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Published: Wednesday, 5/22/2002

Area greenhouses, growers report retail sales of plants are drooping

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
With her year-old son, Trenton, Alicia Kramer checks out the selection at Ohlman's Greenhouse in Toledo. With her year-old son, Trenton, Alicia Kramer checks out the selection at Ohlman's Greenhouse in Toledo.
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Bouts of late-spring frost and rain haven't hurt Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse Inc.'s wholesale business, but sales are a tad slow at the firm's Toledo store.

The need for flowers to stock 140 Lowe's home-improvement stores has kept workers busy in Ohlman's nearly nine acres of greenhouses.

But sales to local gardeners are off about 10 percent from last year as the cold and soggy weather continues to dampen their typical sprees, said Sharon Ohlman, store manager.

“They come early, get their selection, and put it in the garage,” she said. “They're buying, but they're buying cautiously.”

Greenhouses and growers throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan report retail plant sales are down as much as 50 percent this year as customers look but don't always buy.

Mrs. Ohlman and others are optimistic that sales will pick up in June as they did last year, when rain had kept many gardeners indoors in May.

“It's going to come, and it's going to come all at once,” she said.

Gene Klotz, owner of Bowling Green's Klotz Floral, Gift & Garden Center, said he counts June as part of the spring selling season because the area has had cooler Aprils and Mays the last few years.

Sales are down so far this year, he said, but he doesn't let himself consider the tally over until the end of June.

“In past years, everything was always planted by Memorial Day,” said Mr. Klotz, whose sales were good Mother's Day week despite the weather. “It [the planting season] does lengthen out now.”

Others, though, say an increase in sales next month will hinge on how quickly temperatures rise.

“If we go straight through to a very hot season, people aren't going to want to plant then,” said Pamela Scales, a customer service person at Toledo's Ben Sell Green House, where sales are down 20 percent to 25 percent.

Although sales of annuals are down 10 percent to 15 percent at The Andersons in Maumee, other items - including mulch - are moving more rapidly than normal for this time of year, said Nancy Robinson, nursery manager.

Gardeners are buying trees, shrubs, birdbaths, patio stones, and other items instead of annuals and are tackling projects they usually put off until later in the season, Ms. Robinson said.

It's a good time to plant nursery stock, she said, and paint sales are up elsewhere in the store.

“It's been good in those areas,” Ms. Robinson said. “Things are chugging along there just fine.”

Perennial sales are up slightly from last year for Meiring Greenhouse and Farms, a wholesaler near Carleton, Mich.

Gardeners are more knowledgeable and realize when perennials and more cold-resistant annuals, such as snapdragons and pansies, can be planted, said R.J. Meiring, chief executive. Meiring's spring sales, though, are down about 15 percent, and the greenhouses that the business supplies have lost up to half their sales so far, he said.



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