February 2012
Painting With Plants

While breathtaking and artistic, the concept of vertical gardening has yet to take off at many independent garden centers. Here are a few suggestions from the experts to help get your customers off the wall and their plants on it.

Space-Saving Alternative

Nobody’s saying you need to cover your entire house, but if a customer has a patio or a blank garage wall, this could be a great sales opportunity for a garden center. It can be seen as a space-saving alternative to container gardening, but the creativity can go so much further than containers.

Instead of loading up on containers, customers can still use those annuals, like the Proven Winners and other things they’re comfortable with and just paint with those designs.

Sure, there are some things that don’t work and soil can dry out quicker than plants in the ground, but the same can be said for containers and hanging baskets, too. And for a season, many of the plants being sold will work in these walls, but too many times consumers don’t know that.

-Trevor Smith, Land Escapes

Shift From Clutter

With a shift towards clean and modern interiors, vertical gardens provide a way to introduce interior foliage without the “visual clutter” of containers.

Gardening space is oftentimes limited in urban settings, and aging boomers don’t always want to garden down on their knees — so there are also practical benefits to “going vertical.”

For commercial growers and garden centers in particular, every square foot counts — and vertical gardens increase growing and display space while also elevating plants into the consumer’s field of vision. They also provide a great way to buffer noise and screen parking lots and service areas

-Scott Mehaffey, Sage Botanic Media

Attention Starved

Just because the customers may not come in asking for it, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t create a demand for it. This technology needs attention, not a corner. It’s dramatic and can be really artistic. Give it a prominent place. It needs someone at the garden center to run with it and take ownership of it.

If you offer a custom container service, try planting up a couple vertical wall pieces to gauge your customers’ interest. You might be surprised.

-James Rizzo, BrightGreen USA

Introduce a New Technique

You can’t necessarily fight a price war with the big box stores, so one way to set yourself apart is introduce your clientele to new garden techniques in an easy and accessible way. Everyone has vertical spaces in their garden – why not help your customers reimagine how to work with them? For example, when faced with a bare wooden fence, most people’s solution is to cover it with a vine. But that just swaps a brown fence for a green one. Instead, create a living wall display. There are living wall systems available that are perfect for beginning and experienced gardeners alike.

Of course, vertical solutions go beyond living walls. Walkways and patios often create narrow planting beds only a foot or two wide. Consider having a “Plants for Narrow Spaces” display, and teach your clients to layer up instead of out, by showcasing a selection of plants that grow taller than they are wide. Now you’ve presented a solution for a problem a customer may not have even realized they had — how can they help but be intrigued?

-Susan Morrison, Garden Designer and Co-author of Garden Up!

Share the Spotlight

Normally in the spring, consumers come into a garden center to pick up their annuals along with some soil and chemicals. They know exactly what they’re getting. They aren’t coming in to discover new things. A lot of times you end up placing your top-selling products in that spot. Your top selling stuff is going to be your top selling stuff because that’s what your customers are coming in to buy. If a garden center wants to inspire someone to try something new, they need to place that new thing up front in a place where the customers can encounter it and where they can have a chance to get inspired by it.

-Miguel Nelson, Woolly Pocket

Start Small

So many times (consumers) see these huge, professional, complex projects in magazines and on TV and simply can’t conceptualize it in their own backyard.

Maintenance is a big concern, we’ve learned. We’ve learned that it’s about making it simpler. For starters, it’s important to move toward self-contained vertical pieces as opposed to huge living walls. Walk before you can run.

Our company has instituted a living wall art class this year that’s downloadable and it’s for the garden center, because if the staff isn’t educated, then there’s no hope for their customers. It needs to be taught, there needs to be a proactive push in education with hands-on workshops.

-James Rizzo, BrightGreen USA


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