The crowd-pulling power of dragons, dahlias and a new summer magazine

Forget pricey theme parks. If you’re seeking a fun-filled summer family outing, set the sat nav for your nearest Tillington Group garden centre advises senior editor Alison Krog

Yes, you can take granny to Alton Towers, but she probably won’t appreciate 14 inversions around The Smiler. So if you’re already stressing about that perennial summer challenge of how to fill the holidays with great family days out, we’ve got a suggestion – look closer to home. Because there’s no hotter destination for a multi-generational treat than a trip to your local garden centre – with activities that youngsters will get a thrill from too.

Working with the Tillington Group since 2002, we’ve been in the privileged position to see these independent, mostly family-owned, businesses diversify and transform from horticultural heartlands into must-go leisure destinations packed with an astonishing variety of attractions, fabulous eateries and innovative events. And we are proud to be tasked with creating and delivering the Tillington Group’s portfolio of Beautiful Gardens/Christmas magazines, of which the summer 2018 edition is currently being door dropped to more than 2.8m households around the UK.

Creating a mass-market publication that satisfies the needs of 11 unique brands, all with different target audiences located from the Lake District down to Devon, comes with very specific challenges. But by truly understanding our clients’ businesses, and translating the insights that drive their evolution into our own content strategy, we enjoy basking in their success. Here’s what keeps the sun shining on Beautiful Gardens magazine.

From the Jurassic Adventure Golf course at Bents in Warrington, to Van Hage’s mini farm at Great Amwell, and the pop-up Pixie Manor at Ruxley Manor, we’re constantly amazed when we step through any Tillington centre’s doors. That’s why Beautiful Gardens magazine incorporates personalised pages where each centre can showcase its individual offer and give the publication an authentic, local feel. For summer 2018 that meant creating 14 versions. But it’s a great opportunity to shift the perception of potential customers who may be surprised what they will find in store.  

Achieving a balance is especially relevant to Beautiful Gardens summer edition – when alfresco living is big business, and no-one wants to view gardening as being a chore. The magazine plays an important role communicating the Tillington Group’s horticultural expertise and the quality and range of the plants it offers – key differentiators from competitor supermarkets and DIY superstores. So the pagination is a careful balance between ‘leisure’ features and vibrant pages of bold, bright irresistible summer blooms. Asserting the centres’ gardening expertise and making planting as integral to the summer season as firing up the latest model barbecue.

Last year Haymarket Network produced more than 10m magazines for the Tillington Group, distributed at three key moments in the horticultural retail year: the kick-off to the gardening season in spring; the start of summer; and the run up to Christmas. To maintain the momentum of this much-loved and anticipated title between publication dates, continual interest was generated through a constant stream of digital assets for use on social media. Quirky bite-size videos and stills reminded consumers to come in store for special offers, monthly star plants, to stock up on bird food during the colder months and even celebrate National Tea Day in the centres’ cafés. Whatever the weather or occasion, we make sure the centres are armed with social content that keeps them top of mind.

So if you are not one of the lucky households to fall in a Tillington Group centre’s catchment area and hear the welcome thud of Beautiful Gardens summer 2018 landing on your doormat this year, make sure you seek your nearest out. It’s got summer wrapped up – and you don’t want to miss out.

Here’s where you’ll find your nearest Tillington garden centre:

North West: Bents, Warrington; Hayes, Ambleside
Midlands: Webbs, Wychbold & West Hagley
East Anglia: Scotsdales, Cambridge
South East: Alton, Wickford; Frosts, Brampton, Frilford, Milton Keynes & Bedford; Ruxley Manor, Sidcup; Squires, Twickenham, Woking, Badshot Lea (and more!); Van Hage, Great Amwell, Chenies & Peterborough
South West: Otter, Otter St Mary, Plymouth, Torquay, Wincanton & Lymington; Whitehall Garden Centres, Lacock, Whitchurch & Woodborough