In the Life of a Garden Centre - Beyond Planting

We have heard the phrase often in the greenhouse industry. "So, what do you do now when the snow flies?" A couple weeks ago, the phrase was heard again. The familiar old statement brought a smile and made me think back on how garden centres once were; and also, of how they have evolved.

Over twenty years ago garden centres quieted down once November approached. The "hoop" house portions of the business often referred to as quonsets; once filled to maximum capacity during the growing seasons now look like cold long igloos. Continuous air emitted from small fans push air into thin layers of tightened poly are the only defense in warding off snow. The tight ribs of the building’s steel frames freeze up and stand rigid still next March.

Back in the days; late October, early November was time to re-coup; plan and gear up with creating new planting basket recipes, order plants and roots while planning on acquiring pots, fertilizers and all other stock in readiness of the early stages of growing for the new year. Empty greenhouses were cleaned and bleached, while ideas and decisions for displays were made and drafted for executing for the upcoming year. It was a quieter time.

Twenty years later, the scheduling, ordering and cleaning of buildings remain the same but it is the re-invention of operations which have evolved. It is now that garden centres reveal their diversity. Each season brings something new; something new to show visitors. It is in November that you are witness to a great change. They transform inside and out to the celebration of the Christmas season.

It is somewhat the norm now to observe a transition of a garden centre to a Christmas shop. The makeovers are amazing as entire changes come in to play. Main store areas now absent of vast selections of seeds, bulbs, soil amendments and other gardening fundamentals are now stages for beautiful scenes of holiday decorations. Displays and creative accents set amongst home décor and fashion are favorable family shopping atmospheres.

Garden centres are destination settings for events, activities, and classes showcasing and celebrating the winter season - Christmas! Space is set aside to creative classes using plant material such as graceful boughs of cedar, pine and spruce paired with natural branching of birch logs, red dogwoods and accents of huge pinecones.

We remember, the heart of this business is the "garden Centre". Evidence of being that centres is displayed in their greenhouse portions where tropical plants dress their tables. Holiday plants such as poinsettia, Christmas cacti and unique mini cypress plants whimsically curved into a fun Grinch Tree await the season. Garden centres promote the extension of dressing the exterior of homes by offering custom containers to adorn front entrances during the winter months. Yes, garden centres are still potting up... but potting up creative winter arrangements from whimsy to classical.

This season venture to the garden centres to take in the festivities, the activities and the sites of magical transformation.

Check your centres for creating festive containers for ideas to create on your own; or for chosing the perfectly pre-arranged one that suits you. There are so many recipes; so many styles; so much fun being offered.

Remember, hours of operations vary from location to location – calling before you go is best as many local centres are independent– family run business which encourage – come for the events, come for the creative displays offered – come for the experience.

Recipe for a creative festive Urn.

  • 1 – 14" pot
  • 2 boughs of silver fir
  • 1 bough of red cedar
  • 1 bough white pine
  • 2 large sugar pine cones
  • 3 yards of ribbon – for a bow and ribbon accent
  • soil or grower mix in pot to support boughs
  • Optional : birch poles, dogwood branching, red glitter star accents, glittered branching ( there are numerous additives for the additions you can add in which you can create a theme for your festive container).

St. Mary’s Nursery & Garden Centre is open for the festive season displayed in a Christmas wonderland of over 30 theme trees. Visit for the experience.


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