Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Little Bit of Art Cmu Graduate Spruces Up Gardens with Plant Markers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Little Bit of Art Cmu Graduate Spruces Up Gardens with Plant Markers

Article excerpt

At garden centers across the country, shoppers may encounter a curious display. A pile of wooden stakes sits near the checkout - on one side, a cute sculpture of a tomato or another vegetable; on the other, a warning: "Keep away from children and vampires."

Jed Darland, the founder of Plant Picket, chuckled when questioned about the label.

"You know the old adage about a wooden stake into the heart of a vampire?" the 2003 architectural graduate of Carnegie Mellon University asked. "We don't ever mention that [warning] to customers, but we've gotten a lot of good feedback about it."

The 8-inch-long wooden stakes are Plant Picket's main product - a marker with a small polymer clay sculpture of a fruit or vegetable to designate where certain crops are planted.

And those tiny sculptures of onions and tomatoes are first created at a studio in Verona.

The stakes are a seasonal product, resurging with the warm seasons and netting $155,000 in annual revenue for the company. Plant Picket is a branch of Daarlandt Partners Inc., a consulting and design firm based in Washington state that Mr. Darland also runs. He returned to the West Coast after graduating from college.

When he made the first plant pickets, he didn't intend to sell them. They were for his own garden.

"They were made from leftover scraps of wood from my furniture refurbishing products," Mr. Darland said. "Mainly, I didn't want my sloppy handwriting to interfere with the natural beauty of my garden, but a dozen or so clients of mine who saw the plant markers asked me where I got them."

Mr. Darland said he uses his condominium as a meeting place and showroom for clients. The garden is visible from there.

Encouraged by the response, he packed up his prototype and took it to a garden show in Chicago. That was 2003. By 2011, he had filed to patent the design.

He would spend the next two years on the road doing market testing, showcasing the product at hundreds of garden shows before finally alighting in Pittsburgh, where he began manufacturing them en masse.

The company moved manufacturing closer to its headquarters in 2015 to reduce freight costs and environmental impact, Mr. …

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