Enroute to Connecticut for a party two weeks ago, I stopped for a second look at Mariani Gardens, an upscale garden/design center in Armonk, NY. My first visit was four years ago just after it had opened.
Their specific specialty is large B & B (balled and burlaped) trees. That hasn’t changed in four years. They have beautiful specimens in very large sizes with very large pricetags.
When I visited the first time, the parking lot was full, the cafe hopping and all of the design areas well stocked. When I visited two weeks ago–45 minutes before closing on a Saturday–I was the only customer.
Despite the lack of clientele…a closed cafe and and merchandising that looked much the same as it did four years prior, there were some interesting ideas and products to be found. Mariani has high end furnishings for outdoor rooms from companies like Janus et Cie and Brown Jordan among others. These were merchandised beautifully–I actually bought a small lantern shown on the side table below as a hostess gift.
The most unusual thing I saw was a Betula jacqemontii (Himalayan Birch) trained as a sort of umbrella. I’ve never seen a tree trained that way before.
Would I go again? If I was driving by, certainly. Would I make a special trip? Probably not.
The February 2011 issue of House & Garden almost got it right. I’m talking about the mix of articles–not the gardens they chose to profile. There are three features on gardens…two about designers and an additional monthly feature on products. Yea! Not many shelter publications that center around residential design have even one feature on designed outdoor spaces–let alone three–especially in the winter. For that alone it’s is a win.
Nothing is mentioned of any of these articles on the cover however…and there is the lose part.
Touting Choosing the Best, inside the magazine is an article titled The House and Garden guide to the Leading Garden Designers of Today–yet no mention on the cover? What happened to the ‘garden’ in House and?
There’s a wonderful feature on Dar el Hossoun, the gardens of a lodge and spa in southern Morocco designed by French garden designers Arnaud Maurieres and Eric Ossart. The gardens manage to respect traditional Moroccan motifs using contemporary ideas about planting.
The third feature is a pictorial of Colonsay House in Scotland–a wild garden with a world class collection of rhododendrons.
Now why don’t more shelter/design magazines consider the designed outdoor environment?
A couple of weeks ago I went to PANTS10 (Penn Atlantic Nursery Trade Show) which is a pretty big show regionally. About a week after that, pictures started surfacing of the IGC (Independent Garden Center) show in Chicago which is a big deal nationally.
I want these shows to be better than they are. I want them to dazzle me. It’s time for the green industry to realize that all consumers–wholesale or retail—want an experience, not just merchandise–even if that merchandise is plants. It’s time to inspire us to buy merchandise to help combat economic uncertainties.
Too many of the displays had no thought or merchandising pizazz–these aren’t big box stores, they’re showcases for merchandise and plants that their purveyors really want and need us to buy. I realize that much of the audience is garden center owners, contractors and nursery growers, but I firmly believe that even the most die hard, steel toed boot wearing, big pickup truck driving, tree spade buying guy would respond to great merchandising. Hell Cabela’s, the outdoor sportsman’s paradise, excels at it.
Since I didn’t go to IGC, I only have pictures from PANTS10…here’s some who did it well there…often on a budget.
Still primarily plants…Moon’s simple use of their name punch added to this wholesale nursery’s brand–simple and effective.
Plug trays coupled with photographs and a simple graphic layout from North Creek Nurseries was extremely effective.
The current trend for vertical gardening was used to great effect to display their annuals by Garden State Growers.
How do you make bags of soil appealing? Organic Mechanics underscored their brand’s earthy appeal and commitment to sustainability via their booth.
And lastly, a bit of sizzle doesn’t have to be exotic. Overdevest Nurseries used aluminum trash cans and bins as planters to contrast with an incredible selection of plants.