Sarah Ristorcelli

Author Archives: Sarah Ristorcelli

Published! A Feature on Davis Dalbok

Davis Dalbok

Are you familiar with the design work of Davis Dalbok? If you’re an enthusiastic garden maker, chances are you have. You can now get inside his head, thanks to Landscape Marketing Experts writer Megan Padilla, who contributes to Garden Design magazine regularly. Once an editor for the magazine and now a frequent contributor, Megan has an insider’s view of the world of gardens and the people who make them.

Who is Davis Dalbok?

The recent issue included her feature about San Francisco designer and purveyor Davis Dalbok. This was not Davis’s first foray into the magazine. Megan wrote about his personal garden in a previous issue.

Interested in reading Megan’s most recent story about Davis? It isn’t online yet…you should subscribe to Garden Design today! Click here for a sneak peek at the issue.

Why You Need to Know Our Writers

If you’re wondering why we broadcast the news when one of our writer’s garden stories is published, keep reading.

We want you to know that when you hire Landscape Marketing Experts to create your marketing content, you’re tapping a resource like no other. Our team is the most knowledgeable, most experienced, and most passionate marketing agency in the world of gardens. We don’t take this content lightly: it is our EVERYTHING!

Better Marketing Content

Our investment in creating your content goes well beyond quick and dirty, generic ideas and writing. We like to get deep into your company to find out what makes you different and make sure that’s conveyed to your audience. Every word, every picture, and every idea is only for your business, no one else. In addition to our serious exploration of what makes you special, we bring our expertise in gardens, plants, and design to the table.

If you’re looking for a team of experts to help your garden business grow, send us an email. We can’t wait to meet you!

Published! Feature With Biosphere Nursery

A few months ago, I posted to the blog about my visit to a small native plant nursery in Winter Garden, Florida. Since then, I pitched and wrote a feature about gardening the natural way in Central Florida, and I was able to spend quality time with the knowledgeable team at Biosphere Nursery, and they figured magically into the story.

The feature was just published in the April issue of Orlando Magazine. Take a look!

My hope is that my neighbors in our corner of the world–from manicured Dr. Phillips to wild Apopka–will think about the positive impact they can make on the environment by making good choices in their yards. It’s easy to think that one yard can’t make a difference, but as we discovered when speaking with Zen Silva, general manager of the nursery. When they restore a lakefront property by removing exotics and planting non-invasives that also attract wildlife, and teaching homeowners natural gardening techniques so they aren’t feeding the lake with fertilizer, the lake quality begins to improve. Their neighbors notice, and soon the Biosphere team is called in to restore properties on the same lake. This is how the environment is sustainably managed.

Do you have expertise in sustainable design and gardening? Make sure that knowledge is integrated into your marketing materials. The 2017 Garden Trends Report showed that customers are tuned to the environment’s centrality in their lives, and are making buying decisions accordingly.

A growing number of American consumers describe themselves as “health conscious” or “ingredient sensitive,” and a majority say they pay close attention to the ingredients in the food they buy. Demand for clean food, clean water, clean air, clean medicine and clean environments is dramatically shifting how people buy plants and products, and garden both inside and out.

Getting Social at KBIS


The Modenus X Design Milk Social Lounge provided a place for new media pros to cool their heels, connect, and learn at KBIS 2017

For the first time, KBIS (the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show) featured a space where influencers, bloggers, and social media professionals could recharge and connect. First of all, you might ask, what does that have to do with gardens? Answer: KBIS does feature lots of fascinating new products for outdoor living and entertaining. I just had to be there.

The Modenus X Design Milk Social Lounge is the brainchild of Jaime Derringer of Design Milk and Veronika Miller of Modenus CEO. Design Milk is a consumer-facing blog with a huge following, while Modenus is a directory site aimed at providing information to designers. The two founders have known each other for years and were looking for an opportunity to collaborate.

I spoke with co-creator Veronika Miller to learn how the Social Lounge came to be, and what goals motivated its development.

“New media is so important to the health of the show, and we wanted to create a space to put bloggers and influencers in a good frame of mind for covering stories. We didn’t want to just make it a lounge with some sponsor logos on the wall. They can get a cup of of coffee, get a snack, and charge their phones, which is always crucial and never available around the show,” said Miller. “We also planned some programming that’s conversation-based. Considering all the brands, designers, and bloggers in the room, there’s an overarching topic structure.”

The conversations included panel discussions as well as expert-led discussions, such as Ten Things Not to do When Pitching an Editor and Amp Up Your Visibility Factor: How to Be Your Own Best PR Person.

Karen Figilis of KFWB Design Marketing attended Easy Does It: The European Kitchen, sponsored by Liebherr. “What I really loved about it was you got to hear all the different perspectives on style, technology, and innovation. In the U.S., we tend to err on the safe side, while in Europe they are a little more on the forefront of what luxury consumers want. I think in the audience we benefitted from this exposure.”


Figilis noted that one of the panelists, Joseph Steigmiller, emphasized the rise of compact design for urban environments. “People who live in cities are often short on space, and in Europe, they have always had that issue. So the panelists, most of them European, talked about translating the best of European small-space product design–especially for kitchens-to urban living in the states.”

The programming leaned toward the practical. As Miller explained, “My entire business model is taking social media visibility, big reach, and global connections, and bringing it it back home. Making it tangible, making it real.”

For example, a panel discussion on How to Prepare and Style for Portfolios and Airbnb Listings got into the nitty gritty details of staging. Panelist Bobby Berk, who has shared his expertise on camera with HGTV, Bravo, NBC, and CBS audiences, was also the Social Lounge’s designer.

“I got texts from Jaime and Veronika asking me to design the lounge, and they gave me free reign to come up with ideas. They explained what they were trying to accomplish, so I wanted to the design to establish an intimate space that would foster connections,” said Berk.

Berk sourced from vendors at the show as well as outside vendors. The laminates are from Wilson Art; the floor tiles are from FLOR; the wall flats are from Inhabit Living; the chairs are from Bend; and the sofa from Gus. Berk, a designer The overall feeling is very livable and relaxing, but with designerly polish. And the good news for those who didn’t make it to the Social Lounge in January: while it was first created for KBIS, it’s made to travel to other locations throughout 2017.

If you’re a designer and you haven’t been to KBIS or the adjacent Builder’s Show before, you will want to check it out next January. It was in Orlando this year and will be back in Orlando (my hometown) again next year. Hope to see you there!

January 23, 2017

Biosphere Nursery: A New Story

Biosphere Nursery

A few weeks ago, my mom and I went to a really cool little nursery in Winter Garden called Biosphere Nursery. My mom was looking for some plants for her backyard, and I was just hanging out. While I was strolling between the Florida natives and Florida-friendly non-invasives (the only two options at Biosphere), I spotted a gorgeous mound of something called Scorpion’s Tail.

Biosphere NurseryI had to have it. There’s a bare border beside the path to my backyard that has needed something that can tolerate shade, and that’s been hard to find. This was it.

In Florida, the majority of nurseries sell plants for full sun, because most homes get such intense, direct sunlight. This is the Sunshine State, after all. My yard is a little weird. There’s no place to plant in the front, the planting areas on the sides of the house are shaded by nearby houses, and my backyard is under the cover of a large oak tree. This is fantastic news for my power bill, but problematic when it comes to finding plants.

As I explored the rest of the nursery, I found many shade-tolerant plants–many of which have blooms–and I soon realized I was in a very special place. I’ve been to most of Central Florida’s nurseries, but rarely have I come across one that offers such unusual variety, and all native or non-invasive.

Biosphere Nursery

My next thought was that this magical place, which is out of the way and not very well-known, needs to be found by more people. I pitched a story to Orlando Magazine, and they said yes. This week, I will sit down with the staff at Biosphere and listen as they describe the makings of their cool little universe. I’m so excited! Judging from the limited experience I’ve had at Biosphere Nursery, I’m confident there will be many more revelations during my next visit. Soon, all of Central Florida will know about it.

Get Published: Create a Garden Feature Story

Garden Feature Landscape marketing experts

Most garden designers want to get their work published. (That’s mostly true. I once met a garden designer in Texas who had so much work that she had stopped taking new business and didn’t want to publicize her services. What a great problem to have!) There are many avenues to getting your garden feature published. You may know a magazine scout or garden writer who can pitch your design to an editor. You may have a publicist with good connections who helps get your design work in front of the right people. You may be so well known that editors come to you to ask about your latest projects.

You can also publish your projects yourself.

Several years ago, a garden designer in Pasadena, CA, came to me to ask me to write a garden feature about one of her projects. Then she had me write more about other gardens she designed. She turned those into illustrated booklets that she distributed to her clients and potential clients. I thought it was a great idea, so I began offering this service to my customers.

If you have (or can get) good photos of a favorite project you’ve designed, the foundation of your feature is in place. Then, we look at your plans and photos, talk with you and perhaps your client about the project, and write the story. Our designer creates a layout. Then, you have a digital version of a feature story that you can use as a part of your marketing efforts. You can also print and distribute it.

Most businesses are looking for content for social media and their websites. A garden feature is a perfect fit because it appeals to what people love most: beautiful gardens!

Here’s an example of what it could look like: CLICK

The best part is that you don’t have to wait for a magazine to discover you!

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, give us a call at 407-461-4368.

What the 2017 Garden Trends Report Means For Your Business

garden trends report

When you hear the phrase garden trends report you might think, “But my clients aren’t trend chasers.” Garden Media Group’s annual trend report isn’t about that. It’s about observing areas of growth in our industry, and giving you free access to consumer information that will drive business in 2017.

Here are a few highlights that are especially meaningful for garden designers, because they emphasize elements of home gardens that your clients are more likely to want in the near future. Maybe your clients are already asking for these things.

Knowing what potential clients are likely to want before you even meet them helps you shape your marketing efforts. Your eNewsletter, your website, your brochure, and your social media posts should showcase how you provide these desirable garden elements.

I don’t mean to detract from a designer’s holistic approach to designing a garden, and once you read the report, you’ll understand that the most popular garden elements are likely already baked into the way you design. So, I’m not encouraging you to change who you are as a designer in light of this report. Rather, the report helps you adjust your marketing efforts, so you can more effectively sign new clients.

And now for the highlights:

  1. The Garden Trends Report shows that clean fresh food is a necessity, not a luxury.

When Liz Klein designed my mother’s garden in Austin, Texas, about eight years ago, she sited a raised bed veggie garden in the back corner where it would get good light. Fresh food was a priority for my mom then, and now it’s high on everyone’s list. Why? The demand for organic, local food exceeds the supply. People are ever more conscious of what they put in their bodies, and when you grow your own food, you control what goes into its making. As the report underscores, Americans now demand to know what is in and on their food – and where it comes from. Consumers today are demanding products that are clean and “free” from pesticides, antibiotics, preservatives, and cages. This clean food movement and lack of locally grown, organic food is causing a profound shift in the food world that is dramatically affecting gardening.

Do your marketing materials include pictures of the veggie gardens you’ve designed? Do you showcase your edible gardening expertise?

  1. People understand that gardens contribute to their overall wellness.

healing gardens

Over a decade ago, when Michelle Derviss was dealing with some serious health challenges, she created a garden for herself where she could relax and recover. She already knew when the rest of us are catching on to: that mental health, wellness and quality of life are directly affected by gardens, and trees in particular.

Read the 2017 Garden Trends Report for details on which garden elements contribute most directly to wellness, and examine your marketing materials in the light of the knowledge you gain from the report.

  1. Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases are driving people to look for ways to control mosquitoes naturally.

natural pest control

As a garden designer, you should be cornering the market on natural pest control. You understand the ecology of the garden, but do your marketing materials reflect this expertise?

As the report states, Using nature to help keep your yard insect free is economical, educational and fun and doesn’t harm the environment. You are in a unique position to correctly guide clients by explaining how you factor natural mosquito control into your designs. Plants that attract birds and bats; plants that naturally emit bug-repelling chemicals; attractive bird and bat houses: these all make great topics for your blog.  

There’s no reason you shouldn’t include an entire page on your website about natural pest control. People will be searching google with terms that can lead them to your page, so you need to invite them by using the right keywords.

If you don’t have experience with positioning your garden and landscape design business to appeal to the most current consumer desires, or if you aren’t well-versed in digital marketing best practices that help you capture search traffic, we’re here for you. That’s our wheelhouse: using proven digital marketing strategies to help people like you — people with garden businesses — grow.

We would love to chat with you, so contact us anytime for a free consultation by emailing or calling 407-461-4368.

October 1, 2016

How My Latest Story on Water Features Came Together

water features

Most days, I’m immersed in marketing projects for our clients. Many of them are in the landscape design field, and I thoroughly enjoy creating strategies for them so they can expand their reach and grow their businesses. Once in a while, I get an editorial writing project, like the assignment from Orlando Magazine on water features. I reached out to friends in the industry for their best tips–after all, who is better positioned to discuss water features than landscape designers?

I called Phil Maddux, president of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami, Florida. He has created some of Florida’s most beautiful residential landscapes (plus many outside of Florida, and not only residential designs), and he shared some of his firm’s most recent fountain and pool projects. Having visited dozens of his projects with him over the years, I knew he’d point me in the right direction.

Then I called Stephen Block, the owner of Inner Gardens in Los Angeles. Stephen in one of the foremost experts on garden antiques, and has taken me to dozens of gardens that he’s designed, too. Each one is exquisite, and because he’s so particular, I was sure his ideas and advice would be spot on.

I admit I’m a Carolyn Mullet groupie, and follow every one of her Facebook posts. She shared photos of a gorgeous pond garden in Sarasota, and after some online snooping, I was able to track down Ana Bowers, its creator.

My story was quickly taking shape, and after lots of emails and phone calls, it gelled. Now it’s been published in the October issue of Orlando Magazine, and I’m so excited about it! The photos are gorgeous, but more than that, the words of wisdom from my landscape designer friends could not be more apt. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it. Click HERE.

September 19, 2016

Garden Designers, Share What You Know

garden designers

Last year I wrote a piece full of tips for adding style and personalization to backyards, emphasizing that every material and every surface is an opportunity to make your yard your own. The ideas came from garden designers that I’ve known for years, people who daily invest their knowledge and creativity in other people’s gardens (plus their own!).

One of the ideas in my Orlando Magazine story was to use an exterior wall of the house to hang things, making the adjacent space more like a room.

Design an outdoor room that uses the house’s architecture as an anchor.

But, be careful what you put there. Years ago, a designer in Sausalito told me he had placed a large mirror on a wall facing a garden, and birds kept flying into it. One bird actually died as a result, so he stopped using mirrors in gardens altogether.

Garden Designers, Differentiation is Key

There are things designers know from experience that the rest of us don’t.

When I develop and ghost-write content for a garden designer as part of their marketing program, the designer herself is my primary resource. Tapping her expertise is what makes for the most interesting, shareable, and authentic content. That content is used on her blog, her eNewsletter, and her social media posts.

Every designer brings something different to the table, and that’s one of the things marketing should express: differentiation. As a designer, your experiences are different than another designer’s. Your approach and communication style is unique to you. All your marketing efforts should reveal that, and make it clear to potential clients how your brand of work aligns with their needs.

Unified Branding

Not only should your authentic perspective come through in your marketing, but it should be consistent across all your channels. A channel can be a blog, an eNewsletter, a Facebook fan page, an Instagram account, a brochure–any of the mediums you use to communicate with your audience.

If the way you communicate doesn’t align among these various mediums, it creates brand confusion and dilutes your message. Your messages to the world need to be similar no matter where you’re publishing. That’s why having professional marketing support from someone who knows the worlds of garden design AND marketing can be so helpful.

I’d love to schedule a free consultation with you to discuss your marketing goals, so call me anytime at 407-461-4368.

Design an outdoor room that uses the house’s architecture as an anchor

September 14, 2016

Small Space Gardens and the Influence of Modernism

I’ve got small garden spaces on the brain–specifically in areas that are adjacent to the house, condo or apartment. Many people don’t have more space to work with than a porch or terrace, and if they do have more space, they tend to spend most of their time close to the house anyway. To address these realities, I’m talking to landscape designers and architects and listening to their ideas about the best way to design with plants in these areas.

Recently, I spoke with Charles Birnbaum, President and Founder of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. I wanted Charles’ insight on gardens that are enclosed by or right next to the house’s architecture because that topic is relevant to one of Charles’ areas of expertise: the history of modern gardens. He reminded me of Thomas Church and the other greats of modernism.

“Look at Church’s career, or Garrett Eckbo or Robert Royston. All of them got their start doing small, in-town enclosed garden spaces.”

He noted that as their ambitions grew they abandoned those for major landscapes, like public spaces, but the principles that had driven them early on influenced not just their large projects but the way designers handle small gardens now, seventy or more years later.

The houses and gardens of modernism were designed to work together, to flow into each other so people living there could experience a connection with the outdoors when they were inside, and the safety and comfort of home when they were outside. That quality or dialectic is something I plan to explore in my book.

Church gardens

Laura Livingston, a landscape contractor who installed the restoration of Church’s design for the garden at Castro Adobe in Watsonville, California, notes how functional the garden is.

“We followed the original plan closely, based on research done by landscape architect Pam-Anela Messenger. The garden was designed strictly for residential use, but now that fundraising for Castro Adobe is a consideration, events are held in the garden to raise money for the remainder of the house’s restoration,” explains Livingston. “We didn’t make changes to the garden to allow for events, but because it’s such a good garden, it works. That’s the thing about Church, his gardens allowed for so many possibilities for how the space would be used.

The garden also shows how tightly Church’s projects were tethered to the architecture. Cork oaks that he placed in close proximity to the house are now mature, so when you relax on a bench in the garden, you look toward the house and see light filtering through the tree branches.

“It’s clear that he thought about that view, not just the vantage point from the house out to the garden,” says Livingston.

The St. Francis bird bath is placed in original location, on axis with a path leading from the house to benches. This very simple, elegant garden, first constructed between 1968 and 1972, has all the trappings of a garden any of us would hope to have today: trees for shade, flowering plants to tend, places to sit, walk and play–all within a stone’s throw of the indoors.

Church’s emphasis on the act of gardening is what distinguishes this garden (and his others) from a landscape. A landscaper herself, Livingston often installs a fairly narrow palette of landscape plants, so she was struck by the detailed plant list (most of which were chosen by Church’s client Mrs. Potter) that she chased down for the installation.

“There are particular varieties of iris that were used, and I was only able to find two or three out of ten, as well as certain roses, narcissus, lavenders, and an apricot tree. Plant names change, patents get lost or expire, and this makes it really hard to track down the varieties,” she explains. “The plan also called for the use of seeds, which you hardly ever see anymore. It was obvious that the goal wasn’t to make a low-maintenance garden. It has to be taken care of.”

New issue of Landscape Architecture is Compelling

Lisa Gimmy’s story on the Lovelace Garden, designed by Isabelle Greene, FASLA, is in the current issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine. The garden is best known for its beautiful swimming pool. Greene pioneered the use of natural stone in swimming pools and spas, and the Lovelace pool is one of her masterworks.

The article focuses on Greene’s design process, which resulted in the superb fit between site and program. Photos by Marion Brenner accompany the story.

Isabelle worked with owners Jon and Liliane Lovelace for forty years to perfect the garden. You can purchase a single digital issue of the magazine by clicking here, without ordering an annual subscription:

greene lovelace 2


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