The fire pit is a popular design element for customers, so IGCs should take advantage of the opportunity by suggesting plants that pair well with the backyard addition.
PHOTO © TAMMYKAYPHOTO | ADOBE STOCK

Whenever I do consultations for customers who are under 50, they tell me that they want a fire pit to be included in their design. And when I’m working with clients who are over 50, they want a fire pit because their kids want them to have a fire pit. Clearly, this is a must-have feature in today’s landscapes.

So why hasn’t our industry jumped all over this trend? Beyond the pit itself, there are plant opportunities here. IGCs can make “Fire Pit Plantings” as necessary as the stone or metal that contains the flames.

Floors

Whether the area around a fire pit is gravel, stone or lawn, we can talk about ways to make this outdoor floor more appealing to the senses. Creeping thyme can be planted in grass, gravel or between stones. Thyme softens the area around the fire pit and provides a pleasing scent as well. In areas where it grows nicely, Corsican mint is another decorative option with an enticing aroma.

Others might want to add color around their fire pit, and low sedums are perfect for this. Yellow, red and pale green stonecrops enliven the gravel and give the pit some colorful “socks and shoes.”

Fragrance

We should be asking our customers to imagine sitting around their fire pit and enjoying the wafts of perfume coming from nearby perennials and shrubs. We can group plants that are fragrant at night in one section of the garden center and call the area “Fragrance for Fire Pit Plantings.” In many areas ‘Hummingbird’ Clethra is one such shrub, and customers love that the common name for this plant is “Summersweet” Actea ‘Brunette’ is just one of my favorite perennials for late-summer or fall fragrance. Every garden center knows which scented plants are local favorites, so display these around a model fire pit so your customers know to use them.

Flight

Another feature that people love around fire pits are plants that attract hummingbirds. Pots of annuals favored by these tiny birds can be placed around the perimeter of the area or grouped in the spaces between chairs.

Since many people have a top for their fire pit that doubles as a cocktail table, pots filled with Salvia, Agastache, Cupea or other hummingbird magnets can be grouped near the pit when flames aren’t present.

Flowers

Other plants for a “Fire Pit Planting” section are those that have white flowers. Customers can be reminded that these show up beautifully as the sky darkens. Additionally, many white-flowered plants are fragrant at night, so these do double duty for the homeowner.

Food

Our customers also love hearing that they might grow their own snacks or hors d’oeuvres near their fire pit. Pots of sugar snap peas are a favorite suggestion for early in the season, replaced by cherry tomatoes in the summer. “Imagine being able to lean over and pick your cocktail hour snacks,” we can tell our clients.

Herbs and edible flowers are also appealing to include in beds or containers around a fire pit. These can be used to make cocktails right on the spot, or to garnish a drink. Some even love to toss herbs such as thyme or sage on dying coals as the evening winds down.

IGCs can create their own lists of Fire Pit Plantings that do well in their area. Invite customers to come into the store to pick up a handout of suggestions and create special displays that show these plants grouped around a fire pit. The coveted backyard addition is an opportunity for us all.

C.L. Fornari is a speaker, writer and radio/podcast host who has worked at Hyannis Country Garden, an IGC on Cape Cod, for more than 20 years. She has her audiences convinced that C.L. stands for “Compost Lover.” Learn more at www.GardenLady.com