Arboretums and public gardens have long hosted crowds of people eager to see beautiful gardens in their heyday. Seeing successful plantings inspires gardeners of all ages and experience levels to recreate this beauty in their homes. By arranging your IGC, you can capitalize on the appeal of gardens while showcasing plants, building your brand and increasing sales.
Consider the end
For many consumers, especially those new to gardening, it’s not easy to visualize what they can accomplish with healthy plants, proper planting sites, and good design. And despite your most eloquent salesman’s descriptions, grouping pots on asphalt just doesn’t do the trick.
When Pete Muroski founded his native plant landscaping business in 1987, clients were less interested in native plantings, naturalistic design and biodiversity than they are today. In addition to normal business challenges, Muroski has faced additional hurdles in attracting consumers to native plants and what he calls “global environmental landscaping.”
So 15 years ago, Muroski added a garden center and display gardens to improve access to native plants and nativars, and help people imagine their potential in nature-inspired designs. “One of the big misconceptions is that native plants aren’t as attractive as some of these exotics, but that’s not true,” he says.
The Pawling, New York-based business, now known as Native Landscapes and Garden Center, is surrounded by gardens that mimic the challenges and conditions consumers face at home. In laying out the IGC, Muroski and his son Adam demonstrate plants and gardening techniques that optimize biodiversity.
Each garden represents a different exposure, from warm south-facing sites with cool shade on the north side to sites with half-day morning sun. Consumers see what they can achieve on similar sites – with help from the Muroski team or on their own.
Muroski credits the show gardens with helping solidify his local brand over the years. He says they demonstrated his company’s expertise in landscaping and educated gardeners on the value of native planting communities to maintain biodiversity – and fill landscapes with unending beauty and blooms.
“When a potential client walks in, I’m able to show them what kind of plants they can use…and what potential their property has. And I think setting up show gardens is by far a better way to sell a landscape,” says Muroski.
“If you have a garden center and you have room for show gardens, in my opinion, it’s easy to create show gardens to show your customers the kind of work you do, the style of work you do, and see if it’s something they’d like to see on their property.”
Experience the benefits
When The Fields on Caton Farm was founded in 1993, plans for the 210-acre plant nursery included a 5-acre walkable garden and garden center from the outset. Located on a family farm in Crest Hill, Illinois, the gardens have become synonymous with what garden center manager Lupe Ford calls “the breathtaking experience” of The Fields.
Ford shares that walking gardens not only allow people to imagine plants in landscapes, but they also allow visitors to physically immerse themselves in the gardens. The gardens also reinforce IGC’s brand as a producer of nursery trees and other plants, as staff use the gardens to show customers mature, life-size versions of the plants they sell.
“We brought customers back there to show them different more mature trees in our gardens, so they could see what to expect in future growth and different examples of what we sell and grow in our nursery,” explains Ford. “So we’re using that as a selling point as well.”
The traveling garden plantings at The Fields undergo periodic renovations to highlight popular plant trends and showcase in-demand plants. “Different trees have been planted in the last year that we’ve been growing here in our nursery,” says Ford. “And hydrangeas are something that customers are really interested in, so we put a number of them in the gardens as well last year.”
The gardens are so fascinating that Ford says people sometimes ask if they can just walk around the gardens and take in their beauty. The answer is yes.” Strolling through the gardens, accessed through the garden center, Ford says people discover how the gardens can be extensions of their homes. This extends to seasonal decor, cobblestone walkways, the stone fireplace and the other solid landscapes they see along the garden paths.
And, of course, if visitors strolling through the gardens have any questions about the plants, plantings or produce, staff at The Fields Garden Center and Landscaping are on hand to provide answers and assistance. to help customers recreate this beauty at home.
Connect with the environment
Over its 66 years in business, Mulhall’s reputation for strong ties to its community in Omaha, Nebraska has grown. But a recent landscaping project for the company’s Garden + Home store highlights the power of show gardens to connect consumers and the community with more than just IGC’s goods and services.
Read more about Mulhall’s Garden + Home’s in our January 2021 issue.
Since the early 1970s, Mulhall’s has always developed the property in its current location. The show gardens have evolved as the business has grown, showcasing customer wishes alongside those most important to the Mulhall team.
“I think for a long time our business was kind of a negotiation of those two things,” says CEO Mick Mulhall. “We’ve been especially fortunate over the past few years that these things have converged more than they ever have before.” At this intersection is an environmental program that is being prepared, long before the pandemic.
Mulhall describes climate change as one of the biggest problems of his generation – one resulting from “our lives at odds with the natural world”.
Moved by climate change and environmental stewardship, he believes people and businesses are reassessing their relationship with the environment – and Mulhall’s Garden + Home is no exception. “We pretty much fundamentally redesigned our store,” Mulhall shares.
This change is celebrated in the landscape plantings that will welcome guests in the spring of 2022. “As you get closer to the center of our property, we work to make it more and more natural, wild and free,” he explains. .
As visitors leave the highway, they will move from more structured plantings to the 1,500 square foot native prairie garden at the heart of the project – planted by staff as a team.
Defined by ribbons of purple echinacea and E. pallida, the garden showcases the native and nativar favorites of the Mulhall team members, including Mulhall grown baptisia, bluestem, milkweed and yarrow. A bee sanctuary/pollinator garden at a Mulhall grow facility echoes the environmental connection.
Mulhall says the ongoing gardens have sparked interest from local developers curious to incorporate more naturalistic, indigenous-inspired plantings into corporate landscapes. And feedback from IGC’s dedicated clientele reflects enthusiasm and support for a project designed to connect the community to the environment and drive lasting change.
While IGC’s shift in focus is a powerful brand statement that beautifully showcases plants, design and purpose, Mulhall says there’s something more fundamental than inspired sales and marketing. . “It almost seems disrespectful to reduce it to a way to generate traffic,” he says.
By furnishing your IGC with display gardens to educate and enrich, Mulhall says the benefits can exceed aspirations when nature does its job. “I think we’ve been very consistently surprised that when we really put aside our short-term business interest and focus on adding real value to our community, really cool things happen way beyond everything we could have expected.”