With spring just weeks away, garden centers in the Augusta area are gearing up for their busiest season.
“That’s our Christmas,” said Gerald Stephens, who owns Nurseries Caroliniana in North Augusta.
Business at Stephens’ nursery, in operation for 40 years, more than triples between March and May, he said.
Part-time employees at the nursery become full-time, but because Nurseries Caroliniana is a smaller-scale nursery, Stephens doesn’t hire additional staff for the peak season.
At Greenbrier Nursery & Gifts in Evans, owner Julie Logan is looking to add five employees to work retail and possibly more personnel for landscaping needs.
Business in January and February has exceeded previous years, giving Logan indication of a prosperous spring.
“By the end of February, everyone is full-fledge, got-to-get-ready for Masters,” Logan said. “You definitely double your traffic.”
The nursery sees the most customers from March through mid-June.
“Some weekends can be overwhelming,” she said.
Unlike local nurseries, larger retail stores in the Augusta area tend to prepare for spring by substantially bolstering their workforce.
Lowe’s will add about 130 seasonal employees total to spread to its five locations across the area, while Home Depot is expected to make more than 100 local spring hires, according to statements released by each company.
The spring hiring season, before the housing crisis, meant more jobs at local nurseries than they do now.
David Bokesch, the owner of Green Thumb West Nursery and Garden Center, plans to fill three positions.
Bokesch has already received half a dozen applications. In years past, he hired more help.
“People are more reluctant to spend money on landscaping and decorating when they have to pay for education and food,” said Bokesch, who opened the nursery in 2005 on Davis Road in Martinez. “This is not always on the list.”
Logan faced a similar problem at Greenbrier Nursery, when the nursery lost about $100,000 in revenue in 2007. Since then, business has held steady, she said.
“We’re not a necessity,” Logan said. “We took a hit when everybody took a hit.”
Still, Bokesch is optimistic that gardeners will continue to invest in their hobby. For many, gardening remains a way for them to relax and a good source of exercise. Others look at growing their own produce to save money, he said.
“People still want to plant their garden, a nice yard,” Bokesch said. “They invest in their house.”