Admittedly, this spring’s planting season is one like no other Triple Tree Nurseryland’s Tom Van der Pauw has seen during his 55-plus years in the business.
“Every year is a little different, but this is a lot different,” he shared.
Local nursery operators were a little nervous, like most in the industry, when the virus hit B.C. at the beginning of the selling season.
Many other industries were being given shut downs ordered by the province, and garden centre owners feared what that was going to mean for them.
Were they too going to be shuttered, and potentially lose much or all of their bedding plants and veggies?
Thankfully, van der Pauw said, nurseries and garden centres were deemed by the provincial health officer as an essential service. Triple Tree Nurseryland, among others, was permitted to stay open – albeit with some limitation.
Since then, despite some significant reconfiguring of how he conducts the retail end of his business, van der Pauw said he and his team have seen an influx of customers.
“It’s intense in that it’s always busy,” van der Pauw noted, explaining that a reduced team of 11 (normally he would have 17 on staff) are trying to care for a larger number of customers during shorter hours each day.
“The staff I have here, I couldn’t have done it without them,” van der Pauw said, explaining that COVID-19 has really changed some aspects of their business.
They’ve reduced hours of operation, reduced staff, added plexiglass at the cash registers, done away with cash sales, added outdoor cashiers, created one-way aisles, positioned signs and tape directing social distancing, and added email ordering with parking lot pickup.
This spring has been busy – busier than normal, for sure, and all the new systems in place has had it’s impact.
Coming off one of the busiest weekends of the year with Mother’s Day, Triple Tree and other garden centres in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are bracing for what could be a second wave of consumer madness this weekend.
The Victoria Day long weekend is typically seen as the perfect time of the season to plant annuals, as well as vegetables.
Last weekend was crazy busy, said van der Pauw. But he thinks the potential of rain may keep some shoppers at bay this weekend.
Time will tell.
That said, there’s been no real signs of things slowing down, and he’s not expecting it will soon.
“It’s challenging,” he said of the current climate in the gardening industry. “But challenges make you… stronger… I think we’ll get smarter and I think we’ll be better for it.”
Triple Tree Nurseryland was started by his parents in 1962. They lived through five years under German control in the Netherlands during the Second World War, he recounted.
“What they went through was hell,” their son said. “This is very awful, but it’s another thing. We’ll get through it… and every day, I arrive at work and say ‘we’re one day closer’ to it all being over.”
New faces coming in
Van der Pauw said the devoted, older gardeners are still coming in. But Triple Tree is also getting a new crop of people coming in – new (many younger) gardeners anxious to get their hands dirty doing some planting and landscaping.
Most are wanting to grow a vegetable garden of some kind.
“Vegetables have always been big, and this year probably more so,” he said, noting that since COVID-19 he’s been promoting: “Plant your dinner and enjoy your family.”
They’re seeing a lot of first-timers taking up gardening – whether out of boredom or a newfound desire (accentuated by the luxury of time) to beautify their homes and gardens.
“Everyone is at home with their families, so they’re gardening,” van der Pauw said.
Whatever the reason, he predicts once newbies get a taste of gardening, they too will be hooked for life.
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