November 2013 Web Extra: Signature Garden program


In the run-up to The Duke Mansion’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2015, the historic estate’s gardens have been named one of only three Proven Winners Signature Gardens in the nation. The others are the Hotel Iroquois on Michigan’s Mackinac Island and Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Southern California. The Duke Mansion is located in Charlotte, N.C.

This program evolved out plant brand Proven Winners’ multiyear effort to broaden the awareness of its landscape product line. As part of that effort, the company got acquainted with Jack Barnwell, owner of Barnwell Gardens & Landscaping Services, which is responsible for the Barnwell family-owned grounds at the Iroquois Hotel. Year after year he began using more Proven Winners’ products at the property, until nearly all the plants had been converted.

“He’s just a master of the product line and has a knack for how to use and combine the varieties,” says Tom Smith, president of Carleton, Mich.-based Four Star Greenhouse, a supplier of Proven Winners plants. The hotel became known for its gardens, and it was such a positive effort for the hotel, that Barnwell and his family came up with the idea for a program where the hotel would promote Proven Winners and the plant brand would, in turn, promote the hotel. This idea evolved into the Signature Garden program, which the company formalized with a list of criteria and a site selection process. Though Iroquois was officially designated in 2010, the concept is still in its “infancy stages,” says Pat Seibel, display garden manager for Four Star.

The criteria to be named a Signature Garden include having a site with prestige, having a landscape contractor in place for installation and maintenance and having an established relationship with a Proven Winners grower.

The Duke Mansion fit all these criteria being one of Charlotte’s most historic estates, having an established relationship with Providence Landscape and Providence having a relationship with its local Proven Winners grower King’s Greenhouse.

Ultimately, Proven Winners feels The Duke Mansion will fit well into its goal of making these sites “a destination for plant geeks,” Smith says. At the Iroquois, for example, every guest room features a brochure with a garden map that identifies the plant materiel used. The hotel’s grounds staff leads garden tours on Saturday mornings. Those concepts are likely to take root at The Duke Mansion, too, he says.

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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