There are three types of consumers in our industry, ranging from the fully engaged gardener to the casual observer. Each one has different needs when it comes to the plants they buy.
Gardeners Are All In
Gardeners love to get their hands dirty. They have no problem with weeding or staking. They want to try what’s new and love the community of gardeners around them. However, I have no doubt that while the enthusiasm of these gardeners is as strong as ever, there are simply fewer of them. People give many reasons for the decline. All others aside, the biggest reason is lack of time.
Short of adding more hours to the week, there is not a lot we can do to resolve the issue of time. From our perspective, let’s be sure we support their Master Gardener classes, seminars and symposia, and their projects in the community, and be sure we provide them with the best cultivars, nativars, and hybrids we can. If we do that, they will remain good customers. However, we must pay far more attention to the decorator and observer.
Decorators Like Instant Gardening
Decorators still enjoy doing some gardening, but the deck and balcony are their gardens. They enjoy color and are more likely to buy pre-made containers or pop pre-selected plants into decorative containers. They love what plants do for them, appreciate their value, and will pay good money for good decoration. Cultivar names simply don’t matter to them. They believe in pollinators but don’t really know a native unless they are told. Box stores provide the anonymity they desire; however, independents don’t intimidate them.
Decorators want minimal maintenance and maximum beauty. Their population will surely increase over time. They don’t mind getting dirty, but they don’t revel in dirty fingernails. Above all, they value convenience. We must provide it.
Observers Are Minimalists
Observers are clean decorators. They tend to ignore the garden, other than to cut the grass and complain about weeds growing everywhere or, if they have the money, they hire a lawn and garden service to cut the grass (size of lawn does not matter), trim the bushes, and perhaps install a few containers of color. They want minimal maintenance and seldom find their way into the garden section of the box stores, and never into the independents.
The level of attention observers want from the lawn service varies considerably. Some want nothing more than mow, blow, and go. Others want a ton of color and beauty. To put it another way, they want a garden; they just don’t want to do it themselves. This group is sufficiently healthy financially to keep home and garden care a priority. They are good neighbors. From our perspective, the landscaper/garden service people are our customers. They want good prices, well-grown color, and accessible material.
On Overflowing Plates
The more I talk to industry people in the trenches, everyone is overwhelmed. They all claim to be working too hard, to being part of the “overflowing plate” syndrome. In a nutshell, everyone needs more help.
The gardeners, decorators, and observers must be buying something. Or maybe we were so penniless during the recession that any gains have simply taxed all our resources. The good news is that it is a lot better to be too busy than too idle. It appears to me that we don’t need a bigger plate; we need more plates.