The idea of a 'plant shortage' has been widely discussed throughout our industry here in Texas for the last couple of years. Has anyone seen the effect? I have. Personally, I always poo-pooed the idea of a 'plant shortage', I mean, come on... nurseries always grow more than they can sell, how could we run out? Well, they have. Texas is always the last to feel a bad economy and the very first to recover so here we are. All the ridiculously cheap trees out of Florida are gone. Either sold in 2010-2011 or were bulldozed into a pile and burned. Local nurseries aren't producing the volume they were 2000-2007. The drought has wreaked havoc on many nurseries throughout the South and Southwest. Nursery owners are hesitant to boost their production up in fear of losing even more money, as they should be!
Imagine if you opened a store that sold widgets. Your widgets would have to be manufactured on speculation of the market. Say in 2008 you created 1,000 widgets at $1 a piece and sold them all for $3 a piece. $2,000 profit isn't bad! So in 2009, you built 2,000 widgets but they weren't moving quickly at $3.00 a piece so you dropped the price to $2.00. Not bad, $1,000 profit. Then in 2010 you made another 2,000 widgets and ended up selling half of them for $0.75 and throwing the rest away because of their limited shelf life. Can you blame the growers?
It's not so much the plants that are getting scary low in availability that I'm worried about. Your standard perennials, grasses & shrubs take anywhere from 6-30 weeks to reach a sellable state. It's the container trees. Your average local container 3" tree is 3 years old. Generally speaking, container trees grow about 1" in caliper per year. With so many architects swaying towards container in the South this could become a big problem!
Look outside of the local market you might say... Well ok but keep in mind the price of fuel. I hired 2 semis to haul trees out of Florida last week for nearly $3,000 per truck. Four years ago the same truck ran for just under $2,000.
Architects & designers: Be prepared to get flexible with plant substitutions! Don't hesitate to contact Local Plant Source for ideas... Remember, we are live people here and happy to help!