We're getting a 24' x 40' tent with detachable sides to place in the nursery. It will be used for workshops and other events during inclement weather. Like any garden center we are always looking for ways to bring people into the store during less than perfect weather. We had been having the winter workshops in the store, where we would just wheel the display racks out of the way. In our small store it can get crowded with a class and people purchasing so its nice in the summer to have the classes out under the oaks. Yet, just a couple of weeks ago the the Divide Womens Group had to cancel a big party here because of out of season rain. With the tent we will have an option to continue the event and increase our offerings of workshops during the fall and winter. Hands on workshops have proven increasingly popular. It would seem that there is quite an interest by people in the "outside world". I am sure that this is going to increase as more people attempt to focus on the environment. Most folks just don't know that much about nature, but many are eager to learn. Where do you go to learn about these things? It should be our gardens and nursery. We should be the place you can watch, learn, and take part in fruit tree pruning, how to plant vegetables, make a broom, make a hyper-tufa pot, create a bird sanctuary, make a living wreath, etc.
I have always thought that the most important resource that we as garden centers have is the ability to dispense knowledge in a easy to understand and affable manner. After all, thats why many came to us in the first place. Before the current internet, nursery people we're the garden internet of the time. We were the ultimate resource for gardeners in the area, and we got use to having that ability to command attention. With the internet the nursery person is no longer the ultimate resource on gardening, yet its still the ability to dispense the information in a human and personal way that will keep us in business.
While you can learn to make a hyper-tufa pot via the internet there is nothing like mixing the ingredients and making one for your self. People want a hands on learning experience. I think that we as a garden center shouldn't limit our selves to the topics covered at a workshop. The only generalization would be it involves the natural world. So classes might involve propagating the native plants in the area, or using locally grown grapes in making wine! The idea being to have fun while learning and creating.
It sounds weird but the future of our garden center is in how much information we can give away. The more we enable our neighbors, both local and international to become better gardeners, the greater the pool of potential customers we will have. It's usually the gardening enthusiast that is a garden centers best word of mouth advertisement. We need to help nurture the potential enthusiasts. One way is through increased opportunities for learning new things, or learning old things in new ways. I believe the ability to dispense information in an easy to understand and affable manner is one of the most important attributes of a successful garden center.