Insights and updates from the team at LandscapeHub

Grow your customer relationships—and profits—with upselling

Mar 5, 2020 11:29:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Education

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We’ve all been there. A cracked screen on your iPhone leads you to your service provider’s store. You specifically tell the customer service rep that you only need a repair—and yet, you leave the store with the latest upgrade, an iPad for your kids, and a new phone case. Driving home, you curse both yourself for the expense and the customer service rep for selling you exactly what you didn’t need.

Sound familiar?

That type of upselling—and cross-selling—doesn’t win loyalty or build relationships with customers. Instead of listening to the customer’s needs, the rep pushed profits at the expense of creating a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.

But that’s not how you run your business. When done properly, upselling actually improves relationships with your customers, while enhancing your bottom line. So, how do we get rid of the used-car salesman (or mobile phone rep) stigma of upselling? Focus on a win-win philosophy when selling your services to your clients. Here’s how:

First, Listen to Your Customers’ Needs

Your client may want your help designing and installing a relaxing backyard escape that’s low maintenance, pet friendly, child friendly, but also elegant for entertaining. That’s what your client says. But what are they really telling you underneath that directive? If they have kids and pets—they’re busy and time-pressed, and kids and pets don’t necessarily equate to “elegant” outdoor entertaining. This is your chance to ask leading questions: how old are the kids? Will the space need additional security or fencing around a pool? How much time does your client have to maintain the landscape? After all, they mentioned a “low maintenance, relaxing escape”—do they like puttering in the garden, or is this an opportunity for you to handle ongoing maintenance?

Asking questions and really listening to your customers’ needs and wants helps form trusting, mutually beneficial relationships. Take a look at this article from Entrepreneur that elevates listening to an art—and also provides a good list of questions to ask your customers so you understand their expectations from your services. Probing questions help you uncover how to make life easier for your customers by providing additional services, recommending the latest innovations in pest- and disease-resistant plants, or creating a design that achieves the goal of meshing family-friendly with entertaining-worthy. Listening is key--make notes, ask open-ended questions, and consider how your ideas and designs enhance the quality of life for your client.

Create Benefits for Your Customers—and Increased Sales for You

We all know basic business marketing: it’s easier to sell to existing customers than convert new prospects into sales. In fact, it can cost five times as much to attract new customers than to retain existing ones. In his book, Marketing Metrics, author Paul W. Farris states that the likelihood of selling to new prospects is between 5 to 20 percent. But the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent. You already have a relationship. Now, how do you deepen that relationship to benefit both you and your customer?

Perhaps you finished a commercial landscape installation. Your customer, delighted with your work, shook your hand, paid the bill, and said she’d be happy to write a glowing review. End of story, right?

Wrong!

Your client is thrilled with your work, and now’s the time to mention that you’d love to continue the relationship, helping your customer keep the property looking picture-perfect. Suggest an ongoing maintenance schedule for mowing and pruning as a first step. Your customer invested in the landscape, so it makes sense that she wants to keep it looking fabulous. While your crew can handle normal maintenance, make sure you stop by personally once a month (or more, if possible) to take a look at the property. You may see opportunities that your crew doesn’t, like an overgrown shrub obscuring a sign or a less-than-healthy tree that needs attention. By investing your time—and an opportunity for more one-on-one scheduled interactions with your client—you’re gaining additional trust that you’re looking out for her best interests.

As your relationship strengthens, you can start suggesting more services. But don’t upsell too soon! Let your relationship evolve so that your client sees that you’re providing value—keeping the property pristine, solving issues before they become problems, and handling details so that she can focus on her business, not the landscape. You’ll become an invaluable, trusted partner.

Now, you can start upselling! As part of your monthly visit, remind your client that your company can provide seasonal containers to brighten the entranceway, remove snow to keep employees safe, or even interiorscape the office, if that’s a service you offer. Talk to your client, find out concerns and needs, and offer a service that meets those needs—make a proposal. (But don’t try to sell all of your services in one big swoop. That might undo all of your relationship building efforts.)

Let’s say that your client agrees to add containers. Once you’ve created a gorgeous display and arranged it to your client’s delight, then mention your subscription service—a benefit that helps your client keep the containers looking their best, with new plantings each season. Or maybe your client mentions her wish to improve employee morale. Consider recommending a design for an outdoor seating area where employees can gather, eat lunch, and relax during a break. (Maybe even add foodscaping elements into the design, like blueberry bushes.)

Upselling products and services to a delighted, happy customer is much easier when you focus on their needs. It’s not just a quick boost to your bottom line that you’re after—you want to provide value that ensures a long, profitable relationship for you both.

Help Your Customers Get More Value from Your Business

Upselling doesn’t only apply to landscape and design professionals. Suppliers can also use the same tactics when upselling customers. Establish a trusted relationship with your customers by using your product knowledge to ensure your customers make the best choices for plants, hardscaping, and even soils and mulches. Once they know to turn to you for the best information and plants, suggest complementary products that benefit your customer’s projects—and also your bottom line.

If your customer plans an installation for a shady residential space, for instance, and wants to incorporate impatiens into the design—but worries about the recent issues with downy mildew—encourage them to try the new disease-resistant cultivar, Beacon impatiens. Or maybe your customer plans a wildlife-friendly installation for a community park. By working with your customer to ensure that your inventory includes native pollinator plants, bird-friendly berry bushes, and trees that benefit wildlife while still looking lovely in a park setting, you’re saving time and resources for your customer by giving him what he needs—in one place. Stay on top of the latest cultivars available and communicate their benefits to your customers, so they appreciate your knowledge and consider you a valuable resource. And, when your customer is delighted with the service and advice you provide, then you can consider recommending additional products that might align with his wildlife park project: bat boxes, bird feeders, or blue bird houses, if appropriate. Or maybe the addition of landscape lighting will help create a safe, aesthetically pleasing ambiance to the park. Focus on your customers’ needs, and only offer additional products that might enhance his project and make him look good to his customer!

Keep Your Customers’ Best Interests in the Forefront of Your Relationship

Upselling provides an outstanding opportunity to increase your business—if done with your customers’ best interests in mind. After all, you want a successful, mutually beneficial, long-lasting relationship with your customer where you both find value in working together. There’s no reason to push a quick sale when you can invest in your customer’s needs--and cultivate a relationship that grows both of your businesses.

At LandscapeHub, we work to make your needs our priority. Whether you require logistics support or financing assistance, we want to make your experience a pleasure.

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Leveraging trends for your green business

Feb 27, 2020 11:32:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Resources, Education

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As a green industry professional, your clients look to you for the best advice, whether creating an outdoor living room or installing seasonal containers. And, when you're well-versed on the latest horticultural trends, it's easy to leverage your expertise to increase sales and expand your customer base. After all, understanding trends help you select plants, products, or services your customers desire—whether they realize it yet or not! Even focusing on a few specific trends helps show your clients that you're knowledgeable and prepared to keep their landscapes and installations fresh and trend-setting. And, if you're a supplier, understanding the latest trends ensures that you'll stock the "it" plants and products to meet your customers' demands.

But where do you begin? How do you know which trends have legs—and which become the "pet rock" of 2020? We have a couple of ideas to get you started...

Trend: Urban Greening

More than half of the world's population lives in cities—and by 2050, that number is expected to climb to 70 percent. But city-dwellers long for nature: tranquil, plant-filled spaces to relax, meet friends, entertain the kids, and post to Instagram. "Green Recreational Districts" and green infrastructure continues to grow as a priority. In fact, America in Bloom launched "Growing Vibrant Communities"—a program that measures a community's commitment and progress toward creating green, environmentally friendly spaces filled with flowers, urban trees, and vibrant landscapes. That's where you come in.

By understanding the rise in urban greening, you can focus proposals on urban-specific designs, city-appropriate plants, and green space hardscape elements to wow your prospective clients. As a supplier, you'll know to boost your inventory of plants appropriate for cityscapes. Trees under 30-feet tall, such as Acer campestre (Hedge Maple), Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud), and Amelanchier spp. (Serviceberry) work beautifully in urban environments under low utility lines or restricted spaces, for instance. Well-placed and well-managed urban-appropriate trees control stormwater runoff, sequester carbon, and reduce energy consumption—shading buildings during hot summers and reducing cold winds in winter. But trees aren't the only green needs. Gorgeous grasses, pretty perennials, and low-maintenance shrubs—choosing the best varieties for an urban setting gives you an advantage over the competition when you can sell the benefits of this trend to your clients. When a city issues an RFP for greenscape designs, you'll be ready, because you understand the needs for urban greening.

Or perhaps creating green roofscapes is your forte. Use the trend of urban greening to encourage your commercial clients to develop green escapes—above the city. By sharing your knowledge with developers and showing how green roofs will attract buyers or renters, your clients will look to you as a knowledgeable green partner. And, if you're a supplier, you can be ready for an increased demand for plant material that withstands elevated temperatures, wind exposure, and intense sunlight.

Trend: Plant Parenting

As you create proposals for urban greening, don't forget another trend: plant parenting. You've most likely seen the slew of books and social media accounts geared toward plant parents—millennials who pay top dollar for unique houseplants. However, why not extend the houseplant-love trend by marketing a growing "family" of plants—a green balcony oasis for houseplant parents! Creating small-space designs that utilize containers on an apartment or condo balcony gives an urban dweller a private green escape. Small-statured evergreens that provide continuous, year-round color married with seasonal tropical plants, annuals, and perennials look cohesive and refreshing when designed and installed by you. Consider suggesting a subscription service for ongoing maintenance, allowing your green balcony clients to enjoy the space without the stress.

By encouraging millennials' love of houseplants and showing urban dwellers how to extend plant parenting to balcony gardening, you've created new gardening customers. (The industry thanks you!)

Trend: Small-Space Edibles

There's nothing as delicious as a homegrown tomato—and growing food continues to surge in popularity. In the past, urban gardeners and apartment dwellers lamented their lack of space to grow tomatoes, melons, berries, and squash—all well-known space hogs. However, plant breeders listened—and new, compact fruit and vegetable varieties give small-space gardeners the perfect garden-to-table solution!

Introduce your clients to small-space edibles. Dwarf plants like Jelly Bean® Blueberry, Raspberry Shortcake®, or Baby Cakes™ Blackberry grow beautifully in containers on a porch or balcony. For a client with a small space garden, select a dwarf apple tree appropriate for the zone and espalier it along a wall.

Help your customers create a veggie container garden with new varieties appropriate for small spaces. Tomato varieties like 'Little Napoli' Compact Roma tomato, which grows just 2-3 feet tall, or Red Robin Cherry, which grows only 8-12 inches high, are perfect solutions for limited space. Likewise, 'Astia' French bush zucchini, bred for small space and container gardens, looks gorgeous on a balcony. And, if your client craves the sweet taste of watermelon but thinks growing it in a small space is impossible, introduce them to Sugar Pot—a watermelon that produces 8-10 pound fruit on vines only 18-20 inches long.

Whether you're a garden coach, designer, or installer, your knowledge of small space edibles will wow your clients, convincing them that yes—they can enjoy a "mini-farm" on the balcony, patio, or small backyard!

Trend: Wildlife Sensitive Environments

The reports of climate change—from the steep decline of North American birds in the past 50 years to wildfires, flooding, and melting Arctic ice—makes ecological, kinder, more "gentle" gardening top the trends list.

It's a good trend for the green industry to promote and practice.

Wildlife sensitive environments use fewer chemicals, focus on soil health, and include tough plants that are naturally pest and disease resistant. Savvy home gardeners and environmentally responsible companies embrace the trend, planting for pollinators and avoiding high maintenance shrubs, trees, and flowers that require chemicals for best performance.

Part of creating a wildlife sensitive environment includes incorporating plants your clients love—but selecting the most environmentally friendly, low maintenance cultivars. For instance, if your client adores roses, consider incorporating Earth-Kind roses or other cultivars with high pest- and disease-resistance to avoid chemical use. If your client requests a backyard wildlife habitat installation, include natives, like American beech, flowering dogwood, trumpet honeysuckle, goldenrod, viburnum, and spicebush in your designs. By giving your client a gorgeous design based on sound environmental practices, it's a win-win: you've created a happy client and protected the environment.

Trend: Water-wise Gardening

Along with the move towards environmental sustainability, water-wise plants and landscapes increase in popularity each year. Sales of succulents continue to grow, representing the most significant proportion of houseplants sold—and the trend expands into landscapes. With the increased awareness of climate change, xeric designs, and water-saving plants, top trends lists—and it's not going away.

Why should it? With so many stunning drought-tolerant, water-wise plants, your imagination can run wild, creating fabulous installations for clients. Plus, your clients will adore you for creating low-maintenance, lovely landscapes that will look great for years—while helping them feel good about their low environmental impact.

As a supplier, make sure to keep water-wise plants well stocked. This trend will continue to grow.

Trend: Pantone Color of the Year

Do you know that 2020 is the year of "Classic Blue"? For the past two decades, global color guru Pantone® proclaimed a "Color of the Year"—and trend followers everywhere quickly updated their wardrobes and interior décor with splashes of the anointed "it" color. By leveraging the Classic Blue trend, you can help your clients refresh their gardens with a bright burst of on-trend color with "Classic Blue" blooms!

Give your container subscription clients a stylish refresh with fabulous flowers like Geranium Rozanne. Add Eryngium' Big Blue' into your design plans, both for its on-trend color appeal as well as its multi-season interest. Source Classic Blue containers and cushions for outdoor living spaces. And brighten shady beds with the perfect blue flowers and variegated foliage of Polemonium Brise d'Anjou. Using "Classic Blue" to update beds, borders, and containers give your clients a fun, trendy refresh—and increased business for you!

Knowing the Color of the Year also benefits you as a supplier. Make sure to keep Classic Blue plants in inventory.

Whether you embrace one or all of the latest gardening trends, it's always fun to be on top of trends—especially when they can benefit both your business—and your clients!

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Streamline your estimates with LandscapeHub and DynaSCAPE

Feb 20, 2020 11:37:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Resources, Education

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When preparing estimates for clients, you want the most accurate, up-to-date costs for materials, whether you’re sourcing plants or purchasing pavers, and you want them fast. The first proposal in a client’s hand shows responsiveness and resourcefulness—attributes that define your company, but you don’t want to sacrifice profitability for speed. That’s why LandscapeHub integrated with DynaSCAPE, to make estimating easier.

What Are the Benefits of the DynaSCAPE Integration?

As the online marketplace for the landscape industry, LandscapeHub offers real-time costs for whatever your job requires. From conifers, perennials, and fruit trees to mulch, edging, and stone, you’ll find suppliers offering all the elements you need—in one place— to create a profitable landscape job. You may already use DynaSCAPE to manage your green business. (If not, take a look, because it’s a fantastic, comprehensive management program that supports you with budgeting, task management, billing, customer management, crew oversight, and even efficient routing for servicing clients.) As you build estimates in DynaSCAPE, you want the most accurate pricing available for your materials, whether they are plants or hardscape materials. The integration between our companies allows you to send job and estimate details directly from DynaSCAPE Manage360 to LandscapeHub. You list the items needed for your job, and we fill in the costs. We generate a quote for the materials, saving you time and ensuring accuracy when estimating, streamlining the product procurement process.

Why We Chose to Integrate

Both LandscapeHub and DynaSCAPE exist to make your job as a landscape professional easier. By creating an integration between our platforms, we give you higher accuracy when creating proposals and save you time when ordering, letting you focus on managing your business and creating landscapes for your clients—and a profitable return for you. Our goal is to help landscape buyers use technology to reduce the amount of time they spend building estimates and managing jobs. While often green professionals bemoan complicated technology, well-executed programs make a positive impact on landscape, hardscape, nursery, and green businesses, making procurement and management more efficient. We’re confident the partnership between LandscapeHub and DynaSCAPE will make your estimates and procurement much easier.

How Does It Work?

As a DynaSCAPE customer, you can enable access to LandscapeHub through your configuration settings in DynaSCAPE Manage360. (You’ll see the option under “My Company Settings”.)

Select "Configuration" to allow sending estimates and jobs to LandscapeHub

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Sourcing small space evergreens for low maintenance installations

Feb 6, 2020 11:40:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Education

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Garden trends come and go—but the growth of small-space gardens continues to rise. Along with creative greening of small outdoor spaces, homeowners want low maintenance garden designs—and increasingly, they turn to professionals to maintain patio gardens or small landscapes. And, as the demand for container installations—both residential and commercial-- continues to soar, the need to source materials that look fabulous for four seasons can pose a challenge. Fortunately, you’ve found LandscapeHub—a one-stop source for compact evergreens to meet your design needs!

Finding the perfect evergreens to add year-round interest to small-space gardens and containers might seem daunting, but with our brilliant supplier network, you can easily source plants, compare prices, and order with a click of a button—all on one site. We’ve compiled a list of some favorite compact and dwarf evergreens that thrive in a wide-range of zones to get you started—all available through our supplier network. Simply click on the links to see available stock, sizes and prices, then start generating your clients’ quotes today! If there’s a specific compact evergreen you love, use our search function to find it—it’s simple!

If you’re a supplier, consider adding more compact evergreens to your offerings, if you don’t already carry them. The demand for low maintenance plants that provide multi-season interest in smaller landscapes and containers will continue to rise. Customers will appreciate a wide variety of compact, dwarf evergreens available through your company at LandscapeHub.

Compact Evergreens to Anchor Containers

Naturally, most containers change with the seasons, particularly if you’ve arranged a subscription service with clients. Still, a compact evergreen that looks terrific through four seasons anchors your design, allowing you to create beautiful seasonal combinations that complement an evergreen backdrop.

While you may have your favorite dwarf evergreens sketched into designs, LandscapeHub makes it easy for you to compare prices—and save time by ordering them in one place. After all, who has time to chase plants physically or online through multiple sources?

A few favorite compact evergreens for containers include:

Ligustrum sinense ‘Sunshine’‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum

Year-round golden foliage flourishes in full sun. This sterile, non-invasive cultivar works beautifully in containers, as an accent in landscapes, or as a low-growing hedge. Reaches 3-6 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Zones 6-10.

Ilex crenata ‘Compacta’Compact Japanese Holly

Glossy green foliage requires little pruning to maintain its shape. The petite size (8-12 inches tall, 12-14 inches wide) makes it a perfect choice for containers. Deer resistant. Zone 6-9.

Pinus mugo ‘Slowmound’Slowmound Mugo Pine

A rugged, hardy evergreen with evenly mounded habit and finely textured, rich deep green foliage. Terrific for urban settings, this slow-growing variety rarely needs pruning or maintenance. Grows 1-2 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide in 10 years—maturing at 3 feet high. Zones 2-8.

Small Evergreens to Add Multi-Season Interest to Landscapes

Plants that look terrific all year long—that’s what customers crave. Multi-season garden interest can be as simple as choosing an evergreen with gorgeous texture or selecting a blooming plant with foliage that changes with the seasons. We’ve provided a few of our favorites, below:

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’‘Globosa Nana’ Dwarf Japanese Cedar

The rounded, dense, somewhat loosely branching green foliage provides terrific texture to garden designs, but it’s the multi-season interest that adds appeal—the green foliage turns rusty red in winter. Stays nicely compact at 2-3 feet tall, about 3 feet wide. Zones 5-7.

Pieris japonica Mountain Snow™Mountain Snow™ Pieris

Showy blooms and gorgeous foliage make Mountain Snow™ a perfect multi-season plant for small spaces. Reaching only 3-4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, the attractive, pendulous flower buds appear in summer and remain through winter, with beautiful ivory-white flowers finally opening in early spring. New bronze-colored foliage matures to dark green. Added benefits include both disease and pest-resistance, making this beauty a true gem in small gardens. Zones 4-8.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Concessarini’Pancake™ Arborvitae

A fabulous multi-season addition that builds structure in the landscape and adds year-round interest. The low-profile (1-2 feet tall), dense habit needs no pruning, tolerates full sun, resists pests and disease, and offers good drought tolerance once established. Deep sage-green foliage transitions to a beautiful blue in winter. Zones 4-8.

Abelia x grandiflora ‘Conti’Confetti® Abelia

A gorgeous multi-season plant. Vigorous, compact, rounded form with stunning pink, white, and green variegated foliage and spring flowers that attract butterflies. A lovely specimen, Confetti also looks fabulous in containers. Reaches 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. Zones 5-9.

Compact Evergreens for Groundcovers

Whether you’re looking for an evergreen ground color to reduce erosion on slopes or simply want to add continual seasonal interest to garden beds, you’ll find great groundcovers through our partners. A few favorites include:

Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’‘Blue Star’ Juniper

RHS Award winner! The sun-loving, globe-shaped mound of dense, sparkling silver-blue foliage morphs into a pretty purple/heather blue in winter. Drought tolerant once established. At 2-3 feet high and 3-4 feet wide, it’s a great addition to rock gardens or massed as a groundcover. Zones 2-6.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Massachusetts’‘Massachusetts’ Bearberry

The low-growing, evergreen groundcover spreads quickly and uniformly, producing white and pink flowers in spring to early summer. Red berries follow the flowers and last through winter, although birds love the berries. The foliage turns purplish-red in winter. Growing only 6 to 12 inches tall and spreading 3 to 6 feet wide, it’s an excellent groundcover for banks, berms, rock gardens, woodland gardens, and containers. Zones 2-6.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’‘Moonshadow’ Wintercreeper

Deep green leaves with bright yellow centers provide bold evergreen color year-round. Plant in masses for a vibrant groundcover or use as a low hedge or bright edging along walkways. Works well in containers as a “spiller.” Reaches height of 3 feet with a spread of 5 feet. Zones 4-9.

Short-Statured Evergreens for Low Hedges

Whether you need to border a patio space or create a low hedge between properties, compact evergreens offer a low-maintenance solution. They’re also an ideal design element for knot gardens, creating structure for rose gardens, or defining potages. A few favorites you’ll find through LandscapeHub include:

Ilex glabra GemBox®GemBox® Inkberry Holly

A beautiful native alternative to boxwoods for creating low hedges and defining garden spaces. The small, naturally mounded plant offers good branching to the ground, never looking bare-legged. A perfect border plant, reaching only 24-36 inches high. Zones 5-9.

Buxus microphylla ‘Bulthouse’Sprinter® Boxwood

The glossy, evergreen foliage looks attractive all year long, making it ideal for low hedges. A more upright habit than other boxwoods, it also fills in more quickly than other varieties, producing a lush hedge quickly. Reaches 24-48 inches high. Best broadleaf evergreen for shaping and pruning for formal hedges and topiaries. Zones 5-9.

Ilex crenata ‘Soft Touch’‘Soft Touch’ Japanese Holly

A dense, mounded, compact evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves sporting a silver mid-vein, ‘Soft Touch’ makes an ideal low hedge, border, or accent in the garden. Black ornamental berries add interest during winter months. Reaches 2-3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. Zones 5-9.

We’ve noted just a few of the short-statured evergreen options available for your installations to get you started, but take a look at the wide variety of options available from LandscapeHub suppliers. Search for your favorite cultivars or browse compact and dwarf evergreen options. You’ll find the perfect plants for your landscape and design needs—all with the click of a button!

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How freight works with LandscapeHub

Jan 30, 2020 2:30:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Resources, Education

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We’ve discussed the advantages of aggregating shipping through LandscapeHub. But, you might be wondering how does freight with LandscapeHub, overall, work? How does LandscapeHub actually produce those advantages that come from aggregating shipping? Or those advantages that come from using LandscapeHub to handle shipping, period?  

Glad you asked! (Or wondered.)

We have an entire department that handles shipping and helps you get the best price, the best carrier, and the best turnaround possible. Here’s how it works.

Using trustworthy carriers

Our Logistics Manager, Rahan Omar says, “Handling nursery stock is not everyone’s cup of tea. When you call drivers and say ‘I have a load of trees that’s floor loaded,’ some drivers aren’t into it. But that’s why we have Rahan, because he is into it and keeps calling and working his (virtual) rolodex until he finds a carrier that works. “I’ve handled shipping for everything and nursery is a completely different ballgame.”

He has brought his experience to LandscapeHub and put it to work, transitioning LandscapeHub’s shipping operation from a mostly brokered situation to a direct carrier operation much of the time. By focusing on freight full time, Rahan can vet carriers and develop relationships with drivers who are not only knowledgeable, but happy to carefully deliver nursery stock on time and in great shape. “Going direct also allows us to pass cost savings along to customers,” he says. “And, when there is a delay or issue, there are many fewer phone calls to make to quickly get accurate information for the customer.”

Knowing when to call a broker (and which broker to call)

Rahan still uses brokers for LandscapeHub orders on occasion for complicated loads. This allows LandscapeHub to continue offering flexibility in freight that would eat up a lot of time (or even be impossible) for individual buyers. For example, if the LandscapeHub Market Managers and Logistics are trying to build a load that involves pickups in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio and dropoffs in Indianapolis, Carmel, and Westfield, Indiana, a well-connected specialty broker is much better positioned to efficiently handle the project and ensure on time delivery at a great price.

That ability and flexibility of LandscapeHub to build multi pickup and multi dropoff loads allows buyers to place much smaller orders without incurring high freight costs, especially if they are operating within a broad timeframe.

Coordinating pickup and delivery capabilities

It’s not enough to just find a truck to carry product. The LandscapeHub Logistics Department also coordinates with Market Managers, suppliers, and buyers to ensure which types of trucks suppliers can accept pickups from and that buyers can accept deliveries from. “Some people only want flatbeds, but there are fewer flatbed drivers with their own quality nursery tarps than there are dry vans (enclosed trucks) or reefers (refrigerated enclosed trucks),” says Rahan. It’s the responsibility of the LandscapeHub team to come up with a solution that works for everyone to get the products from point A to point B in good shape.

Getting the best price, regardless of load size

It’s much easier to coordinate orders that fill an entire truck from one supplier. Those are called “one pick” orders. In that case, Rahan sees an order come in and starts getting rates and seeing what equipment is available for shipping. Then he works with the Market Manager to clear the plan with the supplier and the buyer. “I might say, ‘I have a pickup with a flatbed Tuesday for delivery to the customer Wednesday. Can you accept this equipment for pickup and have the product ready by  8 am?’” He stresses, “There’s no delivery without successful pickup,” including the timing and the truck type. He’s careful never to send a truck that the supplier can’t accommodate.

In the case of a multi-stop pickup and dropoff or a smaller order, he will work to combine orders into one truck so that buyers can split the costs. “We just find out what their timeline is,” he says. “Sometimes, if a buyer needs product from a specific supplier on a short time frame, they’re willing to pay higher freight to get it when and where they need it. Other times, they’ll let us know they can wait and see what other orders come in.”

The same thing happens when there’s a weather delay. “If it’s raining and one supplier can’t dig trees on the customer’s timeline, the Market Manager might try to source from another supplier. It’s then my job to see how the freight compares and if it is worth trying to switch. Again, sometimes we’ll switch suppliers and sometimes we won’t.” Market Managers work closely with LandscapeHub customers to ensure the smoothest delivery possible for both buyers and suppliers.

An extensive network allows for flexible freight options

The short answer to how freight works with LandscapeHub is truly, “Our team takes care of it so you don’t have to.” We have the personnel and network to offer flexible freight options for orders large and small, over distances long and short, without stressing the resources of buyers searching for high quality material.

And that, well, that takes a load off of everyone.

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How to grow your business with Instagram

Jan 23, 2020 11:45:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Education

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Social media can be a landscape designer’s best friend — particularly Instagram. This visually-oriented platform is ideal for showcasing your projects, highlighting your services, and alerting your customers to seasonal (or even weekly) specials. Not sure how to get started? Follow these tips!

How to Get Started with Instagram for Business

Sign up for an Instagram account using your business name, not your personal name. Branding is everything here, and you don’t want potential clients scratching their heads to remember who that awesome designer was!

Use your company logo as your profile pic, or if your business is centered upon you as the designer, a professional headshot of you. Your profile information should be succinct, letting followers know what you do  — and remember to provide a link to your website so they can contact you!

Decide ahead of time how you want your Instagram feed to “look” — colorful and playful, elegant and sophisticated, or relaxed and fun? Always keep in mind that Instagram is visual first, so your followers should be able to tell at a glance (without reading any post captions or comments) who you are, what your company personality is, and most importantly, who your clientele is.

Instagram Post Ideas for Landscape Designers

Install the Instagram app on your smartphone, and use it to post images once daily (but no more than twice) Instagram culture is very particular and people will unfollow you if they feel they’re being bombarded. Here are some great ideas for what to post:

  • Before-and-after pics of your best projects
  • Pics of finished projects
  • Behind-the-scenes pics (you at your design station, at the wholesaler’s choosing plants, hanging out with your crew) — these are images that let people get to know you as a person, so inject your personality and humor into them.
  • Plant combinations that you love
  • A pic of you with a caption that talks about your “why” — why you design, why you are passionate about creating beautiful gardens, what you love about your work, etc.
  • Videos up to 60 seconds long

How to Batch Schedule for Efficiency

If you have to remember to post from your phone once a day, you might find it a chore. However, once you’ve signed up for a business Instagram account, you can also sign up for a tool called Tailwind, which will allow you to pre-schedule Instagram posts from your desktop. It’s a lot more efficient to sit down and schedule the whole month at one time, rather than post one day at a time. Tailwind also lets you save hashtag groups.

How to Use Effective Instagram Hashtags

Hashtags, for the uninitiated, are ways for followers to find you based upon a particular topic they are searching for. It’s a word or a phrase, without spaces, and preceded by a hash sign (#).

What’s the importance? If someone in your area needs a landscape designer or contractor, they may search a hashtag like “#Bostonlandscaping” or “#AtlantaContainerPlantings”to see what comes up. If you’ve used these hashtags in your Instagram posts, your posts will show up in that search. Score!

Hashtag tips:

  • Use up to 20 — it’s allowed!
  • Add your hashtag list after the caption on your post, or include it in a comment on your post.
  • Create a custom hashtag list in the “Notes” section of your smart phone to save time — just copy and paste into your post rather than retype them every time!
  • Make sure the hashtags you’re using correlate in some way to the image you’re posting, as the Instagram algorithm frowns upon unrelated hashtags in excess and may punish you by not allowing your post to be viewed as widely as you’d like.
  • Consider creating a unique hashtag for your company and using it on all of your posts. It could be something like a tagline (if you have one for your business) such as #UniquePlantingsForNYC or #LandscapingWithHelenJones.
  • Great hashtags for landscapers and designers include #landscapedesigner #(yourcity)landscapedesigner #containergardening #containerdesigner #pottedplants #yourcompanyname #landscapecontractor
  • Local hashtags are your friend! Using #yourcity_______ anything will help you grow

How to Use Instagram Stories to Grow Your Landscape Business

Instagram stories are a unique opportunity to post seasonal sales, sale codes (if you have an online or ecommerce site), or promotions. While you could add these to your feed, Instagram is nicer to you if you don’t. Additionally with the algorithm changes, a promotion could end up in the regular feed long after it has expired, while stories last only 24 hours.

Also great for IG stories? Design tips, planting tips, and educational tidbits — ideal if you also offer online courses, garden coaching, or want to establish yourself as an educator or speaker.

Pro Tip: Use the “highlights” feature to keep “evergreen” Instastories around. Highlights are great ways to categorize stories for subjects like “design tips,” “how-tos,” and more. Keeping some highlights on your profile lets potential customers see you in action, giving a more personal feel. (And keeping highlights on your profile takes some pressure off of you to constantly post new Instagram stories — though those do receive a lot of interaction.)

Remember to Be Engaging and to Engage

And finally, never forget that social media is social. Ask questions in your posts, get people to engage with you, respond to every question (yes, every one), and actively comment on other people’s posts. (Post and ghost as a strategy doesn’t work well.) Your goal is to be seen, and to teach people to know, like, and trust you, which will make them  call you for their next big landscape project!

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Increase revenue by starting a container garden subscription service

Jan 16, 2020 11:48:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Education

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Container gardening as a trend shows no signs of slowing down, and for good reason. These micro-gardens are workhorses in the landscape — providing dramatic focal points, welcoming entryway plantings, seasonal spots of color, and self-contained greenery for small spaces.

Container gardening also offers unique opportunities for the landscape designer, contractor, and landscape materials supplier to upsell both residential and commercial clientele. By and large, container gardens are seasonal plantings that require quarterly replantings and monthly maintenance — and when stylishly designed and perfectly installed, create a high demand with a waiting list of repeat clientele.

To tap into this market and make it a lucrative part of your business, consider offering a container garden subscription service for your market rather than focusing on a “one and done” approach to sales. Your goal is to create regular income without needing to chase your clients or require your client/buyer to chase you by creating a year-round service that is built in to your business.

Container Garden Subscription Services for Suppliers

Whether your business supplies plants, pottery, soil, or décor, you’re in a unique position to cater to your buyers and, in the process, turn yourself into their “one stop” supplier for all things container gardening. You can even “plant the seed” of a new business opportunity for them.

Here are some tips for you:

Email your buyer list and let them know you have what they need for their container gardening projects. These materials include specialty potting soils, seasonal color, high quality containers, lightweight containers, evergreen topiaries — all in-demand materials for the container garden designer. If you’re primarily a grower, then just focus on the plants. (See next tip.)

Create a seasonal container garden display at your place of business to inspire projects for your buyers. Label each plant/product, and have a price list available both at the counter and as a regularly updated online PDF. Create order forms for standard container sizes so that your buyers have a turn-key solution to turn around and sell to their customers.

Encourage your buyers to place custom growing orders. Many professional designers plan at least a season ahead, knowing that they will need a certain amount of specific plant material later in the year. Market that you’re available to grow custom orders of annuals, evergreens, flowering vines, and ornamental cabbages and kales, and have them ready for pick up at the designated time.

Buyers

Interested in setting up a container subscription service for your clients? First, you’ll want to plan out a 4-season schedule with details about which plants are in season in your area. Then, design container plantings accordingly. Seek out suppliers in your area to partner with.

Before you start selling the service create some simple marketing materials showing the container design options available for each season, including sizing and prices (installed) and detailing payment information.

Email your client list and let them know that you are offering this service. Include inspiring images of container designs you’ve completed. No previous designs? No problem! Create a pair of containers for your own entryway or garden and take pics of those! Email well before a given season and encourage clients to “get into your schedule” by a particular date — this not only helps you plan your installation schedule, but creates a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and a sense of urgency with your clientele.

Play up the holidays. From October through December, the latter part of the year presents many opportunities for container planting designs. Think ornamental grasses with harvest-colored annuals along with a few well-placed mini pumpkins for the fall, and elegant topiaries or seasonal branches, cool-weather annuals and twinkly lights for the holiday season. And remember, you’re not selling “container plantings,” you’re selling “cozy and welcoming!”

Consider a year-round payment plan. Many clients want those extravagant poolside or entryway container plantings, but may not have the budget to get what they want.  Smart designers allow their clients to place larger orders and pay it off monthly — this creates options for upsells, income during the leaner winter months, and clients who feel like they’ve scored the jackpot.

Not sure how to price? Most designers have an hourly rate for installation, plus the cost of the materials. In-demand designers charge anywhere from $75 - $130/hour for their style and expertise, with plant material marked up 100%. Think people won’t pay that amount? They will and do!

Offer a maintenance service. To keep those container plantings fresh and colorful, a little maintenance goes a long way — the problem is that most clients aren’t willing to do it. Sell them on a maintenance service that includes weekly check in, monthly fertilizing and trimming, plant replacements, and irrigation checks.

By planning out your offerings, whether you’re a buyer or a supplier, you can offer more standardized “plug and play” solutions for customers. This makes your business more efficient, and increases your bottom line.

 

Image source from Parade

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Looking forward at LandscapeHub

Jan 9, 2020 11:51:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in News & Trends

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Happy New Year!

We’re excited to be entering year three of LandscapeHub after launching in 2018 at the iLandscape show in Chicago. When I think about how far we’ve come from the early days, I’m filled with gratitude toward our wonderful (and expanding team) and for all of our members on the supplier and buyer sides. Thank you for your feedback, which has helped us add new features to help make your jobs easier. And, we’re still evolving, so stay tuned.

Expansion

2019 was another year of rapid growth for us, with more suppliers coming onboard throughout all market areas. The increase in suppliers and buyers has allowed us to start seeing real trends in material availability across the market. We will be increasingly analyzing that data to provide insights to help suppliers better meet demand. We’ve opened up new markets, with big growth in the Carolinas. Further expansion to Florida, Georgia, and Texas means LandscapeHub can help meet demand year-round and serve even more buyers. Strong initial performance in these new markets indicates that now is the right time for a green industry marketplace to flourish. (So, if you’ve been on the fence, jump off and join us!) Ohio is another rapidly growing area. Today, I can say with 100% confidence that we are a turn-key purchasing solution for buyers of all sizes in the areas where our market supply is well developed.

Integrations

Estimating and quoting continues to be a bottleneck for industry productivity, so, starting with our LandOne integration, we’re working on ways to help buyers move bids through more efficiently. This month we announced our Epicor integration, and we continue to seek new opportunities to partner and make the procurement process seamless. We’ve had the chance to attend many trade shows over the past couple of years and we’re noticing more and more activity in the IGC market, including inbound interest from the segment.  New platforms are emerging to serve those customers. Our company loves seeing new technology-focused solutions in development for the green industry.

Looking Ahead

We’ll be at IPM Essen in this year, a first for us, so we look forward to learning about new trends and opportunities. If there’s one opportunity I’d like to share with you, it is to use LandscapeHub to quote for you if you haven’t already. Even if you’re a purchasing agent. We’re here to make your job easier and faster and we’d love to put our network to work for you. No time to learn the system? Our white glove service could be a big help. Here’s to a busy and prosperous 2020 for everyone!

Lisa Fiore CEO and Co-founder LandscapeHub

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Your two-page business plan for 2020

Jan 2, 2020 9:30:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Resources, Education

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There are entire books about how to create a business plan.

Let’s face it, though — do any of us really have time to read them? Nope. Especially not when we’re getting ready for winter trade shows and the spring rush.

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to read a business plan book or spend 20 hours writing out a plan in order to enjoy real growth in the direction you want to grow in 2020. All you need to do is spend some time evaluating three areas of your business and jotting notes for your 2020 plan of attack.

We call this the two-page business plan, and, if you actually do it and then stick to it, you’ll see real progress — more progress than if you get stuck trying to create a 20 page plan that you won’t actually use.

You’ll review your:

  • Pricing structure
  • Portfolio
  • Growth goals

Ready? Let’s go.

Pricing Structure Review

LandscapeHub buyers AND suppliers can both benefit from a review of pricing structures. Whether you’re selling services, plants, or hardscape materials, it’s worth spending some time to ensure you’re charging what you need and what the market will bear. It’s possible the answer is “yes, our prices are fine,” but you won’t know unless you ask these questions:

What’s my pricing model? Is it cost plus or value based? Cost plus works the best with large volume but you can leave money on the table with this structure if the market will bear a higher price. (When listing your materials on LandscapeHub, take care not to compete solely on price, and take into consider the different markets where plants are listed.)

Value based pricing is an excellent structure for service business, but you still need to ensure that you’re covering costs and have built in a percentage for profit.

When did I last raise prices and how did I do it? One way to raise prices is to introduce new items or services with a higher price point that render older items and services obsolete.

How has my business changed? Maybe you hired more staff, expanded your market, cut delivery time, changed the types of clients you work for, or improved your offerings, all of which could factor into price changes.

How do I feel when I’m doing certain types of work? This is a more touchy-feely question, and possibly more related to buyers than suppliers, but it’s worth asking. If you notice you’re doing work that you once loved, but is now irritating you, maybe it’s because you need to charge more for the service. For example, if you’re creating landscape designs at $1,500 each, and you find yourself overwhelmed and annoyed, that could be a sign that what you’re producing is worth more in the context of your business and your life, and you need to increase prices.

How’s your workload? Are you overwhelmed? If demand is greater than your supply (of time or product), time to institute an increase!

The end of the year is a natural time to send a new rate card or price increase. It’s also a great time to sell work in advance, giving people a chance to “lock in” 2019 prices if they book and pay part or all of the fee in advance.

Portfolio Review

If you’re a buyer on LandscapeHub, chances are that your portfolio showcases your designs. If you’re a supplier, you still have a portfolio: it’s just more of a catalog or pictures of the plants you sell.

Buyers, ask yourselves: Does my portfolio showcase the services I want to sell? For example, if you’ve pivoted toward container subscriptions but all of your photos are of large landscapes (or vice versa) it’s time for an overhaul. Does my portfolio have current pictures?  Are they colorful, high resolution, bright, inviting? Or are they obviously scans of old printed photos?

Suppliers, ask yourselves: Do your catalog or availability pictures showcase the sizes of plants you want to sell or are there images of sizes you no longer carry?Are the pictures in focus, brightly colored, and crisp? Do you have pictures taken at your location or are they obviously from a different source? (Showing some of your location helps build trust that what you’re selling actually comes from you.)If you only showcase some of the items you sell due to space constraints or costs, are you showcasing your high-value, or high-volume items?

In our industry, pictures do the talking far more than words, so make sure your pictures are working for you. If they’re not, update them.

Review of Growth Goals

Do you ever look around, think about your work, and say to yourself, “How did I get here?” You could be completely happy with the way your business has grown. Or, maybe, you feel like you want to be doing something else.

Whether you’re happy with how your business has evolved or you want to grow in a new direction, taking time to thoughtfully evaluate where you are, how you got there, and where you want to be next year or in five years will let you continue to stay on a personally and financially fulfilling path.

Ask yourself these questions:

For which products and services do I receive the most referrals?

Which products and services that I offer lead to the most repeat business?

Of the first two, which products and services do I most enjoy producing? Which products and services that I enjoy producing have the highest ROI? (You’ll want to shift your sales focus to those — the ones you enjoy that actually make you money.)

Which products and services do I need to stop offering or producing?

Which ones are high input and low reward?

Which ones irritate you (and upping the price won’t help)?

Which ones could be better offered by other providers?

Asking these questions will help you narrow your focus and deliver superior products and services. By focusing, you’ll become the “go to” provider for products and services that make you money and make you happy. Rather than letting your business blow wherever the wind takes you, spend a few minutes charting your course for the year ahead. Then, in 2020, make sure your hand is on the wheel, guiding the ship on your intended path.

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Perk up winter sales with porch pots

Dec 5, 2019 10:45:00 AM / by LandscapeHub posted in Education

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We’re into the winter season, so you might predict that sales will drop off for a bit. But they don't have to! In fact, whether you’re a LandscapeHub supplier or buyer, you can use this often down time to create additional winter sales…in the form of porch pots.

What are Porch Pots?

Porch pots are winter-friendly container plantings that incorporate cut evergreen branches, evergreens, semi-evergreen perennials, and annuals for bright spots of color and interest — during a time of year when most other parts of the landscape are looking a bit drab.

A trip to any shopping center at this time of year reveals that porch pots or winter pots are big business now. It’s not enough to clean pots and leave them empty until spring. Four-season plantings or arrangements are practically a requirement and you can provide this service!

What to sell:

  • Entryway pots for both residential and commercial clients
  • Window box planters (either planted with cold-tolerant plants or decorated with cut greens, pinecones, and other seasonal accents)
  • Extra-large focal point containers to place within garden beds or to anchor a gathering area

How to Promote Porch Pots

Your customers won’t know you don’t offer these seasonal services if you don’t tell them! Communicate with your customers regularly so they know what to expect and what you’re offering or have in stock.

Suppliers: Use email marketing and/or social media to let your buyers know what you have in stock (4” colorful annuals, a new shipment of cold-resistant planters, seasonal cut greens, wreaths, or evergreen topiaries or decorative branches). Update your list regularly and remind your buyers about anything new or exciting you’ve just received.

Buyers: Use email marketing and/or social media (Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook) to highlight examples of seasonal porch pots so your clients can envision them in their outdoor spaces. Dig up images from porch pots and winter containers from last year. If you don’t have any, take a couple of hours to create one at your home and photograph it.

And remember those upsells! Clients love sparkly white lights in their container plantings all throughout the winter, so add that feature to your services. At the end of the winter season, let your clients know that you offer seasonal container subscription service — every three months, you’ll replant the porch pots with new seasonal color, and provide a maintenance service for watering and fertilizing in between. Make it easier by selecting evergreen centerpiece plants and only swapping out the surrounding seasonal color, or go all-out with completely new seasonal plantings.

Pro Tips for Selling this Service

  • Images sell! Make sure yours are clear, inviting, and capture the coziness and festive spirit of the season. Suppliers, show pictures of raw materials AND pictures of the materials planted up or assembled and ready to use to get your customers’ creative juices flowing.
  • Keep in mind that in marketing, FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) is real — so let your customers/clients know when the offer ends, or if you only have a limited supply of a feature product or limited number of appointments left in your schedule. Send out a last reminder email on the day the offer expires; you’ll be amazed at how many people respond.
  • Use enticing adjectives (similar to ones used in this article) to describe not just the product but the feeling created by these porch pots — cozy, festive, inviting, welcoming, sparkly, warm, or twinkly. Focus on the benefit to the client/customer, rather than the product itself.

Perfect Plants for Porch Pots

To create porch pots with maximum impact, choose your plants wisely. Winter is an unforgiving season, and the best porch pots feature zone-appropriate plants that can take the weather where you live. Here are a few favorites:

  • Cut Greens: Cut seasonal greens are ideal for window boxes, wreaths, and large container plantings. Combine them with pinecones, wintery branches, branches with berries, and cold-tolerant annuals, and add battery-operated white lights to finish it off.
  • Boxwood: Far from being ho-hum, this traditional evergreen shrub is the perfect porch pot centerpiece to show off seasonal color.
  • Hellebore: Lenten rose is a cold-weather favorite for perking up those container plantings.
  • Carex: These grasslike plants blend beautifully with evergreens and colorful annuals, adding texture that sets off a mixed-planting container.
  • Ornamental Grasses: Larger ornamental grasses make for naturalistic focal points in large porch pots – look for Hakonechloa macra, Miscanthus sinensis, or Muhlenbergia dumosa. Their winter forms are amazing.
  • Flowering Bulbs: Layer your plantings with flowering bulbs that have a variety of bloom time — your client’s porch pots will have delightful surprises popping up after the annuals have faded.
  • Dogwood Decorative Branches: These colorful branches add seasonal drama to larger porch pots, focal point container plantings, and window boxes. Surround them with cut greens, pinecones, or annuals for undeniable flair.
  • Deciduous Ornamental Trees: Not every centerpiece needs to be evergreen — choose a smaller deciduous tree (Japanese maple, crape myrtle, dogwood), add lights to it, and underplant with colorful annuals or cut greenery, and you’ve got an instant best-seller.

Tips for Creating Porch Pots

With any landscape service or project, logistics and other practical matters are key to being efficient. And because efficiency increases profitability, it pays to think ahead.

  • Thaw frozen soil with water from an electric kettle if planting at the base of your porch pots
  • Water plants immediately after planting and directly before a hard freeze
  • Use a “wilt proof” type of spray to keep evergreens from drying out and turning brown
  • Mist cut evergreen branches regularly with water
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