Bzzzz May 29th, 2008

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?

Posted In: Gardening, Shopping



Bzzzz March 17th, 2008

After viewing the exuberant displays of flowers, plants, containers and hardscaping…

…the visitors to the Philadelphia Flower Show were practically foaming at the mouth in the vendor area. I have never seen so many women carrying around bunches of pussy willow in my whole life. They looked like some sort of bizarre religious procession with the waiving branches and the ecstatic looks on their faces.

Well, since I have actually planted my very own pussy willow bush, I shopped for other things. Here are some of Robin’s Fabulous Flower Show Finds.



A couple of days ago I talked about how I am just mad for Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Don’t call the Ikebana police on me, because I’m quite sure I have broken some Ikebana rules, but I bought an Ikebana vase and gave it a try here at home.The trick with this nifty little vase is a built-in “frog” at the bottom and an enclosed water well. I don’t have the source for you, but you can search for Ikebana supplies on the Internet and find many similar vessels for your own Ikebana creations.



I have always found that my plants are much happier (ergo I am a better gardener) when they are in clay pots. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to find a stylish clay pot. They are all so mass-produced looking and utilitarian. So I was just tickled pink to discover Goff Creek Pottery. These pots are about 10″ high and cost $40 each. Goff Creek has many larger pots, including huge and decorative urns that go for up to $800. Sadly, there was only so much my husband was willing to carry for the sake of my gardening habits.



I also met a wonderfully charming couple with a tiny little booth of pottery vases. Paula L. Brown-Steedly, at Virginia Clay, is the potter and seems to specialize in organic-looking, hand-built clay vessels, although she also had a number of thrown and thrown and manipulated vessels. I purchased these two vases, about 11″ high each, at about $85 and $70. They look fabulous with a simple arrangement on my farmhouse table.



Do you love African Violets like I do? Well, let me introduce you to the Violet Gallery. They only had about 20 of their violets on display and for sale. But their catalog is 16 pages of mouse type with HUNDREDS of different types of violets. I was just crazy about the variegated varieties, but managed to restrain myself and only brought home four at $4.95 each. In the catalog, the cost is $6 each. Specimens are extremely robust. Highly recommended!

I love fashion. Unfortunately, fashion and gardening don’t mix so very well. I mostly wear jeans or shorts, a tank top and sneakers. I love the look of those British knee-high boots, but frankly, there is just no need for them here. So I get my jollies with gardening gloves and justify the purchases by telling myself how useful they are.

But don’t you hate gloves? I would much rather dig my fingers into the dirt and rip out those wretched weeds with my own bare fingernails. Unfortunately, it’s not quite right to traipse into a focus group room or conference room with raggedy and dirty nails. So I have (mostly) learned to use gloves. I prefer gloves that don’t feel like gloves–I want them snug, but not tight. Thin, but not flimsy. I don’t like rubbery barriers. I want to be able to FEEL what I’m doing. (Ahem.)



Well anyway. I adore these Atlas Gloves. They are, indeed, soft and supple. I can hardly wait to give them a test drive. At $7 they are a bargain. I may have to order in bulk.

BTW, you may notice that these are a size small. Since I am 5’10, I do not have small hands. So if you cannot find these gloves locally and decide to order them, know that they run VERY LARGE.

Isn’t shopping so much fun?!?!

Posted In: Shopping

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