Who are these Industrial Nurseries?

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This year it seems that just about every one of the local nurseries is selling branded plants that come from maybe three big growers. This is true of both annuals and perennials.
I'm also seeing a trend where instead of selling six packs of annuals for $2 -$3 they're selling one plant (not all that better looking than one in a healthy six pack) for $3.50 or more.
Who are these companies who seem to have taken over the nursery business? Where are they? What's going on here?
I'm finding it VERY hard to find locally grown plants, which bums me out. The other thing that really bothers me is the uniformity of the offerings. Since I'm seeing the same nursery stock everywhere, I'm also seeing the same cultivars everywhere, which is making it tougher to find interesting things to plant.
What's the story here?
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Where are you located? Which growers are you seeing?
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
email: snipped-for-privacy@beyondgardening.com
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They may be "local" nurseries, but do they actually grow anything themselves? If not, they are simply distributors.
On the other hand, there are many newer plants out there that are patented, and it's quite costly for local, small time growers to pay the fees to propagate and sell the same plants.
And finally, just like most other businesses, the corporate operations are the big dogs who have a very large share of the market. My opinion is that unless we support -- as in patronize -- small, local operations, the situation will only get worse. And as a business, the small local guy usually can't compete in price with the big dogs who can get volume discounts for purchasing mass quantities. My thinking is that the small locals that make it offer what the corps can't or don't -- knowledgeable staff, great customer service, and high quality products.
Jut my 2 cents worth:)
Suzy O
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Are you talking about brands like "Proven Winners?" If so, I am also irritated by this. That said, we have a huge nursery that produces all their own plants and offers everything in 3-4 inch pots for $3+. None of that "PW" rip-off stuff. They have no flats of cell packs. Too bad if you want small plants or aren't related to Rockefellers. This winter they had huge pots of poinsettias for $250.00! The same plants in the same size pots at another nursery were going for $60.
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Emotions aside, can you put yourself in the mindset of a plant retailer, or a wholesale grower, and think of any reasons why these "industrial nurseries" are doing well?
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Yes, unfortunately, I can.
A couple decades of dealing exclusively with a local grower, who used to raise her own plant crop from seed and relied heavily on customer input for unusual stuff within that crop.
When her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, she was forced to cut staff and payroll expense and go the mass-produced, Proven Winner Plug Route.
I do still shop there, and she does still raise a hefty portion of the earliest and quickest bedding plants ( impatiens, pansy, viola) from seed, but I no longer look for anything new or unusual in her greenhouses.
She has had to define her operation in the same very strict terms, as any big box store-- lowest possible overhead and a dependable source of inventory a telephone call ( and 2 days delivery) away.
I don't spend as much there as I used to, and both the grower and I know why from both sides. Her interests haven't changed, but her financial necessities have changed. I'm still looking for " that something different" and in her business plan, I'm a fickle customer, not a profit center.
She makes money from the < three flats of impatiens , 2 red, one white, one flat of the darkest blue petunias you have, 12 Red Geraniums and 12 Dracena, and here are my window boxes, please plant them for me> client.
Bizness is Bizness.
Sue
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I understand what you're saying, and it's probably NOT atypical of what makes many local greenhouses close their doors. BUT...there's always the possibility that it's an extreme example (illness in the family, one person running a business formerly handled by two). Here's another thought:
I live in Rochester NY. Within 10 minutes of my home are several plant retailers with vastly different profiles:
1) Harris Gardens: No indication of the source of their plants - just the usual tags. There are also numerous greenhouses with signs out front which say "wholesale only". I assume Harris gets their plants from these local greenhouses. They're also a supplier of seeds to farmers and home growers, and they may run their own growing operations. I have no idea.
2) Three locally owned nurseries, and some of their plants come from "Proven Winners", as well as other growers who are proud enough to put their names on their tags. So what? Obviously, I know which of the common stuff needs certain conditions to grow in my climate. But what about the not-so-common plants? After 30+ years of gardening, I'm not excited by the challenge of getting a camelia to grow here, when every book ever published says "no way", and they're RIGHT. I don't think it's such a bad idea to put out plants for sale which are much less likely to drop dead in my climate.
3) Home Depot and Lowe's: Good luck. New gardeners should consider themselves fortunate that the wholesale sales rep advised these stores about which things to buy for the climate in question, because the store's employees will pull advice out of their rectums if you ask them for help.
Another thought: Many of the plants I see here are coming from greenhouses in Canada. Unless those greenhouses are along the Atlantic coast, it costs them far more to heat their facilities than an identical facility here in upstate NY. Not cheaper in Canadian dollars, but the currency exchange rate is such that it might be cheaper for American nurseries to buy plants from Canada than from local growers.
Have a good night. I have to go get the boat ready for a day in church (fishing) tomorrow.
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1914. The try to keep their prices comparable to the chains, do the plug thing, and still offer the best selection of "not the same old stuff" bedding plants and perennials, AND the masses of geraniums, petunias, etc. that everyone else has. Their "secret"? First and foremost -- individual customer service. Don't know what to plant in a specific location? They'll walk you through the greenhouse and yard to point out plants that will work in your situation. They sell planting soil in bulk -- way cheaper than the bagged stuff. They had water plants before anywhere else in the area. And they still have the best selection of perennials in the county.
Of course, as times have changed since 1914, and since they don't have room to expand the operation -- they're not out in the boonies any more -- they don't start a lot from seed these days, but have earned a reputation for quality and unusual plants at a fair price.
Suzy O
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About a third of bedding plants originate here:
http://www.ecke.com/html/toc_fields.html
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On Thu, 23 Jun 2005 18:07:54 GMT, "Doug Kanter"

They lose money every year on their garden center departments. We own stock in Lowes and Home Depot and get the prospectus and annual reports every year. They detail losses and what departments do well, etc. It's the free eggs scam. Come buy a dollar plant, walk out with shovels, fertilizer, pool chemicals, etc.
Victoria
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I should've clarified: A was referring to independent garden centers. Lowe's and HD are such an anomaly in the plant business that they can't even be included when considering trends.
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On Sat, 25 Jun 2005 13:58:57 GMT, "Doug Kanter"

I'm not so sure any more. At one time I'd agree with you, but they seemingly have been following trends more closely these days.
We have this thing in the paper every Saturday in the garden section. It will give a Plant of the Week, and all the local garden centers stock that plant in 4", quart, gallon, etc.
I've noticed the box stores are now also carrying the Plant of the Week. They also have new sections of native plants. Of coures none of them are rare, but now and then the occasional rare plant does show up for a fraction of what the smaller retail centers have.
Eh, I am getting ready to dump the stock. I can't live with myself any more making money on putting small business out of business. Everybody changes, eventually.
Victoria
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wrote:

They don't really come from "three big growers". The three "big growers" actually contract the growing of the plants out to the smaller cheaper nurseries. They provide the pots, labels and seed/bulbs, and have the plants shipped to whoever they sell them too..

The more middlemen, and the more shipping, the more things are going to cost.

They are in a office in somewhere (it doesn't matter where, they move often (it's the unpaid bills)). It's a virtual nursery and/or broker, and they get a LARGE cut of the profits.

Most people want to shop in a big box store. It's really hard to make a small local nursery pay enough to live on. Everybody wants to buy the cheap annuals at Walmart.
You may not make much as a contractor, but it's more than you'll make as an independent grower. And if you contract, it's the entire greenhouse/nursery.
>The other thing that really bothers me is the uniformity of the

The big box stores buy in lots of 10K for plants. Since most nurseries can't ship 10K of single cultivars, the brokers are the only one who can sell to the big boxes. The smaller nursery chains purchase plants from the brokers because the "leftovers" are cheap, and it's much easier to call a broker than to actually deal with multiple suppliers.
The big boxes don't want too many line items, since it makes inventory and shipping more expensive. The brokers don't want either small lots or too many line items because it's more trouble to deal with them. The store buyers don't want too many suppliers or too many line items because shipping and inventory are such a hassle. The store managers don't want too many line items because inventory and plant care costs rise with the number of line items.
They'll sell the same $$ worth of plants, whether they have 25 or 250 cultivars. So why bother?

Welcome to the big box world. You wanted cheap, you got it. You just have to buy what THEY choose to sell.
See millions of rants about "Walmart". It works the same for plants as for everything else.
Tuck
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-snip-
Can you name a grower who does this?
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There are several very gigantic growers up in the northeast. One is Ivy Acres the other Kurt Weiss, both on eastern Long Island. They supply most of the box stores with annuals and possibly perennials. When I worked at Ivy Acres they great tens of millions of flats of annuals, poinsettia's, mums and were experimenting with perennials. That was about 20 years ago.
In Texas there's Hines, Color Spot and several other giant growers for the box stores, but if you want the plants you see in the catalogs you have to visit the small garden centers who hand pick their plants based on industry trends.
Support your local garden centers.
Victoria
wrote:

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It's possible (and highly likely) that the uniformity is as much the fault of consumers as it is of the suppliers. Here, for instance, there are plenty of sources for unusual plants, both annuals and perennials. But still....look at many gardens and all you see is marigolds, salvia, petunias and geraniums. Boring....but that's what many consumers want. This is very much a plain vanilla country. If you need proof of that, pay attention to the lack of a decent bagel in most supermarkets, and the disgusting preponderance of Chrysler mini vans, one of the lousiest vehicles ever to hit the American highway.
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I agree with this. It seems that most consumers don't want any risk. They only buy what they know will work. It would never occur to them to do ANY research and most don't even read the plant labels for the stuff they do buy. Occasionally I will see something unusual show up at the box store nurseries. We had a couple of large "super" stores like Meijer and Biggs who occasionally get some flats of unusual annuals. When they do you better buy them because next year you probably won't see them again. That's why I buy "bulk" plants like impatiens at the box stores and then get my special plants at real nurseries. The other think I have noticed is that few people seem willing to buy an entire flat of flowers. Instead they get a couple of cell packs of this and that and pepper their yards with insignificant dots of color. I'm not talking about people who supplement a perennial border with some pockets of annuals. I'm talking about people who plant the lonely marigold at the base of a 5 foot holly and then ten feet way put in a petunia under a dogwood. My neighbors is so lazy and/or indecisive that she just left the plants in the cell packs and tossed them here and there in her beds amongst the weed. They have been there since Mother's Day weekend and now most are dead.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com says...

either HD or Lowes. I bought one just to see what it was like.
It was nice enough that I divided it over the years into about 16 plants. The only problem seems to be that it has lost its "dwarf" nature in the last few years. Or it's being replaced by its seedlings that don't breed true, although I don't think it's a hybrid.
Anyway I've never seen it again anywhere - including at several local nurseries. I did see seed for it once online, but by then I had my 16 plant circle. Maybe now I'll have to get some to restore the dwarfness.
--
BNSF = Build Now, Seep Forever

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says...

How about growing it from seed? Do any of the usual suspects have it in their catalogs? (Burpee, Harris, Park, etc)
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When speaking of "most consumers" I just assume they aren't bona fide gardeners, e.g., knowledgeable about plants, interested in more unusual plants, & enjoy spending time outside & working in the garden. Most people simply want something to plunk in "that spot" and be done with it. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a difference in priorities. Drive around town and take a look at the front yards -- most are the same old, same old. But I suspect the "same old" folks prefer the same look as their neighbors. As my mother would say, "There's no accounting for taste."
Suzy O
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