Tapping into the Garden Room Trend

October 17, 2012
Written by Michael Lascelle
With property sizes steadily shrinking and building footprints on the rise, there isn’t always a lot of room left to create any sort of garden – which is why the outdoor room trend has really taken hold. Homeowners want to maximize the use of their property, both inside and out, and garden rooms have evolved as simple extensions of the kitchen and living room. Box stores and major retailers have been quick to capitalize on this trend with major advertising campaigns geared around outdoor furniture and such, but I have yet to see a garden centre or nursery do the same. Admittedly, many of the components of an outdoor room (such as barbecues, hottubs, awnings and hard landscape features) fall outside the range of products most garden centres carry, but I think we can do a better job of informing the public about the plants we sell to complete their outdoor decorating.

outdoor2  
The garden room has become an extension of the kitchen and living room, allowing homeowners to maximize how they use their property.

 

Providing design services
Outdoor rooms are much more complicated than your average patio with side garden and, as such, most homeowners look to garden designers to help them facilitate that esthetic blending of their wish list with the practical concerns of a major landscape installation. Having designers on staff is your direct connection to those potential customers. Once the design is completed, customers generally gravitate to the garden centre where the designer is based. There really is enough money to go around. The designers get paid for their input, the garden centre provides retail quality plants, the landscaper profits on the installation and the landscape supply company sells its hard goods.

grassgoldbar  
Miscanthus sinensis “Gold Bar,”
 
knipcreamsicle  
Kniphofia “Creamsicle,”  
hylimelight  
Hydrangea paniculata “Limelight”  
sedum-red-cauli  
Sedum “Red Cauli
 
In order to earn your portion of the profits, you are going to have to get actively involved in the garden room trend. The best way to do this is to provide design services. It would also be helpful to set up displays of patio plants that are in their prime during barbecue season, when the garden room is fully occupied.

Making strategic alliances
You can’t have your finger in every pie but you might be able to provide that cup of coffee to go with it. That’s the idea behind making strategic alliances with other businesses involved in the garden room trend, such as landscapers and landscape supply yards.

Recently a landscape supply centre just down the road set up a prominent outdoor room display and invited us to provide the plant material to dress it up a little. Our garden centre signs are on display with the plants so whenever people start looking for them, they can just drive down the road to see our full selection. When our customers enquire about bulk or hard landscape supplies we reciprocate by sending them back to our garden supply partner. We also apply this business concept with a few select landscapers, providing their contact information in exchange for the plant sales. This has advantages for all concerned. As the homeowner acquires the services of a reputable landscaper, the landscaper gets some serious business contacts (and a place to show his clients plant materials) and the garden centre does what it always does: sell plants.

Building a better room
I had a bit of a wake-up call not long ago when I was doing an on-site landscape consultation for a young couple. They were looking to create an outdoor entertaining area that would incorporate a hottub, a barbecue, a bar, seating and a fountain. When I asked them what kind of plants they wanted in the surrounding beds, they just glanced at each other with a perplexed look and replied in unison, “What plants?” Their vision of an outdoor room up to that point had only included the hard landscape features (which they had already researched online), surrounded by little else but the house, fencing and existing hedge. It didn’t take me very long to convince them that their new patio area would look rather stark against vinyl siding and a weathered fence, but with the addition of a few raised beds and some strategic plantings of small trees, shrubs and perennials, it could become an oasis of entertainment. What this incident taught me is that we have to do a better job of emphasizing the importance of plants in the garden room not only for their esthetic appeal and ambiance, but also for the very practical shade and privacy they provide. After all, we are in the business of promoting plants.

Top 10 Plants for Barbecue Season Colour
Are your customers looking to spice up their outdoor room with summer colour? Here are Michael Lascelle’s 10 top picks to brighten up the barbecue season:
  • Miscanthus sinensis “Gold Bar”* (zone 5)
  • Hydrangea paniculata “Limelight”* (zone 3)
  • Rudbeckia fulgida “City Garden”* (zone 3)
  • Hibiscus syriacus “Red Heart” (zone 5)
  • Calluna vulgaris “Firefly” (zone 5)
  • Liriope muscari “Royal Purple”* (zone 6)
  • Rosa “Flower Carpet Amber”* (zone 5)
  • Kniphofia “Creamsicle”* (zone 6)
  • Lavandula x internedia “Provence” (zone 5)
  • Sedum “Red Cauli”* (zone 3)
(* suitable for container culture)

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