Five questions with Demi Fortuna

Ask the Experts - Advertorial | Ask the Experts: Water Features

Demi Fortuna, Atlantic Water Gardens’ director of product information, talks top water features — who should have them, how to sell them, and why customers love them.

March 21, 2019

1. Why should garden centers be selling water features?

Water features are extremely popular, and they’ve been on the American Society of Landscape Architects’ (ASLA) most-wanted landscape list for the last 10 years as one of the top 10 most-requested landscaping options. Plus, they are profitable to sell. They’re easy to build — especially when you’re building with a kit that’s designed to be easy to install. People are drawn to water features because they see and hear the running water, and they like the attractiveness of them.

2. What type of water features should they be selling?

It’s really [about] a hierarchy of maintenance. If your customer is not one who would be very much into maintenance … [then] you [should] start out with fountains that are the easiest to maintain and, the easiest to install, as well. These features are typically dug into the ground. They’re simple to install because all you’re really doing is digging a hole in the ground and plugging the feature in after you’ve filled it with water.

[But] if you’re selling hardscape patio products, then you’ll be interested in formal spillway products. Those features go on a wall and spill down into a basin — and those are equally easy to install.

3. How can stores be successful selling water features?

Displays are the best way to go. You can set up something as small as 20-inches by 20-inches on the floor, which would include a basin, a pump and a small spillway spout or color falls — [for example], a basalt column on a little fountain basin. Fill those with small amounts of water, plug them in, and you have a running water feature that can be illuminated, so that people get an idea of what they’ll see in their garden. They take up very little selling space on the retail floor. They’re compact and very evocative.

4. Are water features a seasonal product?

During the year, water features are running; but at the end of the year, when they are turned off, there are products that [you] can sell that help you clean them up for the winter; you [also] want to run aeration for them in the winter to keep your fish alive. You want to cover them with a various different nets in the winter, when you have leaves falling. They are counter-seasonal products. They’re year round in the South. But in even the deepest part of winter, you can sell bacterial products to help keep ponds clean and free of debris for the spring or summer.

5. Which customers should garden centers target?

The easy answer is all of them. But you want to take a look at your existing hardscape customers, if you have them. The folks who do patios and the folks who do walls are going to be looking for fountain features for patios and formal spillway products for their walls. Any customer who has an outdoor living area also qualifies. The folks who are sitting outside around their fire pit or their outdoor kitchen are often thrilled with the idea of a small water feature to add the sound and the sparkle of water to that space.

Customers who are interested in birding are very motivated customers. They spend a lot of money on feed, but they also need open water year-round. Usually that’s more important in the wintertime in cold climates than the food is, and a small water feature — even if it has to be heated — is often a lifesaver for birds and other animals.

Gardeners in the Southwest and more arid areas use water features to humidify an area so that they can grow ferns and hostas and other moisture-loving plants where the conditions might be too arid.

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