Pandemic Creates Local Plant Craze

As coronavirus brought stay-at-home orders, treasure hunts for toilet paper, and the possibility of food shortages, local nurseries reported an increase in plant sales that has lasted for months.  

As Andrea Shonnard says, “With COVID, people came back to mother nature.” 

Shonnard works as a merchandiser and buyer at Shonnards, a local family-owned and operated nursery. She said that at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, many people were concerned about needing to grow their own food.  

The result was a huge uptick in the purchasing of seed packets, with some even purchasing one of every kind of seed packet sold at the store. Once it was too late in the season to plant seeds, plant starts came into demand.  

Garland Nursery also noted its sales on seeds and plants that produced food were much higher than usual due to worries about a food shortage. Sadie Gilford at Susan’s Garden and Coffee Shop said their suppliers couldn’t even grow starts fast enough to keep up with the high demand.  

After the initial concerns over food, the urge to grow continued. All three nurseries saw an increase in sales of other kinds of plants from lawn plants to house plants. Even now, plants are still being sold in much larger quantities than is standard for this time of year.  

Shonnard said lawn and garden décor also became popular as many customers were seeking out things that would give them a vacation feeling in their own homes. Some people prefer to have house plants in their Zoom calls, or even just around their home in general. Statuaries, shrubs, trees, arbors, and various benches were popular among those looking for a Zen garden. 

Shonnards’s landscaping company is booked at least until the beginning of next year.  Josh Ashcraft at Garland Nursery said the same of their landscapers.  

With all the heavy plant traffic, the nurseries reported that there was a soil shortage. When asked about that, Gilford laughed and said Susan’s Garden and Coffee Shop had soil sales at the beginning of stay-at-home orders, only to experience a lack of soil later on. Ashcraft said the compost mixer that supplied Garland broke due to the amount of use. All-purpose soil, soil for raised beds, and rose fertilizer are among those in short supply.  

Shonnard expressed pleasure in the number of new people who grew to become regulars. She said often people will grow discouraged if a plant doesn’t do well and stop trying. Instead, there are many that come in to ask questions about how to better care for their plants, as many feel they finally have time to devote to plant care.  

Gilford said the interest in plants is “awesome for our little garden community here in Corvallis, too.” 

The raised interest in gardening has kept these nurseries in a position to keep their staff. Though there have been changes due to the pandemic, such as Susan’s Garden and Coffee Shop doing delivery and then outdoor seating, some of them have been quite positive. Because so many people have bought plants, Shonnard mentioned that now they can carry more specialty and unique plants.  

Ashcraft said the plants have been a good coping mechanism for many: “I think it’s helped a lot of people.”  

By Hannah Ramsey