pantone-color-of-the-year-2018-ultra-violet-lee-eiseman-quoteIt’s the end of the year, which means that it’s time for the color gurus to start releasing their thoughts on the direction of fashion for the next 12 months. As always with these projections, we recommend that you view them only as general guidance, and to not let them overly influence your pottery buying plans – you are likely much more in tune with what your customers will be shopping for than are these national organizations.

Pantone has just announced that their selection for the color of the year for 2018 is going to be Ultra Violet, a rich purple leaning slightly towards blue. Here are their notes on the selection:

“A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.

Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now. The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own.

Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance. Musical icons Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix brought shades of Ultra Violet to the forefront of western pop culture as personal expressions of individuality. Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets.

Historically, there has been a mystical or spiritual quality attached to Ultra Violet. The color is often associated with mindfulness practices, which offer a higher ground to those seeking refuge from today’s over-stimulated world. The use of purple-toned lighting in meditation spaces and other gathering places energizes the communities that gather there and inspire connection.”

In a related development, Benjamin Moore Paints also projected the big color for 2018, and  their team of style-makers disagreed with Pantone, selecting “Caliente”, a rich ruby red as their winner:

FAIP-S3-CP - HERO.jpgNot all flower pots are suitable for year-round outdoor use – generally, only “high-fired” pots are able to survive the temperature changes and the freeze/thaw cycle. Examples of pots that don’t make this cut are most Mexican terra cotta planters, and most Italian red clay pottery. Also, any pots or vases that do not have drainage holes should be brought inside.

Once you’ve determined that you have a flower pot that will most likely survive the worst that winter has to offer, it’s important to note that it’s generally not OK to just leave the pots in the same condition that they were in during the growing season.

Obviously, the best option is to bring your ceramic flower pots inside, or to at least cover them with a tarp. If those aren’t options for your containers, or if you really like the way the pots look, and you want to keep looking at them all winter, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that your beautiful pots continue to look great and last through the winter:

Keep the Drainage Holes Open – Hands down, this is the single most important factor in determining if your planters are going to make it through the winter. Do NOT plug up the drainage holes in any way on pots that you intend to leave outside through the winter. Please note that this does NOT mean that the pots need to be totally empty, but if you pour water into the pot, it should start dripping through the drainage holes within minutes. This is best accomplished by placing a layer of small rocks, broken pots, Styrofoam peanuts, or similarly-sized materials on the bottom of the pot, which will prevent the drain from getting blocked with soil clots. Ideally, this layer will be about 10-15% of the interior height of the pot. See the photo at bottom left for an example of a pot properly prepared for winter use.

Winterized Flower Pot Cut AwayUse A Potting Soil Blend that Allows for Drainage – You should be doing this anyway, but if you aren’t, Fall is a great time to change out your potting soil. Again, the goal here is to make sure that water can drain fully to the bottom of the flower pot.

No Saucers – Seriously. Saucers do a lot of great things – they help to keep your plants hydrated through the hot seasons, they protect your decks and floors, and they look great with many flower pots. They are also your flower pots’ worst enemy during a deep freeze. Any residual water left in a saucer when the cold hits will freeze. This will not only cause the saucer to become stuck to the planter, but it can also pressure the foot of the pot, causing breakage or crumbling. The ice-filled saucer will also plug the drainage holes on the bottom of your pot, allowing the pot to retain water, which in turn creates the opportunity for ice to expand and break the pot from the inside out.

Use Pot Feet – Again, there are a lot of reasons for doing this. First, using pot feet keeps the bottom of the pot elevated, which enhances drainage. This elevation also keeps water from pooling below the pot, eliminating the risk of the pot freezing to the ground.

Don’t Light Fires in Your Pots – Cold ceramic planter + burning logs = broken planter. 100% of the time. Get a fire pit.

ENGC-S5-MT - HEROBased on the volume of questions that we field from our customers, deciding how to price out a set of flower pots is one of the more difficult tasks facing garden center management today.

There are a lot of approaches to accomplishing this task, and different solutions will often work for different garden centers, or even for different products within the same garden center. In many ways, pricing planters is more of an art than a science, but there are some basic concepts that will help to get you started, and at least one rule that you should never break:

  • The biggest key to successfully pricing your pots is to make sure that the prices for each piece are proportionally and logically  related to the actual size and scale of each pot included in the set. The easiest way to do this is to use a simple formula to establish ballpark prices. We use the following to power the Unit Price Calculator on our website – Please note that the steps below will work either before or after your margin calculations:
    • Each pot in the set is assigned a numerical value, with 1 being the smallest pot, 2 being the 2nd smallest, 3 being the 3rd smallest, and so forth.
    • These numerical unit values are then added together – a three-pot set would have a total unit count of 6, for example (1+2+3=6). Similarly, a four-pot set would total 10 units (1+2+3+4=10).
    • You then divide the cost of the set by the set’s total unit count – A three-pot set with a cost of $60.00 would be divided by 6 per the example above, resulting in a unit cost of $10.00.
    • This unit cost is then multiplied by the total number of units assigned to an individual pot, so our $60.00 set with an individual unit cost of $10.00 results in per-pot benchmark prices of $10.00 (1 x $10.00), $20.00 (2 x $10.00), & $30.00 (3 x $10.00).
    • If you don’t feel like doing the math by hand, we have an easy-to-use downloadable Excel calculator on our website.
  • Don’t be afraid to second-guess the results from the formula, as many times it will make sense to adjust the weighting of the prices – most often reducing the price of the smallest pot while adding to the cost of the largest pot(s), which tend to be less price-sensitive at retail.
  • One of the great things about the pottery category is that it offers a lot of opportunity for enhancing your margin dollars. It’s perfectly fine to raise your prices beyond what the formula dictates if you feel that a particular pot can support a higher price –  If a pot looks like a $79.00 item to you, but the formula says that it should be a $59.00 pot, charge the higher price – you can always discount away from it if needed.
  • Finally, the only hard and fast rule in this process is that you should never, ever, simply divide the cost of a set by the number of pots in the set. This  overly-simple solution always leads to retail prices that don’t make sense, as you wind up with large and small pots sitting on your shelves at the same price.

We love the idea of living Christmas trees because they open up a whole new avenue for off season plant and flower pot sales. Will this trend continue to take root and become a driver of seasonal business for garden centers? Houzz.com offers ideas on how your customers can embrace this exciting concept:

There’s no need to completely rework your summer flower pots and planters to give them Fall flair. Instead, check out these nine ideas from Houzz for updating existing container gardens (or, if you’re inspired, potting up new ones), including one plant to add for instant drama, and a zero-effort, lazy-gardener’s trick for covering a bare spot.

Check out this cool post from Houzz.com about potting stations. Of course, we suggest using our pots instead of the ones pictured in the article, but as a general rule, we are fully in favor of home improvement projects that result in more pots being filled with dirt and plants.

It seems like Summer just started, but as always, Fall is just around the corner. In the Houzz story below, 5 ideas for Fall planters are discussed – lots of great ideas that can help to grow your pottery department’s profits during the traditional “off season”.

Most edibles do well in containers, and in some cases even prefer them. For gardeners with poor soil, or no soil at all, container gardening can be a way to create the edible garden your landscape wouldn’t otherwise allow you — all within steps of your house. But where to start? San Francisco Bay Area gardening consultant and edible-garden designer Steve Masley shares 10 great tips to growing the edibles in containers.

Imagine what a difference it would make in your garden to switch out earth-toned pots that blend in with the background with containers that visually pop in shades of blue, red, orange or even purple. Colorful containers can be used in many ways to stand out and grab our attention in outdoor spaces — often where it’s more challenging to add color. Not all of the pots shown in the article are ours, but we’ve got similar ones available – remember that it’s the concepts and colors that are most important, not the specific planters.

As Lauren Dunec Hoang points out in this terrific idea book from Houzz, “nothing has more immediate impact on the mood of a garden than color”. The principles and palettes that she details can be applied to any garden or landscaping project, from a multi-pot container garden to a large flower garden. No matter the scale of the project, brightly colored flower pots and planters are a great way to highlight specific colors, and to ensure that those colors remain part of your garden palette even after the flowers fade.