Greenhouse Canada

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From the Editor: October 2018

The not-so-secret garden centre


September 20, 2018
By Greta Chiu

It’s that time of year again – hot, sticky summer turns into crisp, fall weather. Consumers gravitate towards indoor activities, while food establishments draw them in by evoking cozy feelings of warm cider, roasted root vegetables and pumpkin spice everything.

But there’s no reason why garden centres can’t capitalize on these very same themes. Just look at how nice fall mums look with those little gourds. It’s time to bring the outside in – along with the customers.

Stumbling across The Watering Can’s Vineland location a couple months back, I was struck by how large the garden centre was. How did I find it? By searching for “coffee” on Google Maps. Trying to beat rush-hour traffic, I hadn’t intended on deviating from my route east, but was in desperate need of some good, iced coffee after a hot afternoon at Vineland’s container trials.

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Once I had successfully located the coffee bar near the back of the establishment (yes, I’ll have that biscotti too while eyeing the lemon square), I had already seen too much of the place to leave. The entire establishment was every indoor-plant lover and devoted Instagram-er’s paradise.

In one room, air plants were housed in glass orbs suspended from the beams of wooden wheels hung from the ceiling. Pre-made succulent combinations were available in containers made of rock, porcelain and what looked like a large tin can that simply said ‘Plants’. Products were sitting on overturned wooden crates, vintage side tables and pre-loved trunks and suitcases, shown against a backdrop of wood- panelled walls and pastels. There was even an old piano where plants had seemingly started to take over the keyboard, sitting in front of a yellowed piano score. (Note to self: do not throw out old electric organ.)

At this point, consumers like me are already hooked. This is how we could re-decorate our house/loft/dorm and breathe new life into items we’ve been meaning to get rid of, saved for ‘crafts’ or inherited when grandma downsized. It’s completely doable – all I need are the plants. (Might as well stay until rush hour is over at this point.)

The next room was another indoor plant wonderland – and they were ready to be taken home – giant palms, succulents of every colour, coral cacti and a ‘field’ of Chinese money plants, to give you the picture. Plants are clearly (and very, very reasonably) priced. A dracaena I picked up had clear, succinct instructions about light requirements, soil moisture, fertilization frequency and temperature requirements – there’s no way someone could fail at taking care of this tropical plant unless following instructions is not their forté. At the back was a DIY area for creating my own succulent container, complete with succulent soil mix, succulents, sand and mosses.

It was an experience – and I couldn’t stop telling people about it. When the day-to-day becomes routine, hidden gems are all the rage. As Gary Jones notes in this month’s ‘Inside View’, garden centres are much more than just a plant shop in the UK. Rather, they’re “a ‘day out’ destination”. I stumbled upon mine – how will you help new customers find yours?


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