Minnesota Gardens

“Gardening is not cancelled’ states a sign at Minnesota Gardens in Chaska.

Everything across the board.

That’s Kelly Lorenz’s answer to what more and more people bought at her landscape and garden center this spring.

The manager of the Mustard Seed, on Great Plains Boulevard in Chanhassen, said weather-based shops like garden stores ebb and flow based on weather. But surprisingly, one constant offered itself as a silver lining this year: COVID-19.

“People have the time to work in their yards, so the project that had been tabled for years? (Now they’re) like, ‘OK, we’re diving in this year,’” Lorenz said.

Last May, the Mustard Seed saw 4,500 transactions. This May, that number rose to 5,800.

“That’s a thousand more guests,” she said.

‘EXPLORING & DIVING’

In April, those transactions doubled from last year. Part of it, Lorenz said, traced back to great weather. It primed people to be in their gardens. But the projects this year, she said, are bigger and more time-consuming since people are at home more.

“We had a lot more phone calls to get mulch delivered by the bulk,” she said. “They’re not just touching up here or there. They’re redoing the whole garden.”

She said more customers are getting their hands dirty by pulling out overgrown weeds, re-mulching garden beds, or giving their yards a face-lift.

“‘OK, we’re tired of seeing this,’” Lorenz remembers some customers saying. “Or, ‘We’re enjoying our deck more and didn’t realize how close we were to the neighbors and would like a little more screening.’”

She said there’s certainly more people “exploring and diving into” growing their own food, whether it’s families or older adults looking to keep busy. Both regulars and new clients stopped by this season to try their hand at growing new vegetables or fruits, she said.

Though the silver lining has its downside.

“It was challenging for us because we were never stocked with our full offering that we normally have to offer people,” she said with a laugh, noting the store cleared out quicker this year than most.

BUSTLING

Mark Buse with Minnesota Gardens shared a similar sentiment.

Yes, the garden business is always volatile. Take last spring when the season arrived late, and Buse said every garden center he knew took a hit.

But this year told a remarkable story.

Minnesota Gardens, which has a station outside the Chaska Cub Foods in the spring and early summer, not only did well this year but made up for last year’s dip in profit.

On an average day, they’d be happy to get $1,200. This year he and his wife, Jennifer, his $22,000 in one day alone.

“We literally had people lined up,” he said, noting social distancing measures were in place. “I looked at Jen and we looked at our staff and we were just smiling and beyond happy.”

He credits some success to an app that listed every plant for sale, where people could select items for delivery.

“It really went smooth using that app,” Buse said.

TAPERING OFF

Since prime growing season has passed, Buse said most garden centers are offering deep discounts and finalizing a lot of sales. They’re “over the hump,” as he puts it.

It’s also a time for Lorenz to reflect on the season. While she’s happy to have seen such buzz in the garden world this season, she isn’t stopping there.

She’s looking into re-booting small-group classes or events to keep the education going.

“It’s nice to see people connecting back with some memories or exploring some new things to do,” Lorenz said. “I just want to keep encouraging and fostering that.”

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