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.

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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.

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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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10 Comments

  • 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.

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