Five Things an Interiorscaper Should Never Trash

When something breaks or becomes dirty, it typically ends up in the trash. What most interiorscapers don’t realize is that instead of thoughtlessly chucking used or broken items in the garbage, some items can be re-purposed to save money or even help create additional business opportunities.

Here is a few things I, as an interiorscaper, never trash and some functional ways to reuse them.

Ficus Trees

Have you killed a ficus tree or two? After discarding over a dozen Ficus benjamina, I couldn’t take another Ficus burial and began saving them. As the dead trees started to pile up, an idea occurred to me. Using white spray paint, fake snow and string lights, I transformed the trees turned into illuminated snow dusted birch. I offered them as holiday options with the other traditional décor and clients actually started booking them. Just when I thought the painted trees had only one use, I started getting requests for dead tree rentals in haunted scenes, Halloween parties and even a couple weddings.

Aqua Foam

If your interiorscape company uses the popular floral foam blocks for cut flowers — you’ll agree there can be lots of waste with left over pieces, broken blocks or arrangement mistakes. I used to throw them in the trash until I realized these water retaining scraps could help prevent poinsettias from drying out. With my collection bucket of aqua foam mishaps, I inserted a handful of pieces into the soil. Some holiday seasons, I’ve replaced over 25% – 30% of my poinsettia stock. Last year, for the first time, my poinsettia replacements went down to 10%. Even when a few accounts got behind on their water schedule, only one or two plants would be dried to a crisp. What a relief that was! Seeing how well this worked, I’ve started using aqua foam scraps in exterior containers, hanging baskets and those that get exposed to high heat and sun.

Plastic Liners

Thin plastic liners can get nasty, especially with poinsettias. Before I set the plant inside the liner, I’ll spray a coating of non-stick spray which helps the deteriorating leaves from sticking and makes clean up easier. Sterilizing the liners with anti-bacterial soap before reusing them is good for disease prevention. Especially if the account has had an issue with mealybugs or spider mites. While this requires a little extra effort, one season, I saved over $350 in plastic liners by using last year’s supply.

Containers

Whether they are outdated, ugly fiberglass or broken terracotta, I save as many as I can. While most new accounts and client redesigns require shiny and bright containers from the factory, sometimes you have to rethink traditional methods in order to gain a new customer who wants a high end look but doesn’t have the budget. In circumstances like this, I will go through my old stock and find those that best match their taste. Just by changing the color of the pot, your new client can get the pretty container they want without the high sticker price. When cost is an issue, I always explain up front to the customer, these containers have been refurbished and may have a couple imperfections.

Lucky for me, very few of my accounts use terracotta containers since they are so prone to breaking. In fact, a few months ago, a 36” terracotta pot was cracked in half while being moved on a tile floor. If this happened a few years ago, I would have tossed it in the dumpster. Turning a lemon into lemonade, I now have a broken container that’s going to be the largest fairy garden I’ve created so far. I wish I could take credit for thinking up this one, but I’m very grateful someone had the insight to make whimsical gardens out of container trash.

The Competition

Over the years, I’ve experienced how intense the interiorscape competition can be. Especially during the housing market crisis when clients were dropping like spider mites onto a fresh majesty palm. That fear can make you resort to trash mouthing and under-cutting, which I also did at times. Now much older and slightly wiser, I work hard to keep anything negative I see with competition to myself. I’ve realized, even if another company is not performing the professional horticulture service I like, it only hurts our industry to make negative comments. It gives off a public perception that our services may not be of value. Undercutting our quotes to the point of losing money just to win a bid, also deflates the value for our entire interiorscape community. While you may think bad mouthing and low balling may give you an edge, in time, it only harms us all.

Comment below and let me know what things you make a point of not trashing. 

Featured image by lir segev

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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  • the Ficus Wrangler

    Great article, Sherry, especially the comments on dead ficus trees and aqua foam. Also, the competition…points to ponder, for sure. Here are a couple that I’ve tried to find uses for – CUTTINGS; you can usually find a few people around who are happy to get a couple of cuttings. At one time, I found a horticultural therapist who worked with some assisted living centers, and she was happy to take all the cuttings I could provide; also they make nice school projects for younger kids.
    GREEN TRASH; all kinds of plant and soil waste can be saved in a dedicated dumpster for recycling, either by private companies or community composting programs.

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