Taking Your Gardening Dollar, What's Happening

Indie Garden Centers, Start your Blogs!

GardenRant readers don't need to be convinced that blogs are awesome – at least some of them, your favorites – but the big news is that the business world is getting on board the blog-train, too.  Here's a couple of stellar examples of corporate blogs.

Kodak-3

Fiskateers-3
 
What you see in these two examples, often cited as among the best in business blogging, is that they're written not by the marketing department (coz ad copy is nothing like good blog-writing), not by employees who have other duties to attend to, but actual bloggers they've contracted with.  People who are already communicating with the companies' customers, and doing it well.

And notice what the blog posts are about – not the company or its weekend special, but the topic its customers are most interested in.  So Kodak's blog is about photography and that pretty blond is a photography writer with actual cred of her own, now blogging for Kodak.  Fiskars's craft blog is written by a passionate bunch of crafters, called Fiskateers, who have their own fans lining up to meet them at local crafting events. (No lie.)  On this random screen shot, the top post had already received an enviable 90 comments. 

(Other successful business blogs include Nuts about Southwest Blog and the blogs for Whole Foods and Rubbermaid's - all big companies using full-time staffers to write the blog.)

Garden Businesses Hire Bloggers

We were pleased to see Fine Gardening and Horticulture magazines hire popular gardenbloggers to contribute posts to their blogs, then promote the hell out of them via countless tweets.  Companies that make other garden-related products are blogging, too, but with in-house staffers and mixed results (I'll deftly move on without naming the good, bad and uuuuugly among the ones I've seen). 

Look who's Garden-Blogging next – Lowes!

Oh, yeah, you read that right.  The Big Box near you has for years carried good gardening info on its website, and now it's about to launch a team blog composed of 8 garden writers, each posting weekly about their own region.  The blog's called Garden Grow-Along, and from the bios there now (the first actual posts start next week) I see lots of names I recognize and whose writing I admire – Scott Calhoun, Marty Ross, Dee Nash, Irvine Virag, and Sharon Lovejoy – along with a few I don't know.  

But the point is, they're doing what I'd like to see local garden centers doing. Corporate blogs humanize companies and create customer loyalty, and who wants to see all that online love go to Lowes and Home Depot? 

Some Indies are Blogging, and Hiring Bloggers

But the good news is that garden centers ARE starting to blog, thanks in part to savvy trade associations doing their damnest to get their members to blog, Tweet and create Facebook pages.  Many of these business owners are writing the blogs themselves or delegating blogging duties to regular staffers (sometimes their buyers), but others are deciding that they have neither the time nor the blogging expertise to do it well.  So they're turning to gardenbloggers like Katie Elzer-Peters, Mary Ann Newcomer, Layanee DeMerchant, Robin Ripley, and me for help.  So this growing group of bloggers has teamed up with some awesome web designers to form Garden Center Blogger, which offers the full scope of blogging and social media services to independent garden centers. 

So bloggers and web designer/developers with talents to share and everyone out there who supports independent garden centers, join us by becoming a fan of our Facebook page.  Our website's almost ready and I'll announce it here this week.

Give us your Garden-Center Blog Ideas

So readers, brainstorm with us.  What would you like to see on the blog of your local, independent garden center?  Some ideas to get us started are:

  • What's happening in the garden this month, written by a local blogger
  • Great plants in local gardens
  • Cool events at the store
  • Staff profiles, staff picks in their department
  • Contests, product give-aways
  • Stories about urban greening and gardening in your city
  • What local Master Gardener groups are doing
  • Photos/profiles of the gardens of famous people in your area
  • Reviews of gardening books for your region

Okay, what would your dream indie-garden-center blog look like?

Posted by on March 8, 2010 at 4:56 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar, What's Happening.
Comments are off for this post

26 Responses to “Indie Garden Centers, Start your Blogs!”

  1. Plants. I want information on plants. It would be nice to have profiles of less-common (ie not found at Lowe’s) plants that do well in the local climate (not just the add copy but a whole blog post – one plant a week or so). What’s blooming when, what thrives in the local area and what new plant that I’ve never grown would be fun to try in my own garden.

    It would also be nice if the local garden center had a place on their web site for local garden clubs and garden tours to announce their events. A calender of upcoming and very local garden focused events.

  2. K says:

    If they also do landscaping or even just install plants for people (the store I bought my large Holly bush from planted it for me for $50) – show us some pictures of what you did. They don’t have to be great. Just seeing plants installed around houses that are similar to mine in a site that is similar to mine, would be helpful. We live on a tiny lot in the city. Even well intentioned “small garden” magazines are showcasing gardens that are immense compared to mine.

    Do you have a customer who has successfully implemented a theme, type of garden? Is someone doing well with natives? Has a specialty? Show me that.

    What does the owner/employees really enjoy about plants? Do they have a particular interest/expertise? let me know and I might seek them out.

    Let those of us who are casual gardeners know when to put something in the ground. Or, when you’re expecting azaleas because it’s prime bush planting season, or whatever.

    Basically, be the local expert that you already are and Lowe’s can’t be.

  3. angelchrome says:

    Profiles on local public gardens & even other destination nurseries (such as Plant Delights in Raleigh.)

  4. sara says:

    Regional information, a la the Farmer’s Almanac’s advice on what to plant and when depending on zip code, et al, would be priceless. Info on plants I cannot find at the Home Despot or Lowes (thanks for reminding me!), or OSH.

    I mean, yeah, Berkeley Horticulture has beautiful stuff, for example, but is it going to thrive when I take home to eastern Contra Costa County?

    It would be nice to read something that is updated regularly. I’m on mailing lists for a couple local nurseries, and I can tell it’s a half-hearted ‘boy, we hope we get some sales with these newsletters…’ type of situation. I want to read something where the contributors are into what they do because they’re into what they do; it’s not just marketing.

  5. Laurrie says:

    Some blogs about less common plants with pictures of how people used them. I can see an arboretum specimen tree in magazines, but I have no idea what that tree might look like in my home landscape. I saw the caryopteris allee at Longwood Gardens but could never recreate that — would have loved my garden center to show me what to do with the one plant I picked up. Pictures of real local gardens using uncommon plants… not the garden tour sites, but the local customers’ gardens. And go light on blogging bloom closeups… show me real designs, and juvenile forms and stages of gardens over time! A bonus would be local readers / commenters making contact with each other.

  6. Gloria says:

    Some independent nurseries have space for gardens others don’t but they do have plants. Group plants that grow well together with similar cultural needs then take pictures. Add that to the blog each season. You would not believe the number of people that ask what to do with that raised rectangular bed along the front or the circle bed in mostly shade.
    Show them, a pictures is worth many words.

  7. New plants and how best to grow them, comparisons of different cultivars, and a question and answer/helpline feature would be good.

  8. nobody says:

    I used to live in a real city with real independent nurseries with real websites and real blogs. They had stuff about native plants, other wacky plants the nursery stocked that did well in the area that the big boxes didn’t know about, non-standard gardening practices that didn’t make it into books about gardening that were important in our non-frigid environment, and so on.

    Now I live in backwards land. Lowes is the nursery of choice for real gardeners, since their practice of stocking the same thing in every store means they actually sell plants, organic anything, and whatnot. Near as I can tell, the local nurseries exclusively sell pesticides, herbicides, and possibly a pothos if you catch them on the right month. To get me to a local nursery, they would have to prove that they had a) discovered the existence of the internet b) discovered the existence of plants c) figured out how to garden without herbicides and d) actually had something to offer that Lowes didn’t. To get me in the door of anything but Lowes ever again (at least as long as I give in garden purgatory) would require a frequently updated (if the front page is from last october, they’ve lost me. They’d better come up with something to say through the winter) page that convinced me that they’d decided to get off their ass and become a real nursery. I’d want stuff about plants, esp. native plants, edible plants that do well locally (not the same canned thing about growing tomatoes over, and over, and over), regional gardening practices necessitated by regional climate peculiarities. Until then, lowes has earned my loyalty. They don’t even need a snazzy blog. Their cunning marketing ploy of actually having a plant in the store is enough for me.

  9. Real feedback from real gardeners. :) as a former indy garden center owner – who ‘weeded out’ retail ops just b4 the mkt crashed in favor of fulltime custom plant buyer (no bricks&mortar storefront needed for my clients-i deliver straight to them), garden coach, landscape/floral design & organic maintenance – i have sympathy for BOTH the people who want to buy local AND the stressed owner who has had to cut staff/svcs/inventory in the worst small biz credit market since 1942.

    Q: would you value the info(e.g., service)of an indy enough to buy from them, or use their info to sort wheat from chaff at lowe’s?
    therein lies the $ conundrum.

    lists of what to do when and plant lists abound especially on landscape designer/garden coach websites. find one near you zonewise, perhaps use their paid services as well as what is free on their websites.

    Alert!Dept of Shameless SelfPromotion Ahead/aka ‘the baby needs new shoes’: may i suggest clicking on ‘sustainability news’ at http://www.gentlegardener.com for those in zones 6b-7, Piedmont of Central Virginia? #in

  10. Katie says:

    I’m a fan of the local information, too. None of my local garden centers have a blog, and I don’t have a lot of time to go to workshops put on by the master gardeners.

    My preferred method of learning is reading-I can read 24/7/365. I have less time for meetings, workshops, and videos.

    When I moved to Wilmington from the Adirondacks, can you say “GARDEN SHOCK?” I was working at a large public garden here, and I started a monthly “Plant Walk” free to the public, just to give me a defined, manageable way to learn the plants.

    I remember the first time I saw Fatsia, because I moved here in November, and it was blooming. I was like “WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT?”

    I’ve lived and gardened in almost every type of region, except for the arid south, but I still feel like every place is its own microclimate. Would that one of my local garden centers had a blog I could frequently check for new plants, Wilmington-specific growing information, etc. It is a DIFFERENT place, here in the coastal south. Real-time info for MY area would be helpful.

  11. Susan,
    The indies are in great hands with you at the helm!

    IGC’s can benefit from utilizing the services from active and passionate local garden bloggers. What could be a better fit than that!

    I’ll be in touch as I have something in the works to compliment what you are doing!

    Go Susan and the garden bloggers!

    Shirley Bovshow
    Garden World Report Show

  12. Barbara says:

    Stories about solutions to local gardening challenges. For example how to deal with local soil and weather conditions, or challenges presented by local building styles – narrow plant beds surrounding townhouses or large, featureless lots in new construction, etc.

    This is a great idea! And, of course as you say, the key is to use dedicated writers and provide truly useful info, not just copy designed to drive sales.

  13. greg draiss says:

    To Nobody:

    What kind of a MORON are you if you think Lowes is a real nursery beacause they sell the same plants at 3,000 stores. Indies sell only pestcides? Other way around JERK!
    No wonder this country is going to hell in a handbasket with idiots like you!

    THE TROLL

  14. Mjausson says:

    I would love a blog that has a featured plant every week or month. And as was said by Diana, not just the stuff sold at big box stores.

    I’d also like to see gardens followed over time. If they visit a garden one year, it would be great to see new photos 3, 5, 7 years later. Ideally with descriptions of what changed and why. E.g. the X bush is now shading out the annual Y’s, so I’m replacing them with Z, which is perennial and deals better with shade.

    Finally, no blog is complete without a searchable archive. It’s gotta show up in my Google search or it might as well not exist.

  15. garden coach# and landscape designer# blogs or web portfolios# are also (affordably) updated by them at sites like http://www.vsld.org, http://www.apld.org, http://www.gardencoachdirectory.wetpaint.com/and web.me.com. microblogs# for tiny time/$ budgets also on typepad.com. #in

    examples at web.me.com/gentlegardener (click in the title bar up top for the portfolio you wish to view) and http://www.gentlegardener.typepad.com.

    the searchable archive and progress of gardens/plants as they appear ‘in the fullness of time’ (as my teacher John Brookes would say), are also terrific feedback, and probably can only be done by design/maintain coaches/designers with access to client gardens over time…..thank you!

  16. Wow. Great comments. I echo those who would like their local garden centers to share info about high performance plants for their area. And don’t stint on the detail. I’m an experienced gardener, but looking at the generic tags that come with most plants (typically average soil, average water, whatever THAT means) if it’s something I’m not familiar with, I’m never quite sure it will work in my garden.

  17. Old Kim says:

    Commercial growing bigwigs like Provin Winners are big into plastic. Big plastic lables and big freakin plastic pots they send whether you want them or not.
    Flashy plastic waste.

  18. I want to thank those who are commenting here for more ideas. I am looking forward to blogging for Lowe’s and sharing what I know about gardening for my region (South Central). I’d like to see our local garden centers get into the act too. That would be splendid. Thanks Susan for ranting about this subject. Great blogs require really good writing. I’m honored to be one of the eight writers for Lowe’s. I have great company.

  19. Would like to see staff profiles with photos so I can get to know who is expert in what area plus feel like I know a familiar face when I arrive.
    Also how about staff plant picks and why they chose them – not just those you are trying to clear out of inventory – but personal favorites of staffers for being great performers, connecting to childhood memories, etc.
    Think it’d be cool to know the history of the place – so many are multi-generational family-owned but you’d never know from “ABC Garden Center” name. Share your story.

  20. Susan Collard says:

    I too would like to know the background of the writers and what makes them experts in the gardening arena. Is is personal experience or education?

  21. LOCAL info! I wish my local gc would tweet when new plants arrive, blog about their sales and classes.
    Blogs, twitter and facebook are all key to indie garden center success. Here is a free webinar to learn how. http://www.pitchengine.com/free-release.php?id=51022

  22. Molly says:

    Thank you for the encouragement to blog. As a manager in a family owned (my husband and his brother) IGC, I know I’d like to blog about our plants, what we do in our own gardens at home etc. But as the business owners there are a lot of hats to wear everyday and it is easy to continue to put blogging on a side burner. But this has reminded me that there are readers out there. Thanks!

  23. Ken Druse says:

    Lowe’s having a blog sounded horrible — until I read the list of contributors. For years, Lowe’s has had videos by a well-known blond whose gardening advice is just plain stupid. I watched one — “What ever you do, never disturb the roots of a shrub you are planting from a container.” That was enough! I hope stores like Lowe’s go for good contributors, not just surfer-boy TV personalities. For example — hire me!

  24. I second Mr. Druse’s caution about ‘celebrity experts’. What would work better is for indy landscape designers, garden coaches to be paired up with networks of LOCAL indy garden centers as bloggers, trainers of staff, speakers, teachers of workshops: LOCAL knowledge benefitting the local economy. Last week a local hardware asked Gentle Gardener to assist them choose and feature a limited selection of organic gardening supplies that the Lowe’s next door doesn’t have, or if they do, haven’t a clue what they have or why they have it, and never have at the right time of the year.

    Lowe’s and other category-killers don’t need help from bloggers, because they will use the blog as a SUBSTITUTE for knowledgeable customer service at the point of sale, RATHER THAN hiring knowledgeable people in every store. It’s quite the opposite strategy of BUY LOCAL#.

    You will continue to get what you pay for there: plants mass produced, often far from their bioregion; plants bought in centrally by buyers who do not know the local market, and delivered too early (I remember seeing a load from South Florida of Mandeville ‘Alice duPont’ in a Richmond, VA category killer covered by snow in February).

    Again you are better off finding a garden coach# or landscape designer#, get a plan, get a buying list, and let them be your custom plant buyer#.

    If you like SHOPPING for entertainment, take your landscape designer with you to keep you focused and on the plan and to keep you from making substitutions that end up being invasive, hard to care for, or just the wrong plant for the wrong place.

    But if you want a sustainable# landscape design that won’t break the bank, have the right plants custom ordered and delivered to your garden straight from the nursery by a professional. This is the service we and many landscapers perform for clients. Don’t SHOP, BUY. Plant and enjoy!

  25. john dehaven says:

    This is BS! Do no evil!
    Does Lowes think we are a bunch of mindless robots. Lowes needs to hire people to write nice things about their store. I find this laughable.

    John DeHaven

  26. Hazel says:

    As a blogger from a fairly large outdoor company (though not nearly as big as lowes!) I can say that our posts concerning tips, advice, and ideas on design presented in clear-cut ways is what our readers seem to value most when it comes to the posts we’re writing.

    But even the best content from us, pales in comparison to our wide array of guest bloggers. In my experience, networking and exchanging expertise with others in the field is what I both find most interesting in other blogs, and what our readers respond best to. Think of how many smaller landscape and garden designers, or even nurseries and garden supply centers, would get exposure if they were more invitations for guest blogging on these large corporate blogs, or even big gardening magazines.

    If you own a business or provide an expert service, you have an extensive set of knowledge that should be shared with as many people as possible!

    I do agree that local experts connecting with other local experts to support a local economy is the best route. But, I also think that the more people who are sharing knowledge, the better.

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