Plain as Dirt: Here are a few reasons to blow your flower budget |

Plain as Dirt: Here are a few reasons to blow your flower budget

Tom Glass

We have achieved, as far as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is concerned, frost-free status. I urge you as good citizens to go big and plant flowers like there was no tomorrow.

Essential to summers in the Vail Valley are colorful flower gardens which enrich the lives of residents and guests alike. Obvious testimony to that is the significant investment business and property owners in the Vail valley have traditionally lavished on abundant, exuberantly blooming gardens, baskets, pots and window boxes.

This expense is not without precedence. In American households earning more than $100,000 – on a dollar-volume basis – gardening falls in fourth place and is only exceeded by the sales of wine, diet aids and liquor – interestingly, all vices.

At first blush, it may seem ridiculous to utilize sales metrics from the benchmarks of alcohol and weight-loss aids to forecast garden sales. However, without historical exception, in difficult times the sales of liquor and wine have been recession-resistant and, riding in tandem, so, too, have the sales of garden products.

In this recession, however, while the sales of liquor and wine so far remain relatively steady in volume, dollar-volume sales have dipped slightly, down 2.8 percent at the end of 2008, as consumers substituted boxed wine for fine wines and reached below the top shelf when buying liquor.

History makes no suggestion other than that garden products will experience a similar contraction in this recession – even here in this valley – but to a greater overall detrimental effect here in this valley than elsewhere. To be sure, I do not want to overstate a case of seemingly little significance. However, the following scenario is worthy of some thought and bears further examination.

By planting fewer flowers or flowers of lesser performance, we could impact negatively the overall appearance of health for the entire valley economy and – if not in a small, but disproportionately significant and absurd way – the real health of our economy.

In an eastern Rust Belt manufacturing town, fewer flowers may be of little consequence. However, here, in an iconic town built on the outsized expectations of real estate investors and tourists, fewer flowers will be noted and could, plausibly, effect negative economic consequences.

Understandably, to you, the effects of fewer and lesser flowers on the surface may seem negligible, maybe even ridiculous. Please, consider the following premise: People across the U.S. most reliably spend a portion of their discretionary income on flowers because they find flowers essential to a good quality of life. To attract and return visitors and further entice potential property owners to this valley, we must provide a quality of life unavailable elsewhere. And flowers unquestionably represent “the good life,” regardless of expense, to many, many people.

Another force driving a potential dulling of appearances to the valley is our need to purchase fully developed, more expensive plants instead of smaller, less expensive bedding plants that serve adequately in regions of a lower elevation which benefit from a longer growing season.

In other words, we have to purchase more expensive plants here in order to enjoy a show of plentiful flowers. We have a cool, short growing season. We must plant large-sized, fully developed, blooming plants derived from the latest efforts in robust plant breeding. To grow that type of offering for retail sale requires space and time. There is no substitution.

The greater expense necessary to providing all that and more is functioned by charging higher prices for plant products, which are then sold on some of the most expensive real estate in the country. I’m sorry, but that’s a fact of life here.

However, it’s easier to pick up the tab if you consider that you may be best serving yourself by helping to maintain an attractive summer dynamic. It is important to maintaining real estate sales and is equally important to turning tables in restaurants by increasing and retaining tourist dollars in the valley.

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