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Social Media Recap from GCA Summer Tour 2015

This Month's GCA Member Profile

Recap from IGC East 2015

Recap from IGC Chicago 2015

Destination for 2016 GCA Summer Tour Announced - Portland, Here We Come!

Next year's GCA Summer Tour is headed to Portland, OR, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the garden centers that make this Northwestern market a hub of retail innovation. Portland has been called a treasure trove of merchandising and retail inspiration, so be sure to pack your notebook and camera!

In addition to touring Portland garden centers, plans are being made now to take attendees to a major grower and principal plant supplier to IGC retailers across the nation.

Do you have suggestions for some really awesome stops?  Email your suggestions to and tell us why you think they would make the 2016 Summer Tour spectacular!

Watch for the late-June dates and destinations of next year's tour to be announced in the coming months.

2015 GCA Summer Tour Milwaukee Social Media Recap

In case you missed all of the coverage of this year's GCA Summer Tour in Milwaukee, WI, here are some of the highlights from social media:

"At one of yesterday's stops on the 2015 GCA Summer Tour in the Milwaukee area, K&W Greenery provided an interesting use of what would otherwise be throw-away wood shipping pallets. Co-owner Phyliss Williams reports she just throws a quick paint wash on them and turns them into useful store display items. She feels Millennials especially appreciate the re-purposing, which is so trendy these days."

"First stop this morning on the 2015 GCA Summer Tour was the conodial domes - the three that comprise the Milwaukee Domes of the Mitchell Park Conservatory. Attendees toured the three distinct domes - tropical, desert and show garden. All were very impressed with these horticultural gems here in the Midwest."


"Yesterday on the GCA Summer Tour in the Milwaukee area, we saw these products at two stores. Really cool, faux antique rusted shovels that are laser cut with cool designs. Designed to stand upright, stuck in the ground as garden art, they hold rain gauges in the shovel art design. Johnson's Gardens in Cedarburg, WI, asks customers to pick up the rain gauge vessels upon check out."

"This morning, the 2015 GCA Summer Tour made its way through southeastern Wisconsin to stop at Oconomowoc Landscape Supply & Garden Center, where we found this incredible and impressive bulk mulch and stone display. Retailers on the tour were wowed by this unique and high-end presentation, which according to Owner Terry Van Lare, helps create his impressive sales in these categories."

"2015 GCA Summer Tour attendees gathered after a delicious lunch at Ebert's Greenhouse Village, Ixonia, WI, the entire entourage traveling by doubledecker bus this week, touring all of southeastern Wisconsin. The tour has been a hit and only experienced a few showers among the mostly bright, sunny skies."

IGC East Continues to Build on Quality Buyers, Broad Range of Industry Exhibitors

IGC East's second annual show last week at the Baltimore Convention Center drew more than 1,500 verified independent retail buyers, who shopped the latest product offerings from nearly 300 exhibiting vendors across the floor.

"We appreciate the positive response from buyers who attended IGC East this year. Now, we're looking to them to spread that enthusiasm to their industry friends and colleagues for an even stronger IGC East next summer," says Jeff Morey, IGC Show Co-founder and Co-producer. "Our sights are on establishing IGC East as the go-to source for new products and industry education in the region as our event continues to grow. It is a building process, and we'll get there with the support of this wonderful industry moving it forward."

Response from many exhibitors is positive. Master Nursery Garden Centers, which moved its Eastern Regional Member Meeting to IGC East this year, says the relocation was a good one for them. "We are extremely happy, and had the highest turnout in years - way up from the other venues of past years," says Jeff Lafferty, CEO of Master Nursery Garden Centers. "Our booth was jammed, and we wrote a bunch of orders from members. We will definitely be back for IGC East 2016."

IGC East's exhibitors, covering a broad range of categories, intrigued visitors to the show floor - including Tuesday's spotlight speaker, Martha Stewart. In what can only be described as incredible exposure for the independent garden center industry to consumers worldwide, Stewart blogged about her experience at IGC East (, sharing more than 25 photos and descriptions of some of her favorite finds on the show floor, as well as from her Q&A keynote, which concluded with questions from the audience and a meet-and-greet at the front of the ballroom stage. Stewart went on to greet exhibitors and examine even more product hands-on during a personal walk-through tour of the show with Jeff and Cheryl Morey.

IGC Chicago Impresses First-Timers, Experienced Show-Goers with New Products, Retail Inspirations, Networking & Fun

IGC Chicago's ninth annual show extended the excitement across Navy Pier, from the expanse of new and proven products for independent garden centers in the exhibit hall to the retail inspirations found in the IGC Retail Conference upstairs and keynotes in the IGC Grand Ballroom.

"The buzz across the show was big," says Jeff Morey, IGC Show Co-founder and Co-producer. "We were especially happy to talk with so many first-time show-goers on the floor, who said IGC Chicago is firmly on their calendar for next year. Of course, we also extend our deep thanks to the many retailers who have made IGC Chicago their place for product buying all through the years."

Retailers were not only looking to bring back new product for their stores, many said they were sizing up vendor booth displays to incorporate the product presentations into their own merchandising. "The wide range of beautiful booth displays put together by IGC Chicago's vendors are such a visual treat, says Cheryl Morey, IGC Show Co-founder and Co-producer. "Whether you're walking the aisle or taking a broad view of the hall from the third floor, it really makes an impression."

IGC Chicago's keynote program drew favorable reviews from the audience, including a standing ovation as Ernest Wertheim walked onto the IGC Grand Ballroom stage and at the conclusion of his talk. Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC's The Profit, also brought the audience to their feet - as he spoke in length to answer retail business questions from the crowd, and offered his personal e-mail for those whose questions couldn't be answered due to time constraints. (See the IGC Show's Facebook and Twitter pages for Lemonis' e-mail address.) During his keynote, "So What's Your Story," Robert Hendrickson shared his own story as a musician with stars in his eyes turned garden center marketing guru to demonstrate just how engaging stories can be.

More ideas and inspirations were discovered upstairs from the show floor, in the IGC Retail Conference's five focused tracks. In the classrooms, attendees made notes of the track leaders' strategies for making their businesses even stronger, and exchanged ideas with fellow classmates on what works - and what doesn't - for them.

IGC buyers and vendors turned their focus on networking and fun at Tuesday evening's IGC Show Party & Concert with the Gin Blossoms. The hum of biz talk and conversation filled the IGC Grand Ballroom, followed by the band's high-energy performance of their chart-topping hits.

IGC Chicago returns to Navy Pier next year for its 10-year anniversary, August 16-18, 2016. IGC East returns to the Baltimore Convention Center, July 26-28, 2016. Watch for details on next year's IGC Shows in the months ahead, and check out photos from this year's excitement at the IGC Show's Facebook page,


July 26, 2016 • Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD
August 16, 2016 • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

GCA Best Bathroom Awards Recognize Independent Garden Centers for Standout Facilities

Garden Centers of America (GCA) is recognizing these independent garden centers for their store restroom designs with the 2015 GCA Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards. A panel judged the entries on the bathroom’s creativity and comfort to the customer’s overall shopping experience.

The fifth-annual honors were announced at IGC Chicago on the IGC Grand Ballroom Stage at Navy Pier. Altum’s Horticultural Center & Landscape, the winner of the Gold Award, was presented with a plaque and will receive a comp registration for the 2016 GCA Summer Tour in Portland, OR. Other recognitions include the three Silver Awards and three Merit Awards detailed here:

GOLD AWARD Altum's Horticultural Center & Landscape, Zionsville, IN


Altum’s 20-year-old bathrooms needed updating. With the help of a local carpenter, the garden center repurposed wood from pallets to cover the metal stalls. Now, vintage mirrors decoratively accent the granite-topped rain barrel sinks. In the men’s room, handpainted antiqued tools, along with implements sold in the store, help carry the theme, “It’s all about the right tool!” An antiqued copper hummingbird hovers from the ceiling, and miniature tabletop gardens provide reading material in the form of brochures and business cards. In the women’s room, SuperMoss-covered tank lids, shadow box miniature air plant gardens and shabby chic floral garden stakes tie in the theme, “Bring the outside in!” Vintage Altum family photos take customers back to the garden center’s roots.

SILVER AWARD Clay Garden and Gift, Santa Rosa Beach, FL


Signage from the property’s two previous garden center operations brings a sense of nostalgia to Clay Garden and Gift’s restroom. An original potting table offers a sampling of bath and body products sold in the store so customers can freshen up from the Florida heat. The sink creatively combines two stacked Holland bulb crates with a copper-sheet countertop and an oil-rubbed bronze faucet for
a mix of repurposed past and modern sophistication.

SILVER AWARD Ebert's Greenhouse Village, Ixonia, WI - Featured Stop, GCA Summer Tour 2015


Nestled in the beautiful countryside of Southern Wisconsin, Ebert’s designed its bathroom with a rustic look that surprises with elements of modern chic. Special touches make it welcoming for everyone, like the charming floral mobile that keeps little ones calm and content on the changing table. While they’re freshening up, visitors can check out information about upcoming events, too.

SILVER AWARD Larson's Garden Center, Burlington, CT


Two of Larson’s bathrooms caught our judges’ eyes. In the first, classic dark chocolate-painted walls, white crown moulding and a mosaic floor call out the whimsy of mischievous garden gnomes, one perched on a cabinet, pants down, mooning washroom patrons. In the other bathroom, a terra-cotta warrior stands tall, guarding the elegantly simple space. A stunning white bowl sink contrasts beautifully against rich red fixtures. Charcoal tiles inlaid with Asian-themed flower mosaics complete the look underfoot.

MERIT AWARD Cedar Brook Garden Center, New Prague, MN


When Cedar Brook opened for the first time this spring, the store’s bathrooms did as much to impress its new customers as the rest of the pristine property. The facility’s earth-toned tile and walls complement the white and red antique barn wood in the ceiling, cabinet and trim. Fresh-cut flowers from the garden center’s wildflower field and decorative accents also found for sale in the store add the perfect touches.

MERIT AWARD Fairfield Farms Nurseries, Oxford, FL

Birds and butterflies are all a flutter in Fairfield Farms’ bathroom design. Decorative birdhouses help carry the theme of the walls’ hand-drawn detail. Customers are encouraged to bring more “flights of fancy” to their own backyards with these sales messages incorporated into the artwork: “Landscaping Is for the Birds” and “See Our Artistic Designers.”

MERIT AWARD Lammscapes/Lamm Gardens, Jackson, WI - Featured Stop, GCA Summer Tour 2015


During outdoor special events and weddings at Lammscapes, portable toilets get an image overhaul with upscale amenities nearby, including a washing tent with a table of toiletries and a mirrored dresser with vases of fresh flowers.

For more images of this year's Best Bathroom Award winners, click here.


Jodie Ramsay and Julie Schroer, Co-owners
Jean's The Right Plant Place, Perham, MN
Passion for Perennials Turns Into Garden Center Ownership

Located in the small, quaint town of Perham, MN, Jean’s The Right Plant Place boasts that “we’re worth the drive,” as the staff estimates that about half of their customer base visits the store from out of town. “We’re trying to appeal to all gardeners,” says Jodie Ramsay, Co-owner. “We market ourselves as whether you’re a novice or a pro, we have the plants for you.”

Jean’s is known for their wide selection of perennials – they carry over 1,300 varieties – as well as bedding plants, hanging baskets, hostas, daylilies, ornamental trees and more.

The garden center is open seven days a week from May 1 to October 1, depending on the weather, and during the off-season, Co-owners Jodie Ramsay and Julie Schroer work full-time teaching biology to students at Northern State University.

Jodie and Julie have a long history with Jean’s – they worked for the original owners while they were in college and graduate school. They developed a passion for plants, especially perennials, while working for Jean, and when the time came for the owner to retire, she looked to Jodie and Julie to take the reigns. 

And that’s exactly what they did; they just couldn’t say no to Jean. Jodie and Julie purchased the garden center, which is located on a residential lot, in 2004, and they expanded the store’s offerings, including the addition of the numerous different perennial varieties.

“There’s just so many things to love about perennials,” Jodie says. “We just think they’re so easy to grow, and they’re low-maintenance with a lot of color.”

When Jodie and Julie were seeking more inspiration on what to offer at their store, they joined Garden Centers of America in 2014. “We started receiving IGC Magazine, and we decided to join the independent-focused organization,” Jodie says. “We went on the GCA Summer Tour to San Francisco last year, and it was a really fun, great experience.”

They picked up some unique display, signage and service ideas that they plan to incorporate into their own store. “One of the things we really liked was a button for new hires that said, ‘Be patient. I’m new here.’”

Jodie continues, “Some of the displays had creative signage, things like ‘Smell Me,’ placed next to herbs or other plants that really just draws your eye to that display. We picked up other unique display items, such as using a window frame to showcase hanging baskets.”

They recognize the other benefits of GCA membership, in addition to touring other garden centers. “We really enjoy reading the GCA Member Profiles to learn how these businesses got started, their histories, what kind of products and trends they sell, what kind of markets they’re in,” Jodie says. “I think any forum to get new ideas from is really helpful. We’re located in a small town, and we don’t get to network a lot, so doing that through e-mail communication or newsletters is pretty helpful.”

Carrying on the Brand

Jean’s The Right Plant Place has evolved since Jean started the business in 1992. But one thing that has remained the same is the name – Jodie and Julie are natives of Perham, and the garden center was well-known to residents under that name, so they thought they better keep it to carry on the brand recognition.

The first year Jodie and Julie operated the garden center, they were without a gift shop; the blue house on the property was rented out to different owners and operated as Annie’s Gifts. Then, when those owners decided to sell the business in 2005, Jodie and Julie jumped at the opportunity.

They expanded their offerings once more to include gardening related gifts and supplies. They made that house their gift shop, containing tools, books, statuary, stakes, garden flags, memorial stones and fairy garden miniatures.

The plant and gift departments weren’t the only departments they expanded – Jodie and Julie started offering educational workshops as an effort to expand their community outreach. “A workshop invites people to the store where they can spend the whole day shopping and learning,” says Jodie.

The classes are organized by the store’s manager and are held on Wednesday evenings during the summer. “Every class is very hands-on. At the end of every workshop, they get to take home their project.”

Jodie and Julie send two of their staff members to gardening classes outside of the garden center to get ideas for their own store. They take advantage of their membership in the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, traveling to different cities to attend different classes. “If they try it out on their own and it works out, we develop it into a bigger class,” Jodie says.

Their staff includes a diverse mix of students, teachers, retirees and seasonal workers who all have practical gardening knowledge from tending their own personal gardens. “We have the staff who is experienced,” Jodie says. “They’re all gardeners. Many of them have worked here for a long time.”

Click here to read more Member Profiles.

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Garden Centers of America
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