Don’t Miss the Bus! By Tim Hodson

Last month, GPN’s managing editor, Paige Worthy, and I spent several days on buses with 70 garden center owners and operators, growers and other industry professionals, traveling around the Philadelphia/Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area checking out the holiday displays at a wide variety of garden centers.

It was part of the Garden Centers of America’s (GCA) 2008 Holiday Tour. During the three-day excursion, we stopped at large garden centers, small garden centers, product manufacturers, a landscape operation and a botanic garden.

We also had an opportunity to check out Terrain at Styer’s ( in Concordville, Pa. This is Urban Outfitter’s bold new experiment and entry into the lawn and garden business. Earlier this year, the lifestyle specialty retailer purchased J. Franklin Styer Nurseries and renovated the property, converting it into UO’s latest brand, which offers “an eclectic mix of garden-inspired products tailored for the contemporary customer.” If you are in the Philadelphia area, you might want to check it out.

Fresh Perspectives

We logged quite a few miles throughout the Pennsylvania and Maryland countryside while on the tour, and it was very interesting to check out all of the gorgeous holiday displays. But what really fascinated me was talking to the other attendees. Everyone on the tour viewed each stop differently, and getting their take on what they saw and what was happening in the marketplace was invaluable.

In the past few months, the headlines have been nothing but doom and gloom, so it was incredibly refreshing to talk to garden center owners and listen to how upbeat they were.

If you have never participated in one of the industry’s garden center tours through the GCA, American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) or at OFA Short Course, I highly recommend it. These tours are educational, inspirational and just a lot of fun — and the networking opportunities are priceless.

A Well-Deserved Honor

Our last stop on the tour was at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, Md., where Don Riddle was presented with GCA’s prestigious Jack Schneider Award.

This award, selected by GCA’s board of directors, is the organization’s top award, its Hall of Fame. It is based on the nominee’s lifetime career contribution to the industry and support for GCA.

“We were so excited to select Don Riddle as a Jack Schneider Hall of Fame Award recipient,” said Ken Long, president of Garden Centers of America. “This is such a special award, and it was so exciting to present it in Don’s own store. Don’s devotion to the industry and, specifically, Garden Centers of America is unsurpassed and we are thrilled to recognize his efforts.”

Riddle’s contributions to the industry are too numerous to mention, but the Jack Schneider Award is truly a well-deserved honor. Congratulations, Don!

Happy Holidays!

From everyone at GPN, have a safe holiday season — and here’s to a happy and prosperous new year.

Tim Hodson

Tim Hodson is the editorial director of GPN and Big Grower. He can be reached at

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