19 Jan 2015

Garden Grumblings

By our very nature, we're supposed to be an amiable group of people: we are attuned to nature, we have an appreciation for the aesthetics of beauty, we consider ourselves to be somewhat solitary, patient souls. But sometimes this facade wears thin, and unfortunately for me, this was one of those days!

My garden. My writing. My Life. 

They are for me a 'planned disorder.' I am blessed to have, after thirty years of working in various retail environments, been afforded the opportunity to continue working with the public [after thirty years its pretty obvious that it suits my personality] in a manner that also allows for me to combine two of the the so called 'planned' disorders, namely gardening and writing, as a way of achieving the net result, being my life! I love the work that I do! I love the plants that I am in touch with [on a more personal level than I am with most people!] on a near daily basis, and yes, I also love the people that come into the nursery every year without fail between April and December. I do not know of many other people who can make such a declaration. For this I am eternally grateful!

It all seems to be 'coming up roses' does it not? Well...... It started with me faxing over an order to one of our suppliers. This is what we do in January. I scour the internet looking for new and exciting rare and unusual plant  material that I want to try myself, and if it proves to be reliably hardy and garden worthy, I stock my benches with it the following season. I'm not one for stocking up on the latest trend - the 'pile it high and watch it fly' mentality of the Eighties - for me it is more about seeking out the rare and obscure, the more aloof selections that hide well beneath the 'trend setting radar' that seems to be the order of the day with everything nowadays. 

I know in my greenest heart of heart that there is a market for this type of retail mentality. Sadly, we are living in a world of instant gratification, maintenance free, status symbol trendiness. In recent days and months we have seen the closure of a number of retail establishments, and while I am saddened at the loss of employment that this has resulted in, I am, as an employee of an independent garden nursery, relieved to see that 'go big or go home' isn't necessarily the best way to operate a business. The closing of Garden Import hits much closer to home. But alas I digress!

The nursery where I am employed is a small operation, as are most independent retailers. We are part of a small community that I am proud to say stands behind the 'mom and pop' businesses by and large. This hasn't stopped the big box operations from sneaking in so much like the white tiger under his cloak of invisibility. I get very excited this time of year. Its when I get to place the initial Spring orders. I love anticipating the gasps and sighs that my inventory elicits in my loyal customers. It is something that we both have come to expect.

So imagine my chagrin when I receive an email reply informing me that as of this year a stringent minimum order quantity has been implemented, and by the very necessity of this response email, is non negotiable. Having worked in retail for the past thirty years, I am only well aware of the 'necessity' [and yes, please note the italics around the word!] for minimums to be implemented. My grievance has to do more with the fact that their very existence caters directly into the hands of those with the buying power - the big box retailers who, in the blink of an eye can swallow up an entire city block of independent retailers.

'Why can't you order 20 and blow them out as a weekend special?'
'Why can't you just leave them on the racks? They will sell themselves?'
'Our pickers are complaining about having to walk to the back of a hoop house to pick just three!'

Oh yes, these are actual responses that I received today! Perhaps now you can understand my 'grumbling' mood? Lets see: Firstly, I am not about to lessen the value of my plant material, and certainly not in freaking April when the season is just beginning! Don't get me wrong, I love to reward my customers with savings, but I am happier doing that once I know that my season has been profitable for me. This is a business after all! Secondly, I take great pride in my departments, and quite frankly rack after rack of product piled three tiers high, not to mention the poor sun and air circulation, not to mention the near impossibility of proper watering - need I go further? It astounded me that anyone within this industry would even contemplate such a thing! And yeah, there is the control issues that I suffer from - neatness and organization being two of my biggest 'challenges,' and sweet baby Jesus, you can imagine my response to the last comment.

It went back and forth, back and forth, blah, blah, blah! Perhaps if we were willing to pay a minimal 'surcharge' for those items that do not meet the minimum? To which I responded that I have a secondary supplier, within forty minutes of the nursery where I can order three of this, five of that, twenty of another item and they are more than happy and grateful for our business. Hell I will even drive there, pick the product myself if it will help expedite the process. [It also ensures that I am handpicking the best merchandise possible - yeah, another control issue, but one that I feel I owe my clientele!]

And repeat!
Yes. I heard you the first time.

In the end I learned that sometimes you have to take a stand. Am I disappointed that I will not be ordering as frequently from this supplier? Undoubtedly! Their product is well grown, and their overall presentation is second to none. Unfortunately this does not alleviate the fact that in my eyes, they, like so many others, are making it next to impossible for us independents to be able to rely on them to be acutely aware and understanding of our unique, specific needs! The solution was quite simple, but it was one that I hoped I would not have to make. The old adage robbing Peter to pay Paul comes to mind. This supplier received a much smaller, pared back order, but it was of their own volition. Will it make a difference to them? Only time will tell. It has taught me a valuable lesson. We [all independents] might be small, but if we roar loud enough, and push back hard enough, perhaps one day these very suppliers will realize, that akin to the unique, customer oriented service that we provide to our loyal clientele, we too are uniquely special customers and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Breathe in green.
Exhale red


CanadianGardenJoy said...

Well said sweetie !
I too was shocked when I saw Garden Import folded .. every year I managed to find plants there I couldn't else where .. I guess my lost calycanthus will not be recovered with another one of it's kind. I still can't believe it .. I have ordered from them for years!
I am so sorry you have had to deal with such restrictions from your supplier .. I wonder if they will "get it" eventually and do a 180 on their policy .. I hope so!
You have added breath taking shots of your children here sweetie .. they are stunning!
Hang in there .. good things may yet happen!
Joy (writing a comment first thing in the morning with a headache may not be an ideal thing to do? haha)

Jennifer said...

It has to be tough running a small nursery. Elora is one of my favourite places, and I don't need much more than an excuse of a nice weekend morning to visit there. I am always on the lookout for interesting plants and must make a point of dropping in to Cedar Springs.