When it comes to houses, it's not just what's on the inside that counts. For many homeowners, beautifying the outside with landscaping is just as important as remodeling the inside. It's a growing trend that started a decade ago when the housing market strengthened, says Bob Fitch, Minnesota Nursing and Landscaping Association executive director.
When it comes to houses, it's not just what's on the inside that counts.
For many homeowners, beautifying the outside with landscaping is just as important as remodeling the inside. It's a growing trend that started a decade ago when the housing market strengthened, says Bob Fitch, Minnesota Nursing and Landscaping Association executive director.
"It's the No. 1 hobby in the nation," Fitch says, noting the number of television shows and magazines about landscaping have proliferated. "It's a hot trend."
It's also a big business in Minnesota, contributing more $2.1 billion to Minnesota's economy in 2000, according to a Minnesota Nursing and Landscaping Association study. Most of the state's nursery and greenhouses are in the Twin Cities area, although there are businesses located in every corner of the state, Fitch says.
Many garden centers these days are more than just a place to go to pick up some plants.
"Most garden centers are trying to establish a niche for themselves whether it is having a display garden or being consumer friendly to people with families -- to make it an experience to go to the garden center," Fitch says.
"A destination garden center is a goal for many retailers these days.... We see it happening everywhere (in Minnesota). People enjoy plants and landscaping and an enjoyable shopping experience wherever they are located."
"Interest in gardening has never been at a higher point," says Phil Lowe, owner of Lowes Garden Center in Minot, N.D., and a member of the North Dakota Nursery and Greenhouse Association.
Contrary to 30 years ago when most of the plants Lowe sold were to customers who grew vegetable gardens, these days people's interests are focused on flowers and specialty gardens, Lowe says. "Container gardening has just exploded."
Perennial flower gardens, herb and salsa gardens and water gardens also are popular, he says. People in Montana also are spending more time on landscaping projects these days.
"The nursery industry is a pretty big industry in Montana," says Robin Childers, Montana Nursery and Landscape Association executive director.
"More and more homeowners recognize how much landscaping improves and increases home values," Childers says. Many of the large, independent landscaping businesses are in the western Montana areas of Kalispell, Bozeman and Missoula where housing developments are springing up.
In South Dakota, a strong economy has boosted nursery sales.
"Business has been very good for both the retail and wholesale nursery" sectors, says John Ball, South Dakota State University extension forester. "We're experiencing quite a building boom and that's generated a lot of new landscapes."
Most of South Dakota's retail nurseries are located near Sioux Falls. The state also has two wholesale nurseries -- one on the west side of the state and one on the east side -- that are doing "extremely well," Ball says.
"They tend to market toward the Minnesota area and the Colorado -- Denver-area," he says. But while many nursery and landscape businesses across the Northern Plains and Montana are enjoying success, they also face challenges -- such as high fuel costs and labor shortages.
"Fuel is a huge expense," Fitch says. "They use so much fuel to heat their greenhouses.
That takes a big chunk out of the bottom line.
"Seasonal labor is a challenge. To be able to find a sufficient work force for seven months out of the year is the biggest ongoing challenge we have”¦. It's increasingly hard to find people who want to do good old-fashioned manual labor."
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News