Recently it seems our phone rings and we get the same question very frequently, “Do you have Arborvitaes?’ When we explain that we are sorry, they are currently sold out, we get the same question from every caller “why am I hearing this everywhere we call?”. The answer is simple yet complex. To start with, privacy trees such as arborvitaes, and, well, plants in general became one of the leading quarantine trends.
For the past 2 seasons we have heard, more than ever before, the same story. Folks have been home more and are noticing they see their neighbor way more than they want to. Most of the time they go on to say they like their neighbor they just want some privacy. But oh, the stories we hear about the neighbor they don’t like or the junk they don’t want to have to look at. Either way, in 2020 our sales on arborvitaes alone doubled from previous years and if we would have had more available no doubt they would have tripled or quadrupled even. In 2020 we dipped into or projected availability for this year. This year found us dipping into the supply we had hope to allow to grow larger and planned to sell in 2022 or 2023.
In a February 2021 article in Southern Living Magazine titled ‘Plants Are the New Toilet Paper’ and subtitled ‘When everyone wants the same thing at once, stuff happens’ the author quoted the following reasons for the shortage; the housing boom, working from home means no more excuses and you are bored out of your ever-loving mind. All these reasons I can say I agree with for sure, but there really is a lot more to the story which I will explain later.
For now, I want to elaborate on the current situation. Greater demand = shorter supply. Travel restrictions kept people home. Home and landscape renovations surged during the lockdown. The pandemic had a huge impact on the green industry, we were considered essential. Businesses (like ours) saw a huge spike in sales from homeowners wanting to improve the environment they were “stuck in”. So, we became lumped into a category with many other industries that fell prey to demand and were not able to keep up, swimming pools, work (school) from home desks, freezers, thermometers, sheesh I could go on and on. Even Heinz Ketchup had a hard time catching up with the demand for single serve packages of their product because of the takeout industry. Who ever would have thought ketchup would be a high demand item which would be hard to get?
Another question we hear is “well, why can’t you just get them from another grower if you don’t have them”. Trust me, we don’t mind supplementing our inventory and definitely have to from time to time to provide our customers with what they want. But Yikes, have you seen what has happened to the transportation industry? The Freight costs have gone higher than we have seen in a very long time. But the real answer to that question is the shortage in not just our farm it is everywhere. We continue to try to find them with no success.
I know this is going to sound like a string of excuses, but they are not excuses they are reality. Industry wide there is a severe shortage of workers. Landscaping, growing etc. are physically demanding jobs, you must be willing to work in all kinds of weather conditions. Then there is the uncertainty of seasonal employment. Less bodies to do the work means less that can get done. 2020 and 2021 our industry has been BUSY! More jobs, less employees – simply don’t have the time to do everything. That being said in the last 2 years we have managed to plant over 6000 arborvitaes in our fields, Yes! The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, right? Well, did you know it takes 6-8 years to get an arborvitae to a decent sellable size? That is not to say we will not have more arborvitaes year; this fall we will be digging a limited quantity of 4, 5, 6 and 7 foot Green Giant Arborvitaes however, you will want to call us NOW or and give us a deposit to hold what you need. If you are not ready this year you still want to call now and have us put you on our ‘Call When In List’ for Spring 2022.
Now to the bigger picture, the more to the story I said I will explain later. Hopefully I haven’t lost you because this is interesting. The lack of field grown plants stems all the way back to the housing market crash of 2005-2008. What does the housing market have to do with plants you might ask? Well, when the housing market faulters so does all related industries. The green industry saw a huge decline in sales, this huge decline leads to no capital to invest in the future. Keeping our heads above water and not failing as a company was the main priority. Many growers closed their doors during this time. Lining out fields (planting saplings) was not something growers could afford to do. It was not only about affording to plant it was also the space to plant. Think about it, if the trees that are in the ground are not selling, a grower simply has no place to plant new ones.
In the years recovering from the recession, growers that stayed in business were able to sell off the some of the plants that were left in the fields which was great however, plants grow at their own speed and increase in size over time. A lot of trees that had not sold during the recession simply became too big for the average homeowner and fields were needing to be completely removed to make space to replant. This was a huge investment in time and money which had to wait in most cases until the grower could get back on their feet. Which in many cases was several years after the recession.
The lack of planting during the recession and beyond was going to catch up eventually and it finally began to in 2017. It was about then every news outlet began reporting on the “Christmas Tree Shortage”. What they weren’t reporting on was the tree and evergreen shortage in general. All field grown plants were becoming scarce. What was in the fields was either too small to sell (having recently been planted) or too large to meet customers needs or affordability.
Compiling the higher than usual demand over the last two years on top of already low stock most growers were experiencing has led to a ‘PlantDemic’ of a proportion never seen in our industry before. Please know we are doing everything in our power to provide our customers with the top-quality plants you have learned to expect from Wilkinson Nursery for the past 89 years.
Call now 724-925-7261 to reserve your share of the limited Green Giant Arborvitaes we will be digging this fall!
This is on of our baby Green Giant Arborvitae fields we have planted for you for the future! Aren't they adorable! Grow Baby Grow!