This excerpt from “The Garden Bible: Designing your perfect outdoor space,” by Barbara Ballinger and Michael Glassman has been reprinted with permission.
Transforming outdoor spaces is one of the hottest home trends today. Landscaping expands living space square footage, makes a property more usable, and keeps homeowners healthier whether they grow vegetables or swim laps. It also makes a neighborhood more aesthetically attractive and community-minded.
“The Garden Bible” aims to help homeowners understand the challenges of their outdoor spaces and what they need to do to create their garden and make it thrive. It could also serve as inspiration for independent garden centers that offer landscape design and installation for customers. This book takes homeowners through the entire process from the beginning: how to ask a professional the right questions, how to develop a budget, and how to identify and troubleshoot the challenges of their yard — drainage, erosion, privacy, noise, wind, too much or too little sun or shade. We selected this excerpt specifically because the couple profiled in this chapter described challenges and goals that many of your customers may share, including filling a hole left after a tree unexpectedly fell, improving drainage, and creating an outdoor space to better socialize in, with beautiful plants and a weather-proof grill.
During much of the 20th century, William Roy Wallace played an important role in architectural design throughout Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Many of his Beaux Arts–inspired designs are still visible today. When a now-retired couple was ready to work on the rear garden of their property at Wallace’s well-known Meade Willis house, they retained landscape architect Jeff Allen, also a Winston-Salem resident. Sensitive to the home’s history, they wanted to respect the 1940s architectural integrity and instructed Jeff to ensure that the gardens reflect its classical style. During his research for this project, Jeff found inspiration from prominent landscape designer Ellen Biddle Shipman, whose workmanship is on view at the famed Bayou Bend Gardens (Houston, Texas), Longue Vue Gardens (New Orleans, Louisiana), and Duke University’s Sarah P. Duke Gardens (Durham, North Carolina), to name a few of her projects. For the couple, the immediate challenge was filling a large hole that was created when an oak tree fell abruptly by their back porch. But they didn’t stop there, and gave Jeff a long list of additional requests — common in design work indoors and outdoors. As long as they were doing some work, why not also now introduce gardens to grow food and flowers in a walled space that animals couldn’t enter, a grilling station, a modest-sized terrace for alfresco dining and socializing, a garage court, garden paths, a rear entry porch, and improved drainage. Jeff designed all into the master plan and work began.
More information about William Roy Wallace’s architecture is available from the North Carolina State University Libraries, which acquired his papers.
Features - Landscape Spotlight
Your customers may not be able to see the water doing its job, but converting a traditional system to drip may result in more money in their pockets.
The topic of water is a hot one, especially as communities expand restrictions and homeowners look for alternative ways to keep their yards looking refreshed.
If customers in your area are looking to replace sprinkler systems in their yards, it might be valuable to suggest a drip irrigation system. Unlike traditional systems that spray water above ground to keep plants and turf watered, drip line systems are inground, delivering water directly to the root system.
“You’re going to end up using a lot less water,” says Greg Martin, design and installation manager with Paradise Garden Center in Riverside, Calif. “You’re cutting water bills in half, which is huge here in southern California.”
Martin says the conversion from an existing irrigation system to drip isn’t complicated.
“Basically, what we do on an existing system is we put the valve or take the existing valve and cut into it on the downstream side and put in a filter and a regulator,” he says.
He adds that if a customer is using potable water, the filter isn’t entirely necessary. Its job is to make sure small particles or debris aren’t clogging the emitter.
“Check periodically during the establishment period because you never know a dripper is clogged until the plant dies,” he says. “You can’t tell because it’s all covered up, so be sure and use a filter and a regulator and use quality drip material.”
When putting in drip irrigation systems, landscapers can either use the existing lateral lines and just add new drip fittings and emitters, or they can adapt the drip tubing to run less like a grid.
“The inline drip tubing is good if you’re planting all the same species and you’re planting on a grid,” says Martin. “So when you first plant it, it looks like a crop and then it grows in full.”
However, Martin says that 99 times out of 100, residential applications aren’t that patterned.
Being able to put drip tube emitters wherever each plant is really helps with water regulation. That way, if you have a plant like an agave, which requires virtually no water, near a rosebush, which requires four times the water, you can regulate that.
“With the inline emitters, you can’t regulate how much is coming out of that emitter or the other emitter,” Martin says. “What I can do with the rose bush is put 2-gallon emitters so it’s getting 4 gallons an hour, where the agave is getting 1 gallon an hour.”
Martin says drip irrigation lets landscapers establish water distribution based on plant growth, and the emitters can be pulled out and changed if the plant is getting too much or not enough water.
One of the biggest dilemmas with drip irrigation is trying to make the homeowner understand how it works.
“It’s a very simple system to put in,” says Don Holder, a certified irrigation auditor with ConServ in Menifee, Calif. He says the materials are inexpensive compared to the labor cost, but homeowners are still wary. “A lot of people are just scared of it because they’re used to seeing spray heads and water spraying their plants,” he says.
Martin says there’s virtually no evaporation with drip because the water is applied directly to the plant and below the soil.
“The surface of the ground may seem a little dry, but once you dig to the plant’s root ball, there’s moisture there,” he says.
Because of this, a lot of homeowners end up overwatering and killing the plants, he says.
“They’re used to putting down a pretty good application of water,” Martin says. “It’s more of an adjustment thing to get used to only watering twice instead of five times a week.”
“CHECK PERIODICALLY DURING THE ESTABLISHMENT PERIOD BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW A DRIPPER IS CLOGGED UNTIL THE PLANT DIES.” — GREG MARTIN, PARADISE GARDEN CENTER
Another difference is that even though you turn the system on fewer times during the week, you have to leave the drippers on longer because the water is dripping very slowly.
“It may take 30 minutes twice a week or 30 minutes three times a week, but, at the same time, you’re using less water,” Martin says.
Something else to keep in mind is making sure your customers are thorough when they decide to make the conversion.
“When they decide they’re going to convert, they shut the water to their grass to let it die out,” Martin says. “They think it’s dead but it’s not.”
He says when this happens, the grass, especially Bermuda, goes into a dormant state. When you go in and cut the turf out to put in the irrigation and replace it, the root systems remain.
“Then the next spring, here comes the Bermuda all back in their planted space,” Martin says.
He says for a proper conversion with no interference from the previous landscape, you need to spray the grass with a glyphosate-based chemical.
“It’s super important to do a proper weed and turf abatement before they remove the old sod,” he says.
The last advice both Martin and Holder have is to invest in quality material for the new irrigation system.
“Quality drip material is important,” Martin says. “Whatever you put into something, that’s what you’re going to get out. Use quality plant material, quality drip line and a smart controller. Stuff like that.”
Holder says both the contractor and the homeowner should do their research prior to the installation of drip irrigation systems.
“There’s all kinds of great information on YouTube on drip irrigation with different manufacturers,” he says. “They make very simple products that are easy to understand. If [customers] follow just those simple guidelines, it’s a very easy system to put in.”
Katie Tuttle is associate editor of sister publication Lawn and Landscape magazine.
The buzz about beekeeping
Features - Industry Trends
Integrate pollinator promotion into multiple product categories and events to get maximum value from beekeeping supplies and butterfly gardens.
Erin Masterson Holko got into beekeeping by accident when she found an old birdhouse in her backyard filled with honeybees. She noticed “more lemons on the lemon tree and more tomatoes on the tomato plants” — and, best of all, “no one got stung.”
By the time Holko found a beekeeper to move the bees into a hive, she was hooked. When news of dwindling bee populations hit the mainstream media in 2013, she wanted to get involved. Unable to find a local source for beekeeping supplies in San Diego, she opened her own store instead.
Holko shared her apiary passion with her family back at Masterson’s Garden Center Inc. & Aquatic Nursery in East Aurora, N.Y., convincing them to install a couple hives there. That gave way to an entire department as interest (and sales) grew. A year ago, Holko sold her shop and moved back home to manage Masterson’s burgeoning beekeeping department — which made up 27 percent of the garden center’s gross sales last year.
Holko and other beekeeping experts shared advice to help independent garden centers find success with bees.
To sell this category successfully, Holko says, you need a full inventory, not just an endcap. Before diving in, gauge your market’s interest — perhaps by inviting a local beekeeper to speak, then assessing the turnout.
“A great place to start is your local or regional beekeeping group,” she says. “When my dad and brother had questions, they went to the bee club for help. Part of the reason Masterson’s started stocking beekeeping supplies is that, at these meetings, they realized that local beekeepers didn’t know where to get supplies.”
With an initial investment of $10,000 to $12,000, Masterson’s stocked “everything a new beekeeper would need to get started and continue beekeeping as a backyard hobby” — including all the wooden boxes, frames and covers that compose a traditional beehive, as well as basic tools, smokers and safety gear like veils, gloves and suits.
Supplies are just the first step, though. “Beekeeping doesn’t sell itself,” Holko says. “People need to learn everything about keeping bees, and they have lots of questions, so you need knowledge to back up what you’re selling. That’s an advantage and disadvantage for small garden centers.”
Developing this knowledge can be time and labor intensive. But it can also differentiate IGCs.
“There’s nothing we sell [in this department] that you can’t find cheaper online,” Holko says, explaining that, until recently, the only way to buy beekeeping supplies was directly from manufacturers’ catalogs or websites — which can overwhelm new beekeepers. “The only reason we make any margin on it is that we’re offering an educational component. We spend a lot of time teaching customers about pollinators, and once you spend that time, people typically purchase from you because you’ve developed a relationship.”
Holko teaches beekeeping classes almost weekly between March and October. For more hands-on training, customers join Masterson’s Beekeeping Apprenticeship Program, which meets weekly during three-month sessions each spring and fall. Now in its third year, the apprenticeship, which costs $150, is limited to eight participants per session so everyone gets individual attention at the apiary.
Apprentices return for Masterson’s Honey Harvest Festival in October to spin and bottle honey, while sharing their knowledge with hundreds of festival attendees.
Overcoming fear of bees
The educational goal of beekeeping is to “let people know that bees are docile, not something to fear, and show them how uninterested bees are in us,” says Erik Dietl-Friedli, garden center manager and buyer/merchandiser at Flamingo Road Nursery and Farmers Market. He’ll even “pet” bees on flowers to prove this to skittish customers (and he’s never been stung).
Having hives at your IGC — at least 15 feet away from customers or on the rooftop — helps overcome this fear. Masterson’s and Flamingo Road each have 20 to 30 hives outside and one observation hive inside, with plexiglass sides to let customers watch the bees safely.
“It’s neat to let people get up close and realize that the bees aren’t paying any attention to them,” Holko says. “Seeing the inner-workings of a hive sparks fascination.”
To really combat the fear of bees, Dietl-Friedli says, get customers hooked on butterflies first. Flamingo Road has promoted butterfly gardening since it moved into its facility in Davie, Fla., in 2005, and sales in this category have grown every year.
“Nobody’s afraid of butterflies,” he says. “If you have butterfly plants, you’re going to get bees, so then you can talk about bees.”
“The first step,” Dietl-Friedli continues, “is to create an area dedicated to pollinator plants.” Native plants are an easy transition into pollinators for most IGCs; plus, display gardens create opportunities to educate with signage.
Signs shouldn’t indicate danger, which could perpetuate fear. Make it fun by encouraging photo ops and activities. For example, a sign in Masterson’s kids’ garden asks children to find a bee and figure out whether she’s gathering nectar (by sticking out her tongue) or pollen (by stuffing powder in her pouches). As kids investigate, they forget to be scared.
Flamingo Road has a 100-square-foot butterfly area full of pollinator-friendly plants and enclosures, with signs featuring tips about which plants host/attract certain pollinators. Milkweed — the host plant for monarch butterflies — is one of Flamingo Road’s top ten best-sellers, selling between 7,000 to 9,000 one-gallon units annually. “The milkweed that’s half-eaten with caterpillars on it, those are the plants people want,” Dietl-Friedli says. “We don’t sell caterpillars, but they’re plentiful, so we don’t mind if customers take some when they buy milkweed.”
Don’t even think about spraying these pollinator gardens. Speaking of which, you should stock natural, organic pesticide substitutes if you promote bees and butterflies, Dietl-Friedli says.
“Chemicals are not compatible with butterfly gardens, so you have to commit to offering organic solutions,” says Dietl-Friedli, who sells natural pest controls like ladybugs and lacewings. “There truly is an interest in gardening more naturally, if not organically; so once you become the source for that, then you can expand into beekeeping.”
The key is not to isolate beekeeping, he says, “Reinforce pollinators throughout the garden center.” Display pollinator-friendly plants next to fruit trees and vegetables with signs reminding customers what role bees play. Fill birdbaths with fruit to attract butterflies to your statuary area. And don’t forget the giftshop — Holko and Dietl-Friedli agree that any products patterned with bees and honeycombs are on trend, from wall décor to bumblebee socks to honeycomb napkins.
“Garden centers are well-positioned to offer solutions for customers to help the bees,” Holko says, and by taking advantage of these trends and cross-promotional opportunities, IGCs can tap into the revenue potential and environmental benefit that pollinators bring.
Brooke is a freelance writer living in Cleveland and a frequent contributor to Garden Center.
Tax returns: Shopping spree or rainy day fund?
Departments - Last Look | Bonus takeaways to keep you thinking
Recent findings shed some light on how American consumers approach their annual tax returns.
Each spring, American taxpayers prepare to file their annual tax return forms, either looking forward to a refund or dreading the possibility of owing additional taxes. Those that do receive compensation for exceeding their yearly tax burden differ in how they use these tax refunds. Some sock that bonus away into their savings, some put it toward loan payments or other obligations, and others take the opportunity to splurge a little.
If you’re an owner or manager, it’s no surprise to you that there is a government regulation for nearly every employment decision you make. The reality is that you can’t hire, promote, discipline, transfer, pay, or terminate an employee without considering local, county, state, and federal employment regulations. Depending on where your business is located and how many employees you have, you may have to comply with regulations that dictate everything from the precise questions you can ask during an interview to what you can legally deduct from the final paycheck of an employee who owes you thousands of dollars (zippo, in many cases!).
The cost of compliance is staggering. For the 28 million small businesses in the U.S., regulatory compliance costs more than $10,000 per employee — 36 percent higher than the cost for a larger business. It’s no wonder some business owners consider regulatory costs to be a hidden tax on businesses. And it doesn’t seem to quit. Over the past 20 years, the federal government has added more than 80,000 regulations — typically between 3,500 and 4,500 annually.
With burdens like these, small businesses are understandably pleased about a new pro-business philosophy in Washington that began to take shape when President Donald Trump announced a regulatory freeze. While we anticipate a business climate with fewer employment regulations under this administration, the president’s agenda likely includes tighter enforcement of one regulation in particular that has many employers concerned: the Immigration and Nationality Act. For labor-strapped employers who rely on immigrant populations to fill unskilled positions, the benefits of fewer employment regulations may not outweigh the losses associated with the labor shortages that would result if millions of illegal immigrants were deported.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding immigration enforcement, with an otherwise pro-business administration at the helm, changes in the employment arena are likely to ensue — including, ironically, some new regulations. All bets are off when it comes to predicting the future with this particular president calling the shots, but many HR prognosticators agree on some widely anticipated changes in the employment arena. These include:
Federal minimum wage increase. Currently stalled at $7.25 per hour for the past eight years, employers should prepare for a federal minimum wage increase, most likely to $9 and possibly phased in over time. Of course, a higher federal minimum wage rate is moot if your business is covered by a local or state minimum wage law with a higher rate.
Death of the Overtime Rule. President Trump opposes the 2016 salary increases to the Fair Labor Standards Act and has already taken steps toward permanently killing the rule. We expect the new Secretary of Labor to forego the appeal filed by the Obama administration, which would result in the current injunction standing and the end of the Overtime Rule.
Paid family leave. President Trump originally called for six weeks of paid maternity leave for women, but expanded this to “paid family leave” in his speech to the joint session of Congress on Feb. 28. This benefit will likely be funded through the unemployment compensation system and is expected to include changes to the current system to curb unemployment fraud in order to generate the additional funds necessary to support paid family leave benefits.
Employer incentives for employees with families. In keeping with efforts to support working families, we expect tax deductions for families with childcare or eldercare costs and new or greater IRS incentives for employers who provide childcare to their employees.
Government agency philosophical and investigatory shifts. With pro-business leaders heading federal employment agencies like OSHA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Wage and Hour Division, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), we expect a more common-sense, practical approach to enforcement practices, fewer investigations, more flexibility when resolving issues during audits, and smaller settlements for violations of regulations.
Affordable Care Act (ACA) reforms. It remains to be seen if ACA reforms will fulfill employers’ wish lists for lower costs, more plan options, portable policies, the option to purchase health insurance through trade associations, tax deductions for premiums, and a 40-hour full-time definition.
Rollback of DOL guidance documents pertaining to independent contractors and joint employment. It’s tough to ignore the shift toward outsourcing (some 20 million workers are now contractors), and a new pro-business Secretary of Labor is expected to promote changes to labor laws that make it easier for companies to hire contractors.
More apprenticeship programs. With significant future labor shortages in the trades, the new Secretary of Labor is expected to boost funding for apprenticeship programs.
Greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws. The new administration has signaled its disagreement with the former administration’s lenient enforcement of federal laws related to recreational marijuana use. Expect the Department of Justice to clamp down on the eight states that have legalized recreational use of the drug.
Increased enforcement of immigration laws. As noted above, employers should prepare for increased immigration enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audits. In addition, as part of President Trump’s efforts to “put America first,” employers should expect mandatory E-Verify checks for all employees and changes to legal immigration programs and visa categories. With a new administration in Washington, it is indeed a new day for employers. But this new day is unlike any other, so strap on your seat belts and get ready for the wild ride down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Jean is president of Seawright & Associates, a management consulting firm located in Winter Park, Florida. Since 1987, she has provided human resource management and compliance advice* to employers across the country. She also consults with employer-members of trade associations, including, among others, The Garden Center Group. She can be contacted at 407-645-2433 or firstname.lastname@example.org. (*The information in this article is not legal advice. For legal advice, readers should consult with an attorney.)