Montreal

Quebec garden centres call for government to deem them an essential service

Gardening season is right around the corner, and nurseries, fully stocked but closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, say customers are clamouring for their plants and seeds.

Big-box stores are allowed to sell gardening products, but locally owned nurseries have been forbidden to open

Mélanie Gregoire, the owner of les Serres St-Élie in Sherbrooke, says her phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from customers stuck at home with limited grocery access, who want to start growing their own food. (Submitted by Mélanie Gregoire)

Gardening season is right around the corner, and nurseries, fully stocked but closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, say customers are clamouring for their plants and seeds.

Some garden centres are now calling on the provincial government to deem them as an essential service.

Big-box stores are allowed to sell gardening products, but locally owned, smaller garden centres have been forbidden from doing the same.

Pierre Jasmin, the owner of Pépinière Jasmin in Montreal's Saint-Laurent borough, says 10 per cent of his annual sales happen in April, as people start preparing their summer gardens.

But he says sales have plummeted because he can only sell online.

Jasmin says when customers find out there's a delivery fee, they turn to big-box stores instead of supporting a local business.

"We're allowed to bring in foreign workers to have product ready for the consumer, but our government says, 'No, no, no. Go to Rona. Go buy them at Canadian Tire. Don't go to the local stores,'" Jasmin said.

"We're in a very tight situation right now."

Mélanie Gregoire, who owns les Serres St-Élie in Sherbrooke, says her phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from customers stuck at home with limited access to groceries. They want to start growing their own food.

"People … need something alive around them, and since we've been shut down, it's hundreds of calls per day," Gregoire said.

Gregoire and Jasmin both say they hope the province will add nurseries to the list of essential services.

Until then, Quebec nurseries will be launching a new website Friday called Mon Panier Vert. It will provide Quebecers with a list of local businesses that sell seeds, plants and vegetables in every corner of the province.

With files from Lauren McCallum

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