I believe that part of the problem is the huge influx of product from
overseas. With cheap labor available in China, Walmart can source product
from US TC propagators that actually orginated in China. Purchasing 500 or
1000 Stage III plants at a time, or 10,000, leads to the need to grow
these explants on to Stage IV and then to unload them. The
biggest growers and TC propagators can do this. Then, when the place is
overrunning with inventory, an outfit like Walmart can get the upperhand because
the propagator knows they can't sit on stock forever--it needs to be turned out
into the channel. They'll settle for making just a few cents on
hundreds or thousands of plants because of the incremental sales that would
otherwise be lost.
So we see what should be good, saleable stock being dumped on the market at
dirt cheap prices--kind of like the sale of computer memory
chips. Specialty growers get forced out of business by the Chinese
and big US business concerns. The consumer sees it as a good deal but the
dedicated specialty growers lose sales which they needed in order to
provide the quality, service and value that customers have come to expect from a
specialized nursery. And when they run into difficulty with their
plants, who do they come see?
The ones that really amaze me are the ones that come to spend an hour at
your place, wanting to get your help in identifying their plants which they have
no clue as to origin, asking you a zillion questions about growing, light,
soil, etc. and then after an hour or so, walk away buying nothing. I've
only fell into that trap a couple of times but I'm getting quicker at
recognizing the type. I'd like to send them back to Walmart,
where they bought the plants and have them get their answer from them.
But, instead, I try to win them over and get them seriously interested in the
genus, encouraging them to join the local Hosta society, etc. Fortunately,
99% of my customers understand and I have to forgive them when they snarf up the
sensational loss leader at Walmart. Shoot, if they're nice plants, I might
just go down and buy a few myself--while they're still alive...
Hosta la Vista!