Business in Bloom
The Windowbox Gardener Brings Floral Joy to Homes & Businesses
Story Provided by Kara Kavensky & The Windowbox Gardener
Photographer / Janelle DeWolf
Some of the best things in life start small. Mary Starnes always enjoyed container gardens, and what once was merely her hobby has turned into a successful business. The Windowbox Gardener, a custom, full-service container gardening company, has been designing and creating custom window boxes and containers professionally for the past 17 years.
“My first home had window boxes built in,” Starnes says. “I loved the freedom and flexibility of doing these arrangements. It grew from there.”
Starnes always had a passion for beautiful flowers and containers, and gardening was a hobby she shared by planting containers for family and friends. A local landscaper noticed her work and asked if she would plant containers for some of his clients. What started that summer with four projects led to 40 customers a few years later, and the official business, The Windowbox Gardener, was up and running.
Starnes was also balancing a career in physical therapy while the flower container business was continuing to grow. She stored flowers on her driveway while her gold minivan was working overtime, both as a carpool vehicle for her two young sons, and a key source of product transportation for the business. Her boys were wonderful assistants, but the blooming growth of business was difficult to keep up with and changes needed to be made to continue to grow.
In 2010 Starnes met Gretchen Jacobs through their sons, who were in the same class and on the same basketball team. Jacobs was in the real estate business and loved designing container gardens during her free time. The friends officially became partners in 2015, and they both left their full-time positions to dig in the dirt.
“The Windowbox Gardener was organically growing and I loved the concept of designing custom containers,” Jacobs says. “We love what we do, and the transition just felt right.”
Starnes and Jacobs are very thankful for their husbands, who assist when needed and are very patient during their busy seasons.
“I have often said I would starve during the summer months if my husband wasn’t such a great cook,” Jacobs says.
The business partners’ sons, both now in their 20s, come to the aid of The Windowbox Gardener when extra muscle is required.
The female-owned small business, with all female employees, has consistently hired and developed over the years to meet the ever-growing demands of the business. Starnes and Jacobs both agree, “we could not succeed without the support of our amazing team of over 20 seasonal employees, also dedicated to creating beautiful custom plantings. We refer to this talented group of women as ‘soil sisters,’ and truly would not be where we are today without them.”
The staff’s goal is to help transform each customer’s space by planting beautiful window boxes and containers, taking the guesswork out of what is needed for their property. The Windowbox Gardener is a full-service container garden design company that takes into consideration sun and shade requirements, location, and personal preferences to create a unique look. Containers are offered for seasonal change four times per year, and the business is focused on excellent customer service. The company’s daily operations require an elaborate, behind-the-scenes organizational system of advance ordering, cataloging looks, designs and colors.
In an effort to continue to focus on customer service, Starnes and Jacobs wanted to be able to reach even more homes. They saw a need in the market for beautiful seasonal flowers that could be ordered easily online. A new business, Porch Pots Direct, was launched in 2019, and it features containers selected, arranged, and delivered directly to a customer’s door.
“Especially now with the changes in buying habits due to COVID, this business, with the online shopping experience, is now even more relevant to consumers,” Starnes says.
Porch Pots Direct allows the customer to choose the container color, size and seasonal design, and flower joy is delivered to their home or business. It’s easy to get started with a seasonal subscription of containers at porchpotsdirect.com. The owners’ primary focus with both businesses is excellent customer service and a beautiful finished product.
As a growing company servicing primarily the north side, Starnes and Jacobs decided it was time to expand. Adding Greenwood and Center Grove to the service area simply made sense. As a former resident and graduate of Center Grove High School, Starnes looks forward to seeing the businesses grow in her hometown. Natalie Underwood, a Center Grove resident, will be the new director of the southside service area and will manage all customers’ wishes.
For pricing and additional information, visit The Windowbox Gardener and Porch Pots Direct online at windowboxgardener.com and porchpotsdirect.com.