Editorial July/Aug 2007

February 27, 2008
Written by Hugh McElhone
In the short time that I have been sitting in the editor’s chair I have noticed some strong trends in the garden centre industry as well as some possible concerns that may appear in the near future.
In the short time that I have been sitting in the editor’s chair I have noticed some strong trends in the garden centre industry as well as some possible concerns that may appear in the near future.
Perhaps the strongest trend has been the move to more environmentally friendly gardening. More people are planting native, drought resistant plants that require less water and resist native pests.

 Even flowers with scent are coming back in vogue and perennials have never been more popular.
Today’s gardeners are putting in permanent anchors of trees and shrubs with designated or shifting areas for their annuals and ornamental planters. Rain barrels, garden ponds, trickle irrigation, and organic products are fast becoming the norm and I pity the garden centre operator not already on that bandwagon.

I noticed in the last July/August issue that we ran a news brief about a generation Y university dropout who started a company that sells vermicompost, or liquefied worm manure, in used pop bottles. One year later, he is being sued by Scotts Miracle Gro for using labelling that could be construed as being a knock off of their own.

One wonders how long the fledgling company will be able to hold out against Scotts. It seems that if a giant multinational thinks you may be a threat in the future, you will likely be sued while still trying to get off the ground.

Another concern will be the loss of our best customers, the baby boomers. Brian Minter (page 24) asks what garden centres are doing now to court generations X and Y. I truly hadn’t thought of this, though I should have picked up on the cues in our own office.

Some young co-workers bought their first homes this spring and asked me about the simplest, low maintenance plants to include in their yards and how to arrange them. Immediately interested, I laid out some standard designs and plants, and referred them to reputable garden centres who could have them fully equipped for a garden-planting kegger weekend.

This summer, I asked them how they made out putting their mark on their own turf, and all said they didn’t have time so it never happened. While this explained why I hadn’t been invited to the party, it also hints that operators may want to dabble a bit in the landscape business. Or perhaps offer layouts with plant suggestions and care info. How about selling software or counselling services with a dedicated website too. How bizarre will that sound 10 years down the road?    
Anyway, this editorial is my swan song. For the past couple of months I have been dragging my butt from the farm into the office to help out and while my fresh-from-the-field look has been the envy of my co-workers, it has also caused consternation among management.

As a farm boy – okay middle aged and ripe may be a better description –  I have done my best to take this magazine to its grass roots, where the operators are. I hope I have hit the mark.

Readers will be happy to know Amanda Ryder is the new full-time editor and she has a solid background on the wants and needs of baby boomers and generations X and Y. You can be sure she will follow up on the trends and concerns the industry faces.

All the best,
Hugh McElhone
-interim editor-

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