Hendriks creates products by thinking of the container first, and building up from there.
Photos courtesy of Hendriks Greenhouses

The first breaths of crisp, autumn air can inspire those who experience the temperature drop to look to warmer, cozier colors in both nature and home décor.

Hendriks Greenhouses, a tropical plant grower based in Beamsville, Ontario, caters to that overall feeling with its “Haunted Harvest” indoor garden product offering. The collection is comprised of 10 planters — from textured orange and green pumpkin containers to dark brown split-wood baskets. Each is filled with a combination of fall-inspired plant varieties like ferns, orange kalanchoe and variegated foliage.

These branded potted plant collections are the base of Hendriks Greenhouse’s business, except, unlike a traditional container program that’s built around the plant selections, Hendriks begins from the bottom up. Every few months, they reveal new arrangements of fashion-forward containers and complementary plant varieties that align with seasons and popular themes in the design world, such as “Cozy Christmas,” “Patriotic Gardens” and timeless classics like “Antique Finds.” The collections are sold to regional department stores like Costco and Home Depot in both the U.S. and Canada.

“We’re a pretty niche grower when it comes to growing plants in Ontario,” says Jamie Buchanan, Hendriks’ marketing manager. “There aren’t a whole lot of other growers of this magnitude that do [indoor gardens].” Much of this reason could be that Ontario isn’t the ideal climate to grow tropical plants, Jamie says, but the company has learned to do it well, and frequently supplements its supply with varieties from Florida — a growing hub known for its tropical offerings.

In comparison to a traditional landscape-variety focus, the idea that the planter influences the plants may seem a bit backwards. But it’s allowed Hendriks Greenhouse the ability to offer products that hold residual value after consumers take them home.

Take the “Lantern” product, for example. The distressed wooden “planter,” which holds light and airy houseplants at the point of sale, can continue to be useful in the home or as a gift after the plants’ lifespan has ended.

“The Lantern is one of my favorite pieces, ever,” says Erika Buchanan, Hendriks’ graphic designer and product developer (and Jamie’s wife). “You can use it for any season. You can put a bow on it and a tea light and use it for Christmas, or you could use it all summer long and when the actual plant dies, you can put a candle or a starfish [in it], or whatever you want. It’s just so versatile.”

Digital translation

After collections are made and the container garden products are drafted, they’re photographed and placed in Hendriks’ digital catalog at hendriksgreenhouses.com

38 percent of growers say that marketing is one of the aspects of their business that they would most like to improve. Source: 2016 State of the Industry Report

When deciding the number of resources to allocate toward the mobile-optimized site, they chose to take a minimalist approach. The website service Squarespace offers a user-friendly and clean template that can be updated daily (if desired) for about $200 a year, Jamie says. To allow the colorful and detailed collections to stand out, the white space surrounding them works well. Users may simply click on one, and scroll down to see each product within the collection.

The site also allows retailers to print out the images to create fliers, if need be, Erika says, and it helps potential customer understand the whole premise behind their products.

Appealing influences

When Erika is brainstorming a collection, she’ll create a storyboard (a graphical template outlining a creative idea) that includes bits of inspiration she collects from the fashion world, European trade shows such as IPM Essen, Pinterest and even retail outlets she loves to shop at, like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.

“I see colors that are popular, and patterns, and I pick one and just go with it,” Erika says, noting that when she does, she sticks to the same color family so that it doesn’t look too messy. Then, she creates the theme and gives it a funky name, like “Hello Spring” or “Copper and Burlap” and creates custom textures in-house. “I’ve brought in clothing of mine and linen patterns,” she adds. “Sometimes, with the actual texture itself, I’ll put graphics over it so the texture that I’ve handed in is just kind of blended. I find that with the more levels you get, the more interesting and appealing it looks.”

After she’s selected textures, she’ll scan and upload them, then send them to a factory in China that takes those patterns and turns them into custom containers in the shape Hendriks requests. The factory is great at executing the containers no matter what patterns and shapes they choose, Erika says, but sometimes, it’s difficult to create the most economical option.

“My side of it is to make sure we’re not overspending,” Jamie says. “I always joke with [Erika] that it’s always easy to make a grocery list, but it’s hard to go and buy the right amount of groceries, because she’ll lay out all these great [texture options] in front of us, but if we’re not buying the right container to hit the right marketplace, it’s kind of useless.”

Yet the team is always willing to discover new ideas and what works best, even if that means stepping away from the marketing department and dedicating time to the production area.

Even with a nontraditional product line, the busy season for Hendriks is still in the spring, especially between Easter and Mother’s Day. This past spring, demand surged and things got so busy that those in the office “strapped on our steel-toed boots and gloves” to do some potting, “which was awesome,” Erika says. When building planters themselves, “We get to see if it doesn’t make sense to have a stark white container, as much as it would look good in someone’s house. It’s really hard to make that in mass production and keep them looking clean,” she adds. “It’s an eye opener … Certain shapes look awesome, but might be a nightmare to plant up.”

It is Hendriks’ creativity, attentiveness to detail and ability to compromise with cost is what drives the business forward, selling container gardens at retail from $7.99 all the way up to $99.99.

Erika says she’s excited for the vintage-looking mini teacup and saucer planters that the team is putting together for an upcoming collection, which was an idea inspired by her grandmother. Each planter will either be filled with mini succulents or mini roses as a trend that she picked up in Germany years ago, and is now flowing mainstream into North American markets. “I don’t think they’re going to be around long,” she says. “I think they’re going to fly off the shelves.”