Why a Garden Writer is Important

The following is a guest post from Kristen McLain, a Garden Writer who I wanted to gain insight from on how our National Green Centre members can benefit from a relationship with The Garden Writers Association


Not all Writers are Gardeners and not all Gardeners are Writers 

That’s why garden writers are so important to the industry: we enjoy digging in the dirt as much as tapping on the keyboard.

I attend trade shows like the National Green Centre because they are the perfect venue to meet others and get to know the industry, the trends and the exhibitors.

But what is it about trade shows that are so helpful? Below are my goals as a garden writer, what I gain from visiting and how exhibitors and I can help each other.

How I help exhibitors:

  • I can get the word out about your product or service
  • I write articles, blogs, product descriptions, sales letters, press releases, brochures and more
  • I write content both online and off
  • I work with (and know) many editors and publishers
  • I write the words that excite your customers to try and buy
  • I write for all levels: wholesaler, retailer and customer

How exhibitors can help me:

  • Seek me out!
  • Share information about your business, your product, your service, your goals
  • Share what’s new & exciting in your business: a new trend? A new feature? New technology?

If you’re excited about it, let me write it and generate enthusiasm for your customers. Just as a new author promotes a book and generates ‘buzz’ before it’s published, a garden writer can do the same for you. I’m always on the lookout for new products, services or news and yours could be my next project. Talk to me! I’ll listen and will scribble like crazy to get it all down on paper.

How I use the information gathered at trade shows: 

For me, it’s difficult to prioritize the reasons I attend trade shows:

  • Do I go for the thrill & excitement of seeing new plants, seeds, products or services—for my own garden?


  • Do I go to fertilize the writing muse?

My answer is BOTH! 

When I attend trade shows, I visit as many sessions as I can to learn the latest issues and trends within the garden & horticulture industry. I join business meetings, panel discussions, hangouts and keynotes. I listen, take notes and ask questions.

Then I visit the exhibitors. Because my writing emphasis is on marketing and advertising my questions will concentrate on that area:

  • What are the typical projects you or someone in-house writes for your business?
  • Who creates the content for your business?
  • What content goals do you have for the year?
  • What are your content and marketing challenges?

What I learn from the exhibitors helps me write stronger content. Just as the seasons change, so do the ways your customers seek information. Speaking to the exhibitors and attending the sessions improves my writing for businesses just like yours.

This year the main message at National Green Centre was to improve communication with customers at all levels. However, business owners are already overwhelmed and overworked. Adding another task doesn’t help the situation, especially when you know you aren’t a writer.

Is there news in your business? Got a content question? Talk to me. Let’s help each other!

Kris_McLainConnect with Kristen McLain

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Trade Secret from Jody Shilan: Are You a Landscape Psychiatrist?

The following post is a trade secret disclosed just for you from Jody Shilan


Jody Shilan, MD — Landscape Psychiatrist and Marriage Counselor

As I have worked my way through the ranks of this industry, my job has morphed from laborer to foreman to designer, salesman, estimator, business owner and baby sitter. I have now decided to update my resume to include a new job description – “Landscape Psychiatrist” or LP for short.

Although I did not attend medical school, I do believe that my 35+ years of experience at least entitles me to be an honorary psychiatrist.  Just please don’t report me to the medical board or AMA.

The reason that this is the focus of today’s Trade Secret is because the sooner you learn to become a Landscape Psychiatrist the better your relationship will be with your clients.  You will have fewer problems and your projects will run much smoother and more profitably.

Once you can learn to put yourself in their shoes and alleviate the common stressors that they experience, the better off everyone will be.  Even those uber crazy “Type A” housewives.

So how do you become an LP without going to 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school and 4 years of residency?  Just keep reading.

200bSince there really is no such thing as a Landscape Psychiatrist there aren’t any college credits required.  What is required, however, is a basic understanding of the emotional roller-coaster your clients go through when undertaking a design/build project of any size or any budget.

One of the most important lessons that you can learn in landscape construction (and probably in life too) is to become empathetic to other people.  Not sympathetic, where you pretend to care or feel bad for someone else’s plight. But truly empathetic, where you imagine yourself in their situation and really try to understand what they are going through.  Being empathetic allows you to “feel” for someone else without letting your own issues get in the way. It allows you to relate to what they are experiencing and not treat them like a pain in the ass.

200cAs contractors, there is nothing more exciting and exhilarating for us than demolition day. However, for your clients, this is their worst nightmare, especially if it is their first time.  They’re not used to seeing skid steers, backhoes and tandems driving around their yard like it’s a giant sandbox. If you appreciate this fact and have empathy for them, you will be able to help your clients realize that this is all standard stuff and that there is nothing to worry about.  Just remind them that it is the first step towards creating the landscape of their dreams.

There are several things that I do as part of my pre-construction therapy session and I highly recommend that you do it too.  This 30 minute conversation has saved me countless hours on the phone and late night road trips to the client’s home.  I have gotten it down to such a science that when I call my clients at the end of the first day, they are actually laughing at the amount of destruction we’ve created instead of throwing up their dinner as they call their attorneys.

200dAlways keep in mind that as ugly, overgrown and dysfunctional as their current landscape is, they are “used” to it.  They may have been in the house for only 1 year or over 30 years.  It doesn’t matter.  Every day, when they leave their homes and return to them later in the day, it always pretty much looks the same. Even though they may hate that branch on their half dead, white pine that slaps them in the face every time they go up the front walkway, it’s always been there and it is familiar to them.

On demo day everything changes.

So here is what I recommend that you do a few days before the start of the project.  Meet with both the husband and wife and recap the entire process from when you first met and discussed the project up until they signed the proposal.  Remind them of why they are doing this work and how beautiful everything will be when the project is completed.  Now that you’ve put them in a happy place just explain to them in a very calm, matter of fact way, exactly what is going to happen on the first day of the project.

200e“As we’ve previously discussed, we are going to be removing several overgrown trees and shrubs from around your home.  You are going to leave for work in the morning and your home is going to look the same as it has for as long as you’ve lived there.  However, when you come home that evening it is going to look dramatically different.  There will be big tire tracks in the lawn from our equipment going back and forth.  Things will feel a lot more open and exposed and you may actually be concerned.  It’s very common to feel this way and there is nothing to worry about. We’ve done this type of work hundreds of times before and I promise you that when it’s all said and done you will be extremely happy with your new landscape”.

When they do arrive home at the end of the day and truly see the devastation that a three man crew and some equipment can do in just 8 or 9 hours, instead of flipping out and screaming at you on the phone, they are going to call you and say, “wow Tom (if your name is Tom), it’s not as bad as we thought.  Everything looks great, we’ll see you tomorrow.”

As you hang up the phone you realize that you have just “aced” your first exam and are well on your way to becoming a Landscape Psychiatrist.
Connect with Jody Shilan:
Weekly, Live Talk Radio Show
-Become a From Design To Build Member


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What Can a Garden Writer Do For You

The following is a guest post from Jacqui Austin, a Garden Writer who I wanted to gain insight from on how our National Green Centre members can benefit from a relationship with The Garden Writers Association


I was recently asked “What is a garden writer and what can they do to help my business?” Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing.

What Is a Garden Writer?

The obvious definition of a garden writer is “a writer who writes about gardening and associated gardening topics in order to give information to the public.” A few decades ago, most garden “writers” provided gardening information through newspaper columns, magazines and books.

Now, because of the internet, all successful businesses use a combination of websites, email and social media to communicate with their customers. This created additional avenues for garden writers. Informational and marketing emails, newsletters, content-rich web pages, and social media blogs and postings are all new methods for garden writers.

However, writing is not the only form of gardening communication. Remember the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words?” The insatiable public now turns to YouTube and other videos for quick visual information. Therefore, some garden writers write video scripts.

As you can see, a garden writer is a talented professional who communicates gardening information to the public in a wide variety of ways, depending upon the wants and needs of the public. While the experiences and educations of garden writers vary widely, there is always an underlying love of plants and a strong desire to convey that passion and knowledge to others.

In fact, in 2000, Melvin P. Garber, University of Georgia, prepared an “Analysis of the Garden Writer Profession.” In it, he said of garden writers, “They may be the most important influencer group in the retail Lawn and Garden Industry.”  Read more here.

What Can A Garden Writer Do For Your Business?

A garden writer can do a lot.  For starters, they can rev-up your newsletter, pump energy into your emails, ratchet  your website ranking, scatter your pins through Pinterest and onto your revitalized Facebook and Twitter accounts, and brainstorm your next YouTube video series. In short, they can effectively get your company’s message out to your current, and future, customers.

A garden writer can also save you money.  Quickly estimate the amount of time it takes you to write your project.  Multiply that by your average hourly pay.  That is the amount you are costing your business to write something. Hiring a garden writer won’t cost as much as you do, plus you can actually be making money during the time you previously spent writing. This means a garden writer is not an expense…they’re a revenue generating tool!

How To Find A Garden Writer

The Garden Writers Association is a good source. Its  members are “…creative garden communications professionals including freelance writers, book authors, syndicated columnists, editors, photographers, lecturers, television and radio personalities and more.”  Use the “find” function to chose a writer, photographer or speaker, and filter by city or state.

Garden writers attend horticultural tradeshows. While they don’t normally rent a booth, they walk the show and talk with vendors. Their name badges will be their “sign.” If you have a booth at a show, check the badges of those who enter. Mine always has “Garden Writer” on it. Other words include media, public relations, marketing or photographer.

Garden writers also buy plants.  While engaging in conversation with your customers, it’s easy to ask “how did you hear about us?” If a person writes, they will let you know. I was buying ferns from a garden center and she said, “Let me put my marketing hat on to tell you about my other plants.”  I responded with, “I’m a garden writer, let me put my marketing hat on and ask you what I can do for you.” Now she says she would be under the bed crying, if I didn’t write for her! Moral of the story, talk with your customers…if they write, they’ll want to write for you. After all, they’ve been buying your plants.

Talk to local garden clubs and chapters of your state’s nursery and/or landscape associations.

Many garden writers participate in LinkedIn groups such as Garden Writers, Garden Writers United, Garden Center, Nurseries and New Media and Freelance Writers’ Connection. Similar Facebook groups include Horticultural Networking, Garden Bloggers Fling, and the Business of Garden Writing, and Gardeners.

Garden writers are often Master Gardeners. Many take, or teach, classes at local schools. A quick call to the horticulture department may strike gold. Also, check with the local newspaper gardening columnist…they may be able to refer a writer to you.

Working With a Garden Writer

Terms and conditions vary. Not all garden writers produce the same type of materials. One may be an expert at writing key word optimized web content but not write newsletters. You may find you will work with different writers to fill your organization’s needs. But that’s okay. You’ll be working with professionals who understand your business and want to see it flourish. Working together, your message will be received by a larger audience thus creating more customers.

Final Thoughts

At recent professional trade shows, I’ve noticed a definite sign of the increased awareness of the importance of garden communicators.  Several companies are now offering newsletter, website and content writing services tailored to horticultural businesses.  That is a sure sign communication is rising to a new level.  In this competitive market, I think it’s safe to say, a good garden communicator is your next best investment.  We’re here for you…


JacquiJacqui Austin, Garden Center Writer, can be reached at Jacqui@gardencenterwriter.com. She’s played with plants since she was four years old, the grandchild of an plant obsessive grandmother. Now she writes for horticultural businesses to amplify their message by writing “powerful words…promoting plants.”


Maria Zampini from UpShoot Recaps Her NGC Experience

I asked Maria Zampini from UpShoot, a three generation family-operated company marketing great new plants, to share with us her thoughts on how her Learning Center went at our show just a couple weeks ago. I was so excited to hear how successful her sessions were — of course, who doesn’t love talking about new plants — and how much she enjoyed our Plant Fashion Show.

Maria I was ‘tickled green’ when asked to lead a New Plant Learning Center at the 2013 National Green Centre.  The Learning Centers enhanced the attendee experience by bringing new plant education to the people versus taking buyers off the show floor, which I know is a concern for exhibitors.  It was a more personalized and informal setting which I think led to greater interaction between the speaker and interested parties.

Additionally, the ‘Plant Fashion Show’ is a one-of-a-kind, high energy event which promotes new plants through all marketing channels; from the breeder/grower to retailers/landscapers and right on down to the end consumer.  With coverage of the ‘Plant Fashion Show’ entrants in person, throughout the industry via trade journals and an on-line presence and finally direct to homeowners by way of consumer magazines and a public version of the fashion show – well, there is no better ‘bang for the buck’ in my book to promote new plants.

If you’re interested in having a learning center at our 2014 show in Kansas City, contact Sarah at exhibits@nationalgreencentre.org. Learn more about the Learning Centers that took place this year, right here.


Connect with UpShoot



See also: Tony Beckmann Shares His Learning Center Experience

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Press Release: WESTERN Show & National Green Centre Education Return to Kansas City

WESTERN Show & National Green Centre Education
Return to Kansas City for 2014 and Foreseeable Future 

Jan. 5-6, 2014 – Overland Park Convention Center

DID YOU KNOW 2014 begins your Western Nursery & Landscape Association’s 125th Anniversary? For more than a century, our association has continued to serve our members in countless ways – facilitating commerce, providing education and most importantly allowing relationships to begin, grow and flourish!

As we enter our anniversary year culminating in our annual event in January 2015, we are excited to celebrate our roots! These days it’s all about heritage, “going local” and reconnecting with history by reengaging with local businesses and talent. This can be seen most clearly at the consumer and retail levels but it certainly extends to wholesale providers and even associations.

We are excited to announce that your Trade Show will go back to its roots and once again take the name The Western. The event will be held in Overland Park, Kansas in January of 2014 AND 2015, and in the Kansas City area for the foreseeable future.

For the last three years, we have used our Western roots to engage our industry’s next generation as the National Green Centre and have succeeded in transforming and strengthening the educational offering and expanding the reach of our annual event. Our innovative approach to education will remain under the National Green Centre umbrella, reflecting a 12-month approach to information sharing for not only our own members but all industry professionals across North America and (thanks to new technologies) around the world.

As we continue to plan for The Western 2014 and implement our strategies for National Green Centre’s ongoing education, please join us in celebrating 125 years of making history and more importantly sharing our commitment to another 125 years!


The Western Nursery & Landscape Association Board of Directors:
Sandi Hillermann McDonald | Chad Wehrbein | Andy Rizza | Bill Calkins | Jeffrey Bruce |
Jonathan Cude | Katie Ketelsen | Tim McDonnell | Mark West 

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Bright Agrotech Offers Discount for National Green Centre Members

Interested in baby-stepping into hydroponics to grow more food, year round? Bright Agrotech has the perfect solution for you — their Spring System. It’s an innovative vertical hydroponic and aquaponic production system proven to grow a variety of vegetables from the comfort of your home.

Bright Agrotech Spring System

Bright Agrotech Spring System

Our association’s Vice President Sandi McDonald got an up-close view of the system at the show this past weekend.

Bright Agrotech

You have to watch this video from Bright Agrotech explaining how the Spring System works.

Bright Agrotech's discount

Bright Agrotech is offering a 15% discount to National Green Centre members when you pre-order a Spring System by using the code GREENCENTRE13. Order here. Not a member? Become one today!

This is the perfect way for you to experiment with hydroponics while growing your own food. Heck I’ll even go as far as to say you should have a few of these systems up and growing in your garden center. Host educational workshops to teach your customers how to eat fresh veggies from their own Spring System — then sell it to them! 

If you have any questions about the Spring System, please contact Bright Agrotech: info@BrightAgrotech.com.

Connect with them online (you have to watch their videos — entertaining yet highly educational):

Bright Agrotech





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Tony Beckmann Shares His Learning Center Experience


Our 2013 National Green Centre show had more Learning Centers than ever! They were a HUGE hit with our attendees and even some of our exhibitors. But don’t take my word for it — take Tony Beckmann’s from Myke. I hit him up for an endorsement right after the show was settling down (please forgive the background noise).

It was a pleasure having Tony at the show. His enthusiasm was contagious. Looking forward to learning more from him! Learn more about Myke right here.

If you’re interested in having a Learning Center at our 2014 show, please contact Sarah at exhibits@nationalgreencentre.org.


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