Major makeovers planned for Aussie gardens

Australians’ love affair with entertaining and the outdoors shows no signs of slowing, with 93 per cent of homeowners either making substantial updates or completely overhauling their backyards with landscaping projects, according to a recent 2016 Houzz Australia Landscape Trends survey.

Outdoor living remains a top design priority for outdoor renovators (55 per cent) according to the survey, with 79 per cent reporting they spend a lot more time outside as a result of their upgrades.

Fiskars_Garden_Action_1019605_Light_DiggingSpade_JPGRelaxing (79 per cent), entertaining (64 per cent) and eating (63 per cent) are the other top increases in uses of the newly landscaped spaces, according to Houzz Inc., which is the world’s largest platform for home renovation and design. While gardening remains a top activity (59 per cent), more than three-quarters of home owners now opt for gardens that are easy-to-maintain (77 per cent).

On-going investment

Homeowners who renovate outdoors also invest in products such as outdoor furniture (54 per cent), barbecues (45 per cent), benches (32 per cent), fire pits (30 per cent), built-in seating (28 per cent) and patio heaters (21 per cent).

For those who include lighting into their outdoor space, 75 per cent say they do so to illuminate features and create a welcoming ambiance.

The survey also revealed that of the 87 per cent of homeowners who update outdoor systems; sprinklers and irrigation systems are most likely to be upgraded (41 per cent), while LED lighting (38 per cent), composting (31 per cent) and rainwater harvesting (28 per cent) are also popular system enhancements.

Houzz principal economist, Nino Sitchinava said, “two-thirds (66 per cent) of outdoor renovators spend more than four hours a week in their gardens, and are motivated to invest in major features that transform the outdoors into additional living spaces.”

Triggers, budgets and top priorities:

  • Money, money, money – The top trigger for outdoor upgrades is finally having the finances (32 per cent), followed by a recent home purchase (30 per cent), having the time (29 per cent) and responding to a deteriorated space (23 per cent).
  • Projects span all budgets – Substantial projects require higher budgets; however, 73 per cent plan to spend above $3,000. Eight in ten homeowners who renovated their outdoor space, (79 per cent) spent or plan to spend above $5,000 on complete overhauls, with over half of those (53 per cent) spending or planning to spend more than $15,000.
  • Paw perfect – Outdoor updates that consider pets were also a priority, with 49 per cent making pet-related upgrades in their renovation, creating space for animals to run and play (43 per cent), fenced off areas (27 per cent) and planting toxin-free plants (26 per cent).
  • Child friendly – Nearly half of outdoor renovators made child-related updates (46 per cent). Practicalities such as space to run and play (46 per cent), edible plants (37 per cent), and fencing around the garden (21 per cent) were prioritised.
  • Autumn is the time for action – Autumn proved to be the most popular season overall (34 per cent collectively) for garden renovations with the majority of homeowners planning projects for more than six months before breaking ground (57 per cent), which shows that substantial research into a project’s style and price is conducted before the project begins.
  • Pretty and low maintenance – Ease of maintenance (69 per cent) in plant choices during upgrades was also high on the list of priorities, followed by plants that are flowering (55 per cent), edible (51 per cent) and drought resistant (50 per cent).
  • Lawn action – Homeowners with existing lawns often make big changes to their green space, with 28 per cent reducing the lawn size, while six per cent are removing the lawn all together in favour of garden beds (64 per cent), ground cover/ornamental grass (55 per cent) and hardscaping (55 per cent).

Marketing in spring

When preparing your store for a rush of garden customers this spring, don’t forget that it is the little things, like colour, eye-catching displays, presentation of new products and the easy up-selling of ‘must have’ products that will entice your customers to not only spend in-store, but also ensure multiple visits as gardens advance and change over the warmer months.

For example: your customer might be planning a barbecue at the end of the September and they have come to your store for help because their garden is a mess.

You know instantly that they not only require the right garden equipment (mowers, blowers, petrol cans, whipper snipper blades) to make a decent change in winter gardens, but also barbecue essentials – which is when you direct them to your bright and modern display of barbecues, barbecue essentials, wood fired ovens and outdoor furniture. Tell them their new outdoor setting or barbecue will be a proud talking point at their next outdoor social function.

Planting options

If there is re-planting to be done, you may also suggest drought tolerant plant options to ensure less work is required during the hot summer months, particularly in the southern states when a hot summer can decimate entire backyards.

Retailers could easily create a water-saving plant section, within their garden and outdoor living department, which may include small water saving trees such as Crepe Myrtle, Quince or Willow Bottlebrush; and also screening shrubs such as the Common Myrtle or the Hillock Bush. Small shrubs that are water saving could include Gold Dust Wattle or Native Fuchsia, while ornamental grasses could include Feather Reed Grass or Turf Lily, while lawn grasses may include the Common Couch, Buffalo Grass and Weeping Grass. Drought tolerant evergreen shrubs include Blue Hibiscus and Wart-leaf Ceanothus while perennials include the Flannel Flower, Leek, Sea Lavender and Silver Spur Flower.

Seeds for spring

Mr. Fothergill’s has recently released several new seed varieties designed specifically for spring gardeners, and to also create an interest in younger gardeners with the launch of its Seeds for Little Gardeners Butterfly Garden Mix. The seed varieties are designed specifically to grow plants that will attract bees and butterflies, as well as a number of starter kits including flower pots, veggies and fruit and just add water varieties for those who want to grow their own garden on the window sill.

Of course, not only several varieties of pots, soil and planting utensils should be stocked alongside these items but also watering options, from simple dial tap timers to advanced systems that may be installed throughout any sized garden.

Pool maintenance

Once the spring sun comes out, you will be amazed how quickly pool owners will visit your store to ensure their pools are sparkling clean and healthy enough for use in summer.

Make sure you are super organised and order enough pool chemicals, test kits, sanitisers, oxidisers and spa chemicals for the season ahead, in an easy to find location within your store. Ensure department staff are fully briefed on new products and the most effective products to transform pools from winter green to spring clean.

Marketing plants to Millennials

At Cultivate ’16 held at Columbus, Ohio in July, and also the largest all-industry trade show in North America, a panel addressed the thorny question of marketing plants to the generation we call the Millennials. The panel was asked: “Are we still trying to sell our products in the 21st century using a model straight out of the 1980s?”.

An idea that came out of the town hall-style discussion was to embrace marketing which appeals to the emotions, and how to appeal to the Millennials. In other words, do not just use a sign to promote the features of a plant, but highlight how it could make your customer feel.

Panel members also recommended stressing the source of plants and products, especially where these are locally grown or produced. This idea links into the ‘local’ movement in food and eating. Also recommended was the staging of events and involvement with local activities.

Other key expressions that came through from the discussion were catering to the Milllennial’s lifestyle and communicating to this group through social media rather than traditional forms of advertising.

The all-women panel were: Brienne Gluvna Arthur of Brie Arthur Communications; Tina Bemis of Bemis Farms Nursery in Spencer, MA; Leslie Halleck of Halleck Horticultural LLC; Lisa Higby Lefevre of Distinctive Gardens in Dixon, IL; and Angela Treadwell Palmer of Plants Nouveau. For more on Cultivate ’16 visit: www.cultivate16.org