Taking solace in one’s landscape or garden took on an entirely new gravitas this spring. Stuck at home with nowhere to go — be it work or play — many homeowners became acutely aware of how a beautiful and functional landscape space impacts their lives and wellbeing. Not to mention, disruptions in the food supply chain and access to fresh produce. The COVID-19 pandemic shone a new light on the benefits of gardening and the beauty of the natural world, as well as the functionality and beauty — or lack thereof — of our existing landscape and public green spaces.
As a free-range kid of the 70’s, I feel lucky that my childhood mostly meant getting kicked out of the house all day to play outside. No TV, no screens or phones, just nature, mud pies and bikes. Our backyard (and the rest of the neighborhood) was a haven for our imaginations because we had no choice but to figure out how to entertain ourselves. With the kids home all day, every day, having some functional places to play outdoors takes on bigger significance.
My mom grew a vegetable garden because we needed to stretch our food budget, which I suspect will be the case for many moving forward. Food gardening saw a huge boost in popularity over the spring as many homeowners and balcony gardeners alike saw fit to fill in shortages with their own homegrown produce. Not that getting started with vegetable gardening is always a cheap endeavor, but many will be looking for low-cost entry points to growing at least a small amount of their own food. As seen by the massive run on seeds this spring, we have many new budding gardeners to educate and grow.
As an adult stuck in quarantine or municipal shut down, landscape priorities also lean towards privacy, beauty and a comfortable place to relax away from all the screens. The backyard pool industry is having a boom right now. Never was there a time I wished more for a small pool in my own backyard. I would imagine kiddie pool sales are way up too.
All this time spent at home has brought to light for many homeowners the importance of improvements they want and need to make on their property. Urban-fit trees and shrubs for privacy and noise reduction, adequate greenspace or play equipment to keep the kids active outdoors, a nice patio on which to relax and destress, pools and hot tubs, and some flowers and edibles to grow their green thumbs. If you are suddenly spending a ton of time in your yard every day, you will quickly realize its deficiencies or lack of functionality for your new reality. This is especially true for homeowners who now find themselves tele-commuters who may be working and home schooling from home indefinitely.
With travel out the window for most of us, at least for the near future, many homeowners are also considering how staycation-worthy their homes and landscapes are or are not. The landscape design and installation companies I work with saw this shift happen over the spring and into summer. Homeowners are choosing to reinvest in their homes and landscape spaces to make them more useful and enjoyable. Selling one’s home has also gotten a lot more complicated and riskier. When you cannot leave your home, or you have had to reevaluate plans to move, an in-place renovation and refresh may be the only option.
Most importantly, many turned to gardening and growing houseplants as a basic way to manage increased anxiety and stress. Garden centers and gardening in general took on the role of “savior” for many of us during the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plant collecting is back in fashion and I see a big growth in virtual plant communities sharing plant passion and knowledge. If you have not already, now’s the time to ask yourself, “How does my product assortment fulfill these evolving consumer needs and gardening habits?” and, “Am I engaging with consumers in these new digital spaces?”
As you and your business grow and evolve to make the most of our new reality, helping both your landscaper and retailer customers promote the benefits of beautiful and functional landscapes through plants should be a top priority. It is not just meeting retail or installing demand for quantity and quality that is your job. Helping to craft and amplify the narrative about how your plants bring beauty, health, wellness and many other benefits to the holistic experience of home life is just as important. Closely observe the home improvement trends that are happening and integrate them into your end-user marketing.
As stay-at-home now translates to living and working full-time at home, the green industry has a golden opportunity to significantly improve its perception of value. As our customers surround themselves with our plants and products to improve their stay-at-home existence, we will become a much more important and integrated part of their lives.