I travel, I observe, I absorb and then I mostly forget. Every now and then, before I forget, I put these thoughts down on paper. I will try not to bore you with Twitter-like musings, but here are a few things I have noticed.
From the California Spring Trials to “Top 100” lists, it seems we are always talking about the big guys. These large retailers and growers (read: box stores and their suppliers) have earned the kudos.
The immense power of the box stores dictates cultivar choices, production decisions, and schedules of growers, and certainly influences sales decisions of many brokers. I enjoy visiting these growers, love speaking with them at the Trial Gardens at UGA, am interested to learn about their tribulations (big places, big tribulations), and admire their business acumen.
It seems that as the big get bigger, the small disappear. You would think that if a grower was not in the “big” club, its demise was all but assured.
However, the reports of the death of the little guy have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, many independent retailers are thriving. Homestead Gardens in Maryland, Hicks Nursery in New York, and Georgia’s Pikes Nursery are but a few whose abilities to maintain their character – along with their businesses – I truly admire.
I love visiting the many retail growers who remain true to their own voices, like Rick Berry at Goodness Grows Nursery in northeast Georgia, or Chris Baker at Baker’s Acres in central Ohio. Such people maintain their philosophies of providing a unique shopping and gardening experience to their clients. This is what keeps their customers coming back, even in lean years.
I applaud the persistent efforts of independent growers like Luci and Mack Furlow at Seasonal Color in northeast Georgia, and Tom Winn and Ken Frieling at Glasshouse Works in Ohio, with unexpected pleasures in every aisle. It is not easy competing with the big boys, but for every large retailer and super 100 grower, there are dozens of high quality smaller businesses which give no quarter. They are often quirky, they are sometimes worried, but they are always proud of their success.