PHOTO BY KEN BLAZE

A few months ago, my friends shared a Groupon advertised for an “Adult BYOB Painting Class.” I was interested. I loved art classes when I was in high school, and I felt disconnected from the creative and musical outlets that I had in the past.

Through Groupon, it was only $22 a person to participate. I also thought it would be a fun outing with friends and more exciting than our routine weekend dinners. We signed up.

The classroom, which was housed in an old, industrial warehouse, must have had at least 100 people, mostly young women in their 20s and 30s. We each received a paper plate and five pepperoni-sized splotches of paint, a handful of old brushes and a canvas.

After three minutes of instruction, we got to it, using images of photography and artwork ripped from magazines as a guide. I was hesitant. I had not painted in at least 18 years, and I was never very good. But from all the promotional pictures, the work people created looked really professional.

At the end of the night, somehow, all of us novices had created lovely works of art, and we had a great time together.

I had a light bulb moment. Many garden centers host workshops, ladies nights and other events that include drinks and food, but what about combining the two? I figured garden centers probably offered something like this, and had heard of similar events with brunch, but I hadn’t come across an evening, BYOB event just yet.

Months later, a colleague found a company called Plant Nite, which has very little “about us” information, except, “Create a tabletop garden with friends at your favorite local bar. Your nite will bloom.” At the time of publication, they had more than 20 states listed on the website. When I tried to find an event within 50 miles of me, the site indicated they were still trying to set up events here. Seems like they are looking to grow, and it could be a good time for local retailers to fill that gap before they do.

Plant Nite involves people creating mixed succulent or terrarium containers in glass bowls, using decorative growing media. I’ve now come across IGCs that host similar events featuring easy-to-grow plants like herbs, and they report the events are doing well.

I imagine many people go into the events thinking, “I can’t garden,” just like I thought that I couldn’t paint. I assume they leave with a newfound confidence and a newfound love of gardening and plants. And being surrounded by their friends probably made it an enjoyable experience — even if they did have difficulty — that they will want to have again. Plus, if people BYOB or buy their own beverages, the costs can be minimal for garden centers hosting similar events. Garden centers already have space and don’t have to partner with a local watering hole. But, collaborating with a restaurant or pub could offer cross-promotional opportunities.

Outings may encourage that hard-to-reach 20- or 30-something crowd to visit your stores (or interact with your brand if you host off-site,) and it could give them a confidence and love for gardening that inspires them to come back.

Michelle Simakis msimakis@gie.net