Book clubs are an easy way to make your garden center more social. Pair floral-themed books with popular plants to pique customer interest and retain loyalty.

On my home office bulletin board, I have a postcard that reads “Bad Girls Book Club — Where half the group doesn’t read the book, and the other half doesn’t even show up!” This card makes me smile, remembering the days when I was in a book group that met regularly, but not everyone read the book.

In addition to providing a structure for regular reading and discussion, book groups create community. Most of the members of one book club I belonged to were mothers of young children, and we met as much to support each other and get out of the house as we did to discuss books.

IGCs can use this same model to create loyal groups of customers who remain excited about plants. People who enjoy reading and discussing what they’ve read are usually curious, and that intellectual interest often extends to plants, helping to drive sales.

Pages & plants

Plan a series of Pages & Plants meetings, where a book is paired with an appropriate plant. The club might read “The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession,” for example, then discuss the book, hear a member of your staff discuss orchid care, and all go home with an orchid. Similarly, the discussion of Lisa See’s novel “Peony in Love” could be followed by a talk about how to grow this favorite flower, and attendees take home a Peonia plant.

Such groups can be scheduled to meet monthly, bi-monthly, or as you’re able to find time and meeting space at your IGC. Registrations that are taken and paid in advance work best for these meetings, and they should be priced to cover your time and the cost of the plants.

Offer planting books with make-and-take projects to better market your book club meetings.

Pages & projects

Pairing a book with a planting activity is also appealing to customers as it combines the discussion with a make-and-take project. In 2019, a group of women gathered at the back of the Hyannis Country Garden greenhouse to talk about “The Language of Flowers,” and to plant up a container of flowering annuals. Regular book club members invited others to join them, and all paid $30 that covered the materials. We provided a list of the meaning of the annuals they could choose from, which included Begonias (beware, dark thoughts), blue Salvia (I think of you), Sweet William (gallantry), and Zinnias (thoughts of absent friends) among others.

The book group members brought their own refreshments and the afternoon was filled lively conversation and fun.

Keeping connected with virtual groups

Many IGCs won’t be have in-person gatherings due to the pandemic this winter, but a book group can easily be held in a Zoom meeting. Attendees can call the store to register with a credit card, providing an email address for the link to join the meeting. They would be invited to come into the store to pick up their plants or project materials. Smaller plant projects can even be done by each attendee at home in a virtual group “plant-along.”

Finding plant-related books