America's only association focused exclusively
on the needs of Independent Garden Centers.

Garden Centers of America:
Together We're Better!

This Month's GCA Member Profile

IGC East Details Here

IGC Chicago Details Here

Your GCA Member Benefits at the IGC Shows

Enter Now! GCA's Best Bathroom Awards

Destination for 2016 GCA Summer Tour Announced - Portland, Here We Come!

Next year's GCA Summer Tour is headed to Portland, OR, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the garden centers that make this Northwestern market a hub of retail innovation. Portland has been called a treasure trove of merchandising and retail inspiration, so be sure to pack your notebook and camera!

In addition to touring Portland garden centers, plans are being made now to take attendees to a major grower and principal plant supplier to IGC retailers across the nation.

Do you have suggestions for some really awesome stops?  Email your suggestions to and tell us why you think they would make the 2016 Summer Tour spectacular!

Watch for the late-June dates and destinations of next year's tour to be announced in the coming months.

2015 GCA Summer Tour Milwaukee Social Media Recap

In case you missed all of the coverage of this year's GCA Summer Tour in Milwaukee, WI, here are some of the highlights from social media:

"At one of yesterday's stops on the 2015 GCA Summer Tour in the Milwaukee area, K&W Greenery provided an interesting use of what would otherwise be throw-away wood shipping pallets. Co-owner Phyliss Williams reports she just throws a quick paint wash on them and turns them into useful store display items. She feels Millennials especially appreciate the re-purposing, which is so trendy these days."

"First stop this morning on the 2015 GCA Summer Tour was the conodial domes - the three that comprise the Milwaukee Domes of the Mitchell Park Conservatory. Attendees toured the three distinct domes - tropical, desert and show garden. All were very impressed with these horticultural gems here in the Midwest."


"Yesterday on the GCA Summer Tour in the Milwaukee area, we saw these products at two stores. Really cool, faux antique rusted shovels that are laser cut with cool designs. Designed to stand upright, stuck in the ground as garden art, they hold rain gauges in the shovel art design. Johnson's Gardens in Cedarburg, WI, asks customers to pick up the rain gauge vessels upon check out."

"This morning, the 2015 GCA Summer Tour made its way through southeastern Wisconsin to stop at Oconomowoc Landscape Supply & Garden Center, where we found this incredible and impressive bulk mulch and stone display. Retailers on the tour were wowed by this unique and high-end presentation, which according to Owner Terry Van Lare, helps create his impressive sales in these categories."

"2015 GCA Summer Tour attendees gathered after a delicious lunch at Ebert's Greenhouse Village, Ixonia, WI, the entire entourage traveling by doubledecker bus this week, touring all of southeastern Wisconsin. The tour has been a hit and only experienced a few showers among the mostly bright, sunny skies."


August 04, 2015 • Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD
August 09, 2015 • Various locations in Denmark
August 18, 2015 • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
August 19, 2015 11:30 AM • Room 324, IGC Show, Chicago, IL


Chuck Johnson, Co-owner
Johnson Nursery & Garden Center, Cookeville, TN
Johnson Family Legacy in Horticulture Holds Strong, Continues to Evolve


With both his grandfather and father in the horticulture industry, Chuck Johnson grew up learning the nursery business and what it took to do the job correctly. A young Chuck worked for his father, Willard Johnson, at his business, Johnson’s Nursery, in the 1950s for 10¢ an hour to water plants. He broadened his knowledge base by earning a degree in business management from Tennessee Technological University, then went on to work as an associate professor at the University of Tennessee before managing a large garden center in Knoxville, TN.

But Chuck was drawn back to his family’s calling. In 1969, he and his wife, Sarah, opened their own nursery business, named Chuck Johnson Nursery, which they operated out of their home for the next 13 years.

His business appealed not only to landscapers and wholesalers, but retail customers, too. But this change in direction required a new space, which they bought in 1983 off East 10th Street in Cookeville, TN. Just seven years later, they found that the space was starting to be too small. They demolished the old buildings and built a new Johnson’s Garden Center. But just over a decade later, the harsh reality came that they were about to outgrow the property entirely, so Chuck relocated their business to its current location off East Spring Street, still in Cookeville, in 2003. He modeled Johnson Nursery & Garden Center after the finest garden centers in Europe.

A relationship he made in 1981 on the International Garden Centre Congress to California proved to be key later on when he designed the store’s current location. While touring garden centers, he met and became close friends with industry legend Ernest Wertheim – who will be making a special appearance on Thursday, August 20, as one of the three free keynotes this summer at IGC Chicago. Since then, Ernest has provided Chuck and Sarah with encouragement, advice and friendly criticism to make them think hard about their decisions.

“Ernest has the ability to make you justify what you’re saying,” Chuck says. “You may think you’re making the right decisions, but when you have to explain why, then you have to step back and think a little harder. He likes for you to think things through and not make quick judgments.”

Industry garden center tours, such as the GCA Summer Tour, IGC Show Monday Garden Center Tour, International Garden Centre Congress and more, provided prime examples of excellence in garden center retailing – from the store design and layout to the aesthetics and displays.

“In the years preceding the construction of the new garden center, our purpose on the tours was to look at physical facilities, such as specific types of greenhouses, types of flooring, types of lighting, etc.,” Chuck says. “Now, our purpose is to look at the product mix, the layout inside the store and displays.

“When you go see another garden center, whether it’s out of state or out of country, you see that they can do things a little different,” he says. “You pick up one idea at each store and bring that back to your garden center, because you’ve got other people thinking ahead of you.”

He finds he also has a different purpose for attending industry tours – networking. “A lot of the times, we go just for friendship. There are a lot of great people on the tour bus, and you can relate to them at a later date.”

Chuck continues, “Every garden center we’ve toured, we’ve never met an owner who would not share information with us. It’s the business we’re in. Every owner has been willing to share anything we ask, and that just says a lot for the type of people who are in our industry.”

Lifetime of Experience

Even though it started as a separate business from Chuck’s grandfather’s and father’s businesses, Johnson Nursery & Garden Center has a collective of over 100 years experience in the horticulture industry. “Sometimes we question how many generations of experience we have,” he says. “We started saying we have 100 years this year, but we actually started before that. My grandfather started a farm, growing fruit trees and shrubs, and then his father [Chuck’s great-grandfather] came to work with him.”

In 1915, Chuck’s grandfather W.L. Johnson officially opened Baxter Nursery in Putnam County. He grew fruit trees, flowering shrubs, shade trees and smaller edibles, which he then sold to customers in Tennessee and Kentucky by horse and buggy. The green goods were shipped out via mail or railcar at a later date.

Chuck’s father, Willard Johnson, founded Johnson’s Nursery separately in Baxter, TN, in 1947 as a wholesale business, and this is where Chuck got his start.

The current Johnson Nursery & Garden Center operation has come a long way since the horse and buggy days. Now, they grow 60 percent of their green goods on-site in containers, and feature a selection of annuals, shade and flowering trees, small and large fruit trees, shrubs, vegetables and more.

Their silk floral department designs custom English gardens and silk florals in containers, which are big sellers. They also specialize in silk floral centerpieces, decor and wreaths.

Just as the business grew, so did the Johnson family. He and Sarah have two sons, David and Charlie, who grew up in and currently work at the business, and one daughter Jennifer, who lives in Knoxville with her own family. A few of the grandchildren have even started working in the business as cashiers, setting up the sixth generation.

With such an extensive history of plant experience, Chuck and his business garnered plenty of awards and recognition over the years. Last year, readers of The Herald-Citizen selected Johnson Nursery & Garden Center as the Best Landscaping/Nursery in the area. Chuck received the Jack F. Schneider Award from Garden Centers of America in 2002 for his dedication toward the betterment of the garden center industry. He also had the opportunity to serve on the GCA Board of Directors for seven years, and eventually served as president in 1999.

“There is so much more to being in this industry, the plant business, than just the satisfaction of having a business and being able to have a product that customers come in to buy,” Chuck says. “It’s about the whole process of growing, then seeing the joy that customers feel from just having the opportunity to come shop these quality plants.”

Click here to read more Member Profiles.

IGC East Is Fast Approaching!


IGC East, August 4-6 at the Baltimore Convention Center, is the preeminent trade exhibition and conference for independent garden center retailers. Owners, managers and buyers come to see thousands of new products, meet with hundreds of established and rising-star suppliers, attend inspiring keynotes and educational sessions covering every aspect of the business and exchange ideas with legions of fellow professionals.

Register today! Don’t miss 2015’s best opportunity to recharge your creative batteries, rekindle your passion and stock your shelves with a bounty of compelling products. Click here to register or to read more about IGC East!

IGC Chicago Is Almost Here!


The ninth annual IGC Chicago is widely recognized as single best event for garden center owners, managers and buyers. Each year the entire industry comes to buy at IGC because it has hundreds of exhibitors, thousands of new products and scores of educational opportunities. Plus it's 100% pure garden-centric! This means you will spend more time with the right vendors and less time walking miles of aisles of products you don't sell. It's all here on display for your inspection and order-writing from 700+ new and established vendors spanning spectacular Navy Pier's 210,000 square feet surrounded by Lake Michigan's azure waters on three sides and enchanting downtown Chicago on the fourth.

Register today! Don’t miss 2015’s best opportunity to recharge your creative batteries, rekindle your passion and stock your shelves with a bounty of compelling products. Click here to register or to read more about IGC Chicago!

It Pays To Be A GCA Member at the IGC Shows!

As a member of the Garden Centers of America, there are the additional benefits for you at IGC East and IGC Chicago:

  • Savings of $100 on each IGC Retail Conference "All-Access Pass" Package, and $60 off each IGC Show Garden Center Bus Tour registration
  • Two free drink tickets per company for use at the IGC Show FREE Tuesday Party & Concert featuring the Gin Blossoms
  • Special reserved seating at the Gin Blossoms Concert
  • GCA Member Networking Lunch at IGC Chicago
Click here to register for IGC East or IGC Chicago!

GCA Opens Call for Entries - Best Bathrooms

GCA's Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards, now in their fifth year, recognize IGC retailers whose restrooms contribute to the store's favorable shopping experience. The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. EDT, July 17, 2015. The winner of the top honor, the Gold Award, will receive a plaque and one free registration for next year's GCA Summer Tour 2016. Other recognitions will include a Silver Award and several Awards of Merit, honored with plaques. Last year's Gold Award winner was The Garden Mart, pictured above, in Mukwonago, WI.

To enter the competition, garden centers should send several photos of their store bathrooms, saved in jpeg file format, along with a brief paragraph about the bathrooms, the concept behind the designs and their benefits to the garden center. This information, along with the name of the store and key contact, address, phone and e-mail address, should be e-mailed to

Click here to read more about this contest!

© 2015
Garden Centers of America
2873 Saber Dr

Clearwater, FL  33759


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software