December is a time for celebrations in many ways. Some of us will be looking forward to a well-earned break, while others will be hoping for increased activity boosting sales in the lead-up to Christmas. We are all hoping for a near-normal summer season as COVID
restrictions wind back.
Recently, I have spent a lot of time with a judge’s hat on. Firstly, for the Australian Institute of Landscape Design Awards. The nominations were very impressive, from small balconies on inner-city apartments to penthouse balconies with 360º views, catering to all aspects and extreme conditions. Then there were acreages with more than one outdoor undercover area, swimming pools and more.
The creativity of the designs was world-class, and I certainly came away feeling like my own property needs a big facelift, although I am not sure my budget would go close to these exquisite designs. Not all the designs are private residences though, and it was in the commercial area I felt the designers take it to another level and think way outside the square. I was also pleased to see an abundance of plants in the designs as well.
From designs to retail garden centres, I was also asked to judge the Nursery & Garden Industry NSW & ACT. Once again, the competition was tough, and I truly agonised over the scoring. Every garden centre is unique and has its own strengths and challenges. One thing I did find in common with all of them, was their ability to understand their customers, which I think is a crucial element.
Over the years, I have seen this side of garden centres come into their own, particularly since the arrival of the big box stores. They utilise their
differences and expertise, and connect with their community.
It was a real treat to enter the garden centres and see their uniqueness. It is hard to compare them when their points of difference are exactly that, different! One centre may have a range of rare plants that are sourced from far and wide, and collections that true collectors would climb mountains to get their hands on, while another centre may have
merchandising skills that make customers feel like they never want to leave.
Others employ people with disabilities and have a positive impact on those people’s lives. Another centre’s point of difference was that they have taken the recycle, reuse philosophy to another level, having built most of their nursery on reusable, recycled materials and their gift lines are mostly Australian-made from small communities.
What I did find, was all the garden centres I visited continue to build on their businesses and make continuous improvements, connect with their customers, look forward and celebrate their individuality. Not everyone can be a winner of an award but by entering,
garden centre owners are inviting a critical appraisal of their business which may lead to otherwise unconsidered pathways for improvement. That is a good cause for celebration.
I think we can all celebrate the fact that we work in an industry that does give back to the community and the environment. I wish you all a safe festive season and hope that nature doesn’t give our country a lashing like it has done the past few years.
Stay safe, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Karen Smith and your Hort Journal Team