Thoughts from a not-so-new employee

Mustangrose(cold 8 - PNW)March 21, 2005

About a month ago, I posted a message about being a new employee at a big nursery and got some great advice about making a good first impression. I thought all you nursery owners might enjoy hearing what I think about my first month. First of all, I love this job, I love all the customers, from the sweet little old ladies who just want one primrose, to the experienced gardeners, who continually impress me with the beautiful combinations they create out of the stock they find at our nursery. I can visualize the combinations when they bring them to the check out counter, and there are some very talented people out there. My first impressions ----

Ok, this is one of the most exhausting jobs I have ever had, with the mental challenges of dealing with the more difficult customers and the more difficult planting situations combined with the physical aspects of pushing pulling bending stretching running reaching and stooping, non-stop for 8 or 9 or 10 hours.

Having an extra pair of shoes to change into on your lunch 1/2 hour helps as does dressing in removable and addable layers. Now its cold, now its hot, you are outside in the freezing rain, 30 seconds later inside in the warm steamy greenhouse.

All family owned businesses will have a certain amount of family teenagers/relatives/neighbors on the payroll, and most will work as hard as you, but sometimes not, and there is really not a damn thing you can do about it except work around it.

Weekends are mandatory in this business, but Friday/Saturdays nights mean more to the younger workers then they do to me. Although I can remember what it was like to be in my early twenties, I have to be careful what I say and agree to, or I will end working 8 or 9 or 10 days in a row. And that's not good.

If I was a nursery owner, I would make double sure that everything but the bedding is marked. I know the difference between the .69 primroses, and the 1.49 and 2.99 double, aricula and other fancy forms, but the cashiers without a gardening background will not.

Some people will agonize about buying a $2.99 perennial, others will drop $250 without blinking. Some people will bring in a piece of sick tree and want to talk to you for 20 mins and leave without buying anything, others can take care of themselves and find the most amazing wonderful things with no help. EVERYONE is important.

There is much more awareness these days about chemicals and organics and organic soil amendments.

People will buy anything blooming, that has a scent or is blue. So much, they will be grabbing the stuff off the racks before it is even put out. Sometimes when I get really really stressed and busy (like Saturday about 1:00) I imagine putting out something that has a blue bloom with a intoxicating scent and watching the customers fist fight over it. Stress relieving imaginary moments are very good in this business, for me anyway.

And finally, there is always something to do........ Thanks...

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It sounds like your employers are lucky to have you.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 3:29PM
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Oh boy, I am so glad you came back and posted. I was thinking about you a couple days ago and wondered what YOUR impressions were.

I had to chuckle a little bit, because you seem to be pretty good at sizing things up. I have my own business, and have literally watched customers fighting over purple geraniums. I had several that day go into a growing house with a large reds sign reading "employees only" and pick them up after I told them I had non left for sale. I intercepted said customer with his arms full of them and removed them personally. rofl. He was a good sport about it, thankfully.

Have you been on the phones lately with the consumers who went to the box store first? Then couldn't identify the flowers because they weren't labeled and wanted to pick your brain? I get a few of those calls a day each spring.

I guess you are into your busy season by now. Ours hasn't started yet, we are doing the easter trade and still transplanting.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 3:32PM
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creatrix(z7 VA)

I love the ones who don't know where the sun comes up in relation to their house-
"I need a shrub to go by the front door"
OK, how much sun does the area get?
"I don't know"
Which direction does your house face?
"I'm not sure"
Well, how big is the space? Are we talking 5'? 2'? 10'?
"I guess I'd better go home and look at it again."

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 8:51PM
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Hey, Mustangrose,

Sounds like you're doing just fine. Thanks for the update. I thought about you recently, too. Glad to hear it's going well.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 2:12AM
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The thing to remember is that ours is a modern, Western culture. There's lots of people who have bought property but have little/no experience in anything like gardening. According to an article about nursery signage ("American Nurseryman", some years ago) the core garden center customer is a busy professional in their 40s who doesn't want to take the time to get more than a quick briefing in what they are trying to do (pick out some plants to put around their new house).

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 12:16PM
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Hey Mustangrose!
Good to hear from you & glad things are going well. Sounds like you have the nursery biz down. Usually the long spring hours will settled down a bit in the summer. Don't let "the 20-somethings" get away with too many weekends off. lol

thanks for the update!! P

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 1:43PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

You're a quick learner and it sounds like you're a super employee. I worked for 2 years at a garden center and everything you say is right on the money. I'm glad it's working out for you. I wish you luck getting a year-round position - around here, there are very few employees that stay on in the winter. Of course, your climate is milder so you probably don't have as much of a winter issue there!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2005 at 7:35AM
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