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Re: new hosta at Walmart/ The Begining Of The End

  • Subject: Re: new hosta at Walmart/ The Begining Of The End
  • From: Chick <chick@bridgewoodgardens.com>
  • Date: Sun, 03 Jun 2001 08:54:41 -0400


I agree with some of the things you say, but as usual, not too much.

I may be hiding my head in the sand, but I am not too concerned about Walmart.  If I owned a large garden center, I might be scared to death, but I don't think hosta specialists have too much to worry about.  The first thing is that hosta specialists are not supported by the general population.  The general gardening population does not buy plants by mail.  The second thing is that Walmart has no reason to cater to hosta collectors. Hosta collecting is different from gardening.  Thinking that hostas collectors can get what they want at Walmart is like stamp collectors finding everything they need to satisfy their needs at the post office, and coin collectors at the bank.

Most of my customers are fairly serious about hostas and Walmart isn't going to supply them with what they want. People have been saying for years that they're getting tired of all these new varieties that come out every year, but that doesn't stop them from buying them.  If people really didn't want new plants to add to their collections every year, we wouldn't bother growing them.  You can bet that Walmart isn't going to make much of an effort to try to find interesting new varieties every year.  That isn't to say that my customers are too proud to buy Choo Choo Train from Walmart at a good price, but when they go back the next three years and see that the most exciting hosta at Walmart is still Choo Choo Train, I don't think that will satisfy them.

I saw two prices mentioned, $2.50 and $10.00.  $2.50 is a giveaway price.  Even for Walmart there cannot be any profit there, so I suspect you're not going to see hostas at $2.50 very often. But when you say that the general population won't support the prices I need to stay in business, I would point out that we have nearly 140 varieties in our catalog at $10.00 or less. Their price is cheap for those particular hostas because they are new, but I would guess that 98% of Walmart's customers, if shown Walmart's Choo Choo Train for $10.00 and my Piedmont Gold for $10.00, wouldn't know which one is the better buy.  So they sell a good gold hosta for $10.00 and so do I, so I don't see how that threatens my business.  And like I said, I sell 140 varieties at that price or less, how many does Walmart sell?

Here's the part that I find interesting.  Everyone got excited about Walmart is selling 4 or 5 hostas for $10.00 because they knew they normally cost more.  Not because they were looking for or wanted these particular hostas, and not because they liked these hostas more than any of the other they could buy for $10.00 or less, but just because they were a "bargain".  Naturally I don't know anything about their collections, needs or preferences, but I wonder if they couldn't have found a hosta they liked better for the same price or less elsewhere if they weren't concerned about whether it was a bargain or not.


Dan Nelson wrote:

 Nurseries that only specialize in hostas are going to see increasing market pressure for a long time to come. Our landscapes the country over are wanting for more and better hostas....and unfortunately the prices that these hosta specialty nurseries are charging.......and need to charge to stay in business......is not going to be supported by the general population. Hostas are easy to grow. This is part of the problem too. Homeowners rarely need information from a specialty nurseryman to grow hostas. If information is needed the internet is now and will be even more in the future where these homeowners can find out what they need to grow hostas. If a hosta is so hard to grow that people need special instructions a good argument could be made that this hosta is not really worth growing. After all, how many great landscape plants do we see in the general publics yards that are hard to grow? The specialty nurseries will just have to cater to that snobbish few that get their feel goods from having hostas other don't have. I count myself as one of these snobbish few but I admit I feel a little more foolish every year as I see the classic hostas out perform my expensive hostas year after year. I really think some hosta collectors would be better off collecting baseball cards...but I will not mention names....but I have a list. A point to be considered: I think the American Hosta Society Hosta Growers Association has made a blunder of sorts with the Hosta Of The Year announcements. It sounds good on the surface.....but what I think it really will amount to...is that the hosta of the year will be propagated and sold by the mass marketers.....(who don't give a damn about the Hosta Grower Association) and the members of the Hosta Growers Association(who pay $35 a year to be members) will find the market is saturated with the very hostas they planned on selling through their promotion. The end result.....more good hostas make it to more landscapes at lower prices........and this is what the American Hosta Society is supposed to be all about.....and this is a good thing for hostas. Imagine how many good hostas could make it to the mass market if the AHS focused on truly trying to promote hostas......instead of what we have now......a small group of people trying their best to keep control of a plant........ I apologize for in advance for my statements that step on the toes of these specialty hosta growers. I have met many of them and I like them.......I just think the writing is on the wall......and keeping our heads in the sand won't change a thing. I'm all for more, better and cheaper hostas in landscapes everywhere. And it's happening now........but not the way some have planned. Those that want to get rich by selling hostas.....ought to ask Alex Summers, co-founder of the American Hosta Society.....about his take on the big picture..... I've got to get some weeding done. Dan Nelson 

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