A contractor's guide to working with nurseries

New homes and commercial developments are popping up everywhere. Where there’s new construction, there’s a need for landscaping. Filling that need are growers such as Kelly Louis, general manager of Ruppert Nurseries in Laytonsville, Md. From Louis’ perspective, contractor-supplier relationships could benefit from increased communication. He shared his ideas for improving interactions with the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA).

Plan ahead. “As soon as you sense a need or are awarded a bid, give growers some lead time. Right now, there’s a shortage of mature trees and demand is exceeding supply,” Louis explains.

· Visit nurseries. “Only about ten percent of our customers ever visit our wholesale nursery. There are reasons contractors should schedule a visit. First, they’ll develop an awareness of what’s available. Secondly, plants vary greatly. Even within good quality material, there are differences. Contractors know their customers better than I do, so they can select the most appropriate plants for the site,” Louis says.

¸ Ask about markdowns. “There are many grades of material. Even with deer or weather damage, a tree can still be healthy.” Contractors can save money on this material, if they know to ask for it.

¹ Raise your technology awareness. Using digital photography, Ruppert Nurseries speed the buying process. “We can e-mail an image of a tree to a customer within 24 hours,” Louis notes.

º Communicate. “Our product’s average time to market is five to six years. Since there’s often little communication between growers, landscape architects and consumers, we have to hope we’re growing trees people want, that far in the future,” Louis says. He would love to have landscape architects tour his facility and offer feedback. Louis also encourages contractors and growers to quiz each other. “Discuss pruning and planting techniques,” he says.

With some extra effort, contractor-grower relationships can be greatly enhanced. It’s a winning situation for all concerned: Growers serve the market better, contractors get the plant they want, when they want it and at the best price. Joining forces benefits customers too, with a beautiful end result.

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