Thursday, December 9, 2010

Monrovia's Demise May Be a Sign That Corporate Owned Nurseries Just Don't Grow

I keep reading these articles and blog postings about Monrovia. 'The Death of Monrovia', 'Goodbye to Brand Names'- I have a few thoughts about that and I feel comfortable sharing with you. I know you may, or may not agree.

Poor, poor Monrovia.
I really want to say that some people are only half informed. Sometimes even me.
Monrovia may have to sell their product to the box stores. If they do decide to go this route then they should choose to strip off all the Monrovia taggage and Monrovia pots should be replaced with basic black.
This quick sell is the fast way the banks are seeing that Monrovia can save itself, but maybe the bank just doesn't look at reality.
The reality is most box stores do not have to pay for the plant until it is purchased. They have that much buying power. The box store will not take care of the plant. Box stores tend to put their "garden center" on the sunny end of the building where plants can sit and bake on the concrete. Sales associates, which are basically cashiers, do not have to water plants. I have been to Home Depot and watched as a lonely cashier just sat in their "toll-booth" style cash-wrap and watched the plants droop, wither, and expire.
A friend of mine who happens to work at Lowe's, and sometimes works for me when she wants plants, told me one day, "If a plant is wilting, or even a group of them, we are not allowed to water them. We are not allowed to get out a hose and fill a bucket and drench a plant we can see is struggling." This is exactly how box store management sees things. So this may turn out be a loss for Monrovia, not a real benefit.

Many have written Monrovia products give IGCs an edge. I say yes and no.
They have a beefy minimum to open an account with, and they sell to places such as ACE Hardware giving them a percentage off because they are a buying group. All this, while people who work at most ACE Hardware stores are comparable to those working in the box stores. Admittedly there are a few ACE stores that take a garden center approach and commit staff to it. I worked in one myself, so I know what I am speaking about in this instance.
That percentage off which Monrovia offers buying groups allows places like ACE Hardware to undersell IGCs. They do not offer the percentage off to small Mom & Pop retailers.

Monrovia is facing what a lot of large production nurseries are having to face. When the times were good they expanded and expanded. They over-expanded like so many. More land, more plants in production, more personnel to take care of the plants. This also results in more fuel, more pest and weed control labor, and more chemicals being used- all at greater costs.
So, Monrovia needs to cut personnel-which they did- but not the high cost executives and administration. Lots of the little guys went- mid management as well. Popagation people, nursery labor, people who tend the plants and make the nursery facilities look neat and clean.

Liquidate some plant materials-maybe large items or decorative/ornamental perennial lines which may have royalty cost associated with them. Keep items such as basic perennials- day lilies and such.
Liquidate some of the land. Yes, they bought it high. They can also pay the bank some of the money and keep their doors open while taking a smaller loss.

Now don't think me a hard ass.

Yes, Monrovia is a name brand recognized nationwide. The name a lot of people equate with quality- that is what they have going for them.

In reality, the market has cut back. Plants are luxury goods.
Housing has slowed and people are not working on their homes as much.
The financial resources are not there as banks are not lending for home building or many improvements.
Most home owners have already planted trees and basic shrubs and they have moved on to inexpensive, quick seasonal color. They may add a few special items to their landscape, but the key word is few.

I feel sorry if a trusted name like Monrovia goes to the wayside (no pun intended). They have helped to build what America views as a reliable name in nursery products. The bank will not get their money back if Monrovia closes entirely. Liquidators will be sent in and blocks of plants auctioned off for pennies on the dollar.

Other large nursery growers struggle at the moment Iseli Nursery has filed for Chapter 11 as of October 5, 2010. America's largest suppliers of roses Weeks Wholesale, and Jackson and Perkins have joined the ranks of  troubled nurseries. An article on, an anonymous reader know as Hort Guy commented. "The rose business is on the edge and the 'National Flower' could be without growers."
Who will grow these roses for Americans? I say the small growers will. Breeders will have to pick up and do the production work themselves. We will return to what our roots in the nursery business have always been- small nurseries, in house production, local suppliers.
Perhaps mail order will rise like a phoenix?

Maybe these unfortunate events will create a movement in localized nurseries with more of a personal and hands on approach to what they sell. Can this be the catalyst that moves the the nursery business away from corporate America?
So many of us have taken this stance with the farmer. We try so hard to support local farming, farmers markets, food co-ops. Should we ask this of the nursery trade and our gardening communities?

Support local nurseries, local tree growers, small greenhouses growers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thinking a bit more GREEN (an article on living the way I do)

Alright, something dawned on me as I was pondering what I could do to live more "green".

I thought I could just be using food tat I have grown, well, I do that and it's a bit limited because of the season. So I need to start canning, just not freezing things.

Then I had another revelation. I have been living the concept for years. I mean way back when I got my drivers license kind of years.
Getting my drivers license was like personal freedom. I could go to garage sales. I could gather and amass whatever I could get into my vehicle. I gathered yearly in the beginning and had sales of my own. I learned to take what I had and make a profit with it in one feel swoop.

Think about it, garage sales are sort of like selective recycling. I look around my house and try to find new furniture- well, it's new to me. Dishes? Found in a thrift shop. Glasses? Goodwill and other thrift shops. Tables, lamps, chairs, bed frames, more lamps, benches, vases, mirrors, objects and plant stands. Trash baskets, book cases, end tables. They all are used and I am reusing them.
I seem to have new kitchen things as I don't care for used spatulas and wooden spoons. I have pans that I have purchased, but all my cast iron is second hand.

Bedding and towels I buy new as well. I am not into used towels.

Books, most of them are second hand as well. DVDs- used. CDs- used.
I do not subscribe to newspapers, I borrow magazines or check them out of the library- for a treat from time to time I 'treat' myself to some publication. I am not big on paper towels, the one role I own is maybe 5 years old and kept in a drawer. Napkins are cloth, dish and bar towels are aplenty.

Even the house- I am wanting to move in a small Victorian cottage- think about it. When it comes time to fix the old girl up, yeah, I will use low VOC paints. I will look at more sustainable material. I will not feel bad that I slaughtered hundreds of trees to build my house. I will try to save as much of the material that I can. I will restore the floors. They are wood on both levels.

Tiles, vintage light fixtures, wool carpets and things to hang on the wall.

I will not stop buying things the way I have. I can always have my own garage sale and let someone else enjoy that I have used and no longer wish to live with.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Old Reliable has Been Updated Again!

I know the title sounds like it should be a car add, but it's not.
I am speaking about tall garden phlox, Plox paniculata. There are many, many hybrids now and some of the old standards still exist. I must rub it in that I do not particularly have a rust or mildew problem in my area so sometimes I don't watch for those that are resistant to such things, but most varieties on the market are.

I like most tall phlox, I do. They are dependable plants. I have had in my gardens such wonderful varieties as 'Mt. Fuji', 'Prince of Orange', 'David', 'Franz Schubert', and the wonderful variegated forms- Love the display of 'Becky Towe'.
For the nursery I have had at times 'Orange Perfection', 'Blue Paradise', 'Goldmine', 'Starfire'. This year I am going to be growing a subtle beauty named 'Jade'. Now when we hear the name 'Jade' we think green. Though these are not solid green flowers they do have an edge of pale celadon on crisp white petals making them very attractive to combine with other phlox and silvery plants.

I just can't imagine a perennial boarder without late summer beauties such as Phlox paniculata. Some are deliciously fragrant and others are just shocking in color. Some are so fade proof in my hot desert sun that I love to design with them as well. They are hardy, rapid growers that will grow into a divisible clump within three years. And though the tag may say 18-22 inches, with a good spring mulching they should jump up to a good two feet or more by the end of the season.

To stake or not to stake? I should be staking mine, the winds we have out here are just disastrous at times, and if you get a good rain they could just turn into a heap of blooms flopping in all directions. So I might suggest creating some form of support for them by the end of the summer. When I say support it does not have to be some wire basket contraption, it could be something as easy as some twigs and garden twine. Subtle and organic is most often times less detectable as dark green wire hoops on rod-like legs.
If you like the cottage look- either English cottage or the Victorian American- these are highly recommended plants for your garden. Plant them behind daylilies (Hemerocallis) and along side Echinaceas to create a soft and colorful look. I think about using Orange Perfection with Silvermound Artemisia or Santolina in the foreground to give it a more electric look.