Cactus & Tropicals, a $2.2-million Salt Lake City nursery, publishes Plant Care tip sheets, makes house calls, and faxes advice to customers with troubled plants. "I have to educate my customers or they come back with dead plants," says Lorraine Miller.

Miller's customers range from the high-flier with the double-parked BMW who "wants a new plant for a dinner party," to the black-thumb gardener who pleads, "Come over and take care of my houseplants." Explains Miller, "If a customer doesn't care, I shut up. When I'm waiting on people, I see what they want."

She tailors her business to the individual--no matter how unusual the required service--and is rewarded with an average purchase of $100, which is twice the norm of about $50. During a recent house call on a wilting $1,800 Rhapis palm, Miller explained that the pot was the culprit, and the owner forked over $700 for a more appropriate one.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing