Friday, May 2, 1997

this was a bad year for plants in USDA Zone 6b. Nothing really froze; the plant material didn't get their cold period. But with this unusually-prolonged cold Spring weather, they just might get it. (The phrase IN MEDIA RES is Latin for in the middle of everything.)

Full Tilt Boogey.
Each year, it gets more and more busy. In seven years, it's never been this busy. It's enough to take one's breath away. I've never seen the volume of people calling for work to be done. Between the ads, people finding our Website, word-of-mouth referrals and regular customers, we have a net gain of 40% this Spring alone. I'm impressed.

What I'm concerned about is our inability to handle volume vs quality work. I'd much rather proceed at a measured gait and do the larger, quality jobs, squeezing in the smaller jobs as time permits. The problem is that so many people are such a hurry, they don't want to wait in a queue. They believe that their job takes priority over all else, and that I should devote abnormal amounts of attention to it. What a surprise they get when I tell them they're in a waiting line. Some then go to substandard landscape operations and have the work done quickly. Well, they get what they pay for. Many come back in a year or two and we have to fix the mess that a bunch of buffoons made on their property. Happens every year.

I'm also hiring several more people to help with landscaping, administrative duties, scheduling and whatever's needed, but I could actually use twice the staff right now. I've called in a former employee with a dump truck to help out on weekends and evenings with mulch deliveries and tree installations, which are way ahead of last year at this time. Our reputation for ultra-high quality mulch is legendary in the region.

The 13-hour days are soon to be a thing of the past, with 18+ hour days quickly becoming the norm for me. The pile of meetings and appointments has grown to over 50+ per week now, and shows no sign of leveling off. It's amazing what response there is to our unusual ads. A short breather would be nice.

I'm starting to miss having time off just to do nothing and relax, as I had before getting into this business. Sure, the general misconception is that people in this business have all Winter to goof-off. The truth is that many of us work hard year 'round with a few paltry days off here and there. I don't like paltry anymore.

R & R.
As Spring progresses, I notice signs of subtle damage everywhere: because of the lack of a freeze, snow cover and prolonged cold, there are less hardy plants than there were last year at this time. The Blizzard of 96 did less damage than the mild Winter we've just gone through.

Most people think that a mild Winter is fine; for them perhaps, but not for plants. The amino acid-based germ plasm that makes up every plant's individual cell structure the core of it's very life must have a resting period; hence, the cold is Nature's way of calling a halt to all action and allowing everything to rest and regenerate. Without that action this past Winter, many plants are trying to come back to life and are failing and dying. I count more usually-hardy plants lost by our customers this Spring than any other in our seven years of operation. But since this wasn't a true Act of Nature, we'll gladly replace them under our 5-year Warranty. No one else anywhere has such a warranty on plant material; it's helped to build and fortify our reputation over the years.

April showers bring May flowers... It's an old euphemism that doesn't always hold true anymore. Because of the shifting weather patterns in recent years, we don't routinely get Spring rains as we did many years ago. Plants need the moisture to revive and refresh themselves after a long Winter. With 20 acres to irrigate on a regular basis, I'm always glad to see intermittent rainy days as an adjunct to our independent watering. It's been raining all night and is supposed to continue for another day. Relief is welcomed: things are very, very dry here.

Events of the past months have eroded all confidence in and respect for the Nation's political system and it's clownish actors. They especially deserve all the heat that we can give. Next to the cretins of Hollywood, these are the most morally-bankrupt clowns we as a Nation have. We elected them (I didn't; all the people I voted for lost) so we're stuck with them until the next round of elections.

I've always presumed someone innocent until proven guilty. Everyone deserves their day in court. (Everyone that is, except murderers, rapists and child molesters: they deserve a swift and sure death.) Until there's incontrovertible proof, the accused is innocent. After that, punishment should commence. They should be forced to watch reruns of Gilligan's Island with their eyelids taped open, a' la Clockwork Orange.

From the sleazy crimes of Clinton and Gingrich to the murderous business practices of the tobacco companies and the military-industrial complex, I'm very dismayed at what we, as a Nation, accept as de rigeur these days. It's a crime and it's shameful.

GOP Bankrupt?
When a businessman from Hong Kong financially bails out the GOP twice on election eve for a spate of TV ads and bad checks, something's very wrong. They're going to be hard pressed to explain this story. Why does this sound like the liberal Democrats' problems in the 96 Election?

Ex-GOP Chairman Haley Barbour a major political crook himself is now trying to put a positive spin on things. The lies will be getting thick soon, so get out your hip-wader boots!

Gardening Catalogs.
I hate it, absolutely hate it: all through Winter and Spring, catalogs pour into peoples' mailboxes, hundreds of millions of them show beautifully-retouched pictures of plants to whet the appetites of good weather starved gardeners everywhere. As soon as they begin arriving at customers' homes, I start receiving calls by the dozens asking about certain plants available only through that company's mail order operation. Duh.

Being a former New York advertising agency executive, I knew that. Even prior to opening this operation seven years ago, I dabbled in gardening catalogs with my fiancee, who was an avid gardener herself. Oh well, fiancees come and go, but gardening remains a constant of life. We soon learned that these catalogs are fakes and frauds, ripping people off with visual and descriptive promises of large, lush plants easily obtained through the mail. In fact, the stuff they send is shit, pure and simple. These scumbag operations make millions ripping off gardeners each year, and people still return for the abuse by mail. Go figure.

Many people get extremely anal about plants they just must have. Been there, done that. Now I own and work in a place with tens of thousands of plants. Real plants, not just junk that comes mail order. That's why I've steadfastly refused to become involved in mail order so far. The quality of plants quite obviously slips to previously unheard of lows. Our reputation would be severely damaged by selling sub-standard plants as the national mail order places do. They don't care about their customers' satisfaction or well-being as long as they make the almighty dollar. We'll pass on that scenario; thanks, but no thanks.

The Ellen Thing.
Not having watched TV for almost two years now, I don't miss it a bit, especially when hype and hoopla replace reason and rationality in the media. I have never watched ABCs mediocre comedy sitcom series, Ellen, but with all the unending news stories about it's non-surprise, surprise ending, I almost feel like I'm a regular viewer.

It's not my kind of show. I don't identify with anything on it and wouldn't make the effort to watch it. There's nothing on TV anymore that holds any interest for me anymore. It's not real life, although way too many people spend most of the pathetic lives living other people's lives on TV. With all the shit about Ellen DeGeneres coming out, who cares anyway? I don't. It doesn't mean spit to me.

I don't discriminate against that lifestyle some of my customers are either gay or lesbian and never will; it's someone else's choice and they're free to make it. I respect their right to do so. But I don't condone the lifestyle, based upon my view of humanity and how and why it functions. Many garden centers and nurserys do actively discriminate against gays; we don't.

America apparently isn't ready for that kind of lifestyle right now, and probably won't be in our lifetime. The various religious groups' dogma and the conservative majorities' viewpoint do not permit such an aberration from their accepted societal norms. Anyway, it was very anti-climactic to read about all the Ellen Parties on the InterNet e-papers this Thursday morning, as I woke up to fresh-squeezed orange juice (nay OJ) and some great Starbuck'scoffee.

Ever since putting the Trough Gardens, Water Gardens and Hardy Cactus pages up on this Website, the response has been phenomenal: people from all over the world have inquired about acquiring them. Several magazines and newspapers have reviewed these products and our operation in general and found it much to their liking. In fact, we've pioneered Trough Gardens and Hardy Cactus on the East Coast.

What's next?

For now, nothing more than to develop these areas of interest. It's taken me several years to bring them to fruition; I'll be content to see them stand on their own as viable retail profit centers at the Garden Center & Nursery. Other ideas are still cooking in my head, and will be rolled-out as soon as they've jelled and I work the glitches out. Besides, saying anything here prematurely would pre-empt the element of surprise that's so vital in Marketing Warfare's Guerrilla strategy.

Stay tuned.

The NY Times has put together an awesome list of varied political resource links. It's a great place to spend hours and hours finding out what's really going on behind the headlines. If you care to know, that is.