by Sally Colby

It’s almost time, but not quite. Homeowners are anxious to go outside and get their hands dirty, and Barrick Garden Center in Walkersville, MD is ready to help ease customers from winter into spring.

While the retail store is still stocked with wood pellets, firewood, ice melt and salt for area contractors, hints of the upcoming season are appearing throughout the retail area with the arrival of seeds, outdoor décor, potting soil and other gardening supplies. Outside, the landscaping crew is putting the finishing touches on an expanded hardscape demo area that will help customers select just the right materials for a summer project.

Brenda Hughes has been working on transforming the displays inside the store, and said that once the weather breaks and pansies arrive, it’s like opening the floodgates. That’s when local high school and college students start working at the store to ensure customers receive attention and have their questions answered. Barrick Garden Center encourages working students to shadow full-time employees to learn more about the business and how to effectively interact with customers.

Carly Lederer, whose main role at Barrick Garden Center is to handle social media, talked about the business. “In winter, the parent company Barrick & Sons, which has been in business since the late 1980s, does snow removal,” she said. “We sell bulk ice melt material here at the store, so it goes hand-in-hand.” Barrick & Sons also includes a large processing area for mulch and firewood, which occupies employees during much of the off-season.

“We do landscape, hardscape and erosion control,” Carly said, explaining some of the services offered by the garden center. “Most of the landscaping is commercial landscape contracting, so we’ll sod and mow. In the hardscape division, Barrick Garden Center installs patios, retaining walls and masonry and anticipates adding a deck and fencing division.” In some cases, when the company is doing a residential hardscape installation such as a patio, landscaping services are also provided.

The deck and fencing division will be the result of numerous requests Barrick Garden Center has had from homeowners. “I’d say that about one in three patios we estimate, the homeowner asks if we do decks or fencing,” said Carly. “We don’t do those yet, but we’d love to say yes and do the jobs in-house, or have someone who can estimate and subcontract the work.”

A spacious outdoor display of hardscape options helps customers view the numerous choices for adding new touches to their property. “Creating outdoor living spaces is huge right now,” said Carly. “The inside of their house is great, and now people are also investing a lot outside.” Carly added that fire pits can be messy unless they’re properly constructed, and along with a fire pit comes patio space. “Sometimes people will add seating space and a retaining wall,” she said. “We also do outdoor kitchens, pergolas, pavilions, pool decks and walkways.”

Carly believes the popularity of home improvement programs available on television, along with social media, have led to an increased interest in improving outdoor space. “Ten years ago people didn’t have access to making their backyard everything it could be,” she said. “Now, there’s Pinterest and Facebook, and people share pictures of their dream patio and everyone sees it.” Carly added that people enjoy being outdoors, and with limited time, there’s a desire to be outside as much as possible. “With a fire pit and a patio and a patio furniture set, people can be outside,” she said. “It looks nice and it’s easy to maintain — easier than a deck, and it lasts longer. For materials, there’s just about every option you can think of.”

For customers who want to have a fire pit, a retaining wall and raised beds for flowers, the staff at Barrick Garden Center can design and install the entire job. The garden center also offers a variety of water features and offers the option of landscaping around the water feature. Carly recalls a family that had a sentimental hand pump from their home in Texas and brought it to Barrick Garden Center, who designed a pondless waterfall around the piece. “We do fountains occasionally, but pondless waterfalls don’t take up a lot of space,” she said. “We also do koi ponds.”

Plant selections that will soon arrive to stock the garden center through spring and summer are based on the needs of the landscape and hardscape company. “We bring in what the commercial clients will want, and plants that have sold successfully in the past,” said Carly, noting that there’s a large commercial grower nearby who supplies nearly all the plants they need. “They suggest what will sell well this year and what people are interested in.” Carly added that their grower said sometimes a particular species will do well one year and not the next, so they rely on the grower to guide them regarding plant choices.

Carly handles all the social media for the company and said that with Facebook, a potential advertiser can define the target audience, age range, median income and other factors to target potential customers.

“The first thing we did was a fire pit giveaway,” said Carly. “Barrick and Sons did the giveaway at their garden center. People had to ‘like’ and ‘share’ the post to be entered to win. Our usual posts reach about 100 people. If I boost the post, it reaches 3,000 people. The fire pit post, with no boost, hit 42,000 through shares alone.” Carly said that one of the results of the giveaway was that people who weren’t necessarily interested in a fire pit requested estimates for patio work.

A popular spring and summer event for the garden center is scheduled visits by Chuck Schuster, an extension educator from the University of Maryland. Carly will make sure customers know when Schuster will be present to share his wealth of knowledge about every aspect of gardening. She’ll post announcements on Facebook, and even though people don’t necessarily respond and confirm that they’re coming to an event, quite a few show up. “We know they saw it on Facebook because we aren’t advertising anywhere else,” she said. “We had an open house last spring with just a Facebook invitation, and it was crowded here.”

Carly is a firm believer in becoming involved in the community to bring people together. Throughout the seasons, organizations such as banks, libraries or churches can purchase flowers from Barrick Garden Center and 15 percent of their total order goes to the non-profit organization of their choice. “The garden center has their picture posted to the bank’s social media, and the non-profit they picked is posted to their Facebook page,” said Carly. “The more we can become involved in non-profits, the more we can bring the community in, the better.”

“People come here for a home-town feel,” said Carly. “It’s the experience.”

Visit Barrick Garden Center online at