A few days ago, I received the following email: “We are ramping up for our spring season at Urban Roots and we want to do some customer surveys to find out what we need to do to capture more of each gardener’s annual budget (who is still shopping at other places and what can we do differently to get them to spend more of those dollars at UR?). Can you think of any current UR customers who spend quite a bit on their gardens each year, but are still finding it necessary to also shop at other locations?”
And here is my answer: “Maniacal gardeners like me shop at all the local nurseries plus maybe 4-5 mail order places. It has nothing to do with logic or actual needs.”
Yeah, but sometimes I wonder. Urban Roots is a co-op gardening center, the only one in Western New York and one of only two garden centers within the actual city limits of Buffalo. If I were to shop there exclusively (and I am a founding member), I would be supporting a great local business, one that is starting its own greenhouse, and whose purchasing and merchandising follows organic, sustainable guidelines. Yet, here I am, stopping off regularly at Home Depot to see if anything good and cheap just came in, not to mention regular trips to pricey suburban nurseries, and definitely not to mention my current $300-plus mail order tab.
How many more plants must die before I (and others) are able to curb our rabid consumption? When I started gardening seriously, I had every intention of instituting a perennial garden where, presumably, hardy plants would return, even increase, every year, making continual replacement and replenishment unnecessary. In such a case, my minimal needs might be met very well indeed by a neighborhood co-op.
I often wonder how much of my plant buying is utterly frivolous, whether I am unconsciously buying plants I know will fail so there is always a need to buy more. Is sustainability in this area impossible—at least for me? But then there is the marketing. “Ever-blooming” roses that put out 3 flowers in June and that’s it. Alstroemeria promised to survive in a zone 5b garden. The myth of the Endless Summer hydrangea. Mildew-resistant monarda. First-season blooming wisteria. Did I say about the ever-blooming roses?
Sure, we wise up to a lot of it, but we all have an Achilles-heel, garden-wise. It seems to me that planned obsolescence and consumer culture may be more a part of our gardening practice than many of us would like to admit. And that’s one reason I’m afraid I’ll never be able to shop sensibly and sustainably a couple times a season at my local co-op. Other than I just love spending lots of money on plants.