This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol1", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
Of late years the trade in hardy plants has assumed almost gigantic proportions. Not only are large quantities of hardy herbaceous perennials actually sent to the various markets for sale packed in various ways and sold as "roots", but a still larger trade is done through the post, by means of exhibitions, and by advertising in the papers. Owing to the cost of erecting glasshouses, the cost of fuel, and other items of expense many private people have discarded glass altogether, or the newer generation has not taken a fancy to it owing to the trouble and expense. To such, the hardy herbaceous perennials, and hardy annuals and biennials, naturally appeal with great force. There is no need to have glasshouses of any description to grow these plants, and even a cold frame can be dispensed with; and yet a magnificent display may be secured by a judicious selection of plants that will flourish in the open air in most parts of the kingdom without any artificial protection. This being the case, it is not to be wondered at that a large trade has sprung up in these plants, and something like three or four thousand different species are now dealt in by various growers, some of whom hold valuable stocks of the best-selling kinds, while others cater for a select group of plant connoisseurs and botanical establishments.
The grower of hardy plants, as a rule, does not go to market, and his methods of business are quite different from those of the market grower. He relies very largely for his sales upon his catalogues (which are often works of art), upon exhibitions in all parts of the kingdom, and upon judicious advertising, very much in the same way as the seedsman and bulb merchant do. Thousands of people now interested in gardening will gladly pay a reasonable price for a plant in which they are interested, and they will visit flower shows and exhibitions in the hope of seeing something new, or something they would like to have in their collection. The hardy-plantsmen, therefore, who make a practice of displaying their specialities at the various exhibitions up and down the country stand an excellent chance of making new customers if they exhibit really choice and well-grown stuff, and set it up with all the art of window dressing. The old style of jumbling plants up "anyhow" at an exhibition is no longer sufficient. The exhibitor adopts various devices, and when space permits he makes miniature herbaceous borders, rock gardens, water gardens, and he arranges his goods in such an artistic way that the would-be purchaser is at once captivated, and longs to produce a similar floral picture in his own garden. This naturally leads not only to the sale of plants, but also to the engagement of landscapemen, who know how to turn a piece of waste land into a smiling flower garden. Many firms now make a speciality of laying out gardens artistically and naturally, and although some amateurs try their untrained hands at the business, they generally have to call in the aid of the man who knows his plants and their nature and uses by everyday intercourse and experience.
A FIELD OF NARCISSUS.
A FIELD OF SPANISH IRISES.
BULB FARMING AT WISBECH, CAMBRIDGESHIRE.
(Mr. J. W. Cross).
While exhibiting is one of the best means of doing business for the grower of hardy plants, it must be remembered that it entails a large expense. The mere carriage of the plants by rail or road, apart from hotel and other expenses, often means a substantial sum, the recovery of which will depend largely upon the weather and upon the class of visitors to the exhibition.
Some growers of hardy plants rarely exhibit, but rely upon the post and advertisements to dispose of their goods. Hundreds of thousands of young plants and cuttings are sent through the post to the most remote parts of the kingdom, to fill orders that have come to hand as the result of reading an advertisement. Some, indeed, spend from £50 to £100 a week during the season in advertising alone, and this will give some idea as to the volume of the trade. Not only are hardy plants disposed of rapidly in this way, but also half-hardy and tender plants during the season, as may be seen by referring to the advertisement columns of the trade and amateur papers.
From what has been said it will be gathered that the great trade in hardy plants of all kinds, and in seeds and cuttings, as well as in bulbous and tuberous plants, is largely done by means of judicious advertising. The plant grower not only supports the newspapers, but he also places large orders with the printers for thousands of catalogues that are issued broadcast, but not without considerable expense. Some of the larger firms issue as many as eighty thousand beautifully prepared catalogues every year, weighing in the aggregate from 90 to 100 tons; while smaller men print and distribute catalogues according to their means. In all cases, however, the General Post Office, the printers, and newspaper proprietors have had the first pick at the seedsman's or hardy-plantsman's purse, and he is left to settle his account with a more or less fickle public.