With the unique circumstances of 2020 at play, garden centers and gardeners are experiencing spring in a new way. For many people, thinking about plants, gardening and decorating containers is a byproduct of the extra time spent at home. To learn about the latest in containers and the designs that crown them, we reached out to insiders at three IGCs. Here’s what they see in their stores – and what you might soon see in yours.
Tracy Hankwitz, Executive Director: Burlington Garden Center, Burlington, Wisconsin
Located about 30 minutes south of Milwaukee, the Burlington Garden Center has been known for its containers and custom container designs for at least 20 years. General Manager Tracy Hankwitz reports that demand for containers has been high. âThe indoor plant containers have been very strong all winter,â she says. “As we move into more outdoor gardening, I think we’ll see people wanting lightweight, self-watering containers.”
Simplicity is a major trend in containers. âPeople want solid colors, solid colors, or with simple texture or geometric patterns,â she says. White and charcoal gray are the best choices for the interior.
Customers typically buy plants and pots together in Burlington, where they focus on the “plant style” and chat with customers about decorating and interior design, as well as lighting and maintenance. Plant.
Outdoors, Burlington follows trends such as Pantone’s Color of the Year. The team helps clients diffuse color in their outdoor living spaces, coordinating blue pots, for example, with blue in plant materials, art and other outdoor decorations.
Popular container sizes vary widely. For houseplants, demand starts with 4-inch pots, but 6-8 inch pots are the most popular. From there, he switches to larger sizes for floor plants and exteriors.
With an emphasis on simple containers, the Burlington team adds color, drama and diversity through the plants. Combinations regularly include annuals, houseplants, perennials, and shrubs. The IGC keeps a constant supply of pre-planted âtake-outâ containers on hand. âThere is definitely this demographic who wants something instant to decorate – something that looks cool, but unusual,â Hankwitz says.
Burlington’s container services include a monthly âHappy Hour for Houseplantsâ. Customers enjoy beer, wine, and snacks while purchasing jars and plants that are potted for free while they socialize. The IGC has also expanded its custom container programs for commercial and residential customers, including seasonal changes. Additionally, customers can have containers planted early and cultivate in-house until Mother’s Day. Then the customers bring home beautiful full gardens.
At the end of March, Hankwitz saw greater than normal interest in starting seeds and growing food, possibly influenced by the coronavirus. Sales increased for the year and Hankwitz remains optimistic. âPlants make people happy. We just have to be ready for when this will pass, âshe said. âHope is a strategy, but we also have to be flexible and adapt to things. We can offer people hope through plants and connection with nature.
Aja Macheel, interior designer and sales manager | Cacti and Tropical Plants – Salt Lake City, Utah
The Simple Container Rule at Cactus & Tropicals in Salt Lake City for indoor and outdoor use. âConcrete is very present,â says Aja Macheel, interior designer and IGC sales director. âWe use a lot of GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete). Especially in our climate, we like to use it because of the frost and the contraction. “
Matte finishes are in great demand, as are contemporary pots. âThe less embellishments, the better,â says Macheel. Even in terracotta, people want grays and muted tones. âThe container is less the star of the show and more of the supporting role, really emphasizing what’s in the container,â she says. “With a neutral base like this, you can really change up your look with the seasonal color.”
Commercial and residential customers want larger containers, with residential diameters averaging 14 to 20 inches. âPeople are getting big. It’s easier to maintain than a regroup, âsays Macheel. Even so, nested pot sets – small, medium, and large – sell well. “It’s an automatic trio that looks really gorgeous.”
The demand for custom potting and maintenance services, including a tap in the drip line, is high. âIt’s kind of a luxury, and some people like a team to show up and change that seasonally with new ideas,â she says.
The plant material used in custom containers varies. âA lot of people want tropical plants. The tropics work great in the shade, and it’s a fun change, especially here in the high desert, âsays Macheel. âWe really try to work the angles of spring and winter as well. “
It can mean flowering mosses and quinces in spring, and cutting evergreens and berry branches in winter. âWe remind people that a planter is a centerpiece. You want to continually keep this up to date, âshe says.
Containerized vegetable gardens are one of the most important trends of this new COVID-19 era. She expects the demand for locally grown food in small spaces to increase exponentially. In response, the IGC is working to make more plantation packaging available to help people grow gardens of lettuce, potted tomatoes or peppers, herbs and more.
Earl Lieske, Custom Planter Design Manager, Manager, Plant Buyer | Chalet Nursery – Wilmette, Illinois
Chalet Nursery’s custom container division, known as âChalet Signature,â sells in store, online and through its landscaping division. As line design manager, plant manager and buyer, Earl Lieske influences and responds to container trends. He says many customers prefer soft colors, like charcoal, and clean, sleek container lines. âI like gray because it showcases what’s going on in the container more than the container itself,â he says.
While ceramic pots have fans, Lieske says most customers want something better suited to northern climates. âCustomers are more interested in containers that are easy to maintain and hold up well, especially in winter,â he says. The best sellers tend towards wide and light options, with 16-inch and 14-inch pots running first and second, respectively. âThey’re small enough that a customer can handle them without paying for delivery, but big enough to make a statement,â he says.
When it comes to containerized plant material, nothing is off limits. Trees and shrubs intermingle with annuals, perennials, grasses and, increasingly, vegetables and herbs in Chalet Signature designs. âMy favorite containers, and the ones that have started to gain momentum and become trendy, are definitely more textured, more structural, not necessarily a lot of florals,â says Lieske. âMany of our customers don’t ask for any flowering. They just want foliage and texture. The tone-on-tone plantations and the Chartreuse are particularly warm.
Lieske has also gone from 360-degree plantings, which are supposed to be seen from all sides, to 180-degree container designs. âUsing 180 allows for more depth and you can create more of the look by pushing the top back,â he says.
The IGC keeps a wide selection of pre-jar containers close at hand. âWe always build in pairs, on opposites,â says Lieske. “If the customers flank something, they can have the pair right there.” The team typically builds 12-18 of each model, duplicated from container to plant material.
Lieske says the Chalet team always pays attention to other businesses, social media and industry trends. However, he advises CIGs to rely more on internal talent and creativity. âWhen garden centers look too much to other gardeners and try to copy, it can disparage their brand,â he says. âEach brand is local. You need to know your local customer and what is selling in your area and meet their needs.