Judy Thompson is both worried and fed up with the seemingly endless spring rains.
She has up to two acres of unsold plants at Forest Glen Greenhouses’ Brookfield operation, unable to sell them as the cold and damp weather has kept people indoors.
“I’ve been in the business 34 years, so I think this is the worst season we’ve had,” said Thompson, owner of the business. “We’re going to have to move it fast, our window’s going to be really small.”
She believes her business is about two weeks behind where they ought to be in sales and shipments.
Thompson sells a range of annuals, perennials and vegetable plants wholesale to the Atlantic Superstore garden centres across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Maritimes, but store customers simply aren’t buying.
This means Thompson is unable to restock the stores’ garden centres, causing a backlog of excess plant products at her greenhouses.
While shopping in the rain and cold is no fun for customers, Thompson is also worried that memories of last year’s severe June frost are keeping prospective gardeners away, fearing a repeat.
“We need more than one day of sun in a row and that’s basically all we’ve had,” said Thompson.
At Lowland Gardens in Great Village, Michael van den Hoek said customers are “slowly coming back.”
Van den Hoek, who is preparing to take over the business from his parents, said 80 per cent of his sales are retail, with some wholesale plant shipments going to both the Home Hardware store in Pugwash and the Masstown Market.
Like Thompson, van den Hoek said plant-killing frosts like last year’s have made potential buyers nervous.
He stocks a similar range of products to Thompson, including both ornamental and vegetable and herb plants.
“It has definitely been a challenging season, but we are in agriculture, our products are living things, you have to take the good with the bad,” said van den Hoek. “We’re now reaching the turning point where people are ready.”
However, Hillendale Perennials is enjoying a brisker trade in its herbs, salad and perennial plants, many of which are hardy specimens capable of withstanding harsh weather.
Owner Lloyd Mapplebeck said niche and independent businesses like his are doing better than full-service garden centres.
He's looking forward to literal busloads of customers, as gardening clubs from all over Nova Scotia as well as New Brunswick regularly send coaches of people to his Hilden headquarters, where they can buy whatever they need. A 50-strong group from New Brunswick paid Mapplebeck a visit a few days back.
“In this business you’ve got to go for the average,” said Mapplebeck. “If it averages out well, you’re still in business after 30 years.”