Hearing the words, "We're in a drought" is not uncommon in many areas of the country. But the drought experienced in the Southeast throughout the fall of 2007 and winter of 2008 has been alarming. Boats were sitting on red clay next to their docs in Georgia's dried-up Lake Lanier, and residents who turned on their water spigots outside were hit hard in the wallet by fines.
As a result of the drought, people stopped caring for their grass, plants and gardens, unless they could slip under a rule that the garden was a source of food. You can probably guess, folks weren't buying much in the way of flowers, plants and trees to add to their landscapes. Who would want to buy something that couldn't be watered and cared for? A popular Atlanta-area nursery, Pike Family Nurseries, actually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because of the drought serious stuff.
With most crisis situations, the weak are weeded, and the strong survive. This situation was no different for contractors and landscapers in the Southeast, as they learned to turn their focus toward using natural stone and away from shrubs, ferns and Japanese maples.
Justin Payne, hardlines coordinator for Advanced Nurseries in Atlanta, says the drought, while tragic, was an excellent opportunity to push natural stone and pavers. And for masons who might have been having a tough time finding work during a residential new construction slow down, installing hardscapes became a second career. Payne says the most popular of the hardscaping project trends were paver patios, natural stone retaining walls, fireplaces and outdoor kitchens.
"Contractors had to find ways to change their approach," says Payne. "They had to get new business by soliciting landscaping contracting and helping to promote outdoor items. It was a new avenue to revenue."
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