Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea
PHOTO COURTESY OF SPRING MEADOW NURSERY

With another spring successfully in the books, we caught up with two independent garden centers to see what’s hot at their stores, what they expect this summer and their insights into next year’s busiest season.

Editor’s note: Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

All Seasons Home, Garden & Landscaping Showplace

Peter Mayeux
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALL SEASONS HOME, GARDEN & LANDSCAPING SHOWPLACE

Lafayette, Louisiana

Garden Center magazine: What were your best-selling varieties this spring?

Peter Mayeux: This past spring has seen countless best-selling varieties of plants across the board from ornamental landscaping shrubs to bedding annuals and perennials with perhaps the best-selling being the Meyer lemon tree. You can say the winter of 2021 was the catalyst for many customers to replace freeze-damaged plants, thus creating best-selling varieties for the season. Encore Azalea varieties were triggered to bloom more vibrantly by the cold snaps, making them a popular choice. Other varieties that spiked this spring were the ‘Limelight’ and ‘White Wedding’ hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata). These full-sun beauties were all the rage this season. The Supertunia, specifically Supertunia Vista Bubblegum, is a sweet pink petunia variety that was such a best-selling annual this year that we had a hard time keeping them in stock!

GC: Were the best-selling varieties this year different from years past?

PM: We have always had success selling “must-haves,” like the ‘Little John’ bottlebrush (a hummingbird magnet), Meyer lemon hibiscus, bougainvillea, citrus and other edibles, etc. However, the sales of these and more doubled and due to the freeze and added gardening interest seen with COVID-19. The interesting best-sellers from this year as opposed to last year not relating to the epic freeze conditions were the specialty roses. They were all wiped out in a matter of four months when in years past, they would have to be marked down to find a new home.

GC: Did you do any special marketing for any particular varieties?

PM: We knew freeze-damaged plants were on our neighbors’ minds. Driving around town you would see lots of brown. We advertised that we had “replacement plants” as well as featuring daily photo posts of new and familiar favorites on social media. We have a Plant Finder tool on our website. It functions as a database library of plants we have or have had in the past loaded with information and a photo. Many posts were dedicated to featuring a particular plant with the link to view and learn more from our Plant Finder.

Meyer lemon
PHOTO © SCHANKZ | ADOBE STOCK

GC: What do you think will be popular this summer in your area of Louisiana?

PM: Now that we are in summer mode for South Louisiana, customers are loving their pools, so palm trees (the more cold-hardy Mule variety) and tropical bloomers such as hibiscus, mandevilla, bougainvillea, and bird of paradise are favorites with bright “faces” all can enjoy around their pools. Also popular are plants that love our hot, humid conditions that bring a bright bloom at this time of year such as vinca, pentas and angelonia. Interior plants and succulents are also a hit at this time of the year, giving gardeners projects for their interiors when they can’t seem to beat the heat.

GC: Are you seeing any trends in how much people bought this spring versus two or three years ago? PM:

When the world shut down and forced people to stay home, we quickly adapted with curbside pickup or delivery. Our efforts turned many people on to gardening who were never interested or had the time pre-COVID shutdown. Parents who had their children suddenly home 24/7 needed an outdoor outlet to focus energy making our plants and materials the solution.

GC: Are you planning to change up your offerings at all next spring?

PM: We are making an effort to move toward an e-commerce platform in addition to our brick-and-mortar.

Scott Goczkowski
PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT GOCZKOWSKI

Lurvey Home and Garden

Des Plaines, Illinois

GC: What were your best-selling varieties this spring?

Scott Goczkowski: Proven Winners varieties had their big ad push this year. We’re getting a lot of requests for their items all the time. Endless Summer hydrangeas are still really strong. Summer Crush is also super strong. Bobos, Little Quick Fires, Little Limes — any of those dwarf [hydrangeas] versus the full-size seemed to be doing much better for us. We’re right outside Chicago so the customer base has smaller lots. Magnolia is still strong. Elizabeth magnolia with the yellow flower seems to be one we get requests for. We can’t get a ton of quantity of it but it’s another one that we sell. Boxwood is also obviously still much sought after, either green velvet or green mountain, depending on how big you’re looking for. Magnus echinacea is still one of our best sellers, even though there’s a lot of new ones that came out.

GC: Were the best-selling varieties this year different from years past?

SG: We’re still seeing a pretty big push in edibles, so veggies and herbs are still large for us this year as are privacy shrubs like evergreens and deciduous shrubs. People spend more time in their yards, so there is a lot of demand to create that sanctuary. ‘Patriot’ hostas sold 300 units more than last year. ‘Max Frei’ geraniums were 600 last year versus 750 this year. I would say container gardening and containers in general have become more popular. Over the last few years, it’s increased tremendously for us, some of which are the AquaPot. We had people coming in asking for AquaPot products by name.

GC: Did you do any special marketing for any particular varieties?

SG: We’ve really promoted Proven Winners as a whole. And we display those plants, group them together and mix shrubs with perennials with annuals and continue to do that this year. We tried to do some color combinations where people could get ideas.

GC: What do you think will be popular this summer in your area?

SG: In a typical year, we start moving into a lot of perennial hibiscus, so I’m thinking that’s going to be there again. Ornamental grasses seem to be a growing category every year. I think all those panicle hydrangeas will continue to flourish. All those summer-blooming perennials typically continue for us. We’ve already had some requests for mums.

GC: Are you seeing any trends in how much people bought this spring versus two or three years ago?

SG: Retail-wise, the average ticket is up about $10, so they’re definitely spending more money. The whole gardening trend started when the pandemic hit and has continued. The second half of this year will probably go back to normal pace because everything is opening back up and people will have other things to do. But I do think people have invested in their homes and their yards, and they’re going to want to see them continue looking good.

GC: Are you planning to change up your offerings at all next spring?

SG: Every year, we evaluate our offerings and we see what’s new. We actually try a lot of the new shrubs that we bring in at one of our other locations, just to make sure they really perform well. I don’t have any specifics, but we always add or take away from the offerings. We’re at a point where we have no more land that we can acquire, so we are making sure we have the right things taking up the space.

The author is the summer intern for Garden Center magazine.