Weather woes

August 31, 2011
Written by Myron Love
What a difference a year makes in terms of spring greenhouse sales. Saskatchewan growers were quite happy with this year’s results, especially considering what they had to deal with in 2010.

“Our sales are up 60 per cent over last year,” says Rick Van Duyvendyk, the proprietor of Dutch Growers Greenhouse and Garden Centre in Saskatoon.

“Last year, it was so cold and rainy all spring. This year, the weather has been better, the economy in Saskatchewan is strong, and everything we have is selling.”

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Michiel Verheul, of High Q Greenhouses.
Photo courtesy High Q Greenhouses

 
Paul and Diana Kneeshaw, of Misty Gardens Greenhouse and Garden Centre in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, concur. “We are doing so much better than last spring,” says Diana, “but that’s not hard to do.”

She reports that sales are not quite up to the levels the greenhouse reached in 2009, but that can be explained by competition from a Canadian Tire store that recently moved into the community.

A COLD START IN WESTERN MANITOBA… THEN IT GOT WORSE
■ In Brandon, in western Manitoba, however, no one would blame Bernie Whetter, the owner of The Green Spot, for crying the blues. Spring started off cold and wet in the region.

Then it got worse.

Near record high waters on the Assiniboine and other rivers threatened much of the region with flooding. The Green Spot was one of a number of businesses forced to temporarily close their doors.

“We were evacuated from May 9 to the 26,” Whetter says. “We did some sales from an alternate location, but they were nothing like what they should have been.”

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Larger containers popular
Photo courtesy High Q Greenhouses

 
For Lower Fort Garry Greenhouse and Garden Centre, located just north of Winnipeg, flooding was not a problem. Nonetheless, reports co-owner Betty Swirsky, sales are somewhat down from last year. “We had a lot of traffic on days when it was sunny,” she says, “but there were too many rainy days.”

The situation was a little better in Alberta, says Michiel Verheul of High Q Greenhouses. “We had tons of snow where we are (Morinville, just north of Edmonton) but, fortunately, the weather turned nice in late April and stayed nice,” he says. “I would say that our sales turned out to be average.”

VERY POOR MAY SALES FOR MANY RETAILERS IN B.C.
■ On the West Coast, wet and cold conditions were the norm for spring. Richard Murray, of Hilltop Greenhouses Ltd. in Victoria, said their sales were off by 30 per cent.

“The weather improved once we got into June,” Murray says, “but three good weeks in June won’t make up for what we lost in May.”
 
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Clever signage in the Lower Fort Garry Greenhouse and Garden Centre.  
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Betty Swirsky, co-owner of the Lower Fort Garry Greenhouse and Garden Centre, discusses the spring season with daughter-in-law (and web specialist) Lisanne Pajot.
 
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Rows of hanging baskets in the Lower Fort Garry Greenhouse and Garden Centre. Photo courtesy the shops of st. andrews
 
On the other side of the country, spring sales don’t start until the beginning of June, reports Kim Thistle of The Greenhouse and Garden Store in Little Rapids, Newfoundland. “We go flat out in June,” she says.

Johnny Duykers, of Duykers’ Greenhouse in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, reports that business was pretty slow this spring. “There weren’t a lot of sunny days in May,” he says. “It was cold and cloudy for most of the spring.”

A New Brunswick grower added that, ”we had the most miserable weather you can shake a stick at. Saleswere down from last year because it was so cold and rainy.

The weather wasn’t any better in Quebec or Ontario. “Weather conditions were very poor,” says J.R. Peters, of Humber Nurseries Ltd. in Brampton. “Our sales were down from last year.”

Spring was “all right weatherwise,” says Murray Van Egmond (Edgwood Greenhouses Ltd. in Montreal), “but our spring sales were down.

“The winter wasn’t very good. We are selling fewer and fewer plants every year. We sold a lot of begonias this year but the azaleas that were available were of poor quality. We used to sell a lot of geraniums, but not so much any more.”

Peters (Humber Nurseries) says that customers want a lot of colour.

Containers continue to be in demand. “We sell more containers than bedding plants,” says Thistle (The Greenhouse and Garden Store).

Swirsky (Lower Fort Garry) says demand for containers and baskets remains strong. “People also want larger individual plants and fewer of them,” she reports. “We have cut back on 4” and 6” plants.”

Van Duyvendyk (Dutch Growers) notes that customers are buying a lot of hanging baskets. “You just have to put the plant in the pot and it’s done,” he says.

Verheul (High Q Greenhouses) agrees that the trend is to larger plants, with 12” to 14” containers selling better than smaller containers. ■

Myron Love is a freelance writer in Manitoba.

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