Allan Armitage: How Growers Can Be Creative to Take Gardening Convenience to the Next Level

Allan Armitage Of Naked Ladies and Forget Me NotsWe do a lot of chasing things these days, not the least of which is convenience. It seems like the common denominator of almost anything sold today is convenience. Even things that aren’t convenient, like traveling, can be fixed with online check-in, shuttles to the airport, outside baggage checks, and better seats. Shoppers can now go to one-stop shopping stores and buy ketchup and tomato plants under the same roof.

Food even has its own terminology for convenience — fast food. Books are more convenient to buy as e-books rather than going to the library, and Amazon, smartphones, microwaves, and apps would not exist if not for the trumpet of convenience.

The Internet of Things, Echo, Siri, and almost all progress has to do with convenience. There is even a voice-activated digital assistant called Aristotle that is designed for the baby’s room that will actually read a story to your baby. It might be convenient, but it’s downright spooky. Of course, babies are rather inconvenient, so who knows.

Be Creative to Take Convenience to the Next Level

So if we accept the premise that chasing convenience is the dangling carrot of business, where does that put us? Actually, we have been doing a reasonable job. For example, we have embraced convenience in mail-order nurseries, and online sales from our mainstream nurseries and breeders are definitely up. But is it time to expand that concept and study what other industries are doing?

Perhaps it is time that independent garden centers think about call-in orders that are picked up later, as grocery stores are doing once again. This innovation would be easy enough to share on blogs or in-store notices to customers.

How about providing a patio/deck ready-to-use assortment, a vegetable assortment, or an herbs-for-dinner assortment, and allow customers to call or email an order in, and pick it up after work. This is workable and only limited by creativity and marketing savvy.

Or perhaps it is a dumb idea; the naysayers will have a dozen reasons to dismiss it. That is fine, but this necessity for convenience is not going anywhere.

In the garden world, the term convenience equates with less work; thus our obsession with low maintenance. We as an industry were a little slow to embrace that term, but thank goodness we have. If nothing else, the common bond between the landscape trade and the gardener is low maintenance (a.k.a. convenience).

Breeders have long understood that short and compact plants are easier to ship and display. But the true silver lining is that they are far more convenient for the gardener and landscaper. Retailers were no fools. They embraced the mixed container concept with gusto, because after all is said and done, such an offering is simply convenient.

I have no grand insights into how we continue to be relevant in this age of convenience. Let’s face it, the term “working in the garden” is apropos, even though we don’t want to admit it. Unfortunately, the world was not designed for the convenience of gardeners.

As a gardener, I am a bit like the dodo bird; I actually like staking plants and pulling weeds. However, there are far fewer of me and many more of them. We simply need to pay attention.

Order Your Copy Of Naked Ladies And Forget-Me-Nots

Allan’s new book “Of Naked Ladies & Forget-Me-Nots” debuted in March. It brings to life the stories behind the common names of well-loved flower varieties grown around the world. You can order it on his website.

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