Allan Armitage: Why Simplicity Rules for Younger Homeowners

Mother and Daughter gardeningI had an interesting conversation recently with Jeff Beasley. He and his wife Lisa owned and operated Transplant Nursery in Lavonia, GA, one of the finest woody plant nurseries in the land. Jeff has been in the business for many years, but I soon discovered he has other interests besides watching plants grow.

Jeff told me his hobby has always been construction, and he builds high-quality spec houses in his fast-growing community. My wife Susan and I had just been talking about what people were looking for in new homes, so this was a timely conversation, if somewhat out of the blue.

I said, “I bet people are looking for single-level homes with big kitchens.”

“Not even close,” he replied. “All anyone wants are multi-level homes with an outsized television room, large bathrooms, some useable bedrooms, and walk-in closets. No one asks about the kitchen; heck, nobody cooks anymore.”

I replied, “Wow, that is not what I see on HGTV. Those couples are always looking to add on to the kitchen and want the shiniest stainless-steel appliances on the market. They are always going outside and checking the garden space, as well.”

Jeff continued, “The landscape/garden is also far down on homeowner’s lists. We are dealing with young people looking for starter homes. They want comfort, practical cost, and no maintenance.”

Gardeners Want Things Uncomplicated

I thought about this the next few days and realized there are a number of similarities in our business to the comments Jeff made.

Most starter gardeners are not looking for a kitchen; that is, they don’t want to buy the ingredients to make a combination planter or basket. They want the pre-cooked meal — no muss, no fuss.

Most starter gardeners treat their deck as a walk-in closet where they can place their containers and hang their baskets. The deck is also the extension of their television room. In many cases, it is their summer sports bar, barbeque shack, and television room.

The garden is simply an extension of the house, as a place with practical, low-maintenance plants. Turf is always the first plant of choice, with a few low-maintenance shrubs in the front and back, all of which the builder has installed.

Simplicity Caters to Need

That is our challenge. We need to be credible, not only to the Master Gardener crowd, but also to the 40-somethings who are seeing the light beyond the laundry and soccer games. And equally important, if not more so, we must cater to Jeff’s clientele, who just want simplicity.
• The first group wants solution plants, for deer, low maintenance, and pollinators. They still love trying the new and different and are our biggest fans.
• The second group wants to try everything. They are excited about new plants, but are still a little frightened of the garden thing. However, they, too, want to be part of the green movement and pollinator discussions.
• Jeff’s group wants ready-made beauty and plants, requiring nothing more than a lawn mower and occasional trimming.

I believe this has always been our challenge. However, my kitchen discussion with Jeff opened my eyes once again.

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