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Okanagan garden centres see new green thumbs sprouting everywhere

The busy season is just beginning for local nurseries, like The Greenery.
February 06, 2021 - 3:00 PM

Melissa Smyk lightheartedly commented in a group of fellow green thumbs that she would be taking Feb. 26 off work so she could get first crack at buying this year's crop of houseplants when a popular Kelowna garden centre opens for the season.

Immediately others chimed in, saying on the Okanagan plant Facebook page that they would be following suit while others merely expressed excitement that there was some more plant browsing and buying to be done.

All of it, she surmised, is a sign of the times.

“I was into houseplants before COVID-19 but probably, like most people, my collection has doubled or tripled in the last year,” she said. “You have that downtime and you’re in your home a lot and you start to realize how many different plant communities there are.”

Smyk took a dive into Reddit to find out if there were any plant-enthusiast groups and was directed to Facebook where she found a number of plant-focused pages and tips as well as a blossoming plant community.

And from there on in, her plant knowledge bloomed.

During the early days of the pandemic as more stores closed, she and others realized, Big Box stores of varying kinds stayed open and they kept stocking plants.

People on the social media groups she’d joined started offering up information on what stores had new plants when and how they were restocking. 

“You have your little groups and chats about who’s where and how people are picking plants up, and whether they could pick up some for others,” she said.

Since then, she’s learned more about the plants she’s growing and has even noticed a vibrant side economy growing among those who suss out and resell vintage hanging planters and plant shelves.

People have gone crazy for plants.

It's not lost on those behind the scenes at local garden centres.

For four months of the year, Kelowna residents flock to The Greenery when it opens its doors and load up on the wide array of plants they offer.

It’s a long-held tradition among green thumbs and hobby gardeners alike and manager Kirsten Segler has seen interest ebb and flow.

This year, if Smyk and the plant fanatics on local social media groups are to be believed, their bumper crop is going to fly off the shelves.

Segler said he’s aware that there’s heightened enthusiasm for their earlier-than-usual opening day, and for other garden centres as well.

While he said the real change in demand noticed last year when COVID-19 settled in for the long haul was for vegetables and fruit trees, houseplants are significantly more popular. 

“Indoor plants and succulents — we really focus on those plants in March, and that’s really escalated in the last two years,” Segler said. “We used to open the first Thursday in March and now we’re just saying we’re going to open on Feb. 26 because we know it’s worthwhile.”

Segler said two years ago his team put together 20 to 30 tropical baskets and that basically met the demand.

“Then all of a sudden collector tropicals became just very, very popular,” he said. “We are going to have close to 2,000 tropicals available this season.”

And he agreed with Smyk; current plant consumers are savvy about what's on offer.

It makes sense, he explained.

“Just generally with gardening, people are doing it more,” he said. “They’re not travelling as much, either because they’re not allowed to or they don’t want to, and they know they’re going to be home in their yard. They know they’re going to have time to garden.”

While he said that there’s clearly a market today and that Millennials are definitely more likely to keep houseplants these days, he’s not sure how long the trend will hold up.

“It will be that way for a year, then we will see,” he said. “People may still be scared and when things open up they may still stay home.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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