Or I would visit a small, locally-owned toy boutique. Regardless, I can assure you, I would
not be looking for them at my local nursery.
Nonetheless, that’s what I found the other day, right where
they always used to have the bamboo stakes. Little furry birds that make
authentic noises. I asked a staffer where the stakes were and he looked at me
in puzzlement. I asked another, and she looked at me in puzzlement. Finally, we
unearthed an old-timer who knew where the bamboo and wire stakes were kept, way
back in the corner behind the cocoa matting, sort of near where the pond
supplies used to be.
It’s not just nurseries and garden centers. Stock is moved, sent back, and replaced on
a daily basis in almost every retail establishment I frequent. Entire departments
are torn apart and relocated regularly. They even do it at the liquor
store—what’s the point of that? The assumption is that all consumers have ADHD,
unable to bear seeing the same merchandise in the same place longer than 36
hours. I’m afraid to tell friends
about a great shopping find, because I’m almost positive it won’t be there a
So be it. But will there come a time when I have to mail
order such boring garden necessities as stakes, ties, and cheap terra cotta,
while resin fairies, wind chimes, and stones inscribed with profound messages
can still be had at my local garden center? Look, I know that stores need to
carry what sells. But when the basics are relegated to obscure corners, it’s
only a matter of time before they disappear altogether. People may need them,
but sometimes it takes good customer service to explain to customers exactly
what they need and why. Maybe a
new generation of gardeners will assume that oriental lilies were just destined
to lie on the ground.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen for sale in your
garden center? I will draw from
the responses and the winner will receive the eminently practical Eleanor
Perenyi’s Green Thoughts—a brand new edition from Modern Library. Contest ends tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.