Fairy Gardens And Miniature Plants Are Big

Fairy Gardens And Miniature Plants Are Big

We know you can barely contain your glee when a customer talks about going big. But if you’re like most garden centers, you’ve been hearing the word “mini” a whole lot lately, and you shouldn’t let it dampen your enthusiasm by even a drop. From trains to boot cottages, fairylands to gnome homes, a veritable cute craze has taken over the specialty gardening arena. And sales are anything but Lilliputian.

Experienced and beginning gardeners alike are making not-so-mini demands for the teensy-weensy plants they need to craft their own, live miniature garden masterpieces. Your garden center can have a slice of this pie – so make sure you understand miniature plant stock and how to promote it.

First off, what makes a mini-plant right for a specialty garden? Frances Hopkins, president of Under A Foot Plant Company, says there’s a good reason her Stepables product line has been popular with specialty gardeners since way before the trend took off. These tough little groundcovers and perennials “lend themselves to being stuffed into tiny places, cover wherever needed and require little fertilizer.” Plus, many Stepables have a super-low, tight-to-the-ground growth habit that only reaches ¼ inch in height – just right for miniature gardening.

Making Miniature Plants

How do mini plants get so mini? The secret behind their diminutive size is a combination of genetics and maintenance. While Stepables are selected largely for their growth habit, many mini plants are kept small through regular pruning. “Genetics help, but all healthy plants will grow,” says Bill Byland, manager at Micky’s Minis, a popular miniature plant wholesaler. “We recommend our miniatures be repotted to larger plants after they bloom out or you can keep trimming them back.”

Anna Risan creates miniature landscapes and fairy gardens for herself and Tonkadale Greenhouse in the Minneapolis Twin Cities metro area. “Most of the plants we use for indoor miniature gardens are cuttings we have taken from our houseplants,” she says. “I tell customers these plants will ultimately grow larger and they need to ‘prune the bushes,’ as part of their miniature gardens maintenance.”

In other cases, as with the 2-inch Ittie Bitties line of plants from Batson’s Foliage Group, Inc., nature and nurture come together to make relatively low-care plants. Ittie Bitties are regular plants that have been sprayed with plant growth regulators to keep them tiny, but President of Batson’s Kelley Batson Howard, adds that, “once these plants enter into the terrarium containers, the environment naturally retards their growth. We also picked varieties that would only get better with the occasional pruning over the long haul.” Most detail-oriented miniature garden keepers won’t have a problem with regular upkeep. Just make sure your staff is informed enough to make care recommendations at the register.

If you think mini plants can do big things for your garden center, you have plenty of sourcing options. Micky’s Minis, in St. Louis, Mo., is a noted source for mini polka dot plants, kalanchoes, violets and other blooming miniatures. Under a Foot Plant Company is always expanding the Stepables line. Batson’s is enjoying the popularity of their Ittie Bitties and plans to introduce Ittie Bittie Ferns along with more true miniatures and tropicals. Other trusted sources include MiniForest.com, and Stanley and Sons Nursery and Iseli Nursery out of Boring, Ore.

Like Tonkadale, many retailers supplement their stock by taking cuttings from houseplants. Risan says baby tears, small-leaf ivies, angel vine and goldfish plants are all good candidates.

Where’s The Trend Going?

While the mini craze may seem to have a mind of its own, don’t underestimate the role of garden centers in directing the trend. Byland says he never could have envisioned this application for Micky’s Minis’ products. “It was our customers, the retailers, that made this concept work.”

A bit of clever positioning can help with sales of minis. Hopkins recommends placing plants like Stepables alongside other perennials instead of with other groundcovers. “Consumers are shopping the perennial section on a day to day basis,” she says. “The groundcover section lends itself to only being shopped by consumers needing to fill a large area.” Byland recommends the tactic grocers use to sell sugary cereals: keep them at a level where kids can touch and smell them. It’s always profitable to get them started young!

But ultimately, leading by example is what will turn over miniature merchandise. At Tonkadale, Risan lays out all of the center’s small, indoor terrarium plants next to the fairy gardens she displays for inspiration.

“When a customer sees a plant I have used in the garden, they don’t have far to go to find it to purchase,” she says. And keep your displays constantly evolving, because specialty gardens are hardly a seasonal trend. Winter customers come into Tonkadale for tabletop or holiday gardens. Then in summer, Risan says, “I add some annuals for color and some of the outdoor perennials to give customers ideas on how to use them.”

But let’s talk bottom line: has the craze been profitable enough to coax garden centers and wholesalers alike to expand their mini plant lines? The unanimous answer: Yes. “Fairy gardening has become very large for us,” Risan says. “We are constantly looking for new plants to add to our inventory.”

Hopkins echoed the sentiment, saying that Under a Foot Plant Company isn’t content to stick with the 160-plus plants currently in the Stepables family. “We will always keep our eyes open for neat little creepers that we think will fill a void in our line,” she says.

The market for teeny is huge. In fact, mini could be the biggest thing you do to boost business this year.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Growing Solutions Farm Native Plant

August 31, 2015

Growing Solutions Farm Gains New Native Plant Garden

The National Garden Bureau, American Beauties and Midwest Groundcovers have teamed up to provide more than 200 pollinator-friendly native plants to the Chicago-based vocational therapeutic garden for young adults with autism.

Read More
Danish Garden Center

August 31, 2015

How Danish Garden Centers Are Revamping Their Plant Departments

Danish retailers are improving nursery stock and houseplants by altering their growth habits to provide products with unusual or manicured shapes to pique the interest of consumers.

Read More
Garden Design Magazine

August 28, 2015

Garden Design Magazine Now Available For Sale At Independent Garden Centers

The upscale magazine, which was previously available only through the publisher’s website, focuses on high-end outdoor design and lifestyle trends.

Read More
Latest Stories
Growing Solutions Farm Native Plant

August 31, 2015

Growing Solutions Farm Gains New Native Plant Garden

The National Garden Bureau, American Beauties and Midwest Groundcovers have teamed up to provide more than 200 pollinator-friendly native plants to the Chicago-based vocational therapeutic garden for young adults with autism.

Read More
Danish Garden Center

August 31, 2015

How Danish Garden Centers Are Revamping Their Plant Dep…

Danish retailers are improving nursery stock and houseplants by altering their growth habits to provide products with unusual or manicured shapes to pique the interest of consumers.

Read More
Garden Design Magazine

August 28, 2015

Garden Design Magazine Now Available For Sale At Indepe…

The upscale magazine, which was previously available only through the publisher’s website, focuses on high-end outdoor design and lifestyle trends.

Read More
Steve Bailey

August 27, 2015

How To Set An Attained Margin Percentage Goal At Your S…

One retailer asked this question: Is there an attained margin percentage that is considered a good goal for garden centers and their various product lines? Check out financial consultant Steve Bailey's advice.

Read More
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Coconut Swirl’ (PanAmerican Seed)

August 26, 2015

19 Versatile Cool-Weather Annuals For Beds, Borders And…

Annuals can be versatile not just in their suitability for cool conditions, but in their adaptable use in beds, borders and containers. Here are breeders' recommendations on their top new selections.

Read More
Holly Wilson Wilson’s Garden Center

August 25, 2015

How To Make Your Newsletter More Interesting [Solve My …

A retailer recently asked how to come up with fresh ideas for your store’s eNewsletter, so that it does not become redundant. Here's some great advice the retailer received.

Read More
Farwest Nursery Tour

August 25, 2015

Farwest Show Will Include A Retail-Focused Idea Sharing…

The 2015 Farwest Show, taking place this week in Portland, Ore., will include an Idea Center For Retailers, a comprehensive learning experience focused on garden retail. Located on the main show floor, garden center owners and employees can participate in many sessions as industry experts share advice and how-to information.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Let Us Know About Your Greatest New Idea!

October is "Steal This Idea" month at Today's Garden Center. We're looking for the latest, greatest and most successful new ideas that you've incorporated at your store and are willing to share with your industry peers.

Read More

August 24, 2015

PANTS Show In Philadelphia Canceled For 2015

The Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PNLA) was informed by the PANTS Show producer that this year’s show, planned for early November, has been canceled. PNLA is reviewing its options for the future.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Mark Your Calendar For These Gift Shows

Want to enhance your gift department? Here's a look at some of the major gift shows taking place later this year and early next year.

Read More
Ingenico EMV

August 24, 2015

Small Retailers May Face Big Challenges In Complying Wi…

The National Retail Federation’s J. Craig Shearman says it may take a couple years for credit cards with EMV chips to become the norm, but retailers should still begin preparing, or face increased liability.

Read More
Helleborus ‘Winter Jewels Painted Doubles’ (Terra Nova Nurseries) FEATURED IMAGE

August 21, 2015

12 Cold-Hardy Perennials For 2016 [Slideshow]

Your customers are likely looking for plants that can withstand cold temperatures. Here's a look at breeders' suggestions for some of their favorite cool-weather perennials.

Read More
USA flowers

August 18, 2015

Gift Shows Are Focusing On Local Products

Hoping to change the buying experience for attendees, gift show organizers are adapting through technology and a focus on locally produced items.

Read More

August 18, 2015

6 Super Ideas From Product Express

Take a look at some innovative new products that will add a spark to your business!

Read More
IGC East Martha Stewart

August 18, 2015

Eight Insights From Martha Stewart’s Keynote Pres…

Martha Stewart's Q&A presentation with Jeff Morey at IGC East in early August yielded some revealing information about her branding, and how the independent garden center industry can stay relevant in a changing market.

Read More
Geary-Michael

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More
Mother and Daughter gardening

August 17, 2015

5 Things You Need To Know About Young Plant Consumers […

Younger garden consumers think it’s important for children to learn how to grow plants, even though they themselves see gardening as a time-consuming and expensive hobby, our latest research shows. This insight was just one of many unearthed by Today’s Garden Center’s 10% Project as it seeks ways to increase consumer interest in plants and local garden centers. We conducted three focus groups made up of consumers under 50 years old during the late winter this year. These focus groups took place over three days. The first focus group was made up of 18-29 year olds, the second of 30-49 year olds and the third of parents with children between 2 and 12. Our next steps are to develop marketing campaigns based on issues our research revealed, then work with garden centers to use the marketing during the spring of 2016 and measure the results. You may recall Today’s Garden […]

Read More

August 17, 2015

What Consumers Under 50 Have To Say About Plants, Garde…

This report serves as a first installment in the findings from the online focus groups as the first portion of our project with Flowers Canada entitled, “Keeping the Interest in Gardening Alive!” This is the first step in the project. Subsequent steps are to (b) identify marketing campaigns, (c) develop campaigns with Ontario garden retailers for spring 2016, (d) measure impacts of those campaigns in summer 2016, and (e) craft a marketing handbook with the information collected from the project by the end of summer 2016. Data Collection In order to ascertain the thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions of three age groups of Ontario residents, we worked with GutCheck (http://www.gutcheckit.com/) to conduct three separate focus groups. The groups were Gen Y (ages 18-29), Gen X (ages 30-49) and parents of children ages 2-12. The first one held was with parents (both fathers and mothers) of children ages 2-12 which took 5 […]

Read More