LITTLETON, Colo. — There are only a few Colorado businesses that can say they have been open for two worldwide virus pandemics. One of them is the Wilmore Nursery in Littleton.
The nursery opened for business in 1886 at the corner of Wadsworth Boulevard and W. 38th Avenue, mainly as a place to buy dahlias. It has since moved to its current location on E. County Line Road near South Broadway in Littleton, where you can still purchase dahlias.
General Manager Lon Vincent says the way people shop for plants didn’t change as much over 114 years as it has over the past six weeks.
“We’re doing a lot of phone orders which is very time-consuming, so a lot of people are shopping over the phone which takes probably 10 times as long as if they would actually come in and buy it," he said. "So, we’ve had to have extra people just to answer phone and do the phone orders."
Business has increased 50% from the same time last year, he said. The number of employees has increased too, by about tenfold. The new employees aren’t just answering the phone — they are also doing a few other things they’ve never done before, like curb-side deliveries and cleanings on the hour, every hour.
“We’ve pretty much used all our cleaning supplies for the entire year this month," Vincent said. "So that definitely keeps us busy."
Another dramatic change the nursery has seen since the start of this pandemic is the interest from suburbanites in backyard gardens that produce food, not flowers. It was the run on groceries that was the wake-up call for Julia Murpi of Highlands Ranch. She says her family is not just backyard farming more of their own food this year, but they're also going to raise half a dozen chickens.
“We definitely feel pressured now to be able to source our own food," she said. "Some of the areas we used to plant flowers, we’re planting vegetables, more vegetables. We’re planning to can more. So it started as a fun family project but turned into a bit of a necessity."
Vincent said gardening was the No. 1 pastime in the country before the internet came into play.
“But maybe we are going back to gardening because we have the time to do it," he said. "We’ve seen a steady increase on food crops and backyard gardens so I think it is going to stay.”
The increase in business at Wilmore nurseries is due in large part to the interest in those suburban gardens. However, it’s still the power of the flower that brings most people in as they make plans to decorating their homes this Mother’s Day.
Vincent said he knows they will make it through this pandemic, just like they made it through the last one and any more that might be in the future.
“Maybe something good will come out of all this hullabaloo," he said. "We just keep going. It’s all you can do.”