Woodland wonderland

Forest creature motifs and muted, earthy tones are having a hot décor moment amongst millennials and baby boomers.

Display tip: Try pairing animals by their “habitat.” For example, place turtles and frogs by water features to show customers ways to accentuate fountains and waterscapes.
Photos top to bottom courtesy of Frisella Nursery; © Taljat, Annora I Adobe Stock

The charm of forests and lakes is undeniable, and since COVID-19, many consumers have found their way back to nature. Outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking and even forest bathing — a mindful practice based on immersing oneself in nature — have seen a resurgence as people fled to the great outdoors. Its influence is still making waves across the retail garden space, and customers can’t get enough of it, especially when incorporating woodland wildlife into their gardens.

Large and little critters

Animal-themed décor trends come and go, but demand for the category always seems to be high. And right now, Juliana Kozik, garden center manager at Frisella Nursery, says turtles are incredibly trendy at the Defiance, Missouri, IGC.

“Turtle [products] just kind of go crazy, especially the little planters,” she says with a laugh. Turtle planters pair well with succulents because the different patterns and spirals create unique-looking turtle shells, Kozik says.

“We actually have three solid granite, huge turtles in our patio area. I recently just sold one, which was $3,000. They wanted to decorate their garden — it’s just crazy,” she says.

Hedgehogs have also been popular the last couple of years, mostly as statuary items rather than planters, she says. Pig planters and motifs have also been gaining traction, along with classic cat and dog themes, which are hot purchases for pet owners. Animal planters on the shelf are usually one of the first items to sell compared to other styles, particularly for indoor plants, succulents and container gardening, Kozik says.

“Pretty much any kind of animal [décor] has been [selling] really, really well. And people just love it,” she says.

Put a hedgehog on it! These cute, spikey critters are in high demand amongst both younger and older generations, and whether it’s themed hedgehog water bulbs or planters, shoppers are scooping them up.
Cross-merchandise succulents with smaller, earthy-toned planters to incorporate textures and patterns to create an inspired yet whimsical display.

Versatile options

Another trend Kozik points out is that when customers shop, they’re not thinking of exotic animal patterns of trends past; they’re turning inward instead and thinking of their pets.

“Especially after the pandemic, pets became such a part of our lives. They become family and people just want to represent them in their garden, in their everyday life,” she says.

As for colors, bright is out and muted, earthy tones are in. According to Kozik, terra cotta has been quite popular because it’s cost-effective, but customers also opt for more neutral tones like whites and blacks, so their plants won’t clash with the planters.

Animal décor is popular amongst all demographics, but Kozik estimates that the category is particularly trendy amongst 20- to 30-year-olds and 50- to 70-year-olds. She says the latter group is especially fond of animal statues, particularly hedgehogs and pigs.

Jack Carlisle, owner of The Potting Shed by Carlisle, has noticed similar trends. The Potting Shed is a boutique garden center in Southern California, where Carlisle says customers are clamoring for all things woodland-themed — especially mushrooms, which complement forest-dwelling creatures.

He reminisces on the original garden gnome, which has now morphed with the more whimsical fairy gardening and cottage core trends that inspire back-to-earth gardening and gardeners’ imaginations.

“I think it goes along with the whole foraging off the earth — foraging leaves, plants, edible flowers,” he says.

While woodland wildlife motifs may be having a moment, pet planters and statues are a traditional mainstay in the garden center because customers like to incorporate their pets into the garden.
Photos courtesy of Frisella Nursery and © Wirestock Creators | adobe stock
The classic garden gnome has paved the way for more “Cottage Core” décor elements, which include woodland creature and mushroom themes.

Natural inclinations

Woodland animal-themed products are especially popular in the fairy gardening category. Hedgehog miniatures are a bestseller, as are deer, raccoon and squirrel miniatures. Like Kozik, he says anything with a hedgehog on it sells — from water bulbs to statues, even to rolling pins.

He says the woodland-themed décor ties exceptionally well with biophilic design elements, like root twig hangers and other recycled natural materials.

“Animal décor ties everything back to nature. With these products being present, they’ve sort of elevated and educated us on what these animals do for us in the environment,” he says. “It gets us into this mindset to understand what nature can do.”

Carlisle says he can’t predict whether the trend will continue, but he believes it will grow stronger. Kozik also expects these themes and motifs will remain popular in the market for the next few years for one simple reason.

“People love their animals,” she says. “I don’t think that’s going to go away for a long time. I think it’s been increased since the pandemic. I think you’re seeing more people loving or rescuing animals, and doing things like that. It’s definitely a niche that’s going to continue for a while.”

December 2022
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