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Business blooming in nation’s nurseries

The nation’s plant nurseries are booming as an economic downturn and a“grow it yourself” trend is sending Canadians out to play in theirgardens.

The nation’s plant nurseries are booming as an economic downturn and a “grow it yourself” trend is sending Canadians out to play in their gardens.

Rebecca van der Zalm, the manager of operations for Art’s Nursery in Surrey, B.C., says her store is bustling and her staff are swamped on one of the most popular gardening weekends of the year.

“It’s been really busy the last few weeks,” she said.

“Even if there is an economic downturn, my philosophy is that people are staying home more and entertaining more so they want to pretty up their patio pots and their gardens so they can enjoy their down time.”

She suspects Canadians are cutting fine dining from their budgets and turning instead to home-cooked meals eaten on the deck and backyard barbecues.

“The first things that go are the luxury items, the going out to eat, the new car,” van der Zalm said.

“But when it comes to the garden people get a lot of satisfaction out of it. And it’s not only satisfying and relaxing — for some it’s a form of entertainment and they can enjoy the results.”
In Quebec, Pepiniere Jasmin’s president Pierre Jasmin says it’s not just the province’s early spring that’s helping cultivate business at his Montreal-area nursery. “We’re a privileged sector,” he said.

“People come to us regardless of the hard times. We haven’t seen a drop in sales at all. We’ve seen the same thing during other economic downturns. It’s an interesting phenomenon.”

The recession and a craze for all things ecological are also driving up the sale of fruit and vegetable plants.

Spiking produce prices may be further spurring the growth of gardening.

Statistics Canada recently reported that the cost of fresh vegetables increased by 26 per cent and fresh fruit prices jumped by 19 per cent between March 2008 and March 2009.

In fact, growing your own vegetables is shaping up to be one of the hottest horticulture trends of 2009, according to the Garden Media Group.

“It’s been really hard to keep up with our vegetable sales and our herb sales have doubled,” van der Zalm agreed.

“It may be partly saving cash, it may be partly being green and there’s been a lot of press on growing your own things and trying to get more organic. Vegetable and herb gardening is a great way to start. It’s exciting to eat the product you’re growing and it’s a great thing to do as a family.”

It’s a fad that Jasmin has noticed as well.

“It’s a return to the earth, they’re looking for a return on their investment,” he said.

“They want something that bears fruit. When people spend money now they want to spend sensibly — they’re not spending on esthetic things, they’re not buying as many decorative plants.”

Gardening is one of the most popular leisure activities in Canada. About 75 per cent of Canadian households purchased garden supplies and services in 2007 and nursery sales across Canada totalled $630 million, according to government statistics.

It’s also a hobby that can be enjoyed by urban, suburban and rural Canadians at any income level.

“Our business caters to people from all economic incomes,” van der Zalm noted.

“You can get into gardening on a large scale or a small scale. There are veggies you can grow, even in a pot."

 
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