In today’s world of instant everything the future of nursery gardening seems tentative at best. Competing with catalogues, online merchants (Amazon, eBay etc), and even the weekend market stalls one has to wonder how they will survive the next decade or two. The next generation is already showing that it’s less interested in gardening than the current “baby boomers” and its far more tech-savvy with higher expecations.
Where does this leave the nursery garden? Will it need to evolve further than it already has or will attitudes and perceptions change back to it as time goes by?
From an observing viewpoint, it’s been interesting to watch how the financial crisis, climate change and eating habits have led a revival, of sorts, back to the nurseries and garden centres. Where nurseries seemed to be closing down every other year a jolt in the public’s persona has occurred and they’re starting to spring up again.
But, I have a hunch that this is only temporary and that once we’re back on our feet again we’ll forget the wisdom of our forefathers and seek convenience above all else. And this is where the question of the nursery garden’s future raises its head again.
As a gardener the question needs to come back to us, in some ways. We need to reconcile whether nursery gardening has a future in our purchasing habits and whether it will in years to come. If it does then how will this transpire? If not, then what will replace it and where will we source our plants?
As already mentioned there are many avenues to source plant specimens and gardening resources – the nursery garden is just one in the mix.
Yet all of the current options have some downfall. They’re all convenient in their own way: online and mail-order purchases can be organised from the comfort of your own home while nursery gardening plants can be sourced immediately and planted the same day. And this is probably the one factor that separates – and may even secure the future of – gardening centres.
We’ve often extolled the virtues of nursery gardeners for their advice but in this age of information overload advice is cheap and easy to secure. And who hasn’t been to a garden centre where they were given tips by some teenager working weekends for a few bucks!
So, while nursery gardening may be the most convenient in terms of being able to view the plant before you buy and being able to plant the same day, its major downfall is the limited variety they can offer – especially compared to specialist mail-order companies. It’s just not feasible for garden centres to stock EVERY plant, nor every variety.
Gardeners who are keen to experiment want more than the mass petunias, fashionable grasses and boring foliage plants. Yet those who are happy with these offerings may only be so for a short time before they start questioning the validity of growing a garden at all.
And here is the conundrum: is nursery gardening contributing to the fact that few are taking up the hobby? Big box nursery centres have opted for efficiency over variety and dumbed-down the gardeners creativity in the process. Furthermore, their efficiencies have swallowed up all the garden nurseries that actually offered local specialist advice and a variety of plant specimens.
So, how can nursery gardening operate within the current climate and remain for future generations? IMHO I think they need to nail the delivery and variety aspect. They don’t need to stock every plant but they should stock a vast array. As an example, the nursery doesn’t need to stock every rose possible but they should be able to source it for the customer within 24-48 hours. This requires far more collaboration between nurseries – especially specialist nurseries – so that they can all compete. Being able to source a customers order in the same time as they could do it online – or quicker – is the key.
Customers will return to the one source if that avenue can deliver quickly and still offer the variety they seek. These are the two keys to the future of nursery gardening.