Monthly Archive for November, 2012

Why did you visit the garden center?

I know what you are thinking – stupid question right!  Obviously, you went to the garden center to buy plants, or any number of things you find at the garden center.  I recently posed this question in an online forum directed at garden industry retailers.  To be exact the question I asked was …

Why do gardeners need the garden center?

In the age of broadband Internet access, eCommerce and smart phones why do gardeners still need the garden center? What is it about the garden center experience that cannot be duplicated via an Internet connection?

To my surprise this question generated a lot of thoughtful debate. The following are excerpts from some of the 31 responses I received so far …

“you can’t replace the benefit of touching the item to see how it feels for you, for example hand pruners aren’t one size fits all, [nor] can you replace the scent of a garden center. “

“That face to face discussion with the people who know how to grow and care for the plants they have in stock is hard to replace.”

“It is difficult to reproduce the look, feel, health, and/or actual size and shape of the real item in a photo or from a description.”

“Those who make a physical appearance are, shopping for something specific or are looking for design guidance. ”

“People are ‘social’ beings. They like the ‘one on one’ personal attention they get at a garden center, often times working with someone they’ve come to trust and depend on for the right information pertaining to their specific needs and desires.”

“[People] see garden centers as not only place to buy products, but to gain guidance and knowledge. ”

“I visit the garden center just to walk around and drink in the surroundings because I love plants. The beauty and green life lifts my spirits.”

More than just a place to buy plants

To summarize, people visit the garden center because …

  • They want to connect with nature
  • They need expert advice.
  • They prefer to use all of 4 senses when selecting plants for their garden (including sound?).  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but apparently it still does not compensate for the scent of a rose.
  • They like the “Experience”.



Would you drive 100 miles to buy an azalea?

Rhodoland Nurseries Sign

Azaleas are one of my favorite plants.  I currently have close to 15 of them in my Zone 5 garden, including deciduous and evergreen varieties. I purchased the first couple of plants from Home Depot during one of their year end closeout sales.  Got them in the ground before the frost, and crossed my fingers.  They survived the winter, and rewarded me with a massive display of flowers in the spring.  Since then I have been hooked.  Judging from the number of “Azalea” and “Rhododendron” societies across North America, safe to say that I am not the only one who has been seduced by this extraordinary flowering shrub.

More choice is always better

Azaleas are surprisingly diverse in both color and form. Actually, azaleas and rhododendrons both belong to the genus Rhododendron, which comprises more than 800 species and 10,000 varieties. The local Home Depot had 3 or 4 different varieties to choose from.  Probably more than enough choice for most people, but I wanted more thanks to the informative power of the Internet.  Unfortunately, the selection was about the same at all of the other garden centers in the area.

At this point I could have stopped looking, and simply purchased the azaleas that were available locally.  But that is not what happened.  I was an extremely motivated buyer, and I did not mind going to somewhat extraordinary lengths to find what I was looking for – more Azaleas.  Through some Internet research I eventually found a reputable grower near Niagara Falls, Ontario, set up an appointment to visit, and drove the roughly 100 miles to their location.  The trip was well worth the effort.  I met some great people, had lunch at an awesome pub in Niagara-on-the-lake, and oh ya … came home with a bunch of new azaleas.  Mission accomplished.

Gardeners will go the distance

Gardeners looking for specific plants often don’t mind driving a little further, or spending a little more to satisfy their green thumbs, especially if they know that the investment of both time & money will be worth the effort. Growers and retailers that reach out to gardeners beyond their local markets can increase sales, especially if they focus on addressing the unique needs of each potential customer. In other words, few people will drive 100 miles just to go to another garden center, but many people would make the trip to buy that unique azalea they can’t find locally. The Internet and related technologies make it easier, and more profitable than ever for businesses to connect with potential customers well beyond their traditional geographic markets.

Further reading about azaleas  …

  • Great article published by Southern Living Magazine entitled “Azalea Essential Southern Plant”
  • Blog post written by Jim Anderson about “Pruning Rhododendrons for dense growth”