Kate Spirgen
PORTRAIT BY AMBER SMITH

There’s something about a nurturing nature that tends to transcend from plants to pets. And garden centers across the country are cashing in on that overlap in a variety of ways. By paying attention to their customers’ interests outside of the hort world, they’re expanding their offerings and looking for unique ways to draw on their interests.

From petting zoos to pet supplies and other animal offerings, you can read more about the partnership between plants and pets in our cover story.

Even offering the right education can help when it comes to animal-lovers. For pet-owners, houseplants can seem like an impossible dream since dogs and cats are curious nibblers. And when they get into toxic plants, there can be a mess to clean up at best, and emergency vet visits at the worst. You can read more about that in this issue.

I’ve run into that issue time and time again because my cat’s obsession with anything green makes houseplants hard to keep. It’s a struggle I’ve shared with many of my fellow cat-owners. At a certain point, I simply gave up on houseplants and relegated myself to the outdoors during the growing season. But the problem can extend outdoors as well since certain pups get into landscape plants they shouldn’t. But with the right options and education, you can tap into that market of dog- and cat-lovers and help them find an African violet or a bromeliad that will work in their homes or landscapes.

That education connection doesn’t have to stop with pets. Think about other things that might bring your customers together. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be at your garden center. Perhaps a hike on a local trail with a wildflower guide would inspire your customers to plant some new varieties (that they can get at their local garden center, of course). Or maybe a partnership with a local pottery artist to give customers an opportunity to create their own plants would work well with your customer base.

Even a fundraiser for a cause your customers care about could be a great way to bring in more traffic.

Don’t be afraid to brainstorm other interests your customers might have in common. Talk to them and get to know their hobbies. What do they want to learn? There just might be a way to incorporate more attractions and activities at your garden center to bring in the next generation of plant-lovers.

Kate Spirgen
kspirgen@gie.net