Many years ago, when I ran a nursery in Holland, I was often asked by clients how a certain plant had to be cultivated.
Of course I could have answered that question along the lines of a colleague of mine whom I sometimes met at a trade fair in Germany. A potential client would ask him if one of the plants on display would do well in a shady spot. The answer would be something like: “Yes of course madam, you could not find a better plant for a shady spot than this one” . Usually this was enough recommendation to sell the plant and when the happy client had moved on, a new specimen of the same species was put on the table. Before long, another person would ask him what kind of plant that was and if it was suitable for a very sunny spot in the greenhouse. And the answer was -you have already guessed it- that no plant was better equipped to cope with a lot of sun than this one.
It was quite hilarious to witness this kind of conversation, but it was also embarrassing because at least half of these plants would not stand a chance to survive for more than a few weeks. Luckily for the seller, this fair was only once a year and the chances of running into a client dissatisfied by last years’ advise were minimal.
Still, apart from the fact that this not a nice way to treat people (and plants), I considered it to be bad business practice.
To return to the opening sentence, giving useful advise is difficult, especially when the buyer is new to the hobby and therefore has difficulty understanding and remembering all the various aspects involved. After a while I decided to put together a cultivation guide covering as far as possible all the different factors: how much water to give and when, what the minimum temperature should be in winter, how much light was advisable etc., etc.
Like in other situations, just applying a set of rules, without knowing and understanding the basic principles, does not lead to the best possible results.
In the next post I will therefore discuss some of these principles.
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