The Art of Running a Small Garden Center or Nursery
Small is cool!
The goal of this lens is to discuss the ups and downs of having your own small nursery or garden center. There is little information available for someone contemplating opening and running a garden center. It’s a career choice that lots of people contemplate but only a few take on, and even fewer succeed. It’s a business of patience and hard work, which is not very popular these days.
We will focus on the small garden center since that’s where most new ventures start. It’s also where the real action is when it comes to the nursery business. The larger concerns are busy homogenizing their shopping experiences, while the smaller centers can be more outlandish and experimental. Putting in a coffee bar or pet center in a garden center is not new and is already becoming mainstream. Small garden centers can be more unique and less mainstream, thus attracting those consumers looking for a more unique and satisfying shopping experience. These consumers are generally willing to pay more for that quality experience.
My wife and I run a small, 2 acre garden center with seasonal help. Our latest venture, The Golden Gecko Garden Center just celebrated its third anniversary. We are building a “destination garden center” that not only services the local community but looks to attract people from further away. My experience comes from working as a nurseryman for 28 years. I got my start driving the delivery truck at Christensen’s Nursery located on the San Francisco Peninsula. I have managed or owned three different nurseries in the foothills of The Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Be sure to check out the direct feed of my blog below. "The Blogging Nurseryman" was the first industry blog to deal with running a small garden center.
In case you’re wondering we will consider a small garden center or nursery to be one that has sales of less than one million dollars a year. Sound daunting? Let’s get there together.
Innovative Small Garden Centers or Nurseries
We are always on the lookout for garden centers or nurseries that are trying different ways to do business. I am much more interested in a small nursery that chooses to create a new market or idea than a multi-million dollar face lift for some large garden center. It's the small places where the new ideas come from that are eventually are implemented in the larger concerns.
- Surf City Growers
This Santa Cruz based garden center has only been open for a year or two. They caught our attention for the fact that the only sell non-toxic plants. In addition they are certified organic growers which makes them one of the only ones to do this.
- Flora Grubb Gardens
Flora Grubb Gardens, in the Bay View area of San Francisco; she specializes in what she calls "durable" plants-low-maintenance, drought-tolerant varieties that are sustainable in the local climate. They also look great, as her design-minded clients e
- Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery
This an Australian Company that has a blog and a fruit tree forum. They use "You Tube" videos on their web site. Innovative with lots of enthusiasm this is a business to watch.
- Under the Sun Garden Centers
Under The Sun Garden Centers is the first nursery franchise. This is a totally new concept in our industry.
The latest garden business news from around the world
- Motley Foold and Urban Outfitters
The Fools take on Urban Outfitters foray into the garden business.
- What the Nurseries Like for Spring - New York Times
Low-maintenance plants, and dwarf ones, are the darlings of the growers.
- How to attract Gen. X and Y according to Ian Baldwin
Ian Baldwin, Columnist for Garden Center magazine discusses some of the ways that the nursery industry should be addressing the younger generations.
- Pacific NW | Words To Live By | Seattle Times Newspaper
The Seattle Times writes a great piece on the importance of your local nursery person.
- Acres & Acres-GrowerTalks, "plants as objects"
An interesting observation about plants being used as interior decoration with no thought to the ability of the plant to thrive.
- Urban Outfitters Burned Bright As Rivals Suffered Holiday Chill
More info on Urban Outfitters foray into garden supplies. Interesting to me was the fact that they plan to target Baby Boomers, not the Gen Y that they target with the other stores in the line.
Top posts on the garden center business
- Why I don't carry the brand heavyweights
Why carry national brands when your an independent
- Austin, TX is the future
See what you can expect in the realm of customer reviews.
- Coffee anyone?
Cafes are all the rage in garden centers these days.
- Survival of the independent garden center
It survival baby
- The Plant Trafficker
A disgruntled consumer tells it like it is.
- Small is cool
The dawning of micro-brands.
- Nurseries and the eco-market
Nurseries are the original eco-companies. Lets not miss the opportunity to let people know.
- Starting a small garden center.
Some ramblings on starting our nursery.
- What should your hours of operation be?
Why we we're closed on Mondays and why we won't be next year!
- We want to start a nursery
A young couple want to start a nursery
Garden Center Blogs - The good, bad, and ugly.
- The Blogging Nurseryman
This is my blog. Accepts comments and plenty given!
- Johnsons Nursery Perennial and Annual Blog
Pat Williams is one of the retail horticulturists at Johnson's Nursery. She holds a degree in urban forestry and will be writing about the selection and care of perennials. Accepts no comments or none given. Updated about monthly.
- Mission Hills Nursery Gardening With Roses, Plants, And Flowers!
Toni Palafox owner writes this blog for her San Diego Nursery
- Greenscape Gardens Green Blog
"Greenscape Gardens is a family owned and operated nursery and garden center located in Saint Louis, Missouri." No comments allowed or none given. Updated infrequently.
- Gary`s Garden Center - Gary's Blog
"Central Virginia`s Premier Garden Center. A full service garden center. Gary`s provides the finest quality plants available." No comments allowed.
- The life of a Greenhouse Grower - Journal
"Sherwood Greenhouses - Regina, Saskatchewan Journal About Sherwood Greenhouses" This blog is updated regularly which seems to be unusual. I love the by line for this business. "We are the the proud owners, (owners of the mortagage" Allows comments
- Roger Bolger - Horticulturalist
This is the blog of the Garden Dept.Head at Gale's Westlake Garden Center in Cleveland. It's more of an information or "Latest News" site. No interaction with the readers, which is o.k., but not my style. No comments allowed.
- Cactus Blog
Daily news about cacti and succulents. This is a small cactus specialty nursery in Berkley, CA., that just opened up in 2006. This is exactly what garden centers and nurseries need to do. Find a niche and then let everyone know about you. |
- Daleys Fruit Tree Blog
Daleys Fruit Tree blog about sowing the joys of growing Fruit & Rainforest Trees from Australia. This is a great blog! They use videos to show off some of the fruit they are growing. You can feel the excitement.
- Sloat Garden -
"Great Plants and great advice to help them Grow!" This is a new blog from the people at Sloat Garden Centers located in various areas in The S.F. Bay area
- Guzman's Greenhouse Gardening Blog
Guzman's Greenhouse Gardening Blog "Southwestern greenhouse gardening. Learn what you need to know about gardening in the southwest." This is written by greenhouse manager in New Mexico.
- Mallee Native Plants
This is a blog written by Corinne and is about her activities in the small native plant nursery and on our home block in country South Australia. 30 years ago she discovered that Australian native plants could be grown from seed and cuttings, just li
- Sara's Green Space
Sara is the managing editor of Greenhouse Grower magazine. Check in often for what's going on in products, services and industry news.
- Today's Garden Center
Check back often, as we will frequently post industry buzz and general retail comments From The Cheap Seats!
Garden centers with great web sites.
- The Golden Gecko Garden Center
Yes its my web page, but it is good. Changes every two weeks to coincide with our e-news.
- The Arbor Gate
The Arbor Gate is Northwest Houston's premier garden destination! The web site is clean and easily navigated. The use of "Daisy the Dog" gives it a warm feeling. They send out an e-news regularly.
- Avon Perennial Gardens
"More than a destination...itÂs an experience! Come visit our gardens and stroll through over 5 acres of beautiful display gardens and shop our retail area where you can indulge in a great selection of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. The displ
- Redenta's Garden - garden design, landscaping, plants, flowers
"Experience gardening the way it should be." This two store nursery has a clean crisp web page. Located in Dallas and Arlington, Texas.
- Sloat Garden - Homepage
This is a chain of garden centers located in The San Francisco Bay Area.
- Daleys Nursery - Fruit, Nut and Rainforest trees
Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery. Catalog and resource guide for Subtropical Fruit and Nut trees, Forestation trees, Herbs and Rainforest trees. These people have it going on. I love th excitement that comes through.
- Glenwild Garden Center
Glenwild Garden Center, located in Northern New Jersey, has been a family run business since 1928. The MacKenn family takes pride in every product from a garden stepping stone, to each rhododendron, insuring high quality and personal, friendly servic
- Redwood Barn Nursery
According to Don Shor, owner "At 8,000 sq. ft., we are probably one of the smallest independent nurseries around!" located in Davis, CA.
Garden Center Resources
- Garden Voices
See what garden bloggers are talking about. These are your customers.
- Monrovia Nursery
One of the premier wholesale nurseries. Great plant database with pictures.
- Dave Wilson Nursery - Fruit Trees, Nut Trees, Ornamentals
Fruit, Nut and Shade Tree Growers for the Commercial and Retail Nursery Industry.
A magazine for independent garden centers.
- Today's Garden Center
"Welcome to Today's Garden Center magazine." This is a blog written by Jen Polanz and is updated regularly. No comments allowed.
- Garden Center News "Building Traffic for Independent Garden Centers"
"Garden Center News You run your business while we run your newsletters" I have seen this companies newsletters used by some well established garden centers. They do the layout while you supply the content. This is a good service for those who don't
- Chris Finally Blogs!-Green Profit
This is the blog for Greenprofit magazine. Why have a blog if the last entry is for July? This is worse than no blog. Take this thing down or update it! No comments allowed.
- Give consumers a reason to buy.
A good article on building trust with your customers.
- Garden Rant: Gardeners to Nurseries: Fall's the New Spring
These are are avid gardeners talking to garden centers. This is why I like to read garden blogs. Its like having your customers over for a one-on-one, and they don't hold back!
- River Coyote Designs - Web and Graphic Design for Small Businesses
This is our web design outfit. Excellent work, and they specialize in small business!
- Today's Garden Center
Welcome to Today's Garden Center magazine.
- John Stanley Associates: The Sustainable Garden Centre - The Garden Centre of the Future?
The Sustainable Garden Centre - The Garden Centre of the Future? By John Stanley The world is going green. Interseting stuff about the 'greening" of the garden center.
- Horticulture Week
Good reading from Great Britain's Garden Center Business. Since so many things that happen there end up over here its fun to see what's going on "over there".
- What are the consumer trends for 2007?
This report offer generally good news for the niche retailer!
- Professional Topics - GardenWeb
These are the resources at Garden Web likely to be of use to those working in the fields of horticulture and botany. Very interesting stuff for anyone in the professional gardening business.
- Wholesale or retail?
What do they do?
- An interesting interview concerning authenticity in business
Authenticity in business. People are looking for it, are we providing it.
- Small nursery owner in Oregon talks about the business
This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
- The story of a small Savile Row tailor and his blog. It realtes to the small garden center business.
Three years on Thomas Mahon and I launched English Cut, a blog about the life of a small, Savile Row tailor, three years ago this week.
- The joy of bulbs
Bulb sales are down. Bulb companies going out of business. Don't blame the bulbs.
- Making Cents
Dr. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair in International Floriculture Texas A&M University, Texas AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences writes "Because as margins get tighter and tighter in the Gr
Essential books for the garden center libary
Great Stuff on Amazon
Essential books for the garden center
This book get used more than any other in the nursery. It breaks down the areas of the west into "Sunset Zones" which take into account the various micro-climates of the west better than the U.S.D.A. Zones.
Micro-vineyards and larger are becoming popular here with home owners. Besides wine is fun and knowing how to make it enhances the enjoyment.
More books for the garden center
Hey, what can I say. This stuff is important.
Covers most synthetic fertilizers and their uses.
Well, I just realized that you have to approve comments by scrolling down on the "My Dashboard" page. I wondered why I hadn't gotten any comments. Now that I have solved that I see I can allow anyone to comment, not just Squidoo members. Gee, it only took me a year to figure that one out.