Today we are going to talk about inventory and why it is publicized on our website and whether or not it helps us sell plants. The theory is that the more information about our plants and our innermost feelings that is out there, the better things will be. The other day I attended a winter sales show and got to spend an hour listening to deficiencies in our inventory reporting system. I learned much and figured out little.
What happens is that we are always making plants—potting up plugs or field divisions into gallon pots. Depending on the size of the field division and the vernalization of the plug, we can get relatively quick salability. However, what is on our website as plant inventory is exactly what the inventory people say is mature and well-rooted that day. We do not have a way of getting the really important information to our customer, which is how many of which we will have in a month. We also do not have a way of predicting how many of any one batch will get sold in the next month and thus not be available. Needless to say, in my next reincarnation I plan on coming back as something that has an easier job; maybe a toad or, better yet, a snapping turtle.
The specific problem that was the cause of the one hour conversation had to do with a some rich people who wanted their house to look finished the day the landscaping was completed and while we had started out having the several thousand gallons of whatever nice flowering perennial they wanted, by the time we shipped we had only half of them. And so we did what any honest nursery person would have done, we shipped the other half from a newer, younger, and thinner batch. The rich homeowner was not interested in a speech on how good and uniform things would look the next year after going through a good dormancy period. They were not botanists, they were rich.
Nowadays I worry that we will be missing sales because everyone can look up our inventory on the internet and they think that is all we will have this year. Rest assured, we are always potting things up and studying the trends and reading the tea leaves, trying, desperately, always trying to sell what we have and to have what sells.
I do have some advice for our landscaper customers. This I learned some years ago when we grew some plants for some rich person’s house on Lake Michigan. These people were so rich that they hired a big helicopter to fly some big chunk of granite that some artist with little conscience had assured them was art across Lake Michigan from Chicago where they had purchased this treasure to plunk it down on top of some sand dune by their house. The rich Chicago people own all of the lake shore over here on Lake Michigan so that us local honest farmers are not able to purchase anything there. They were also rich enough to have hired Oehme von Sweden to design the native latest rage landscape. Oehme von Sweden did two things, which were deeply related, although the relationship was not apparent at first: they charged a great deal and then told the customer that the landscaping would look terrible the first year it was installed and maybe even for part of the next year and then it would look exactly as imagined in the eye of the designer. Because of all the money spent, the customer believed Oehme von Sweden and happily waited with patience. Maybe you can try that approach. Maybe if you wrote as many books with beautiful pictures in them as Oehme van Sweden did, then you could get by with charging as much and telling them to quit complaining.
I am not in the landscaping business and never have been and the one or two times that I thought that I could unload a few acres too many of grasses on some unsuspecting person and did some landscaping I found out that it was hard work, that the customer did not understand the concept of dragging out the garden hose and watering the plants to keep them alive, and then they only made the first and partial payment. I have new respect and admiration for the landscapers any more—they deal with the home owners and collect from them all at the same time.
So, my suggestion is that everyone keep working out there. We will keep working here. And maybe we will both get lucky and do things right.