Speak up!

My post on “This is what happens when chain stores sell plants” got a lot of interest from people concerned or surprised at whats going on at chain stores when it comes to what they are selling. My most recent comment comes from John Peter Thompson who says “As Chairman of a 78 year old family-owned nursery in Maryland (Behnke Nurseries), I have worked very hard to get the word out to the public and to the industry. I have opportunity to serve on the Maryland Invasive Species Council as the industry representative. And, as the current Secretary of the National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee (NISC ISAC), I am working to help facilitate discussions at the federal level, and to assist with State efforts with on the ground control and eradication.” He ends by saying, “I think I will pay a visit to the local box stores this spring and see what they are offering up outside of Washington, DC.”

I couldn't find the comment, but somewhere at a post I did someone mentioned how interesting it was that various factions in horticulture were having problems with how the other faction was doing business. There is the idea that somehow since all of us are selling plants, box stores, chain stores, independents, etc. that we are all on the same page. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Since I am an independent and tend to stick up for independents it might be construed that I like all independent nurseries. I know of a number of independents that do a terrible job. It's not about being independent or being a box store. It's about giving the customer a great experience coupled with great horticultural practices.

We don't start selling tomatoes here in the foothill until the middle of April. Plant them sooner and odds are they will succumb from a late frost or the cold ground. My local Home Depot already is selling tomatoes. We get people in telling us they have already planted their tomatoes. Well they didn't get them here! These are my customers, too. They mean well, they just saw all these great summer vegetables at The Depot.

I am also learning that garden centers are vastly different from region to region. I can't say that our experiences here in northern California are like anyone else's. I hear from people who say the local independents just don't cut it, and that the box stores are the best choice. What a drag!

If you are a quality independent now is the time to get the word out about why you are better. I think its important that we don't just say we are better but show people each and every day how much better we are. Using the medium of the Internet its getting harder and harder for these poor horticultural practices to be hidden behind slick advertising and and the perception that they are nursery professionals.

I was at the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club sale over the weekend. I met a bunch of nurserypeople from small nurseries including Sean and Christy from Mad Man Bamboo. All of these people work hard to produce what they believe to be the best they can offer. It's not an easy route. When I think of the competition we face from large corporations with loads of cash to advertise its hard not to get mad at the mis-information and poor plant choices these places seem to excel in. I am not against becoming a large corporation if thats your companies goal. In my mind however it should be coupled with a decent knowledge of proper horticultural practices.

The chain and box stores are not going to go out of business anytime soon. There will always be people who shop these places based on perceived lower price , convenience, or a poor selection of independents in the area. There are however lot's of people who are starting to realize that where you spend your money is about more than just those perceived qualities the chains like to advertise. It's important that we small independents that do work so hard to do it right, get the word out and not be afraid to call out these shoddy horticultural practices and show people who care a better way.