big commitment or prefer more consistent color. We make our customers aware that planting and care of trees and shrubs in containers will be different from the gardening they may have done in the yard
of their previous single-family residence.
4. Offer pre-planted container options, not only for sale but to give customers planting ideas. Some containers we make might have as many as 25 customers copy the idea and buy all the plants required from us.
It also offers us a chance to show how to change the container by the season, for example: a boxwood underplanted with Acorus ‘Ogon’ and other plants that change out seasonally. White violas in the spring; Ipomoea ‘Blackie’ and/or Torenia ‘Gilded Grape’ for summer; ‘Osaka Pink’ kale or Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’ for fall and some incense cedar or other cut greens added for winter.
5. Offer delivery and planting services. Many people have planted their gardens for years and are tired of it or have less time. Novices would rather have someone else do it for them or feel they don’t have the experience to plant containers. Some plants and containers may be too large for customers to bring home, especially in a condo with limited elevator space or a townhome with steep, narrow staircases and no direct outdoor access except through the home. We plant our containers at our store and deliver them to the customer’s home, rather than planting on-site and making a mess or taking up too much of the customer’s time. It also saves us the expense of maintaining a separate install/landscaping crew.
We don’t do any on-site work, but we will pick up containers from our customers, plant them at the store and return them to the customer.