A Splash of Success
Whether delivering a splash of serenity or some unexpected drama, water gardens are proving irresistible for home gardens seeking to energize their landscape. Perhaps it’s the soothing sound of water trickling from a fountain, or the graceful sight of water shooting through the air. Regardless of why, there’s no denying that water gardens are a feast for the senses and an increasingly popular niche for consumers and retailers alike.
Livening Up Landscapes
For customers thirsting for a way to add more vibrancy to their gardens, suggesting a water garden could spark a lifelong hobby. Rich Sacher, president and co-owner of American Aquatic Gardens & Gifts in New Orleans, recognized the potential of serving this market before it became a sweeping trend across garden centers nationwide. American Aquatic Gardens & Gifts was founded 19 years ago with the specific purpose of bringing water and sculpture to the garden. “I was convinced there was a need for information and supplies on water gardening,” says Sacher, who had years of experience lecturing on the topic at local botanical gardens.
The appeal for homeowners is endless. “Even the most attractive landscape can seem static,” he adds. “Adding a pond, waterfall or fountain brings it to life, with water glistening in the sunlight and the alluring sounds of splashing water.”
As the popularity continues to soar and new trends in water gardening emerge, retailers should arm themselves with all the necessary merchandise and knowledge to dive into this promising niche.
What comes to mind when envisioning a water garden? For many of your customers, it’s the striking decorative elements that stand out: a column fountain enticing the ears with the sound of moving water; a wooden bridge connecting one end of the pond to the other; or even a floating turtle critter or resin dolphin spitter adding some unexpected movement.
Good news: These types of eye-catching accents may also be just as functional as they are attractive. For example, fountains keep water circulating; the splashing water in turn adds more oxygen to the pond, which helps the pond’s inhabitants live longer.
Back to Basics
While your customers might be focused on the visual excitement and drama that merchandise like striking statuary or lighted fountains can create, retailers need to also focus on the essentials. Many garden centers sell pond kits complete with pond liners, filter, pumps, sealant, and even an installation and owner’s manual for “do-it-yourself” customers. Others offer step-by-step guidance through the entire process, providing customers with the necessary education to become successful water gardeners.
Sacher advises his customers to start small (perhaps try container water gardening) and then escalate to the bigger leagues. He stresses that the most essential item a garden center can provide customers is “access to correct information on the subject.”
Charles Martelli, retail manager at Milberger’s Landscaping and Nursery in San Antonio, emphasizes the importance of “thinking it through” before getting too carried away. “And whether you do it yourself or have it installed, don’t shortcut the hardware part of it. The pumps and the filters…things that, down the road, will make the pond self sufficient and give you time to enjoy it.”
Milberger’s has also been certified under Aquascape’s Water Garden Excellence program, which connects retailers with Aquascape contractors to assist customers with any customization needs.
In addition, make sure you’re stocking the necessary filtration and water-circulation tools to keep customers’ water gardens — and the aquatic animals that settled there — thriving.
The Circle of Life
Besides some decorative flair and must-have maintenance and installation tools, water gardens are also known for the living creatures they sustain and attract. “It’s an ecosystem all to itself,” says Martelli. “The plants take care of the fish; the fish take care of the plants; the filter takes care of both of them. And other wildlife come to visit, too — some good, some bad. You have your own little universe going on in there.”
And these days, some garden centers are selling more than just the traditional fish. At Lilypons Water Gardens in Adamstown, Md., they’ve added seasonal creatures, like tadpoles and snails, to the mix and boosted sales in the process.
Of course, one of the greatest appeals of water gardening lies in the aquatic beauties that thrive in water, such as water lilies, lotus and various fragrant tropicals. Many gardeners gravitate toward water gardens because they love these flowers. Simply put: “They like the flowers, and in order to get the flowers, they need the pond,” says Margaret Koogle, president of Lilypons.
The water gardening market has truly evolved over time, says Koogle, going from a luxurious splurge for the well-off to a common delight for everyday homeowners. “When we first started the business [in 1917], water gardening was limited to the very wealthy,” she says. “[With the introduction of liners in the ’70s], water gardening is affordable to everyone.”
Current trends in water gardening include the popularity of container water gardening for homeowners looking for less commitment, as well as the use of more lighting in ponds and water features so they can be enjoyed after dark, Sacher says.
Popular trends in water gardening mirror the growing interest in transforming the outdoors into an extension of a living space, as water gardens become more extravagant and formal, Koogle points out.
While tropical flowers, eye-catching statuary and fountains remain big sellers, the true appeal of water gardens stretches beyond that perfect piece of merchandise. It’s a way to take your garden respite to a whole new level, liven up landscapes and entice senses. And it comes with an extra perk, Koogle jokes: “You don’t have to weed it, and you don’t have to mow it. It even appeals to people who aren’t necessarily gardeners.”