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GCA Westland Rising Stars – 13 Garden Centre Sustainability projects

The GCA Rising Stars Class of 2022 with Course Leader Gordon Emslie, GCA Chairman Tammy Woodhouse and Westland’s Simon McArdle.

Rising Stars take sustainability to a new level

GCA Westland Rising Stars are back and are sure to woo GCA Conference delegates in January 2023 with presentations of their excellent sustainability related projects completed during 2022

Back in 2009 Westland and the GCA launched the Rising Stars initiative, a series of Masterclasses for potential stars of the future nominated by GCA garden centre members, with finalists presenting at conference each year where delegates vote for the winner.

Now in its 12th edition, 13 Rising Stars were challenged to execute sustainability related projects at their centres, using Masterclass training provide by Gordon Emslie.

Back in September the 13 projects, were presented to a panel including GCA Chairman Tammy Woodhouse, Westland Marketing Manager Simon McArdle, Gordon Emslie and GTN Editor Trevor Pfeiffer.

After much deliberation, seven projects were selected to be presented at the GCA Conference in Blackburn, January 2023. Congratulations go to: • Mia Crawford – Poundbury Gardens: Wildlife Friendly Gardening for Small Spaces • Vicky Taylor – Barton Grange: Companion planting for beneficial insects • Matt Carr – Barton Grange: Wise with Water at home and in the garden • Pip Bransfield-Garth – Ruxley Manor: Bug Buffet • Jennifer Ind – Webbs of Wychbold: The environmental benefits of companion planting • Louise Oakes – Bents: Home Composting with Louise Oakes • Ella-May Bradshaw – Bosworths: Inspiring the next generation “Bees Needs Week”

The Rising Stars session is sure to be a highlight of conference and provide all delegates on the Monday morning with plenty of inspiration for their own teams.

After the seven presentations delegates will be able to vote to decide who is the winner for this year.

Jo Adderle Jo Adderley. Bentsy. Bents

Project: Demonstr Demonstratingating a small garden sustainable planter Aim: To encourage customers to adopt a sustainable approach to gardening and provide ideas for gardening in small areas.

Jo’s Rising Stars journey started with a shock at how much plastic was used in gardening. By talking to pot manufacturer Elho, and Gill from Bent’s visual marketing team, Jo was able to come with a design for a vertical pallet planter – a solution to growing sustainably in small spaces.

Jo chose succulents which are good at coping with challenging growing conditions and look good for more than a season with another option of using Elho hanging pots for herbs. Her display attracted customers and gave her the opportunity to have meaningful conversations about peat-free growing and the best plant choice for small spaces.

Ashley Baines. Barton Grange Garden Centre

Project: Bringing Wildlife Home Aim: Increasing Biodiversity in the Garden Increasing Biodiversity in the Garden

Urbanisation means less natural space for wildlife to flourish, but the UK’s 24 million gardens have the potential to become wildlife havens. At Barton Grange, Ashley demonstrated with his Bringing Wildlife Home campaign that through store displays, simple point-of-sale and targeted social media, customers were encouraged to attract wildlife into the garden resulting in an upturn in sales of plants and sundries.

Ashley believes the success of his campaign can be built upon with more effective social media, telling customers what to look for in their gardens, looking at value options and promoting and tying in with national events such as the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Finalist Ella May Bradshaw. Bosworth’s Garden Centre

Project: Bees Needs Week Aim: Inspiring the Next Generation

By providing everything in store that young gardeners need to compete in a sunflower growing competition, Ella attracted 149 entries, brought in a profit for Bosworth’s

Finalist Pip Bransfield-Garth. Ruxley Manor Garden Centre

Project: The Bug Buffet Aim: To create inspirational and functional bug-attracting planters in the garden centre carpark and track sales of items used in the planters to demonstrate commercial benefit

Pip’s project to fill bespoke planters with plants that provide nectar and food for a variety of insects and bring natural beauty to unexpected places, included a Bugand food for a variety of insects and bring natural beauty to unexpected places, included a Bug Hunt to involve children from the neighbouring nursery school. Three designs of Bug Buffet planters were created to attract bees, butterflies and bugs and the children counted and identified bugs they found and then collected resources to build their own Bug Hotels.

To promote the project Pip created relevant point-of-sale, bespoke plant labels and linked QR codes on the planters to a blog.

Garden Centre, and more importantly introduced the next generation to the joy of gardening.

From mid-May to the end of July Ella’s project with six prizes awarded every two weeks, centered around her display using repurposed materials. Ella invited children to buy a packet of sunflower seeds and sow them in-store using compost from broken bags. The competition was supported with easy to understand leaflets and point-of-sale and promoted it through the centre’s social media platforms.

Finalist Mia Crawford. Poundbury Garden Centre

Project: Wildlife Friendly Gardening in Small Spaces Aim: To create space-saving planters to attract wildlife

Using pallets, Mia came up with two designs for vertical growing to make the most of space in small gardens and balconies and attract the maximum amount of wildlife. Creative and informative point-of-sale material was backed up with QR codes leading to conservation organisations. The displays also highlighted the plant food Boost and because of its prominence in the display, sales were significantly stronger compared with two other liquid feeds.

Natalie Gray. Monkton Elm Garden Centre

Project: Growing Biodiversity Aim: How to Grow ‘Biodiversity’

This manypronged project encouraged customers to plant native wildflower and trees, help insects by using natural pesticides and providing bug hotels and look after birds by feeding and putting up nest boxes. Workshops and demonstrations allowed customer to handle and appreciate live bugs and attracted more customers to the garden centre and restaurant.

From April to August Natalie’s project resulted in a 133% increase in sales of wild bird care and 181% upturn of sales in the centre’s Bug World.

Finalist Matt Carr. Barton Grange Garden Centre

Project: Wise with Water – at home and in the garden Aim: To encourage customers to think about water conservation and learn how they can use it more efficiently

In a relatively small space, Matt was able to increase sales of water butts (up 249%), water-saving decorative bark (up 118%) and and water-savwater-saving ing cr cryst ystals als (u (up 247p 247%) through%) through a clever anda clever and cr crea eativ tive ins e insto tore re display display and and social media. The display included running water via a circulating pump from a water butt into a watering can and a kitchen sink to attract attention. Raindrop-shaped information boards highlighted facts and figures about rainwater and products were displayed alongside. Signage was also created for the doors of the toilets.

Instore activity was supported by social media messaging with more than 31000 views on Facebook, 5778 on Instagram and 367 plays of a trial post on Tiktok.

Finalist Jennifer Ind. Jennifer Ind. Webbs of Wychbold

Project: The

Webb’s Way

Aim: Environmental benefits ofEnvironmental benefi ts of plants and companion planting Through eye-catching displays and posters, Jennifer was able to communicate the environmental benefits of companion planting and how it reduces food miles and the need for pesticides. On social media, Jennifer’s Facebook posts about companion planting reached more than 8500 people. A companion planting bundle of products, available mid-June to mid-

August, helped customers with their buying decisions and in some cases sales of products rose three-fold on 2019. Jennifer believes more information around the store in other departments and engaging children could help strengthen the project in the future. leafl et and increase composting needs and the project has helped Mary understand the impact this can have on the everyday lives of customers and staff.

Using recycled and upcycled materials plus plants saved from the compost heap Mary’s Sensory Garden presented yet another benefit of gardening.

Gus McWilliam-Silk. Monkton Elm Garden Centre

Project: Saving Water with Monkton Elm Aim: To increase efficiency of water use in the plantaria

With demand for water in the UK outstripping supply by 2050, Gus’s project presented ideas and a prototype bench to prepare garden centres for future challenges. Reducing water wastage, improving storage, eliminating leaks and training are relatively easy solutions but Gus’s flood bench with solar panel to aid water distribution and recycling could help centres go one step further.

It’s hoped upscaling the prototype bench will help garden centres provide more efficient watering for plants and control costs of water.

Finalist Louise Oates. Bents

Project: Home Composting Aim: To educate customers, create a display and takeaway leaflet and increase composting equipment sales

The Bents Sustainable Walkway, created instore by Louise, displayed all the products and information needed to encourage people to compost their kitchen and green waste.

The GCA Conference finalists prepare their presentations during a visit to Westland’s Facts and figures

Ellesmere Port were backed up production facility in home composting

November 2022. demonstrations and rigorous social media posts. Louise attracted more than 4300 views on her Instagram stories and reached 4,800 people through Facebook. She also organised a regular blog on the Bents website and her Tik-Tok videos clocked up 430 watches.

Sales of home composting products increased significantly throughout the months when the promotion ran.

Mary QuennellMary Quennell. Bents

Project: Mary’s Sensory Garden Aim: Engage with nature and let the plants and elements satisfy your senses

Mary created a special place at Bents so those with sensory needs could enjoy an attractive and calming space and take-home ideas of how to make such an area at home. Up to 16.5% of the UK population have sensory

Harry Ridgers. Haskins Forest Lodge Garden Centre

Project: The Wall Aim: To help customers make more informed sustainable buying decisions to help combat climate change

At Haskins Forest Lodge Garden Centre, Harry devoted a ‘wall’ of retail space to showcase products that have a sustainable message. He divided it into four sections Peat Free, Garden Health, Biodiversity and Recycling.

Adopting informative point-of-sale and peatfree growing media in buckets for customers to feel, Harry successfully showed increased sales of many of the products displayed.

Finalist Vicky Taylor. Barton Grange Garden Centre

Project: Companion Planting for Beneficial Insects Aim: To encourage customers to consider an integrated approach to pest management

Vicky was given an island display undercover to present the idea of companion planting to Barton Grange customers. Ornamental and vegetable plants were arranged together along with growing media, raised bed kits and a hot spot for Boost plant food. Bespoke ‘Reason to plant’ bed cardsmedia, raised bed kits and a hot spot for Boost plant food. Bespoke ‘Reason to plant’ bed cards highlighted the benefits of each variety while ‘Did you know’ cards about insects were dotted throughout the display for added interest. Sales of dry goods and plants between the end of May and beginning of September were recorded with more than £5500 generated.

Moving forward, Vicky would like to set up the display earlier to coincide with veg plug sales and provide a Good Bug, Bad Bug id chart and consumer guide to chemicals.