Con­jure up in your mind your last visit to a gar­den cen­ter. What was it like?

Chances are good that it smelled a lit­tle funny—maybe like chem­i­cals. There were piles of seed, soil, rocks on pal­lets. A vari­ety of plas­tic pots were piled on industrial-looking shelves. Tools hung on peg­boards. Rows and rows of plants were lined up like lit­tle green soldiers.

If you believe the sur­veys that say more than three-quarters of Amer­i­can adults claim to do some gar­den­ing, it’s astound­ing that our shop­ping resources are so mea­ger and devoid of style.

Finally, those clever mar­keters that cre­ated the dis­tinc­tive, hip brands Anthro­polo­gie and Urban Out­fit­ters have decided to tackle the gar­den mar­ket and inject some style. And not a minute too soon, for my taste.


Ear­lier this month, they opened Ter­rain at Styer’s, the first store in a whole new gar­den cen­ter con­cept. Accord­ing to John Kin­sella, Terrain’s man­ag­ing direc­tor, the goal of Ter­rain is to be a “des­ti­na­tion” rather than the typ­i­cal drive-by pit stop visit to most gar­den centers.

Ter­rain at Styer’s is located in Con­cordville, PA, 20 min­utes south of Philadel­phia. It is a mas­sive five-acre com­plex with 19,000 square feet under roof. In addi­tion to the out­door nurs­ery, Ter­rain has books, home décor, light­ing, table­ware, indoor plants and trop­i­cals. Tired of shop­ping? Have lunch at the café, where foods are locally sourced. Need some help get­ting started? Call on their land­scap­ing and design professionals.


Kin­sella says that peo­ple typ­i­cally stay at Ter­rain for three to five hours. Prod­ucts include items sourced from all over the world that you wouldn’t see at other gar­den centers.

If we were to be com­pared this to another gar­den cen­ter, women would feel this is a more acces­si­ble expe­ri­ence than going to a typ­i­cal gar­den cen­ter or a big box store,” said Kin­sella. “There is more atten­tion to pre­sen­ta­tion. It’s a voy­age of dis­cov­ery with inter­est­ing ways of pre­sent­ing prod­ucts that will inspire people.”

Unlike Anthro­polo­gie and Urban Out­fit­ters, which were built from the ground up, the Ter­rain stores will part­ner with exist­ing local gar­den cen­ters to cre­ate the Ter­rain brand. Kin­sella wasn’t dis­clos­ing future loca­tions, but he did say that they expect a new Ter­rain to be open by year’s end.

I put in my bid with Kin­sella for Calvert County, Mary­land, where I live and gar­den. He’s a nice man, so he didn’t shoot me down on the idea that I could get my own Ter­rain. But he did say that they are look­ing at places where peo­ple are doing some seri­ous gar­den­ing. Philadel­phia, home of the most elab­o­rate flower show in the U.S., made the Penn­syl­va­nia loca­tion logical.

Kin­sella says Terrain’s mar­ket is “every­one.” While that sounds nicely demo­c­ra­tic, I sus­pect that the real mar­ket for now is the gar­den styl­ista with some money to spend.

There will always be peo­ple who pre­fer the util­i­tar­ian nature of the big box store gar­den depart­ment. But if Ter­rain can make gar­den­ing hip and styl­ish, maybe it will ignite a hot new wave of gar­den­ing enthusiasm.

I’m all for that. I’m also all for shop­ping. Road trip anyone?

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10 Responses to “A Whole New Terrain in the Garden Center Concept”

  1. Stacy Says:

    Jiminy crismas, where the heck do I sign up? I would give good money for a gar­den cen­ter pop­u­lated with some­thing other than marigolds, petu­nias and sullen/ignorant salespeople.

    Whew, I hear you on that! I am so very sick of the same old, same old.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  2. Kim Says:

    YES! Sign me up — that place looks looks pretty close to Heaven to me. While I have a num­ber of gar­den cen­ters with more than big box selec­tion, that place has style! I’d love to see one any­where in the Baltimore/DC metro area — if I’m will­ing to drive for an hour to get to Sur­rey­brooke, I’d cer­tainly drive an hour to get to Ter­rain.

    Hi Kim,

    If you’re around here are you famil­iar with Home­stead Gar­dens in David­sonville? It’s not far from Annapo­lis. They have an absolutely fab­u­lous selec­tion of plants that they grow on their own farm. I’m headed there next week for a visit to see the farm for myself.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  3. Diana Says:

    I’m up for the road trip. Prob­lem is, I couldn’t haul much back home! Wish we had more cen­ters like that. We do have a nice selec­tion of local nurs­eries with gar­den decor, which I love, for help­ing us make our areas into gar­den “rooms” with both plants and STUFF! In fact, I think the shop­ping part of gar­den­ing is almost as much fun as the gar­den­ing part … dig­ging, sweat­ing, haul­ing, weed­ing. Wait. Shop­ping or THAT? Maybe it’s ALL about the shop­ping! Or at least the collecting.

  4. suzq Says:

    Years ago, Anthro­polo­gie and Urban Out­fit­ters branched out from cloth­ing to fur­nish­ings. At that point, the stores I used to go to in order to find those unique items became untouch­able, price-wise and way too trendy.

    I fear the same will hap­pen. Both the plants and the acces­sories that sur­round them will be very expensive.

    We’re lucky in the DC area to have a num­ber of inde­pen­dent nurs­eries that sell spe­cialty and native plants and herbs. We also have a num­ber of antique sell­ers and local crafts­men from which to find our gar­den fur­ni­ture and accessories.

    But all that takes a lot of run­ning around, so I can see the appeal of these sorts of “lifestyle stores.”

    And some things are hard to find. Rain chains, any­one? Native bog plants? Stone gar­den benches that don’t look hokey? If Ter­rain can pro­vide that, all the bet­ter for us.

  5. commonweeder Says:

    this sounds like a great place, espe­cially if they have staff that actu­ally know some­thing about plants. I stopped at a gar­den cen­ter yes­ter­day and not only did most of the big pot­ted plants of the Proven Win­ner types look really sad, dried out and gone by, they had only the most com­mon of plants. I was will­ing to spend money, but not there.

  6. Gail Says:

    Fascinating…I see a bit of this at one local nurs­ery but noth­ing like this mag­ni­tude. I miss the vari­ety of peren­ni­als, natives and inter­est­ing annu­als that local nurs­eries used to carry, I guess they can’t com­pete with big box stores. I’m with suzq if this store can carry the new, the unusual and the un-hokey…then please move in to my neighborhood.

  7. Rick Says:

    Wow! Lucky you for hav­ing some­thing within reach like this. Our best bet is the farm­ers mar­ket, which sets up in a remote part of the mall park­ing lot. Enough said, huh!
    Actu­ally, we do have one really nice nurs­ery around here, and it is very pop­u­lar. But noth­ing with the selec­tion like this.

  8. Sue Says:

    I’mm so, so glad that place isn’t near me. So is my bank manager :)

  9. Layanee Says:

    Looks impres­sive. I am head­ing to PA on a road trip shortly. Maybe I should check that place out!

  10. entangled Says:

    Ter­rain reminds me a bit of the Hort Cou­ture branded plants I dis­cov­ered this spring. They’re not try­ing to redesign whole gar­den cen­ters, just lend some mer­chan­dis­ing panache through their plants and displays.

    I know of a few inter­est­ing gar­den cen­ters in Vir­ginia, but not as aggres­sively hip as Ter­rain looks to be.

    Have you been to any of Smith and Hawken stores in the DC area? I haven’t, but I would guess they’re tar­get­ing an older demo­graphic than Terrain.

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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