The Latest In Garden Retailers: Terrain At Home

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

For those of us who live in the Philadelphia area, we have become familiar with Richard Hayne, a local entrepreneur. He created both Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, building them into national chains of lifestyle clothing/accessory stores. Each of them has, in part, been extraordinarily successful because they are marketed to specific demographic groups. It was just a matter of time before a savvy entrepreneur would decide to conquer the well heeled 50+ females who have the discretionary income to drop a nice piece of change at an aspirational, gardening, home lifestyle store.

And that is exactly what Richard Hayne did (and what he does so extraordinarily well)! He bought out Styer’s Nursery, well known for perennialy being one of the more creative exhibitors at the Philadelphia Flower Show. And what was once a full scale nursery, that I used to whiz by on my way out to Longwood Gardens, is now called Terrain At Home (which still does offer full landscape design and installation services).

Like Anthropologie, when I walked into the main store, I was overwhelmed by the artistic setting as well as the plethora of beautifully displayed products. As I slowed down, taking time to look at and handle the merchandise, I found some well crafted, novel pieces, all with very hefty price tags (although there were some good sale items). Yet, as much as I tried to imagine what it would feel like to walk into such a store and select whatever it is that I fancied, I wondered if I would ever feel compelled to do so.

Because for me, gardening is always about the plants.  As I zoomed past the cafe where a few women were sitting with their coffees in casual conversation, I thought to myself, ‘Now I’ll see what I’ve been waiting for’. So, here’s the bottom line. The plant material is robust and merchandised to the hilt (which as far as I’m concerned is just fine). After all, why not inspire consumers and offer them some new or unthought of ways of creating vignettes with plants? Why not use a magnificent, rustic setting as a backdrop to showcase the plant material and all of the accoutrements that one could possibly desire?

But this is where I have a problem. When I started looking at the plants, I was shocked at the price tags. One container of a deep violet Geranium (perhaps Geranium x ‘Rozanne’) and what appeared to be Heuchera x villosa ‘Citronelle’ (or another chartreuse colored one) were priced at $17. a piece. A large row of robust, 2-3 year old panicums were $30. each: coleus at $7. each and cleomes $6. per plant.

Rest assured that having lived on the Main Line, the Western suburbs of Philadelphia, for all of my adult life, I have become less than surprised when I see women filling their carts with a slew of perennials priced at $11.95. But somehow, having my eyes land on perennials priced at $17. made me feel squeamish.

And yet who am I to say? One of the saleswomen told me that business was incredibly brisk since their opening: and that Terrain had been able to maintain Styer’s roster of loyal customers, in part because Styers has been known for years as a purveyor of unusual plant material. Ahh…I thought to myself. So, maybe I hit an off day. I do love echinaceas, geraniums, heucheras and a smattering of ornamental grasses. But somehow I don’t think of them as highly unusual specimens for which I am willing to pay a premium.

As I walked out of the store, I questioned my own strong reactions to what I had just experienced. Call me naive, call me old fashioned, but somehow when gardeners reach the point where we don’t intrinsically have an emotional reaction to a plant because of its pure beauty, because it does something to the inside of our souls, like a great piece of music or a piece of art, then why bother gardening? Where after all is ‘the muse’ if not for the plants and your landscape upon which the plants are painted?

So, I’m asking each of you, as keen gardeners, where do you like to shop for your plants, containers and other garden accessories? Are you price conscious? Or if you find a plant or a grouping of plants in a setting that ‘grabs you’, does price become very secondary with the emphasis on ‘I just have to have these plants’? How important is the quality of the plant to you? Where do you buy the majority of your plants? Local garden centers? Big box stores? On line?

Do you think Terrain is the type of store that would appeal to you? If so, why? My hunch is that if the economy can handle it, in the not too distant future, you’ll be seeing Terrain buying out local high end garden centers throughout the country and ‘Terrainizing’ them. For more information about Terrain, click on: www.terrainathome.com.

Fran Sorin
The 10th Anniversary Edition of Fran's classic book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, has recently been published. Updated with a new foreword by the renowned author, Larry Dossey, M.D., it has dozens of endorsements from renowned spiritual, gardening, and personal development authors and experts in their fields. A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology and One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, Fran is a renowned gardening expert, passionate gardener, deep ecologist, inspirational speaker, ordained interfaith minister, soul tending coach, and CBS Radio news contributor. See less Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest
Next Post:

[nrelate-related]

Comments on this entry are closed.

Jan, Always Growing August 3, 2008, 9:07 am

Oh, you have hit a nerve here. I find so many garden centers seem to be going over to this type of selling. To answer one of your questions about price, if a plant is a fairly common one & is expensively priced, then I feel like I am being taken advantage of and pass on it. I may go to a big box store for it. If is is an out of the ordinary plant, then I probably will buy it even if pricey. I am into gardening which to me means planning and working in my garden, not just buying a landscape setting. I buy my plants from local nurseries that tend to stock something more than just the usual petunias. impatiens, etc. Lately, because plants I want are unavailable locally, I have been getting many through the internet.I may shop around for the best prices, but it is the plant selections and plants themselves that make me turn over my money. Terrain would probably be a nice place to visit & get ideas, but it just doesn’t seem like a garden nursery – more a “lifestyle” center.

Jan-
Thanks for your input. I tend to agree with you on alot of what you said. I don’t want to undersell Terrain though. Their plant material is gorgeous and they do have a landscape design service….but it is just too pricey AND I get it. I know who they are catering to and that is their choice. It just isn’t where I would shop (unless there were some great deals!) Fran

vanillalotus August 3, 2008, 9:20 am

Very interesting post here. I think if I had a garden center here where the prices where that high I would probably not buy from them unless it was a plant I see no where else but I wouldn’t buy many. I’m a cheapy but I look for good quality. The garden center I go to has great plants and some unique plants I find at no other stores for a decent price. I normally get the small plants in 2inch containers since I like to see things grow, it’s normally around 1.99 for them. Then I go to 3 gallon containers that have some nice sized plants and they are around 6.99 or 7.99. It is nice stuff and great priced. I do buy from online too from places that are a bit cheaper or for daylilies or something I can’t find here. But still I don’t pay much more than 5 or 7 dollars for each plant. I most always get seed onlne.

Vanillalotus-
It sounds like you have some great nurseries where you live. $1.99, even for 2″ pots, is a good price for a retailer. Once you get into gallon sizes, $7 and $8. are fair prices as well. What I like about online stores is that very often they become great teachers because they help me discover new plant material and cultivars that I had not been familiar with. Buying seeds online is the only way to go!!
Thanks for chiming in. Fran

Margarita August 3, 2008, 9:33 am

Because all of my gardening is organic (and mostly vegetable), and I steer well away from GMO’s, I tend to go the seed/seedling route. I can see the effects of garden center “weeding”, as it were, in the landscapes of most of my neighbors, and though it may take a few seasons for my plants to take hold, I’m usually well-rewarded with heirlooms and heartier varieties than the hot-house, mass-produced foliage that my neighbors insert one month, then rip out and replace the next. Plus, I covet the knowledge that comes with watching each of my plants grow. My problem with these types of designer plant stores is that it treats plants as decoration, turning gardening into more of a display of wealth rather than encouraging a relationship between gardener and their environment.

Margarita-
Boy, do I love what you wrote! You hit the nail on the head. To me that is what it is all about…the relationship between the gardener and her/his plants rather than designing a set decoration…like a living room, etc. Good for you for starting most of your plants from seed…and yes, it is fun to watch the little seedlings grow and develop into mature plants over a 2-3 year period. Plus you get so many more varieties that are unusual…as you said. Kudos to you! Fran

Kitt August 3, 2008, 10:37 am

I have occasionally sucked it up and paid a hefty price for some plant I knew I would cherish (a clematis or tree peony, for example), but I usually try to get divisions from friends’ gardens or start from seeds.

When I need to buy more than a few perennials, I go to the jumbo garden center here (Paulino Gardens) after the first early snow in the fall and look through all the pots they still have outside. Anything that looks like it is still vigorous after being snowed on will be a good candidate for fall planting, with the bonus that it is on deep discount given the lateness of the year.

Kitt-
Yes indeed. You’ve got the right idea. I also splurge once in awhile for a must have plant. But perhaps it is my upbringing but there is nothing like a ‘good buy’. And so, if you have to buy it off season for the following year, why not? Thanks for a great idea! Fran

Cindy T. August 3, 2008, 10:39 am

I’d probably enjoy wandering through Terrain, but those prices would have me looking elsewhere when I was ready to buy. I’m both price conscious and quality conscious when it comes to plants. I usually shop at independent nurseries because I know their plants come from local growers. That can be important here in Texas: a plant grown in northern climes can have a very difficult time adjusting to our crazy climate. I may pay more attention to that than most, since I worked at a small local nursery a while back and am familiar with the local growers. When you know what the wholesale price is for a plant, you know when you’re paying a premium for the store’s ambience, as sounds like the case w/Terrain.

Cindy-
Some great points in your post. And yes, for you Texan gardeners, having it grown locally is particularly important. I don’t think as many folks in the Northeast think of that issue when buying plants. But what I have noticed at Home Depot this year is that they are now advertising that alot of their plants are ‘locally grown’. So, this concept is slowly catching on. And yes, when I go to my wholesale (who I plan on doing a post very soon) and get great plant material for 1/3 to 1/4 of the price, it clues you into the tremendous mark up on them! Fran

Frances August 3, 2008, 2:52 pm

I would love to have any kind of store like that near me. I have been to Anthropologie in several cities while traveling and love to look at the displays. I have bought a few things as well as online too, even though the clothes are mostly too trendy for my age. Your description reminds me of the Smith and Hawken stores, although they have fewer plants than other things. I do like to look, though. I try and spread my wealth among many local nurseries, but the big box store still gets the most of my dollars because that is the only store open all year with new merchandise and great sales.

Frances-
I am a big fan of Anthropologie and have been since they opened out in the ‘burbs several years. When my daughter comes into visit, my Dad will take her there for an afternoon of ‘splurge shopping’. And to give them the credit they deserve, Terrain has alot of the same elements of Anthropologie. I need to go back again to separate in my mind the inside of the store and the plant material which is outdoors. Terrain is much, much more expansive than Smith and Hawkens in their entire approach: including both home accessories and plant material. I’ll keep you posted after my next visit. Fran

Fern R August 3, 2008, 4:13 pm

I am definitely price conscious. I can’t afford to drop hundreds of dollars at a time, no matter how much a plant tugs at my heart strings. I think I would laugh out loud if I saw a geranium for $17. If a geranium was particularly unusual, I think I would pay up to $10, but anything over that is simply out of my price range. I tend to buy small plants that I can propagate via cuttings or plant things from seed. I want to have gorgeous and unusual plants, but I am probably not the right customer for Terrain.

Fern-
Thanks for your input. Your point is well taken about propogating plants from cuttings like coleus or several of the salvias. Very often, I will order just one salvia from Digging Dog in early spring and then tale cuttings it so that I have several by the time they are ready to go outdoors. Yup…I am very conscious about price as well, especially when I buy most of my plants from wholesaler and am very familiar with the mark-ups. Fran

Lisa at Greenbow August 3, 2008, 6:32 pm

If I am purchasing a runn of the mill plant or fillers I don’t want to pay top dollar. If I am getting a new plant or something I haven’t seen before I will pay a little more.

One of these places would be where I would go to get ideas or if I wanted a special something.

I usually buy from local nurseries. I hit the discount places for mundane filler plants.

Lisa-
Good idea to go to discount stores for the fillers. We have a place in Philadelphia called Produce Junction that sells produce but also sells cut flowers and plants. I don’t know how they do it but they job lot the plant material. On any given day you can walk in and shake your head and walk right out. But when you hit it lucky, oh my goodness, you can come up with incredible goodies at a ridiculously low price. Talk about bargain hunting….it doesn’t get much better than this! Fran

Pam/Digging August 3, 2008, 10:23 pm

Like Cindy, I buy almost exclusively from independent nurseries in Austin that either propagate their own plants or buy them from local growers. Barton Springs Nursery and the Natural Gardener (toured on the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling) are my favorites for great service, excellent selection, and reasonable prices.

Austin is blessed with a large number of independent nurseries, and I also enjoy visiting the more trendy and expensive of these, like Gardens and Big Red Sun, especially for inspiration and the occasional unusual plant or accessory. But price matters, so I consider those places for the occasional splurge, not for regular shopping.

And to answer your question, yes, the quality of the plant is important, and all of the nurseries I mentioned here offer high quality merchandise.

Pam-
Am not surprised to hear you say that being the keen and excellent gardener that you are. You also make a good point about buying from nurseries that buy from local growers. I noticed on some of the plants at Terrain that they had 2 tags: one from Beds and Borders and another from the actual source of the plant material…which means it was marked up twice. Buying locally not only saves transportation money but it supports the local agricultural industry and is more likely to thrive in your climate. And yes, I agree with you. It is good to look around to get ideas…but for me that means visiting gardens! Fran

Squirrelgardens August 4, 2008, 10:33 am

Reminds me of the late Gardeners Eden stores. Eye candy to drool over. Because I have 2.5 acres I have to shop at specials and internet tried and true. Love looking at the upscale though……going to buy some lottery tickets. Thans for sharing the site…have been hearing about this new lifestyle business.

Squirrel Gardens-
I hear you! I’m planning to go back for another visit over the next month and walk about the inside of the store now that the shock of the price of the plants has settled in. Never saw a Gardeners Eden store though was familiar with their catalogue. Thanks for sharing. Fran

Michelle August 8, 2008, 8:57 pm

I’m in the gardening trade so I purchase most of my plants at wholesale nurseries.
I visit garden boutiques such as Terrain at Home when I am in the mood for design inspiration but rarely purchase anything unless I know that the plant is a rarity that I cannot obtain through my plant broker or wholesale resources.
I’m glad that shops like Terrain exist, they provide a service to a certain sector of society and instill and inspire creative inspiration.
I’m also appreciative that Home Depot and the local small independent nurseries are around.
There is something for everybody at various levels of income.

Michelle-
Thanks for chiming in. All of the points you made are well taken. Fran

Blackswampgirl Kim August 11, 2008, 10:15 pm

I am imagining my thoughts after visiting Terrain would be about like they were after visiting Anthropologie: Way out of my price range, but maybe there are a few things there that I could copy in my own small way. (For example, I love the mossy tree trunk turned into a table in the picture above, but I could do that with a tree trunk and some trashpicked picnic table top.)

I tend to shop at local, independent garden centers for most things. I value their knowledge and commitment, the fact that they will look for certain plants for me, and so forth. I also appreciate that they put effort into maintaining the plants that they have, so I know that what I’m buying has been taken care of before I get it into my yard. And I don’t mind paying an extra dollar or two per plant accordingly… within reason. ‘Citronelle’ is a fairly recent introduction around here, so $17 for a healthy plant in a gallon-sized pot is not unreasonable… but ‘Rozanne’ would be overpriced at that, IMHO.

Where I do go to the big box stores every now and again are in regards to the ornamental grasses. They do get their plant material in from local growers, which is nice, but they have no qualms at charging just $7 or $8 for a gallon-sized pot of ornamental grasses–even newer things like ‘Cloud Nine’ switchgrass or ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus. I have a hard time paying $20 and up for a similarly sized ornamental grass at a local independent place, for some reason. I’m a little ashamed to admit that, but there it is!

Blackswampgirl-
Thanks for sharing your buying habits and philosophy with us. It is always interesting to hear how other gardeners make decisions on what plants to buy and why. Your input is appreciated! Fran

JoAnne February 18, 2009, 6:17 pm

I love gardening.
I buy most of my plants from my two local nurseries. I like their variety, the quality is so much better than any big box store I’ve been to, and I love that they are close to my house so I want to keep them in business. One is more expensive than the other, however whenever I buy something permanent, like a shrub or tree I tend to go to the more expensive one, only from experience, and I never buy permanent shrubs/trees from a big box store. I do buy things from Burpee on line and their stuff, for me worked great!
In my first house I bought 3 trees from home depot and lowes, pink dogwoods and all three died. Live and learn, by the time I bought the soil hauled it home, planted it, watered it, I would have paid anything just to ensure that it would grow!! I realized, for me, it’s not worth the risk.
This store, to me, seems more like an inspiration store. I might splurge and buy something unique, but i would really go their just to see it and get ideas. Don’t think I’ll be buying too many plants. But I LOVE to look at any and all garden displays so thanks for sharing.

Jo Anne-
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. It is great to have local nurseries near your home where you can find quality plant material, even though it may be a bit more expensive. I’ve had some luck with Home Depot over the years but have limited myself to buying annuals and once in a while, when it’s a really good buy, some perennials. Fran

oso November 7, 2009, 11:19 am

Please friends, let’s not be too critical. What would you rather see the disposable income go to, supporting a gardener and growing plants or buying jewelry from African gems or worse yet, taking the motorcycles out to the desert to burn fuel, create carbon dioxide and destroy native habitat. As a fledgling nurseryman I welcome the sensibility that values farming enough to pay a price that could create a livable wage for a farmer. Let’s look forward to a culture that will allow people to be farmers and gardners as a primary livelyhood, not just a hobby.
Oso Koenigshofer Sebastopol, Cal.

Dear Oso,
It’s great to ‘see you’ on our blog. Your thoughts are well taken. All the best-Fran