Conjure up in your mind your last visit to a garden center. What was it like?

Chances are good that it smelled a little funny—maybe like chemicals. There were piles of seed, soil, rocks on pallets. A variety of plastic pots were piled on industrial-looking shelves. Tools hung on pegboards. Rows and rows of plants were lined up like little green soldiers.

If you believe the surveys that say more than three-quarters of American adults claim to do some gardening, it’s astounding that our shopping resources are so meager and devoid of style.

Finally, those clever marketers that created the distinctive, hip brands Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters have decided to tackle the garden market and inject some style. And not a minute too soon, for my taste.


Earlier this month, they opened Terrain at Styer’s, the first store in a whole new garden center concept. According to John Kinsella, Terrain’s managing director, the goal of Terrain is to be a “destination” rather than the typical drive-by pit stop visit to most garden centers.

Terrain at Styer’s is located in Concordville, PA, 20 minutes south of Philadelphia. It is a massive five-acre complex with 19,000 square feet under roof. In addition to the outdoor nursery, Terrain has books, home décor, lighting, tableware, indoor plants and tropicals. Tired of shopping? Have lunch at the café, where foods are locally sourced. Need some help getting started? Call on their landscaping and design professionals.


Kinsella says that people typically stay at Terrain for three to five hours. Products include items sourced from all over the world that you wouldn’t see at other garden centers.

“If we were to be compared this to another garden center, women would feel this is a more accessible experience than going to a typical garden center or a big box store,” said Kinsella. “There is more attention to presentation. It’s a voyage of discovery with interesting ways of presenting products that will inspire people.”

Unlike Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, which were built from the ground up, the Terrain stores will partner with existing local garden centers to create the Terrain brand. Kinsella wasn’t disclosing future locations, but he did say that they expect a new Terrain to be open by year’s end.

I put in my bid with Kinsella for Calvert County, Maryland, where I live and garden. He’s a nice man, so he didn’t shoot me down on the idea that I could get my own Terrain. But he did say that they are looking at places where people are doing some serious gardening. Philadelphia, home of the most elaborate flower show in the U.S., made the Pennsylvania location logical.

Kinsella says Terrain’s market is “everyone.” While that sounds nicely democratic, I suspect that the real market for now is the garden stylista with some money to spend.

There will always be people who prefer the utilitarian nature of the big box store garden department. But if Terrain can make gardening hip and stylish, maybe it will ignite a hot new wave of gardening enthusiasm.

I’m all for that. I’m also all for shopping. Road trip anyone?

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  • Stacy says:

    Jiminy crismas, where the heck do I sign up? I would give good money for a garden center populated with something other than marigolds, petunias and sullen/ignorant salespeople.

    Whew, I hear you on that! I am so very sick of the same old, same old.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Kim says:

    YES! Sign me up – that place looks looks pretty close to Heaven to me. While I have a number of garden centers with more than big box selection, that place has style! I’d love to see one anywhere in the Baltimore/DC metro area – if I’m willing to drive for an hour to get to Surreybrooke, I’d certainly drive an hour to get to Terrain.

    Hi Kim,

    If you’re around here are you familiar with Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville? It’s not far from Annapolis. They have an absolutely fabulous selection of plants that they grow on their own farm. I’m headed there next week for a visit to see the farm for myself.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Diana says:

    I’m up for the road trip. Problem is, I couldn’t haul much back home! Wish we had more centers like that. We do have a nice selection of local nurseries with garden decor, which I love, for helping us make our areas into garden “rooms” with both plants and STUFF! In fact, I think the shopping part of gardening is almost as much fun as the gardening part … digging, sweating, hauling, weeding. Wait. Shopping or THAT? Maybe it’s ALL about the shopping! Or at least the collecting.

  • suzq says:

    Years ago, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters branched out from clothing to furnishings. At that point, the stores I used to go to in order to find those unique items became untouchable, price-wise and way too trendy.

    I fear the same will happen. Both the plants and the accessories that surround them will be very expensive.

    We’re lucky in the DC area to have a number of independent nurseries that sell specialty and native plants and herbs. We also have a number of antique sellers and local craftsmen from which to find our garden furniture and accessories.

    But all that takes a lot of running around, so I can see the appeal of these sorts of “lifestyle stores.”

    And some things are hard to find. Rain chains, anyone? Native bog plants? Stone garden benches that don’t look hokey? If Terrain can provide that, all the better for us.

  • commonweeder says:

    this sounds like a great place, especially if they have staff that actually know something about plants. I stopped at a garden center yesterday and not only did most of the big potted plants of the Proven Winner types look really sad, dried out and gone by, they had only the most common of plants. I was willing to spend money, but not there.

  • Gail says:

    Fascinating…I see a bit of this at one local nursery but nothing like this magnitude. I miss the variety of perennials, natives and interesting annuals that local nurseries used to carry, I guess they can’t compete with big box stores. I’m with suzq if this store can carry the new, the unusual and the un-hokey…then please move in to my neighborhood.

  • Rick says:

    Wow! Lucky you for having something within reach like this. Our best bet is the farmers market, which sets up in a remote part of the mall parking lot. Enough said, huh!
    Actually, we do have one really nice nursery around here, and it is very popular. But nothing with the selection like this.

  • Sue says:

    I’mm so, so glad that place isn’t near me. So is my bank manager :)

  • Layanee says:

    Looks impressive. I am heading to PA on a road trip shortly. Maybe I should check that place out!

  • entangled says:

    Terrain reminds me a bit of the Hort Couture branded plants I discovered this spring. They’re not trying to redesign whole garden centers, just lend some merchandising panache through their plants and displays.

    I know of a few interesting garden centers in Virginia, but not as aggressively hip as Terrain looks to be.

    Have you been to any of Smith and Hawken stores in the DC area? I haven’t, but I would guess they’re targeting an older demographic than Terrain.

  • Diane says:

    Robin, too bad we don’t live closer, as I am always ready for a road trip…What did you buy?