It could be a garden-related art installation : in which case the mass of plastic pots congesting the garden paths would be nicely symbolic of the massive accumulation of pots of various colours, shapes and sizes in the work-shed, upstairs in the storage loft.
However the reason they’re arranged like this is more mundane – and a more practical response to the current situation.
These pots are in good but ‘used’ condition, and I’ve been washing them – and drying on the paths, ready for selling on eBay. I’ve already sold hundreds and hundreds (in small lots) of plant pots that have been stored, brand new, unused, in the storage loft for years. More than 15 years, in fact.
When we first were here in Uist, we grew and sold a variety of herbs and plants, and shrubs, and we were selling so many that we were pleased to snap up an opportunity to buy a large quantitiy of new pots of various sizes at a very low cost. I bought them in Hexham, Northumberland, on my way back to Uist from a month or so of working in north east England on highway design projects. The pots took up most of the floor of the motorhome we had – and which was my home away from home.
At that time – and indeed continuing until the present, though on an ever lesser scale, we also propogated and grew-on hundreds, if not thousands of plants shrubs and trees for our own garden (and, later, our croft), all using pots, though often re-using the same pots.
The ‘nursery’ business proved to be a great deal of work for little return, and heavy losses, too – whether due to storm damage or the plants simply not being sold. Although we benefitted from a lack of competition, there wasn’t (and still isn’t) a big enough local market for that kind of thing – and certainly not the well-informed or well-motivated local customer essential to a business of that type.
Summer visitors – quite understandably – were interested only in small pots of herbs or small plants they’d seen in Uist. After a few years we decided to shift the focus on the ‘growing’ side of our business to fresh soft fruit, vegetables and herbs – which didn’t require plastic pots. So was it that the vast majority of our stock of pots became redundant, though, then, pots were so cheap to buy that it was not realistic to sell them on eBay …
… until now. With the vast majority of the UK population locked-down at home, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and exceptionally good weather, a lot of people decided to do something about their neglected or tired gardens ; or (perhaps having previously made-over their garden with hard landscaping) they decided it would be good to grow some of their food (to taste good, save money, educate the children) ; or, having only a south-facing balcony or available, they decided to grow some tomatoes in large pots.
Garden centres were all shut-down, however. The only sellers of pots online were wholesalers offering entire boxes of pots. We were one of very few offering small quantities of plastic plant pots on-line – specifically on eBay. Demand remained very strong for nearly two months – until the garden centres in England re-opened, a fortnight ago. Demand has now fallen, but having already sold all the new pots, we were now cleaning soiled pots as ‘used’ (but still getting very strong bids).
All this has been done by Denise, who has successfully sold all the pots we could spare for many many times over what we paid or them back in 2004-2005! When investors are looking for long-term returns, balanced against security, they put their money in land, property, government bonds. Well, we think we did better with plastic plant pots! As with all market-driven returns, it’s all about timing!
With no significant income from the holiday cottages or the Hebridean Woolshed this year, we’ve had to look around for what we can do without, what can be liquidated – turned into cash ; and without jeopardising a return to trading next year. And its certainly not just been about plastic plant pots. We’ve also sold remnants from Harris Tweed projects, in smallish lots ; and many cones of fine lambswool, too (which also we bought back in 2005-2006 in large quantities at very low price from a business that was closing down).
It’s been surprisingly hard work, but very satisfying to raise much-needed cash this way – a few thousand pounds already. It’s not just been plant pots and craft supplies we’ve been selling, either : some garden tools we don’t use ; some clothing (Rohan clothing, too!) that doesn’t quite fit me ; a hi-fi component that J says he can live without ; four freezers (formerly for storing our Hebridean Hogget Lamb), electrical switches, sockets and other electrical accessories – new and used (safe!) – and surplus to requirements. Not everything went for a profit – some things barely covered the cost of sending them. Everything, though, went to someone who was glad to get them, pleased with the price, and would put their purchases to good use.