November 15, 2013
On Oct. 9 and 10, greenhouse growers, suppliers and garden retailers met at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls for the 35th annual Canadian Greenhouse Conference. There was plenty to see on the sold-out trade show floor, including showcases of new plants and new products.

The conference offers tracks covering research, labour, garden centre management, plant production, pest management and more. One session on Making Workshops Work featured Deborah Sirman, one of the owners of Greenland Garden Centre in Sherwood Park, Alta., Lisa Lautenbach of The Watering Can in Vineland and Victoria Whitney of Griffin’s Greenhouses and Garden Centre in Peterborough. All three garden centres are known for workshops, where customers come to learn to create something, and be entertained at the same time.

Sirman noted that workshops can be used to draw customers to the store at a time when they wouldn’t otherwise be there. For example, at Greenland Garden Centre, she offers citrus and indoor plant growing workshops in January. Sirman adds that workshops offer an opportunity for staff to develop relationships with customers, and helps cement their role as an authority.

The Watering Can has locations in Vineland and St. Catharines, and offers so many workshops they have a full-time staff member dedicated to organizing and ordering product. At Christmas this year, they will have 27 different workshops, so customers can choose to make an urn, table decoration or wreath. Another staff member works full-time on social media, posting workshops dates and times on Facebook. After the event, photos of the class are uploaded to Facebook, where they gain additional exposure when participants share the photos of themselves with others.

Victoria Whitney was a teacher who gave up classroom work to come back to the family greenhouse and garden centre in Peterborough. She now uses her teaching skills to entertain and educate gardeners. Whitney discussed techniques for managing different types of workshop participants and offered some tips to help retailers confidently run an organized workshop.

Next year, the Canadian Greenhouse Conference takes place at the Scotiabank Centre in Niagara Falls on Oct. 8 and 9.