The holiday season may be over, but for many garden centers, Christmas planning and buying for 2017 kicks off at the beginning of the year. As you look back on 2016, consider these ideas we spotted at independent garden centers. They aren’t necessarily new or revolutionary, but they were unexpected and appreciated, and they worked.


STEPHANIE ANTAL

Name that tree

Personification can be powerful, especially for kids. After hearing a radio ad about Gale’s Garden Center in Westlake, Ohio, naming their Christmas trees, Garden Center designer Stephanie Antal and her family went to check out the selection. We’ve seen this before at other garden centers, but Antal was excited to show her son the tree names. He picked one named Zoey, which also happens to be the name of his cousin’s dog. Although the tree wasn’t necessarily the best looking on the lot, the name helped finalize their decision, and afterwards, he gave the tree a big hug to welcome it into their home for the holidays.

COURTESY OF JOE’S GARDEN CENTER

Festive flocking

Joe’s Garden Center in Galloway, N.J., has been flocking live Christmas trees since the ’70s, but owner Joe Fichetola has seen an uptick in sales this season that he can’t explain. “It kind of went by the wayside for a few years,” Fichetola says. “This year we offered whites, pinks, blues, purples and reds. There was a demand for them again.” In the past, they’ve offered even more hues, from orange and yellow to burgundy and black trees, and next year, he plans to expand the selection again. White remains a best-seller — 85 percent of flocked trees sold are white — and he estimates they moved 130 to 150 flocked trees total this season. Fichetola also flocks wreaths and even grave blankets, as many customers want matching colors for their holiday décor.

Bremec gives free ornaments (right) to customers who purchase a tree.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS

Stellar service

Just for fun, we visited both a big box and a local garden center, Bremec on the Heights in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, to compare the Christmas tree offerings on a sunny Saturday after Thanksgiving. The trees at the box store were stacked on top of one another, leaning against wood panels, making it difficult to shop and compare trees. Although staff were friendly and helpful, they couldn’t stick around with you long enough to help you examine the trees. At Bremec, trees were organized in rows and suspended by ropes so customers could twirl them and see all sides. Trees included color-coded tags indicating price and size, as well. It was easy to find someone to take the tree down, trim the stump, carry it and secure it on your car. At checkout, customers who purchased trees also received a free ornament.