It all begain in 2001.
To understand the story of Northscaping and NetPS, we must go all the way back to the year 2001, when a group of 5 individuals from various backgrounds and persuasions decided to create a free resource and community website catering specifically to northern gardeners and home landscapers. Coming from one of the colder parts of North America, they realized that there was a lack of gardening and plant information tailored to the needs of northern gardeners. So the team set about building the best web community they could. It took 3 years to develop, and in 2004 a brand new website, Northscaping.com, was unveiled and went live.
The offering was immense. There were hundreds of illustrated gardening and home landscaping articles written by Northscaping staff and guests writers. There was a dynamic discussion forum where gardeners could come and ask questions and share their experiences. There were a number of database-driven tools for gardeners, including a Landscape Plant Search which let users search through thousands of landscape plants, an Interactive Climatic Map with local data pertinent to gardeners, and a comprehensive Online Landscaping Guide for the do-it-yourselfers.
The business model was simple - build a community of gardeners and home landscapers, and then sell access to this community to relevant advertisers. It should have been a match made in heaven. However, by 2007 it had become clear to the team that they weren't going to make any meaningful profit on such a business model given the degree of competition and the general failure of the "print advertising" model on the Internet. It was crunch time.
The team sat down and had a heart-to-heart. They examined their assets and looked at what was working and what wasn't. One thing had become apparent over the three years of operation; the Landscape Plant Finder tool was consistently getting more than 10 times the usage of any other tool or page on the site. Plants were being searched for by the thousands every day. Each day, hundreds of gardeners from across North America would ask where they could buy these plants, or if Northscaping sold plants. Gardeners were in love with this tool, but Northscaping couldn't close the loop because it didn't actually stock and sell plants.
Realizing this opportunity, the team consulted with the two largest garden centers in the city of Winnipeg. The question was simple - how do we connect the obvious power of this front-end plant search tool with the plant stock of the local garden centers? Northscaping has the database, the photographs, and the search engine, and the garden centers have the physical plants. Add a little dash of inspiration, and the NetPS Plant Finder tool was born!
A legend is born.
In 2007, these two garden centers became the first of a long list of clients using the NetPS Plant Finder tool. In the following years, the search technology would be refined and perfected, over 70,000 plant photographs would be taken at botanic gardens and arboreta across the continent, and the plant database would be expanded by thousands of plants every single year. Nurseries and garden centers were consulted, and new features were added according to their direction. Meanwhile the popularity of this tool among gardeners and home landscapers would grow to fanatical proportions.
In 2014, the Northscaping team decided to focus solely on the NetPS Plant Finder tool, completing a total shift of the business model that had begun seven years earlier. The Northscaping.com resource and community website was closed for good in 2014, after a decade of operation. The NetPS Plant Finder tool is now on the websites of hundreds of nurseries and garden centers across the United States and Canada, with more being added every day. It was the first dedicated Plant Finder tool for nurseries and garden centers, and it is unquestionably the best.
The future is simple. Northscaping will keep taking plant photographs and adding plants to the database until it is the largest plant database in the world. We'll keep expanding the technology and adding the features that garden centers need and demand. And we'll keep growing until every nursery and garden center in North America has a Plant Finder tool on its website. The Internet is here to stay, and so are we!