The Roller Coaster Ride of 2020

March 12, 2021

by Phil Caldwell

In 2020 nurseries and garden centers nationwide experienced a rollercoaster ride of unexpected dread and some thrills. The December issue of Digger Magazine, published monthly by the Oregon Association of Nurseries, answered many questions I’d had about the affects of COVID on the Green Industry.

The early spring brought much uncertainty due to COVID related shutdowns, but nurseries, garden centers, and landscapers were very fortunate to be considered essential businesses and allowed to stay open resulting in very good spring and summer sales. Many growers said they had to hustle to restock inventory for fall sales.

As the 2021 season approaches some wholesale growers, and not just those in Oregon, are predicting a shortage of some plants, but with slight adjustments everything will work out. One example listed was maybe using a 5 1/2-foot Arborvitae for a hedge rather than a 6-foot plant. COVID did hit all of us from a cost of production standpoint. Worker spacing, and hopefully following other safety measures, all take more time and cost more money. Customers should expect to see a rise in prices.

Considering the huge lines at many food pantries and people waiting in their cars for unemployment checks, I think many of us in the landscape industry have been very fortunate. We are in an industry that serves white-collar customers who have been able to hold onto jobs by working from home as much as possible. Many customers may have opted for a garden expansion rather than a long summer trip that couldn’t be taken. The number of landscape jobs I’ve seen in the very few travels I’ve made seems to be about the norm, much to my surprise. Vegetable gardens and canning have certainly made a strong comeback.

Hopefully, now that several COVID vaccines are starting to be given, and a new, more stable President is in office, 2021 will be an easier and less stressful year for us all. We are starting to see the light in what has been a long tunnel.

— Phil Caldwell is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.   

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