There’s Always Room for One More Flat of Flowers
As a child, Laura Lapp remembers traveling from her home in Chester County with her family to get plants from Lancaster. She fondly recalls traveling from greenhouse to greenhouse, some of which she still visits today, and the excitement of finding new plants that couldn’t be left behind.
“We’d go home with a car full of plants. There was always room for one more flat—even if I had to ride home with it on my lap,” Lapp said.
Brought up to love and appreciate flowers and plants, Lapp remembers her grandmother taking her for strolls around her garden, pointing out flowers, and sharing their names with her. Her mother, who opened a flower shop across from Longwood Gardens while Lapp was in middle school, was also instrumental in setting Lapp on the path that would lead her to where she is today: the proud (and often dirty) owner of Perfects Pots Container Gardening.
“Mom instilled in me a freedom to be artistic without fear of making mistakes,” Lapp said. “Mistakes … are just a part of the gardening and learning process. That might be the single most important thing about gardening—you can’t be afraid.”
This married mother of two holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, having studied the neuroscience side of the field. She worked in pharmaceuticals and then as a neurochemist in a lab right out of college but decided to stay home when her first daughter was born.
She continued to spend a lot of time surrounded by plants and flowers, though, especially enjoying creating botanical masterpieces in various containers she then displayed around her home. Her hard work didn’t go unnoticed and, in fact, that’s how Perfect Pots began.
One day her next-door neighbor “dropped off his pots and said, ‘I see you have a knack for this. Could you plant my pots for me?’ I could hardly believe someone wouldn’t want to plant their own pots because I loved it so,” Lapp said.
The idea that not everyone enjoys getting their hands in the dirt as much as she does opened her eyes to notice how many people had front porches with “two beautiful but empty pots sitting on them!” A business idea was born.
“Much of gardening and especially container gardening is trial and error,” Lapp said. “Since it was something I had been doing for many years as a hobby, I had the knowledge about specialty annuals, and I found there were people I could share it with.”
Her “garage” business expanded rapidly, and by April 2009, she opened a greenhouse shop in Strasburg. She admits it was rather small compared to the greenhouse she has now, which, on any given Saturday in May, is bursting with colorful flowers in full bloom and pots lining the walls wherever there is a free space.
“What used to be ‘There’s always room for one more flat’ has now turned into ‘There’s always room for one more truckload of flowers,’” Lapp said.
Lapp manages both the greenhouse and the onsite potting business, where she and members of her team plant pots on site at homes and businesses. With a focus on their specialty, container planting, they also offer a do-it-yourself service where a customer can bring a pot to the greenhouse, and one of the Perfect Pots experts will either plant it per the customer’s specifications focusing on color and style, or they will assist the customer in planting the pot themselves.
“You can get your hands dirty, we help you as much as you want or need along the way, and then we clean up the mess while you go home with a car full of planted pots that you will enjoy all season,” she said.
It’s a fast-paced environment. There are days, especially in May, where Lapp said she sometimes works as much as 15 hours before heading home to crash, “hopefully having time to scrub off the dirt before I crawl into bed.”
Yet, from the beginning, the business has been profitable, and she’s never had to take out a business loan.
“I know where I stand financially as a company each day before going out the door,” Lapp said. “I can then go out and do what I love with confidence.”
A good day for Lapp and her team is a day when Mother Nature cooperates, and they can get out to all of their scheduled jobs for the day. The joy she experiences when she sees a customer’s reaction to their newly planted pots when pulling into their driveway is priceless for Lapp.
And even when they’re behind schedule due to uncooperative weather or simply the seasonal rush, there’s still a sense of accomplishment when her loyal customers come back year after year, excited about the progress their pots are making with each passing season.
“It’s very rewarding to bring that kind of daily happiness to people’s lives,” Lapp said.
Lapp loves the beautiful variety of colors that flowers present, but she also likes pots planted with foliage only.
“I love the contrasting textures of the plants, even if they’re all mostly green. It’s different and a change of pace,” she says.
Always on the lookout for new plants, not all of those she experiments with are success stories.
“There’s usually a dud or two every season,” she said. “We order it, try it in all sorts of ways, and if it doesn’t work, we don’t order it again. I don’t like a wimpy plant. Once I find out it’s wimpy, it’s never welcomed back in my greenhouse.”
Currently, Perfect Pots boasts nine employees who, between them last year, planted thousands of pots—2,000 in April and May alone. And this year will be their busiest yet as Perfect Pots is honored to have been asked to plant all the flowers and pots for the LPGA U.S. Open coming to Lancaster Country Club in July.
Lapp is thrilled and honored to be chosen and said and it will be the biggest job she and her team have ever tackled, with more than 5,000 plants being planted and cared for by them until the tournament.
However, she is also quick to point out that she plans to handle this job just as she does any other: “Get an idea of what the client wants, talk to the plants and tell them to do their thing on just the right day, and execute the plan flawlessly,” Lapp said with a smile.
It’s important to Lapp that her business is truly a part of her local community, and so Perfect Pots supports many local organizations that her customers and employees are involved with.
And it’s also important to her that people understand that although her husband is very supportive of her work, this successful business is hers, and it is being run by a woman whose sole focus has always been to keep her employees and customers happy.
“When I lift a 50-pound bag of soil for the 20th time in a day, I don’t wish a man was doing it,” she said. “I’m grateful that I can do it.” BW