New Garden Products for 2011 – Part Two
November 30th, 2010
Trend-spotters are reading the horticultural tea leaves these days.
It’s an annual practice that I remember so well from my newsroom career when, without fail, we reporters were asked to compile the obligatory “forecast” story. I covered retail, and you could imagine how loathe Seattle’s major retail CEOs were to tell me anything about the coming year when it was just days after Christmas and they hadn’t tallied up the current year’s performance.
But, alas, we all want a glimpse into the future. And that’s what going to industry trade shows can help reveal. A peek into the products, plants, tools and design items you may be seeing in 2011′s backyards.
This post continues with even more interesting offerings. Or the ones that caught my interest anyway. I welcome your reaction. Are these items you can see yourself purchasing for your garden? Do you even NEED more products? (That’s a long conversation, isn’t it?).
I really enjoyed meeting Jill Plumb, a school teacher who came up with a brilliantly simple method of building raised beds.
Her product is called M Brace. It is a decorative steel corner bracket that holds lumber at a 45-degree angle WITHOUT HARDWARE (note: this is a big selling point for anyone who has dragged the electric drill and 100-foot-long orange extension cord out to the backyard to try and wrestle together a box for the tomatoes).
Jill told me that she got this “big idea” one day while re-loading paper napkins into a “slot” style napkin holder.
Something clicked and she saw in her mind’s eye how easy it would be to have a bracket that emulated that napkin holder. Just larger, more durable and also pretty. Several prototypes later, including the support of her students who she involved in the design process, packaging development and marketing, Jill’s M Brace is looking very professional and has already hit garden center shelves in some markets.
Made from recycled steel (natural or powder-coated), with decorative cut-outs including a squiggle, sun, carrot or bamboo fronds, the set of 4 brackets has a $165/set recommended retail price. Jill continues to offer new product ideas such as “edging” made from the leftover swirl pieces or plant stakes from the leftover carrot cutouts. Brilliant!
I spotted another clever system to corral plants – especially in this case, vines – in the Feeney Architectural Products booth.
We see so much over-designed crap in the marketplace, which is one reason why I appreciated Feeney’s simple use of stainless steel cables to create a trellis for climbing plants. Feeney’s 3-in-1 Trellisis an easy-to-assemble wall-mount trellis kit with 1/8-inch diameter rods and special mounting components that can be configured into a Fan, Grid or Diamond design. This is a lightweight solution that does require measuring and drilling skills to install, but can turn a blah wall or fence into something quite beautiful. Just add a vine of your choice and voila! Something quite pretty. Suggested retail: $199.
Feeney also uses stainless steel cables in its inexpensive “It’s a Cinch” plant hanger and in a freestanding trellis panel kit. The Greenway Trellis has a frame of aluminum tubing and a square-grid pattern for the vines. The frame legs can be set in compacted gravel or concrete footings, or they can be base-mounted on a deck or patio. That square-grid pattern also shows up in the Somerset II Trellis, which has top and bottom powder-coated aluminum brackets. It is also a wall-mount system but a little larger than the 3-in-1.
I’ve been impressed with the innovation that comes out of Allsop Home & Garden, a Ketchum, Idaho-based, family-owned company. They started out several years ago with a clever wheelbarrow and the company has grown to include even more interesting garden products and accessories.
Lately, Allsop’s “solar garden art” has attracted a lot of attention. Using LED lighting and various shades and lanterns (in glass, fabric and plastic), these light sources are quite stylish and I would want to hang any of them from my tree branches.
There are Soji Solar Lanterns (round or “pod” shaped) that are made with fabric and “ribs” like traditional Asian-style lanterns – in a beautiful palette. A “Silk Effects” line is more shimmery, in square and teardrop shapes. All of these fabric lanterns “collect sunlight all day and turn themselves on to cast an enchanting glow by night – all without the hassle of electrical cords,” according to company literature.
Contemporary garden settings will look great with the Soji Modern collection, made from hand-formed plastic sheeting in white and subtly-patterned finishes. Allsop’s glass lights include colorful hand blown globe string lights, votive cups (seen in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens) and stake lights in ball and flower shapes. I’m already dreaming of the ways I can give my outdoor spaces a romantic mood with several of these pieces next spring. And no electrician will be required to make it happen!
Many of my gardening pals go ga-ga for anything that has the flavor of British style. Yes, we do sort of still have an inferiority complex when it comes to things like historic estate gardens, open-air flower shows, glass conservatories and wellie boots.
So here comes Burgon & Ball, a garden products company from Sheffield, England, established in 1730. In fact, B&B won IGC’s “Best in Show” for the grow-your-own category of exhibits. ‘Nuff said.
I was drawn to their tiny display and cheery representative Heather Culpan, a Burgon & Ball managing director. We talked about the company’s wonderful product line and the fact that B&B is looking for wider distribution in the U.S. In the past, the now-departed Smith & Hawken carried some of their hand-tools and garden lifestyle products. And we all know what happened with S&H.
So keep a lookout for some of B&B’s charming, retro-inspired canning supplies, potting shed accessories and their “allotment” collection of woven willow planters and window boxes. For wholesale customers, there are two US distributors and – surprise – they are both based in the Pacific Northwest: Garden Works Inc. in Bellevue, Wash. and Terrebonne in Bellingham, Wash. I’ve also noticed that the canning jars are on Terrain’s web site for $8 ea.
Next up: Rock Flower Paper. This company creates eye-catching, garden-inspired designs and prints for textiles, linens and tableware.
The RFP booth was mobbed every time I strolled down its aisle, so eventually, I elbowed my way in to look closer. CUTE Stuff! Based in San Anselmo (hey – that’s where I recently visited an eco-savvy floral studio called Local Flora, check it out!), RFP knows its fabric prints – and fabric colors. Flowers, fruit, stripes, foliage, birds, abstracts in contrasting colors both warm and cool.
Word got out that the gals at RFP were going to sell all their samples at the end of the trade show.
So I hustled over to put in my request for an aqua blue and lime green pine cone-print “pocket tote.”
The 12-by-16 inch turquoise canvas bag is covered in the green pine cones, block-print-like in appearance with a green shoulder strap and 2 shorter handles. Six outside pockets and a zipper closure make this one of my new, must-have accessories. According to the company’s catalogue, the bag’s suggested retail price is $25.50.
When I went to pay for the bag (which was on hold for me), Kelly Flores and Shelley Dorssers said: “We want you to have it.”
That was their thanks for my inclusion of a slide of their flower-print collapsible canvas basket in my IGC talk about “The Female Gardener.” Well, thanks Kelly and Shelley – you “rock” (get it?). Seriously, I can’t wait to find this line locally in Seattle cuz it has so many cool items for gift-giving and more.
Time to talk a little bit more about what to do with plants. Vertical garden options were all the rage at the IGC Show, including a really gorgeous succulent installation in Monrovia’s booth.
I also ran into my pals from Woolly Pockets, the soft-sided, vertical gardening system created by Miguel Nelson, which I blogged about for the Los Angeles Times last year. There’s a cool, new Woolly system for interior spaces, including a bright turquoise pocket that I’m embarrassed to say I own but still haven’t set up yet. Stephanie Bartron, a talented garden designer who also works with Woolly Pockets, gave me the pocket as a going-away gift when I left LA last summer. And I have it here, ready to go. Maybe once we ditch the rental house and get our own place I can get out the drill and hang it!
Then there is Bright Green, a modular wall-planting system that looks perfect for commercial settings, but could also be adapted for residential spaces. I’ve seen several products (some of which are not available in the US market yet) that are based on the idea of a plastic egg crate with slanted planting pockets.
Bright Green’s product has this vibe – and they have adapted the modules for the retail garden center setting. A home gardener who wants to experiment with a green wall can purchase one 10-by-20-by-4-inch wall unit (it has 14 planting holes).
After planting succulents, dwarf grasses, tropical plants or ground covers that spill and spread, the unit can be hung on a wall or fence. It can be installed in a frame (Bright Green sells a wood frame-surround to fit its 16-by-28-by-7 inch size module) or interconnected with other planting pods to fill an entire piece of architecture.
I just moseyed over to their web site and – guess what? – I discovered that the Bright Green system is the very technology that I wrote about in the Los Angeles Times when I featured “the Green Cube,” an amazing house in Venice, Calif., with an entire wing covered in succulents! It’s great to see this architectural product migrating to the independent garden center world.
I thought I would finish up my product reviews with this post, but I have many more items to highlight. So I guess Part Three will follow later this week. Can’t wait!