Garden centers and nurseries reopen their doors to delighted green thumbs

Deena Awad was one of the first customers of her neighborhood garden store when it reopened on Friday. And during the weekend, she was already back.

“Today is the second round! Awad said after choosing English lavender and a selection of delicate white flowers from Adams & Son Gardens, a small store with two aisles and a side yard full of flowers and vegetables near Humboldt Park.

“I love this place,” Awad said. “They’ve been closed for seven weeks and I’m biding my time.”

A microbiologist, Awad said she had all of her groceries delivered and only left the house to walk the dog.

“This is the first thing you could probably list under ‘somewhat frivolous’ that I did,” she said.

Awad had plenty of company on Saturday as she gathered her plants. It was the first weekend that Illinois greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries were allowed to reopen to the public. Under Governor JB Prtizker’s revised stay-at-home ordinance, which came into effect on May 1, they are now considered essential businesses, along with grocery and hardware stores.

And the new rules coincided with warm weather, the typical start of the gardening season, and pent-up demand from Illinoisans who were locked up on stay-at-home orders for more than a month – which meant people were pouring in. for gardening centers.

Tony Adams, left, owner of Adams & Son Gardens near Humboldt Park, helps a customer on a busy Saturday after the store reopens after being closed for seven weeks due to COVID-19 rules. Linda Lutton / WBEZ

At Adams & Son, owner Tony Adams moved the queue calling prices for his dad to enter the cash register, then rolled customer purchases outside to be picked up in the open. .

“Everyone’s stuck at home so plants are a little escape, a little getaway,” said Adams, who said gardening was “mental therapy”.

He said customers have been patient with the social distancing rules, with employees and customers wearing masks. While exterior signs advertised a limit of 12 people in the small store at a time, enforcement was not particularly strict.

Tony Rincon and Alyssa Leisure stayed just long enough to collect plants for an herb garden they are starting.

“I just have to try to limit your time there, going in and out,” Rincon said.

“Be aware of the space,” Leisure added. “I think it’s something that everyone is going to have to learn to do in these times, to be aware of everyone and everything around them.”

Adams placed orders for his spring factories in January, but had to put everything on hold when the governor issued the state’s stay-at-home order in March. He spent seven weeks at home with his family, only coming to the store once a week to water the plants.

“Then, as soon as I got the governor’s agreement, I started to release the semi [trucks] and they started to come. It took us about five days, five semi-finals to unload everything and fill the court, ”Adams said.

Sarah Chrystal, Adams & Son Gardens client
Sarah Chrystal working on her plot in a community garden across from Adams & Son Gardens on Saturday. Linda Lutton / WBEZ

Sarah Chrystal saw these trucks coming; she has a small plot in a community garden across the street.

“The day I saw their shelves full was one of the most exciting quarantine days,” Chrystal said. “The timing was perfect with the garden centers opening on May 1, because that’s when people usually plant.”

Chrystal said the coronavirus pandemic emphasizes the importance of gardening.

“Grow your own food, take control of your kitchen and know where your food is coming from,” she said.

Adams said he hopes the quarantine could be good for gardening in general.

“It keeps you busy… Clean your plants, water your plants, talk to your plants – it gives you something to do while you’re at home,” he said.

Linda Lutton covers Chicago neighborhoods for WBEZ. To follow @lindalutton.