A New Local Garden Center

 A new garden center called Habitudes recently opened in the area, so I and a garden-buddy took a drive to check it out.  She was looking for a large urn or jar to use as a garden focal point, and I was, as always, looking. 
She got this one:
 The venture was created by a partnership between a successful design/build landscaping company and a successful pottery importer.   As such, it is at this moment more a cross between a pottery store and a demonstration garden than a plant nursery.  Although there were certainly were plants for sale, there were a whole lot of pots...



  ...and some beautiful landscaping.  Wandering down paths through a grove of olive trees was a mighty fine way to shop for pottery and plants.  
Beyond the nursery boundary is empty land that will soon sprout thousands of apartments.  
 Habitudes has only been open for a few weeks.  There was a crew still planting and a crew still building a parking area, among other things.  The grounds are seven and a half acres(!) and so quite extensive. 


 Very Mediterranean
 Olives, Agaves, and Icebergs ('Iceberg' roses, that is) have long been a favorite trio of mine. 
My friend got her urn (jar?) and I got a couple of plants,  an Eremophila glabra 'Blue Horizons' (aka 'Grey Horizons'), and another Phylica, because they were fresh stock at good prices.  Both are already in the ground.  At this point, there was not a huge array of plants to look through, because they are still under construction and getting underway, but there were lots of pots.
  
Phylicas!

A garden center is a iffy business in this region.  There are more and more people but fewer and fewer of them seem to be gardening, (an activity more often referred to as "yard work").  Properties are shrinking while the houses upon them are getting larger, so there less room for plants.  The day we visited Habitudes, I read this in the e-newsletter I get from another local garden center, one more focused on plants:

  In our business, spring is the only season we can make enough profit to survive the rest of the year. 

In our first spring Jerry Brown announced drought restrictions.  In our second spring we were in the middle of the drought.  Earlier this year the drought emergency wasn't lifted until mid-spring and many water districts were even slower to lift restrictions.  Three years without a great spring means we are surviving week-to-week. 

July was a good month.  August, except for last Saturday, has been scary slow.  We can blame the temperature, the humidity, the eclipse, the start of the school year; but excuses are no longer good enough.  We won't last another month at this rate. 





Then today I saw a national newspaper article advising people that (subscription may be needed) trees are valuable.


"Yard work".  Oh, dear, why do so few of us understand it's not "work"?   Why can so few of us tell the difference between an oak and a maple?  

It's not wise to ignore Mother Nature. 

Comments

  1. Poignant. More reasons for the lack of gardening here is culture change, that is, more home buyers coming from places that don't value outdoor plantings; a shift in values from a public outlook to a private one, rather go to the gym to maintain personal looks than mow the lawn to make the outside of the house pretty, that is left once again to people who just use loud noisy tools to do a job as fast as possible. Horticulture is no longer (for quite a long time) taught in schools, therefore it is not valued, (you can't test it). The present focus on a few water-wise plant offerings is very limiting, they are not always easy to start growing.

    Yard work is a job; gardening is giving love.

    I've watched so many independent little nurseries close up: Desert to Jungle, Burkhart's, and especially beloved Hortus.

    I like the shape and color of the urn in pic #2. I wish the new venture well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Culture change, you got it. For over 100 years California was a place where you could grow all kinds of wonderful plants--people came here to grow plants! Luther Burbank, hybridizer, was considered as important a figure as Edison. Most people in 1900 worked at least part time and often full time in agriculture. Now people spend their time trying to figure out how to use their iPhones.

      Delete
    2. I still cling to my vision of California as a plant Mecca...please don't take that away from me...

      (Habitudes looks like it could be great fun to explore)

      Delete
    3. Maybe a climate mecca, if not a plant one? San Diego county still has some awesome growers.

      Delete
  2. I am always excited to discover a new nursery. One of my favorite local nurseries has a large selection of pots, as well as other garden ornaments and some antiques, along with a good selection of plants. He also has a demonstration vegetable garden. The owner does it because he loves it, and he genuinely cares about nature and the environment. I would grieve if it closed, but the owner has told me that business is very tight. A short distance down the road a big box store sales masses of plants, not well cared for and often not labeled well. Sadly, many people automatically head for the big box store for landscaping needs. I always try to support the pottery place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Plants are done for love, very rarely for fat profits (selling tomato plants to Wal-Mart, perhaps). That's yet one more thing to love about plants.

      I try my best to support independent small businesses of every type.

      Delete
  3. I was excited when I read your reference to a new garden center - that bucks the current trend. While I'm waiting out the new heatwave before buying any new plants, I'll certainly visit Habitudes this fall. As to the rest of the post, not so cheerful. Please tell me that that newsletter in question didn't come from Village! On a separate subject, did the Phylica you planted in the ground do well? The one I had in a pot gradually slipped away and I finally pulled it but I have another small specimen in another pot and I'm debating whether to plant it out this fall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, not Village. Yes, Phylicas do fine in the ground. The one I killed was because I didn't water it. Water something like Leucadendrons, not too dry.

      LMK if you make a trip there and want to meet up to yak-yak plants.

      Delete
    2. I will do so. It probably won't be until late September or early October, when I'm ready to start my next plant buying frenzy. As soon as the weather cools, I'm planning to haul in more soil and rock to create some new planting berms. I'm hoping this is our last heatwave...

      Delete
  4. What a great looking garden center. I always complain about the lack of interesting ones here, but then again, the ones we have probably stay in business by playing it safe and bringing in what the majority of their customers want.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a tough business--successful ones seem to have multiple lines, like in-house florists, a mail-order sideline, holiday ornaments, etc, etc.

      Delete
  5. Interesting and nice garden centre with so many pots. Here also too many gardencentres and nurseries, quite a few go bankrupt. It is, as if gardening is out of fashion, people want bigger houses and smaller gardens, which are often totally paved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even in your country where plant-hybridizing and plant-growing is a national art and industry? That is awful. Here too people want big house, no garden. It is madness. If we turn our back on nature we will suffer the consequences.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the post. I'll be checking out Habitudes for their envirobloxx (and pots, I'm addicted.) It looks perfect for our future retaining wall. We were going to go for the concrete ones that look like that so I'd love to compare. I also got the email from the other nursery. I went and spent a bit of change there and got some cute natives, edibles and indoor pots.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wasn't thrilled with those envirobloxx. They were plastic and looked very plastic in a not-good way. There is a concrete form of the same thing that Plant Depot has fashioned into a huge succulent covered retaining wall in their lower parking and delivery area...have you seen it?

      Delete
    2. Forgot to add, after receiving the email, I went and did some shopping as well--

      Delete
    3. I've never even been to Plant Depot! I need to visit this weekend. Yes, plastic-y will never do, so that's too bad.

      Delete
    4. Well, see for yourself what you think on the plastic-y appearance. Just my impression.

      Fair warning on Plant Depot: many very tempting plants, with a good number of leucodendrons.

      Delete
    5. Doh, trying to save up for a big vacation! I bought a protea mini king this summer and have to say, at least it's still alive? I love the look, but am cool on how difficult they are to grow. ;)

      Delete
    6. My 'Pink Ice' Protea has been effortlessly successful (and is getting BIG) while 'Mini King' has been fitful and not overly happy. 'Mini King' is the only Protea family plant that has not taken off and thrived here. I got two more 'Mini King' after I got the first one to see if it was the particular specimen that was iffy or if it is all of them--the second two are growing a little faster, while the first one after our rainy winter has grown a little. So far my impression is that this particular Protea at least here is much slower than others.

      Big vacations are nice. Small ones, too. :^)

      Delete
  7. I'll have to do this in two comments.... For as exciting as Habitudes sounds, it has two things that sets it apart from a regular nursery - which might actually be its saving grace.
    1.) It is backed by a landscape-design-build company, which operates under far different margins than just growing/selling plants ever will. In return, the retail area (if kept up properly - think labor costs) will serve as a showroom for the talents of the landscape company. This is exactly what we were trying to achieve with the last place I worked at, except the owner never fully bought into the idea. (Which resulted in us all throwing our hands up and leaving.)
    2.) Same with imported pottery. As long as Asian labor costs remain where they are, importing their goods will always be a feasible business idea, and this is a wonderful way to display them. Margins on pottery, statuary and other hard goods is always far higher than on plants. (Plus, other than keeping them clean, you don't have to keep them alive.)

    Nurseries are dropping like flies up here in the PNW as well. Just this month, I heard of another well regarded wholesale operation going down - after 20 years in business. As someone mentioned already, part of it can be attributed to a culture change. Absolutely - amen and yes on that one. But also, looking around has made me realize that the great majority that are in for the long haul, have been around for a long time, when populations were low, and land was cheap. Just spoke with a nursery owner this morning (his parking lot was empty, except for my truck). He told me their nursery had been there since the 1930's, and I know they survive because they propagate and sell wholesale to the florist trade for the Holidays. (Actually, 'survive' is not the right word - 'scraping by' is more like it, as that side of business reportedly has decreased as well.) As I paid my measly $16, I couldn't help but reflect on the fact that what I spent pretty much was an hour and a half's wages, had a I been a nursery worker there. This nursery is in my neighborhood, and every time I pass it, I'm happy to see it's still there. And, I'm willing to bet that the only reason is because their family business has been there as long as it has. The day they decide to sell, they can likely retire comfortably on the real estate value alone.

    Not knowing if it's set up with the expectation of standing on its own financial legs - or not - I think Habitudes will do great, as long as the primary intention is to provide marketing and exposure for its two owners. It's a great idea, and it looks like a fabulous place to spend an afternoon. Especially if they also add a restaurant/coffee shop to draw more people in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is long a standard pattern of the nursery business--you start on a piece of land in an undeveloped area and that land ends up being your retirement account because the housing has moved in and taken over surrounding it. Here also we have the growers under the power lines who can lease the land for almost nothing--that is how they do it.

      The local high-end garden center has added a trendy restaurant besides the big gift, florist, and Radko ornament lines they already have.

      Delete
  8. Here is part two..... I've said for years that retail nurseries are really only viable as part of a generous marketing budget for more profitable business models, like mail order, import of hard goods, or landscaping/design/construction. They are simply too expensive to keep in good shape. And that pesky seasonality thing is definitely a hampering factor - especially now in the midst of a changing climate, and yo-yoing weather patterns. For as much as I love spending time in nursery environments, I have a feeling that their days as freestanding entities are numbered. Keeping them going is definitely a "love" thing... I work part-time in one, and if I didn't love it so much, it would be a total waste of my time. And, although spending time there is balm for my soul, I'm always grateful it's not MY business. So yes, keep supporting the little guys in every way you can - it may postpone their eventual demise by at least a little.

    Sorry - that wasn't meant to sound so negative, but it did. As for the change in culture, and the abundance of Natural Ignorance around - well, don't get me started.... To end this lengthy-ass comment on a positive note: The other day, I talked to a woman who is - get this - the Horticulture teacher in a high school in Vancouver, WA!!!!! I couldn't believe my ears, and was THRILLED to learn that this is still a subject in some areas. It gave me hope! Great post, Hoov, and great discussion too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everything is changing, destabilizing, and it's making us all uneasy whether we recognize the change or not. Plants are a profound comfort, perhaps more will begin to realize that. Strange how plant growing and hybridizing science is developing in amazing ways, yet retail sellers are desperate and vanishing.

      Horticulture teacher, that is a wonderful thing. There is still believe it or not an active agriculture program at my old high school; this was once a farming area of course, but the farming is long gone and that the agriculture program has survived is a miracle.

      Delete
  9. Anna is right, the hardlines -non perishable/high gm% -are pretty essential. My companies' number two category after plants is sacked soils , followed by pottery. Those items prop up the write-offs of distressed plants that are just part of the gig in garden centers. I think adding the design piece is good , especially if it's in an area where customers can afford those services.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is an area where people hire designers, an area where gardening is "yard work" and it is hired out. Other items supporting the plants-could it be that it's always been that way?

      Delete
  10. I'm thinking the large apt complex inhabitants will be buying lots of those planters and using them for fountains and patio/porch accents. One of the last independent nursery retailers in San Luis Obispo County is Bay Laurel GC in Atascadero, whose three owners decided early on the expand their traditional and large bare root tree season by adding mail order/now online order. They ship quality common and unusual bare root (Dave Wilson) trees, roses, small fruits and berries to all states now. They are on leased land and are at or nearing retirement age so I doubt the nursery will eventually change hands, though you never know. It's in an area of rural neighborhoods and ranches (plus the ever-encroaching Vineyards).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like the Bay Laurel people have good business sense and have found a solid niche. Good for them!

      Ever-encroaching vineyards. This, too, shall pass. Giant marijuana farms are the next thing. Neither genus appeals to me.

      Delete
  11. Our drought is tipping many half-hearted 'yard work' gardeners to paving or Astroturf.
    So sad! I hope to visit a new to me specialist nursery soon - while they are open they need our support.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paving everywhere is harsh and hot, and offers no habitat for birds and butterflies. That is sad, with your wealth of amazing native plants, some of the best on the planet.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Always interested in your thoughts.

Any comments containing a link to a commercial site with the intent to promote that site will be deleted. Thank you for your understanding on this matter.

Popular Posts