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When a garden grows, the money flows
Retail centers, nurseries enter crucial sales season
Wright, a certified nursery and plant professional, staffs GardenWright Nurseries with master gardeners and stocks the nursery with unique plants from violas and forsythias to saucer magnolias and Japanese maple trees. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Small buds of colorful plant life are starting to bloom at GardenWright Nurseries Inc. (click for map).

It’s a sign for area garden centers and nurseries that the busiest time of year has begun.

“From here until the middle of June, we should be pretty busy,” said Carl Wright, owner of GardenWright. “We’re excited about the spring. We’ve got a lot of nice stuff coming in and we hope it’ll be a good year.”

Wright, a local attorney, started the business at Old Atlanta Road and Melodie Lane, about six years ago after his passion for gardening outgrew his mother’s backyard. His magnolias, Japanese maples and other plants now fill his nursery.

Like many businesses, Wright said 2008 was a slow year, but not because of the economy.

“I’m going to blame most of ours on the drought, and the fact that during our busiest time ... it was probably mid- to late April before they came up with watering guidelines, so we lost a whole month of our busy, busy time while people waited to see what was going on.”

Wright said he’s expecting a better year as residents have grown accustomed to the watering restrictions.

Georganna Paradeses, division manager of Riverbend Nursery in Cumming (click for link) , said the weather caused similar problems in 2008. The wholesale company, which ships to independent garden centers across the Southeast, grows mostly perennials.

“The economy didn’t hurt us,” she said. “The weather killed us the past two years.

“What should have kicked off the season last fall was the weekend that there was no gas in the state of Georgia ... and we did figure out that when people are sitting in lines for an hour or two, they don’t want to go out and buy plants.”

Paradeses said she expects this to be a strong year for vegetables and gardens in general. But if the weather doesn’t cooperate, it could be another difficult year.

“We’re not an industry that has the highs,” she said. “When the economy soared, we didn’t necessarily soar. We’ve been more of a stable industry, and we’re far more weather dependent.”

Across northeast Georgia, 2009 is a critical year for independent garden centers.

“For some of them, they’ve got to make it right now or they’re not going to make it at all,” said Billy Skaggs, Hall County extension agent.
“During the months of March, April and May, when folks are in that planting mood, the retail garden centers have to hit it hard.”

But Skaggs said that improving rainfall over the winter and days of picturesque weather ahead have put gardeners in a buying mood.

“Most growers are excited about the prospects of spring,” Skaggs said.

Wright said this past weekend, which featured clear skies and high temperatures near 70 degrees, was a strong start to the season.

“We are ready for winter to be over, and I think most of the people are as well,” Wright said. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a little better, because people are going to be staying home.

“It’ll be a good year.”

Harris Blackwood of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.

E-mail Jennifer Sami at