Due to the unique circumstances of the year 2020, horticultural centers and gardeners are experiencing spring in a new way. For many people, thinking about plants, gardening, and decorating their containers is a byproduct of the extra time they spend at home. We approached insiders at three intergovernmental conferences for the latest news on containers and the design that crowned them. Here’s what they see in their stores – and what you’ll soon see in yours.
Tracy Hankwitz, CEO: Burlington Garden Center, Burlington, Wisconsin
Located about 30 minutes south of Milwaukee, Burlington Garden Center has been known for its containers and unique container designs for at least 20 years. CEO Tracy Hankwitz reports a high demand for containers. “Containers made for houseplants were very strong all winter,” he says. “As we increasingly switch to outdoor gardening, I think we’ll see people crave lightweight and self-watering pots.”
Simplicity is the leading container trend. “People want solid colors, plain or textured or simple geometric patterns,” he says. White and charcoal gray are the best choices for indoor use.
Customers usually buy plants and pots together in Burlington, where they focus on ‘plant style’ and talk to customers about decoration and interior design, as well as lighting and plant care.
Outdoors, Burlington follows trends like Pantone’s Color of the Year. The team helps clients bring color to their outdoor living spaces, for example, aligning blue pots with blue in plant materials, art, and other outdoor decorations.
Popular container sizes vary dramatically. For houseplants, demand starts with 4-inch pots, but the most popular are 6-8-inch pots. From here, it jumps to a larger size for floor plants and exteriors.
With an emphasis on simple containers, Burlington’s team gives color, drama and diversity through the plants. The combinations regularly include annuals, houseplants, perennials and shrubs. The IGC keeps pre-installed “grab‘ n go ”containers at hand. “There’s definitely a demographic group that immediately wants something to decorate – something that looks good but is unusual,” Hankwitz says.
Burlington’s container services include the monthly “Houseplant Happy Hour”. Customers enjoy beer, wine and snacks while buying pots and plants that are planted in pots as a free service while socializing. IGC has also expanded its custom container programs for commercial and residential customers, including seasonal changes. In addition, customers can plant containers early and grow them indoors until Mothers Day. Customers then take home complete, beautiful gardens.
At the end of March, Hankwitz showed more interest than usual in seed start-ups and food cultivation, probably due to the coronavirus. Sales for the year increased and Hankwitz remains optimistic. “Plants make people happy. We just have to be prepared when it all goes away, ”he says. “Hope is a strategy, but we need to be flexible and adapt to things. We can give people hope through plants and contact with nature. ”
Aja Macheel, Interior Designer and Sales Manager Cactus & Tropicals – Salt Lake City, Utah
Simple containers prevail at Cactus & Tropicals in Salt Lake City for both indoor and outdoor use. “Concrete has come in very well,” says Aja Macheel, IGC’s interior designer and sales manager. “We use a lot of GFRC (fiberglass reinforced concrete). Especially in our climate, we like to use it because of the frost and the contraction. ”
There is a great demand for matt surfaces, as well as for contemporary cookware. “The less decoration, the better,” Macheel says. Even in terracotta, people crave gray and dull tones. “The container is less of a star on the show, but a bit more of a side role, which really highlights what’s in the container,” he says. “With such a neutral base, you can really change your look through seasonal colors.”
Commercial and residential customers want larger containers with an average residential diameter of 14 to 20 inches. “People are going big. It’s easier to maintain than a grouping, ”says Macheel. Nevertheless, embedded cookware sets — small, medium, and large — sell well. “It’s an automatic trio that looks very gorgeous.”
There is a great demand for custom planting and maintenance services, including tap dripping. “It’s a kind of luxury, and there are those who like to have teams show up who exchange them with fresh ideas every season,” he says.
The plant materials used in individual containers vary. “A lot of people want the tropics. The tropics work great in the shade, and it’s a fun change, especially here in the high desert, ”says Macheel. “We’re trying to incorporate both spring and winter nails.”
This can mean mosses and flowering quinces in the spring, and evergreens and berry branches in the winter. “We remind people that the planter is an attraction. You want to keep that up to date, ”he says.
Container vegetable gardens are one of the most important trends in this new COVID-19 era. It expects demand for food grown in small places to grow exponentially. In response, the IGC is working to make more planting packages available to help people grow lettuce, tomatoes or peppers in pots, herbs and more.
Earl Lieske, Custom Seeder Design Manager, Plant Buyer Chalet Kindergarten – Wilmette, Illinois
Chalet Nursery’s unique container division, called “Chalet Signature,” sells through its stores, online and landscape division. Earl Lieske, as the line’s design manager, manager and plant buyer, both influences and responds to container trends. He says many customers prefer dull colors such as charcoal and clean, sleek container lines. “I like gray because it shows better what’s going on in the tank than the tank itself,” she says.
While ceramic pots have fans, Lieske says most shoppers have adapted something better to the northern climate. “Customers are more interested in containers that are easy to handle and maintain, especially in winter,” he says. The most sought-after products are geared towards large, lightweight options, with 16-inch and 14-inch pots running first and second, respectively. “They’re small enough for a customer to be able to deliver without having to pay for shipping, but they’re big enough to make a statement,” he says.
As for the plant material in the tank, nothing can be ruled out. The design of Chalet Signature mixes trees and shrubs with annual perennials, herbs and, increasingly, vegetables and herbs. “My favorite tanks, and the ones that started to climb and climb up, are definitely more textured, more structured, and not necessarily thriving much,” says Lieske. “Many of our clients are asking us not to thrive at all. They just want foliage and texture. ” The tone of planting and chartreuse is especially hot.
Lieske also moved from 360-degree plantations that can be viewed from all sides to 180-degree containers. “Using the 180 allows for greater depth and can look even better if you push the height back,” he says.
IGC keeps a large selection of pre-potted containers on hand. “We always build in pairs, on opposites,” Lieske says. “If customers stand by something, they can be there for the couple.” The team usually makes 12 to 18 pieces of each design, which are reproduced from container to plant material.
According to Lieske, the Chalet team always pays attention to other companies, social media and industry trends. However, he advises IGCs to rely more on in-house talent and creativity. “If garden centers look too different at garden entrances and try to copy, it can disparage your brand,” he says. “Every brand is local. You need to know and take care of the local customer and what you are selling in the area. “