Botanical and public display gardens have long had licensing programs in place. Some have been actively extending their brands and imagery for at least two to three decades, and in many cases their merchandise efforts have been on the rise in recent years. Their brands are well-positioned in the current landscape, given consumers’ growing interest in the environment and the continued appeal of gardening as a hobby, not to mention the perennial interest in floral patterns and designs on merchandise. (The gardens typically have archives of botanical and other floral artwork from which licensees can choose.) Many purchasers also appreciate the fact that some of the proceeds from the products go back to support the mission of the gardens they love to visit.
A handful of the notable programs include:
- The New York Botanical Garden, represented by Jewel Branding and Licensing. Products available over the past several years include wall art (from Americanflat), kitchen and home products (Conimar/Cala Home), paper products (Caspari), scented soaps (Caswell-Massey), stationery and paper (Clarkson Potter), fabric (Fabricut), home goods (Frontgate), artwork (iCanvas), home textiles (Levinsohn), high-end wall art (METcolors), stationery (Pictura), books and calendars (Pomegranate), paints (Prestige), customized wall décor (Surface View), teas and infusers (Tea Forté), and books and calendars (Willow Creek Press). The institution also collaborated with Oscar de la Renta for a 20-piece co-branded tableware collection and with Erwin Pearl for a fine jewelry collection.
- The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). This gardening charity oversees five gardens and offers access to 200 partner gardens, as well as operating flower shows and supporting amateur gardening education. It has offered licensed products to consumers for nearly 30 years. Categories licensed include food and drink such as chocolates from Amalie Chocolat, confections from the Gourmet Candy Company, wine from Laithwaite’s, craft spirits from Warner’s, and turkeys from Kelly, in addition to a wide range of gardening and backyard products from more than 25 licensees, with categories ranging from gloves and boots, to seeds and soils, to sheds and greenhouses. Some of its newer ventures in 2019 and 2020 include toiletries with Heathcote and Ivory, books with Scholastic U.K., fragrances with Floral Street, and fashion accessories and gifts with Shruti Designs. RHS recently launched a style guide for children’s products.
- The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, represented by IPR Licensing since 2011. It has signed licensees including Terrace & Garden for a collection of pots and planters, Taylors of Harrogate for fruit and herbal teas, Spear & Jackson for garden tools and accessories, Turner Bianca for bed linens, Harman for garden furniture, and IC Innovations for food gift sets.
- Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, in Australia. It has its own retail shops along with licensing partnerships with retailers and with manufacturers that sell to specialty and department stores. Its licensees over the past five years or more have included Maxwell & Williams for tableware, giftware, and kitchen textiles, Customworks Australia for stationery, The Designer Boys for art prints, Henry Bucks for fashion accessories, Homebodies for bedding, and Samantha Robinson for ceramics.
- Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which is in the midst of broadening its licensing effort. One notable product on the market to date is Edinburgh Gin 1670, inspired by RBGE’s 1670 Physic Garden, used as a source for medicinal remedies. The product contains plants such fennel, sweet cicely, and some exotics, all of which would have been found in the 1670 garden and are harvested from today’s RGBE.
- The Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest garden. It partnered in 2016 with fashion retailer Oasis on a 25-piece collection of women’s dresses, tops, skirts, shorts, and jackets, with designs incorporating imagery of Japanese anemones, wild grasses, roses, and other plants used for medicinal purposes.
Other licensing programs based on stately homes and museums often have famous gardens as one of their assets. Winterthur, the home of Henry Francis du Pont, is known for its garden, and has licensed gifts and furnishings inspired by the 1,000-acre estate, as well as the home’s antiques and decorative arts library, for more than 30 years. The Biltmore, the estate of George Vanderbilt, also is known for the gardens on its 8,000 acres, and has been licensing for more than 25 years with a focus on home furnishings, bath and body, and gourmet and entertaining.
In addition, almost every botanical garden has a shop with at least some branded merchandise, even if their efforts do not cross into a full licensing program with distribution beyond the venue.
In case you missed it, last week RaugustReports published its annual deep dive into licensing trends spotted at Toy Fair. You can read it here. While focused on playthings, many of the observations have relevance for licensees and licensors beyond the toy industry.