Watchdog 30 Stars - Garden CrossingsBy Victor Carrano (victorgardener)
February 11, 2008
Garden Crossings™ was founded in 2002 by Rod Grasman and Chad Walters. They saw what they believed was a gap in the market - the need for an online nursery that offered new and high quality plants to gardeners in a larger size.
|Garden Crossings Greenhouse|
In that first year, Garden Crossings (GC) had an inventory of 80 perennials and clematis. They had just over 5,000 square feet of growing space. Today, they offer around 750 different plants, which now include annuals and shrubs as well. After several expansions and a move from Hudsonville to Zeeland, MI, GC now has over 26,000 square feet!
Grasman, now the solo owner, credits GC's success to a dedication to providing the gardener with a ‘Wow!' experience from beginning to end. This starts with the user-friendly website which contains photos for every plant. It continues with the care that goes into the robust packing. Finally, it culminates when the gardener opens the box and sees the quality and size of the plants. For those times when the unforeseen happens and the gardener is not 100% satisfied, Grasman says, ‘At that point we have the ability to wow in the customer service aspect'.
| Echinacea 'Pink Double Delight'|
Operating a retail garden center in Zeeland as well, Grasman adds that the inability of the online customer to ‘have that complete buying experience of using all five senses' is what motivates GC to consistently exceed their expectations. Judging by their Watchdog position, GC is doing just that. Also a PlantScout participant, GC has been attracting new customers directly from Dave's Garden. Grasman says he has had many first-time customers tell him they were ordering because of the Watchdog reviews. ‘The whole staff at Garden Crossings is very excited to be rated so highly on Garden Watchdog'. The GC website also has many satisfied customer testimonials. One man writes, 'Hello, I just received my order yesterday and I have one thing to say: Outstanding!'
| Dianthus 'Raspberry Surprise'|
Garden Crossings can offer the customer new plants before they are available in local garden centers. It takes more time for new products to ‘filter' through the entire retail gardening chain. By having relationships with recognized branded suppliers such as Proven Winners® and ColorChoice®, GC is further able to showcase the hottest new offerings. (See this article on the 2008 introductions from ColorChoice®.) They first introduced ColorChoice® shrubs in 2006 and the line has been very successful. Last year, Proven Winners® annuals were added to the mix, available in four-inch pots. Customers responded positively to this as well. Non-plant, ‘Garden Accents' were also added in 2006. These include garden art, planters and birdhouses.
| Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'|
Since 2007, many perennials have been available in a 10-inch size, and additional one, two and three-gallon sizes are available for many of the shrubs. In an effort to reduce their use of plastic and embrace the ‘green revolution', GC is introducing their ‘Eco-Friendly Plants' in spring 2008. Also called the ‘elle plug', the plant is grown in a paper sleeve and filled with soilless media. The size is the equivalent of a three-inch plastic potted plant and is offered on about 60 of their varieties.
Grasman is always looking to add the newest and hottest plants. He checks his suppliers, attends trade shows, reads trade publications and even considers customer requests! He responds to customer feedback and market forces and re-evaluates his offerings each year. For 2008, for example, he added about 135 new varieties but dropped others to keep the overall number at around 750. He is comfortable with that number, believing it gives the gardener many choices for various garden needs, yet does not overwhelm. There are about 140 annuals, 80 clematis, 80 shrubs and over 400 perennials.
| Physocarpus opulifolius Coppertina™|
Because shipping is the only part of the chain they cannot control, GC takes great pains to pack their shipments to withstand whatever ‘travel adventures' they may encounter. Many of us remember the old commercial with the gorillas jumping on the luggage. I know I have had a few plant deliveries show up looking like those same gorillas were entrusted with their care! To prepare for these uncertainties, each plant container is well watered and a piece of fitted cardboard is placed on top of the soil. Tall sticks are placed around the container to protect it from damage from above. Plastic is then wrapped around the container and rubber bands hold everything in place. The box is packed tightly so there is little chance for jostling around. On those occasions when there is still damage, customer service will work with the customer to ensure a prompt remedy is effected.
| Preparing a Shipment|
GC features include extended descriptions of each plant, Plant Search, 'Store This Search' - which allows individual search criteria to be saved for later use, Top Sellers, at least one photo for each plant, the ability to add to an existing order, and credit card charging at ship time.
Current top sellers include a number of Echinacea, including ‘Coconut Lime', Heuchera ‘Mahogany' and Papaver ‘Miss Piggy'. Since GC grows most of their plants, they do sell out so Grasman recommends ordering early.
| Owner Rod Grasman and Family|
Garden Crossings - a family business, an online nursery leader and a Watchdog all-star!
Photos: Physocarpus and Echinacea taken by author. All others courtesy of Garden Crossings.
Special thanks to Mr. Rod Grasman of Garden Crossings.