Stores with garden centers, like Home Depot, Walmart, and Menards have remained open as essential businesses throughout the pandemic. But some smaller retailers have been creatively getting their plants to customers.
Wildewood on East Johnson Street specializes in house plants and home goods. Owner Kate Holl says she had to launch an online store, which she promoted on social media. She says her business is now delivery, shipping, or curbside, which all total about a fourth of its usual business. However, people are still buying house plants for themselves or their loved ones. Holl says, “I just see an massive trend of people wanting to bringing the outdoors in and just making their space feel as comfortable since so many of us are needing to stay home right now.”
On Willy Street, the Madison Greenhouse Store is operating through curbside pick-up. Owner Tiffany Olsen says the store is very small, making social distancing difficult. “We will be letting people in soon, partially because it’s gonna be hard for people to understand that we’re still not allowing them in when every other store is letting people walk in,” Olsen says. “We just want to make sure all of the best practices are being done and all of my coworkers are comfortable in that scenario.” The store is currently selling vegetables and flowers.
Olbrich Botanical Garden has been closed to the public since March. Director of Horticulture Jeff Epping says they moved their annual “Plant Sale with the Pros” online. “It was a reduce sale for sure, but we were still able to offer some great plants,” Epping says. “And the response was fantastic. We pretty much sold out of everything we had.” He says many fundraising events have been cancelled, but the garden is selling bouquets on their website.
The Gardens Network is a partnership with UW-Madison – Extension Dane County, the City of Madison, and the non-profit Rooted. Manager Nicholas Leete says there are 37 community gardens in Dane County. He says most operate on a sliding scale. Recently people have been inquiring about plots in the gardens. “At a lot of our community gardens we’ve seen more requests from new gardeners to get plots and requests from existing gardens to expand their plots,” Leete says. “There is limited time perhaps, and more limited funds. People are looking at gardening as potential food source and activity they can do.”
Leete says The Gardens Network has been working with community gardens to post safety guidelines and provide sanitation supplies. If you are thinking of planting your own produce, Leete suggests you start with something that already has a head start. “Larger things that you’re planting are usually easier, he says. “Larger seeds have more energy to grow before they are overwhelmed.”
Jonah Chester contributed audio to this story.