Learn to Embrace Evolution in the Garden Industry

Today’s market is so mixed up. Maybe it is just me, but I remember simpler times. I remember when gardeners were spoken about with reverence, and not dismissed as Gen-somethings who don’t care about plants. I remember when the terms bold and bodacious were part of every design and sale, and not thought of as plants impossible to keep at retail, or requiring too much maintenance.

Speaking of maintenance, I remember when people thought working in the garden was a pleasure, and that mowing the lawn provided a feeling of accomplishment, not to mention the pleasant fragrance of newly mowed turf. Am I so ancient that I wonder why so many “mow, blow, and go” companies are mowing and blowing postage-stamp properties, including my neighbors’ and even my son’s? How did we get so disconnected from our landscapes?

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How did hardware stores, with no on-the-floor expertise whatsoever, become the go-to place for my neighbors’ plant needs? When did garden centers, the market kings for growers, become trivialized by large growers because they took too much time to order too few things? Maybe such thoughts arise because when I look at audiences for garden talks, there are few people there below the age of 50.

Change is Good
However, as I ponder these subjects, I start laughing at myself as I put them in perspective. No industry ever stands still, and to think that ours would is not wishful thinking — no, it is dangerous thinking.

People change; generations change. Many reading this article recall the differences between your parents and you, and certainly between you and your children. Amazon, mobile phones, social media, Google, Alexa, and Siri are now part of the marketing landscape that did not exist 10 years ago. Box stores are huge, yet they provide opportunities to move product in volume when none existed before. And let’s be honest, there are many garden centers that are doing just fine.

I also appreciate this maintenance thing. Yes, people are busy, and staking a lily or cutting back a hydrangea is not something my daughter is comfortable with. I believe the breeding toward short and compact plants to allow for less maintenance continues to be one of our industry’s crowning accomplishments.

The other thing I applaud is the understanding that containers are not a fad, but an essential part of reconnecting with our landscapes. In fact, our message has become much clearer over time. It’s that gardening need not be about pulling weeds and spraying roses, but rather part of a lifestyle. The entire definition of gardening has changed, and thank goodness we have changed with it. A garden is not an entity unto itself, but rather part of outdoor living.

Yes, I can remember the old days, but just because they were good then, does not mean they fit today. So, chat over a glass of wine about that cool variegated hosta, but set your eyes on the new variegated hellebores. Think about the bold and bodacious plume poppies you used to grow, but enjoy the sales of those handsome and compact summer phlox. And don’t lament the younger folks any longer, just keep producing those cool mixed containers and dwarf, high-yield vegetables for the balcony. They will be on-board soon enough.

As I look upon my puzzling questions at the beginning of this article, I laugh. Old is good, but being part of the new is better.

Although the noise from those mow-and-blow guys should be illegal. I can act my age for a little bit, can’t I?