In early March when Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order lifting the state’s mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100%, I will readily admit that I cringed. I have the right to cringe as a resident of the Lone Star State, a supporter of wearing masks in public, and a frequent caregiver to a family member who’s in the extreme at-risk category.

To my surprise, many of my neighborhood businesses continue to require masks, have not opened up to 100% capacity, and I’m still seeing a lot of folks donning masks. Another thing I’ve noticed: The restaurants, bars, shops, and movie theaters are bustling with people, but so are the garden centers. And that is a reason to celebrate. But the journalist side of me asks, ‘Is that because it’s spring and the normal buying cycle for plants or is it because the pandemic gardeners are holding on to their new hobby?’

About two weeks after Abbott's announcement, Lloyd Traven, who owns Peace Tree Farm with his wife Candy Traven, tagged me and several others in a Facebook post. He linked to a beautifully written op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Alyssa Rosenberg titled, “While you’re waiting for post-pandemic life to resume, try growing something.”

Read it here:

Lloyd posted, “This is a very important message for us all in the hort industry and grab for it NOW, because when we can go back to Italy and Tahiti and Australia and RESTAURANTS, we ALL will. Will that be an end to these golden times for horticulture? Or will we hold onto the millions who figured out that plants matter?”

If consumers are anything like the Post’s Rosenberg, green spaces have become a valuable part of life.

She writes, “My garden feels like the bridge that will carry me through the pandemic’s final weeks and months. If routine activities are slow to resume outside my fence, I can still foster an explosion of new life inside it. I know I’m not alone — and I invite any reluctant or space-pressed gardeners to join our numbers. Prolonged isolation inspired a renovation boom for those who could afford to reimagine their private spaces. But no new deck or finished basement inspires quite the same awe as something emerging from nothing — be it a bloom finally opening up from a coddled houseplant or a bulb planted last winter breaking through soil in search of sun.”

I know the masses won’t share her uninhibited passion for live plants, but if we don’t keep reminding consumers about how and why plants are important to mental health, spiritual health, the environment, and the economy, we may lose them to blue-plate specials, craft beers, and airplane tickets. However, those folks are not our enemies. We can all work together to craft a message to support local businesses and industries. Messages like, invite your friends over for those local beers and enjoy them in your garden. Continue those take-out orders and eat on your patio under a string of lights. Grow your own veggies and grab a steak from your local butcher.

Your innovations during the pandemic made me so proud. Don’t stop innovating now.