Spring Home and Garden: Out of COVID came the need for green

Published 7:33 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

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Plants and outdoor living helped and will help us get through a pandemic


There’s not much positive that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps it has cultivated a greater appreciation for the world around us.

That’s what Randy Berg, owner of Berg’s Nursery in Austin, has seen. From the pandemic has sprouted a new and sustained love for everything green and outdoors.

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“I just think that people started to discover, being locked up so much or inside, the need to be near greenery,” Berg said. “There’s a human thing that we all kind of like. We walk around [a greenhouse] take that deep breath. We see people come in here for their lunch hour just to walk around. You can see them clear their head.”

Randy Berg holds a Neon Pothos, a colorful addition to anyone’s home.
Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“There’s something about being close to nature and plants that is really healthy to us,” he added. “It feels healthy.”

Berg remembers the first dark days of the pandemic, when Berg’s and other nurseries and greenhouses from around the state were faced with closure like so many other business.

But greenhouses, nurseries and the associations that support them were able to convince Gov. Tim Walz the value that growing plants has for a person on an individual level.

“This is beneficial for people to be in their yards to do these things,” Berg said. “It’s therapeutic in many ways. [Walz] agreed.”

Berg’s was only closed for 10 days and when they reopened they had to adjust how they did business, including creating flow lanes throughout their business in order to minimize contact between the people.

But from these early days emerged the greater trend of people wanting to grow — whether they were green thumbs or beginners.

“People came in droves, overwhelmingly rushed garden centers throughout the United States and many people had never gardened,” Berg said. “Many people were discovering the joys of it and the therapeutic end of it and just discovering the sheer wonder of growing that tomato plant into that BLT that is so great that you can’t get it anywhere else.”

As restrictions began to gradually lift, however, Berg began to notice traffic within Berg’s begin to return to normal, but some trends continued to stay fortified. Something of that initial rush stuck with people and one of those things was growing indoor plants.

It’s something Berg foresees sustaining as well.

“Green plants have not been a factor or big category for us since the 80s,” Berg said. “People have a plant here and there, it was not a big deal. People were buying house plants and still are to a level that is just unprecedented dating all the way back to that period.”

This became especially important during the first year of the pandemic when so many things were still locked up. But nature wasn’t and this provided a way for people to bring nature into their homes.

“Green plants and pots and everything required to grow them indoors have been extremely strong and favorable,” Berg said. “It looks like that’s going to continue.”

Another trend Berg sees continuing is households transforming their backyard spaces into extended portions of their home through landscaping and the creation of patios.

Berg’s is so busy that they are still working on a queue that dates back to last year. Creating that outdoor space is another way to for families to bring themselves closer to nature.

“It looks like that’s going to continue,” Berg said. “Landscapes … the outdoor creation of living spaces where you can enjoy the fire pit with the grandkids or the children and roast hot dogs or s’mores. That’s a big deal because that family unit is enjoying that time outside in nature.”

There doesn’t seem to be any one style that’s taking over. Berg is noticing that families are building from small to large, not only making use of the space they have but also the need available to them.

“I think what you’re doing is you’re expanding the areas in which they are able to live their lives,” Berg said. “You’re enriching their lives. You’re making it better.”

When it’s all said and done, that is what it comes down to. Enriching lives, and if it’s one of the lone good things to come out of a pandemic, then it’s also one of the best.

The thriving move to plants, gardens and outdoor living spaces have all opened windows again to the world outdoors.

“You enhance their lives using plants to do that,” Berg said. “Plants draw in birds, they draw in butterflies and bees and everything nature has to offer and all of the smells that offers. All of those are ways to heighten our senses. We like that. It feels good to us and it’s just because we like to be in nature.”

If you are looking to embark on your own nature-filled life, then Randy Berg suggests these indoor and outdoor plants that might work for you.

Neon Pothos

The Neon Pothos, pictured in the above photo, is a vibrant green plant that is perfect for indoors as it can grow in relatively low light. Guaranteed to brighten any house with its leafy hues.

Fiddle-leaf Fig

Fiddle-leaf Fig

Don’t let it’s small stature fool you when you first see it in a greenhouse. The plant can grow to up to six feet tall and cozily fill any corner of the room.



Succulents are highly versatile and can be used to set off a part of your living room or your backyard patio. A cactus without needles, succulents require very little moisture to thrive.

Durabloom Hot Pink Petunia

Durabloom Hot Pink Petunia

Petunias are always a colorful addition and are easy to plant in hanging baskets. The Durabloom Hot Pink petunia comes in “plugs” that make it easy to mix and match and plant how you want for that perfect arrangement.

Stained glassworks velvet coleus

Stained glassworks velvet coleus

This plant can be a striking accent to any arrangement, with its rich green leaves, bordered by purple.