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Strong spring for many retailers

September 15, 2009  By Myron Love

home_veggiesSept. 15, 2009 – Vegetable plants were the hot items this past spring for many Canadian greenhouse and garden centre operators.

Sept. 15, 2009 – Vegetable plants were the hot items this past spring for many Canadian greenhouse and garden centre operators. 

Many retailers reported a strong spring.



“Vegetable sales have been insane for us this year,” said Brad Watson, general manager at Calgary’s Sunnydale Home and Garden Centre/Greenhouses Ltd. “Tomato plants were particularly popular. People want ready products.” 

Breeders are increasing their
vegetable options.


Jan Pedersen, president of Shelmerdine Garden Centre in Winnipeg, reported his outlet’s vegetable plant sales have almost tripled over the last three to four years.

In Brandon, The Green Spot’s Ernie Whetter noted that while bedding and flower sales were about the same as last year, there was a much stronger demand for vegetables, especially tomatoes. “We ran out of tomato plants last year,” he said. “Everybody is getting them while they still can.” 

At Sheridan Nurseries’ stores in the Toronto area, Karl Stensson also noted the popularity of vegetables, as did Darlene Den Haan of Den Haan’s Greenhouse and Garden World in Halifax. 

John Zaplatynsky, president of Burnaby-based GardenWorks, a major chain of garden centres in British Columbia, reported the demand for vegetable seeds began early in the season.

Vegetable plants were also in greater demand this year, he said, as were shrubs and perennials. “It was a hard winter and people lost a lot of their more tender shrubs and perennials,” he noted. 

“Vegetables have been huge sellers this year,” added Brooke Smith of Victoria-based Marigold Nurseries. “People enjoy growing their own food, knowing where it came from and knowing that it is fresh.”  Anything with colour also sold well, she added. 

Sales this year have been way up, Smith said. “We had our best Mother’s Day sales in four years.” 

Zaplatynsky also reported solid growth in sales this spring for most of GardenWorks’ eight stores. “Our sales were better than we expected.”

In Alberta, Rob Sproule of Edmonton-based Salisbury Greenhouses reported that sales were excellent through April and continued to the Victoria Day weekend. 

Kathy Paget, who operates KP Gardens in Unity, Saskatchewan, (west of Saskatoon, near the border with Alberta) also reported slower sales this spring because of cooler weather. “The weather was cold every day right through Victoria Day Monday,” she said. 

Priscilla Mah, of Central Botanical Greenhouse in Saskatoon, said spring sales were fairly slow because of the weather. She said there was increased demand for ivy geraniums as well as vegetable plants. 

The Green Spot’s Whetter noted that his business was affected by the cooler spring weather. “Our spring sales were down from what they were last year,” he said. 

Donna Winters of Gamble’s Greenhouses in Nepean, Ontario, said her store’s sales weren’t bad this spring “considering the weather.  We had a run on business the Saturday of the long weekend,” she said. “Our sales figures for the weekend and the spring were about the same as last year.” 

Karl Stensson of Sheridan Nurseries said that while weather conditions in the Toronto area impacted sales the first two days of the May long weekend, sales were “through the roof” on the Monday and continued brisk after that. “It has been a bit of a funny year,” said Stensson. “The weather in April was excellent, but the first three weeks of May were very bad. Since then, the weather and sales have been very good. We’re up about five per cent over last year.” 

Alex Cunningham said his 100-year-old Jack Vincelli Inc. greenhouse in Montreal’s Cote St. Luc district also registered strong growth this past spring despite very poor weather conditions over the long weekend. Cunningham said a lot of customers were buying begonias. 

Den Haan noted that in Nova Scotia, much like the rest of Canada, spring was late in arriving. Nonetheless, she reported that sales figures in April were on par or even slightly higher than in April of 2008 and that her store enjoyed record-breaking sales on Mother’s Day. 

“Our sales for the May long weekend were also on par with last year despite cool weather and the weekend falling a little earlier in the month this year.”

In St. John’s, Newfoundland, Genna Putt of Rise and Shine Nursery and Garden Care said it is too early to tell how spring sales will turn out. The season for them was just starting at about the time of our June survey. “Our planting season doesn’t start until late June,” she explained during our call.

Myron Love is a freelance writer and photographer in Winnipeg.

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