The Well-Dressed Garden

Gardening and the Gridiron

Put football and flowers together, and what you get is "sporticulture" -- a new twist on gardening that pairs team-spirited pots with mums, pansies and other colorful blooms perfect for the season.

Sporticulture is the brainchild of Cortland Smith, an unabashed Washington Redskins fan who walked into a greenhouse full of red and yellow pansies and saw more than beautiful flowers -- he saw his team in living color. Smith and his business partner, Pete Gilmore, took their concept to the NFL, which recognized a niche market and granted the necessary licensing. The two business partners have been running with it ever since.

"It's not as much about gardening as it is about decorating," Gilmore says, emphasizing the idea of pretty grab-and-go plants in pots that, with little fuss, turn a front porch or patio into a welcoming party venue. The game-day decorators who have picked up on the idea are mostly women, he says, but the appeal is growing. "We are hoping men, millennials, all kinds of people look at this and say, 'Oh, that's my team -- that's cool,' and take it to a friend's house," Gilmore says.

Sporticulture made a quiet launch of its products in 2015. This year is the big kickoff: Fans across the country can find their favorites at garden shops and big-box stores. You can buy mums in Green Bay Packers gold in an NFL-themed pot, or fire-engine red mums in a two-gallon container sporting the arrowhead logo of the Kansas City Chiefs. These products "bring team colors to life," as the Sporticulture website says. Just so fans don't miss the message, big plant labels amid the blooms look like football helmets.

The promotion gives growers and garden shops that are already marketing long-lasting fall mums and cold-tolerant pansies a new way to expand their fall offerings, says Gilmore, who has been in the horticulture business for 40 years. Sporticulture sells the pots and makes recommendations for plants, but garden shops are free to interpret the color schemes with plants appropriate for their own regions, he says. In Florida, one shop packed pots with colorful crotons, which just happen to echo the orange accent of the Miami Dolphins' colors.

"We want growers to be creative" in matching one or more team colors with the pots, Gilmore says. He has seen pots packed with short-stemmed sunflowers and black-eyed Susans, and he looks forward to seeing ever more imaginative combinations as the concept catches on.

Sports fans can show their colors without NFL-licensed pots, of course. A tailgate party might sprout an array of small pots of team-themed flowers on a line of scrimmage across a tabletop. A Baltimore Ravens fan could plant purple asters and shimmering goldenrod around the patio for a flash of glory in the fall. If you're a Pittsburgh Steeler at heart, your team's colors are black and gold, so mums, black-eyed Susans, heleniums and gloriosa daisies would all be appropriate golden-hued choices for a flower bed near the front door -- with yellow, orange and blue accents echoing the Steelers logo.

If you're in doubt about matching colors, you could take your cues from the Glidden paint company, which offers a series of official team-spirit color combinations for NFL fans, as well as for baseball, soccer, hockey, NASCAR and men's and women's NBA teams. You can find them at The Home Depot. While you're picking up a gallon of silver paint for the Dallas Cowboys-themed rec room, tuck a few other paint chips in your pocket, and you'll be able to color-check flowers in the garden shop on your way out. Remember that, just like paint chips, flower (and foliage) colors tend to look different depending on the source of light. On a sunny fall day, even bright hues might look a little washed out. Flower colors also vary in intensity over the course of their blooming period. You can keep the colors fresh by pinching off blooms as they fade -- and by reminding yourself that it's just for fun. Don't worry about whether your Minnesota Vikings-themed purple, gold and white plant combos exactly match everybody's game-day jerseys.

Sporticulture, the company, sees a lot of potential at the intersection of horticulture and sports. Their product lineup includes giant plastic lawn bags that look like team helmets when they're stuffed full of leaves. They're also selling LED lights that project your team's logo onto the garage door. You can even buy a retractable hose decorated with the snazzy logos of NFL teams. The company was recognized with two industry awards for innovation and new products. It may sound like another crazy sports concept, but putting gardening on the gridiron is a first down for flowers. Go for it.

Sources

Game On

-- Sporticulture pots full of blooms are available in independent garden shops and in big-box stores. For availability, check the Sporticulture Facebook page or email info@sporticulture.com. For other Sporticulture products, see amazon.com or fanfesto.com. For more information, see sporticulture.com.

(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at chooker@amuniversal.com.)

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