August 4, 2011

I HEART TERRAIN (part 1)


I just returned from a private blog event hosted by Terrain, the gorgeous gardening lifestyle store located just outside of Philadelphia, PA owned by URBN ( the design conscious company that also owns Urban OutfittersAnthropologie and BHLDN). Terrain is Urban's gardening concept store located in Glen Mills, PA. The Terrain brand includes a cafe, a spa, the retail space in Glen Mills, PA, and its retail website shop.terrain. (stay tuned for more info on that!). Terrain is very supportive of the bloggers and design community who have supported them over the past few years, and this event was a thank you and an opportunity for them to share their vision. 

TERRAIN ENDED OUR DAY WITH A DELIGHTFUL 8 COURSE DINNER ALL FROM LOCAL GARDENS AND FARMS. BLUEBERRIES, DUCK, SEA BASS AND PEACHES REIGNED. ALL HAIL CHEF KEITH RUDOLF (LEFT) OF TERRAIN CAFE ( RESERVATIONS HERE). UPPER RIGHT - THE STUNNING FIG + SAGE GIRLS MUG FOR THE CAMERA.
After its opening in 2007, Terrain at Styers its third year of operation, it appears to be a successful work-in-progress. Located in what was Styers, which was a family nursery which began in the mid nineteenth Century.  I typically would not attend such PR events but I new that this would be different, and it was. Besides, I adore Terrain and URBN, as many creative people do, so any chance to visit the place is an opportunity for me to get excited.  Thanks to everyone at Terrain for a wonderful day and evening!
FELT POCKETS PLANTED WITH COLEUS CREATE THE ULTIMATE GREEN WALL
TERRARIUMS ARE MAKING A HUGE COMEBACK, AND TERRAIN OFFERS AN INCREDIBlE SELECTION OF PLANTS, SUPPLIES AND CONTAINERS FOR BEGINNER OR EXPERT.
We were never asked to write about anything, and every moment was filled with fun things to do.  Terrain understands who their consumer is ( it's me), so even though we all knew that we were here for other reasons, it was OK, because we all love Terrain, and I think they know that. The folks at Terrain  actually remembered me from when Joe and I, (plus Margaret and Fergus our dogs who they served water to) stopped in last October, they have read my magazine Plant Society, and even visit this blog often for inspiration, so it's a win-win.
AIR PLANTS, OR MOSTLY TILLANDSIA SPECIES ARE BROMELIAD, PLANT THAT CAN LIVE ON MOST ANY SURFACE, AS LONG AS YOU CAN SUPPLY LIGHT AND MOIST AIR ( A DAILY MIST WILL DO). IN THE WILD THEY GROW ON TREE BRANCHES, BUT A WIRE CHANDELIER WILL DO IN A PINCH! YES, SPANISH MOSS IS ALSO A TILLANDSIA SPECIES. ALL DO BEST IF TREATED TO A SUMMER OUTDOORS IN THE SHADE.

Our day started with a lunch and workshops,  like "make a terrarium" which for the dozen or so lifestyle bloggers that attended, was a hue hit (OK, not really for me, so I skipped it, and snuck in a tour with a Steve the plant buyer and Greg the Creative Director). I had things to see, questions to ask, and shopping to do! Our day ended with an amazing farm table dinner in their restaurant, before we were whisked back to our hotel in Philly. I can't think of a nicer thing to do on a hot, August day.

Think about it – I don’t care how awesome your business is, It takes more than balls to invite the devil into your home to snoop around. The devil here, being those leading lifestyle guru’s –and I mean the biggies that I follow at work in my blog roll – Fig + Sage, Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, Ez from Creature Comforts , Joy from Oh Joy!- yeah.....I know, the TOP style bloggers - how exciting! They are more really hipsters( I know, they hate that name) rather, they are the ones essential evaluate one into hipsterdom or not. And then some new blogs that I had not heard of, but who now are my new friends like the sweetie Hannah and her blog Honey and Jam, my neighbor in Marblehead, MA, the fabulous Katy and her blog Katy Elliott,  Chelsea Fuss and Frolic,  Caitlin from Sacramento Street and more. 


A BLACK COTTON PLANT ( RIGHT) EVEN HAD MAGENTA FLOWERS - WHO DESIGNED THIS THING? AWESOME, INDEED.

The next time I visit Terrain, I am bringing my truck. Prepare to be inspired, inside and out, figuratively and literally. I found fragrant bars of Cedar and pine  Soap, organic Japanese charcoal towels, Fall blooming Camellia trees balled and burlaped, hand-blown glass hummingbird feeders (with no red plastic), Imported Weck Canning Jars, red and white striped bakers twine. Plus, a dozen Crocosmia varieties in full-bloom, some amazing black-leaved cotton plants, Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil Hand Cream from Italy, Black Sea Salt, 35 varieties of ornamental grass, Variegated Cymbidium Orchids, Copper Haws Watering cans- you name it, they’ll have something you desire. 

If and when Terrain expands ( I hope it does, this is the third year of good numbers for the store, so we can only hope!), there are places where it can be even more awesome. More exclusive plant material, maybe mail-order plants, growing their own material, but all of that would be frosting on the cake, as long as they keep the quality staffing at other locations ( think - Whole Foods-type knowledgable employees).


Also, Terrain is not a utilitarian store in a hardware store way. What you wont find are giant pallets of fertilizer and herbicide, nor is it the place for rakes, weed wackers or wolf pee for that matter ( deer retardant). But it is a place to visit if you are looking to treat yourself or your garden with an awesome trough, a handmade container that you can't find anywhere else, a terrarium that will make your plant geek friends squeal- it's a place to shop and to get
ideas.
THIS BLACK SUNFLOWER WAS GROWING IN THE PARKING LOT! NEARLY BLACK, IT WAS EYE CATCHING. IN THE GRASS ISLE, I COUNTED 35 VARIETIES IN ONE ISLE.

All of this is happening in a time when the American garden center is still trying to define itself. Some are struggling to compete with big box stores, others are becoming behemoths of Proven Winners and Blue Hydrangeas - nice, but with little original thought or inspiration. just a nice cliche that sits somewhere between big-red-barn-that-sells-blue-hydrangeas, Osmocote and pink-rubber-boots. The third option for gardeners is the mom and pop store, the poly hoop house type of place that focuses on annuals or starts brought -in from other commercial growers. Terrain certainly exists somewhere in between all of these, yet the plant material is thoughtfully selected, they are well cared for, watered and fertilized, the staff is very knowledgeable and can answer any question you have, and the accessories are un paralleled - seriously. This is a company that has sourcing and buying great objects mastered ( Hello, Anthropologie!). Together, it is horticultural kismet. 
SOME PLANTS WERE EVEN NEW TO ME, A MUSSAENDA FRONDOSA ILEFT) WITH ORANGE FLOWERS AND WHITE BRACTS, BECAME A MUST-HAVE FOR ME.

Most garden centers rely on the same wholesalers, it's a business where most ( if not all) of your local garden centers must rely on only a handful of distributors. Trade shows and wholesale plant sellers funnel everything in, and therefor, there is little room for variation or customization Terrain is changing this model, significantly tweaking it up. For example, most nurseries make a phone call to their wholesale distributor for everything  from their annuals or Proven Winners® plugs (young plants), to their Easter lilies and Holiday plants.  

At the dinner that ended our day at Terrain, I was speaking with the head plant buyer, Steve. he was shared a story about how two weeks ago, while on a sourcing trip for Christmas trees in Oregon, he found a field of perfectly imperfect ‘un-clipped’ Christmas trees in Oregon…(yeah, 99 percent of farm-raised Xmas trees are trimmed to a perfect, dense, cone shape).  His grower was apologizing about a certain field not being trained at all, but all Steve could see was a field of perfectly natural trees.  The perfect un-clipped specimens (to the surprise and confusion to the grower).  Trees like these are more natural with bare trunks and lichens, and look not unlike vintage German Feather Trees.  Designers and people who know about them, crave them. ( like me).

Terrain is not cheep, be prepared to pay a premium price for true vintage, but the plant material is competitive and the quality makes up for any price difference. I can't put a value on total experience, but I have no problem paying .50 more for a Weck canning jar that I can take home right now. If you are cost conscious, just visit for the ideas.  Terrain is worth the trip if only to wander the buildings.  The displays along are inspiring. They are never fussy, just thoughtfully assembled in unique ways that make you want to replicate it in your own home. Take the time to look at everything, every detail is thought out.

To sum it up, Terrain is a blend of vintage and new, furniture and kitchen goods, rare plants and beautiful performers, hand made pots and letterpress stationary,  Curated books for the connoisseur and just about anything that a real gardener would be thrilled to receive as a gift. 


Terrain is living example of how many modern businesses can successfully grow and create a new niche simply by hiring the most talented people to work together - a true collective intelligence  all working toward the same goal, that of living a quality life. All of this, created by an assemblage of the finest of plantsman, antique hunters, artists, craftsman, chefs, stylists and stylemakers.  It is a more than mere store, it is a living toolkit for enhancing your life and style.

This just in....There are rumors about a second location in Westport, CT according to of all places, an automobile dealer site PSFK, but there is much work ahead. Regardless, it is promising.


5 comments :

  1. Great post! I'm so glad we met. Come up to marblehead!

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  2. I totally agree! I'll second your suggestion of using the website for inspiration, then hitting the flea market, etc. They always have sale items on the website, and they have frequent special promotions. For example, I got all my Weck jars with free shipping!
    The only plant material I have purchased was bulbs--and I was really impressed with the selection and performance. Unfortunately all my Fritillaria did not come up, but that is due to my soil.

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  3. It was such a treat to meet and chat with you Matt, and I love your photos and recap of our day at Terrain! Now I'm off to read your magazine (looks fantastic). -Ez

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  4. After reading this post I searched their website, can see why the next time you need to bring your truck!

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  5. Deep sigh....wishing this for the Woo...

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