Party on: The scoop behind plant potting parties

September 10, 2018 -  By
Potting partygoers learn about creating attractive containers. (Photo: James Martin Associates)

Potting partygoers learn about creating attractive containers. (Photo: James Martin Associates)

James Martin Associates (JMA), a landscape firm headquartered in Vernon Hills, Ill., has found a unique way to apply its in-house expertise to give back to the community through“potting parties.” The company donates these parties to nonprofits who can then auction them off to raise funds for their causes.

Over the last 15 years, the company has donated more than 120 parties to local charities. Ashley Atkinson-Leon, JMA’s marketing manager, says the donation is valued at $600 per party for about 12 guests.

Each potting party, held on-site at JMA, includes a guided tour of the company’s landscaped grounds with time for questions, a picnic-style lunch from a local deli and a hands-on demonstration showing how to properly install plant material into pots. Guests then get to take home their newly potted flowers when the party is over.

The investment in these parties also includes all of the materials—containers, flowers, fertilizer, gloves, water, rocks and soil. While the donated materials are relatively inexpensive, there’s the investment of time to consider. Besides the time spent coordinating parties, there’s also time spent hosting them. One of the company’s in-house landscape professionals, such as a landscape architect or horticulturist, will make him or herself available. Atkinson-Leon says guests are taught plant installation and plant care. Attendees also learn design tips, such as grouping plant colors and textures appropriately and how to fill the pot with soil in a way that allows roots to flourish.

Business Breakdown: James Martin Associates; Graphic: LM Staff

Graphic: LM Staff

In terms of getting the word out about potting parties, Atkinson-Leon says many JMA employees are already involved in leadership roles for multiple nonprofits within the community, and offering potting parties is a way the company can support the causes its employees believe in.

“We also offer the potting parties to nonprofits that our clients work with,” Atkinson-Leon adds. “We often work with the same nonprofits year after year, including the Winnetka Historical Society and the Maryville Crisis Nursery in the Chicagoland area. Our sister company, LID Landscapes in Boulder, Colo., also puts on potting parties for organizations like the Humane Society of Boulder and Boulder Health Community Ambassadors.”

There have been few challenges running these parties over the years, Atkinson-Leon says; however, she advises having a backup space to host the gathering in case of bad weather. While JMA’s potting parties are typically held outside, under the pergola in the company’s gardens, they can be moved inside if necessary.

Ultimately, the company sees these parties as a benefit for everyone involved. Atkinson-Leon calls them a “great educational learning experience for the community,” as guests walk away with a lot of knowledge that will help them tend to their plants at home. Plus, there’s the additional benefit of supporting a local cause—as well as supporting clients or employees who are invested in those causes.

“We love that we get to support the nonprofits that both our employees and our clients are passionate about—and that we get to use our knowledge in horticulture to do it,” Atkinson-Leon says. “It’s a fun, rewarding way to give back to our local communities.”

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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