Garden centers in Fairfield provide beauty, solace
FAIRFIELD — In this time of international crisis, there are some functions and businesses that are obviously important to maintaining the physical well being of the population.
Yet there are other entities whose importance can be viewed with a much broader and subtle lens, for their impact on health and wellness may partially be centered on tending the vitality of people’s emotions and spirits as well.
Gardening centers fall under this category if you ask anyone involved, be it customer or employee. And while Massachusetts, New York and other states have closed these particular businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, in Connecticut they remain an essential piece of the infrastructure for various reasons.
“It’s food for the soul,” said Melanie Fox, perennial manager at Oliver’s Nurseries in Greenfield Hill, which has been in operation more than half a century.
Like others working within the industry — as well as many customers — Fox sees multiple value in what they do — everything from augmenting supplies in the food chain through gardening, to offering participants the trappings of serenity during these particularly strained and stressful days.
“It’s a strange time, but there are things of beauty that are positive as well,” she said, rejoicing to be a key part of providing that to people.
“This is a little bit of happiness,” said Alison Reilly of Westport, who made some purchases over the weekend at Oliver’s.
“There’s something healing about gardening,” she said.
“It’s giving people something to do, to work in their yards, to not be stuck in their houses,” explained Steve Pfann, owner of Colonial Gardens in Greenfield Hill for 37 years, along with his wife Bonnie.
“And people are saying it’s also helping their mental health,” he said. “They’re joking around about it, but I think they’re also serious.”
“Plants are good for you,” said Casey Palmer, whose father, Chris Palmer, has owned Outdoor Design & Living for 30 years.
Customers are stopping by the business merely to spend some time on the fertile grounds, taking in the views, scents and serenity.
“People just come to be among the plants and walk among them,” she said.
“People are very eager to fix up their yards,” Palmer said. “That’s what everybody’s looking for right now … and with the nice weather we’re having people just wanting to be outside more.”
“Everybody’s spending a lot more time at home and outside,” said Jed Duguid, manager at Oliver Nurseries, “and they just want to make their home a beautiful place, if they’re not going to be traveling somewhere else.”
And Palmer said that not only are people seeking solace through horticulture, they’re trying to spread some of that joy to others in their lives.
“People are sending arrangements to loved ones and to people who have dealt with the virus,” she said.
According to Garden Center magazine, consumer horticulture brings $346 billion to the U.S. economy and creates more than 2 million jobs.
“But the story doesn’t end there,” it states in a plea to keep garden centers open as essential operations. “Horticulture benefits the health and happiness of every citizen and every community in the U.S.”