Bigger Isn’t Always Better

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My quick trip into Austin was purposeful. Two of the water lilies in our small pond didn’t survive the winter. The General put the need for more on my “To Do List”. Actually, how could I argue? I agreed with her. What I can’t figure out is why one plant survived the winter and two didn’t. They were all three in the same small pond and exposed to the same freezing temperatures.


For that matter, I gave friends a water lily about ten to twelve years ago or longer, and it has done nothing but flourish. It comes back every year and always has the most colorful display. Historically, we’ve never had that experience. On average, we replace the water lilies about every three years.


We’ve had the pond in our back yard for almost sixteen years. Water lilies are an important part of the ambience the pond adds to the backyard in warmer weather. In addition, the coverage of the lilies provides some level of shade for the fish.


There was also a small cypress tree nested on one side of the pond. It had been in the same place for all of those years. A recent storm figuratively unearthed the cypress tree even though it had never been planted in the ground.


It was also my intent to purchase a replacement tree for the spot in the pond it occupied. Without giving it a second thought, I headed toward the nursery we’ve always used. They generally have a great assortment and the staff is always helpful.


Pulling in the drive, I immediately had the sense that things have changed. For starters, the signage on the nursery was different. So was the name of the nursery. So what did that mean? Across the years, I’ve come to rely on helpfulness of the staff. They’ve always been very personable and generally assisted me in making a selection of the water lilies. I figure, they are the experts, so why not ask them to help make the selection?


I use that same rule of thumb at the meat market. I don’t know anything about buying meat. When the guy behind the counter asks me to pick out the steaks I want, I leave the decision to him.


The parking lot at the nursery was packed with cars. I actually took the last available space. Walking toward the building, I noticed the inventory of plants looked amazing. Somehow, they had managed to step it up a notch or maybe even two.


An employee sporting a logo shirt with the name of nursery skirted past me and didn’t even look in my direction. I headed around to the backside of the building and found that it somehow looked very different. The large pond area where they displayed the kind of look everyone wants their pond to look like was gone. In its place was row after row of plants in containers.


From the vantage point of the back yard, I saw several other employees who were busily using a forklift to move large plants. Seriously, the inventory of green growing things had dramatically increased. Several folks were wearing logo shirts with the new name of the nursery prominently displayed. None of the faces looked familiar and none of the employees seemed to even notice that I was present.


I headed from that direction toward the other side of the drive where the water lilies previously were available. An employee who seemed on a mission was coming toward me from the other direction. By the way, providing me assistance was not her mission.


“Excuse me”, I said. “Can you provide me assistance? I need a couple of water lilies and a cypress tree.” The question at least stopped the employee in her tracks. She responded, “We don’t handle water lilies anymore. I’m sorry. We may have a cypress tree, you’ll just have to look.” She pointed toward the north where I could see other employees moving plants with a forklift. In the distance, I could see several other employees. The logo shirts were the fresh new look that spoiled their camouflage. Yet, no one seemed particularly helpful.


Finding a cypress tree among the foliage was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I finally gave up and headed back in the direction of my truck. I noticed landscape crews loading large trailers with growing things.


I had the sense that maybe the nursery was no longer catering to individual consumers, but was more of a resource for professional landscapers whose sole purpose is to add some level of curb appeal to the hundreds of new homes being built in the greater Austin area.


Gone were the days when employees clad in T-shirts greeted you when you came through the gate and were available to provide assistance and answer questions. The new crew all seemed on a mission and I obviously fell outside the intended target.


Later today, I will head far North to another nursery that handles water foliage.  Surely, they will be able to accommodate my needs.


All My Best!