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A Tired Nursery Worker
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

July 6, 2003

This is a bit of an odds and sods column, Gentle Reader, mostly concerning silly little things that pop up at a nursery or garden centre. As a mild caution, I'm really tired so if you detect a titch of asperity in some comments, you know why. Next week I'll try to balance it with some of the more amusing moments- sufficiently disguised so you won't recognise yourself.

The garden centres and nurseries are up and running at full speed. The folks in all of them are trying their best to give you the product and services you want. We who work at such places enjoy meeting you and helping you develop your dream landscapes and gardens. Every now and again, though, communications or expectations go awry and dissatisfaction results. None of us are happy when this occurs. Sometimes it's just because the staff are flat out tired.

Not an excuse mind you; just a bit of explanation. Here's why we're sometimes a tad slow off the mark.

New stock arrives at all hours of the day and evening. It all needs to be unloaded from the trucks, checked over for acceptable quality, set out on the tables or nursery beds, labelled, priced and watered. Existing stock needs a bit of TLC after a hard day of being handled. Orphans need to be reunited with their families. (An orphan, GR, is a plant that almost made it to a new home. Unfortunately, something else caught the customer's eye, and the plant was set down, willy-nilly, in favour of another. More often than not, the tag has been removed.) Displays need to be changed, new signs posted while sweeping and mopping are daily chores. All of this is usually done before or after regular retail hours by the same staff that helped you out during your visit. Fortunately, most of you folk are pretty neat and recharge our batteries for us.

We receive many telephone queries concerning product availability and pricing. We try to give a quick yes and no response with a price range. We really can't take much more time than that because of the people waiting in line during your call. For example, "Do you sell lilacs? What kind and how much are they?" Well, 12 or more varieties of French hybrids in several sizes all at different prices; 8 or 9 varieties of the Prestons with a similar range of selections and prices. Many are available in standard form. Add billiardii, baillebelle, patula, and pallibin and you can see how long it would take to respond completely. We're really not trying to be abrupt or rude.

If you ask for a specific plant we might be more precise but problems still pop up.

We might say that a certain plant is available but when you arrive it isn't. We really didn't give you a false response just to lure you in. During your trip someone might have purchased it. For example, this year the tall marigolds are very popular- did Lois wax eloquent about them? When you called we might have had several hundred of them. As you drove in, five people bought 10 or 15 each and then a landscaper scooped up the rest, including our stash down in the hoophouse.

We're often asked, "ABC sells the same plant for x amount less, and will you give us the same price?" Is it? Is it exactly the same size with the same amount of development? When it arrived at ABC did it get watered? Was it put away carefully? Does ABC offer the same warranty that XYZ does? Can the staff at ABC tell you how to care for it? We can't answer that one.

One of the best things about working where we do is that we get to share our love of plants with others who feel the same. It is one of the few professions where our customers are really happy to be there. We get to know most of you, if not by name, then certainly by passions. It's almost like a loosely connected family. Sometimes, family members are grumpy, especially when tired.



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