In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Houston was flooded with water, but also with volunteers.

People with boats, not affiliated with any official rescue services, ventured out in the murky, dangerously toxic water to help bring people trapped in their homes to safety. Some were from Houston, others drove in from nearby cities, and as you’ll read in our cover story this month, some of those volunteers were from independent garden centers.

Michelle Simakis

There were a few things that struck me, but didn’t surprise me, after I read Associate Editor Conner Howard’s report, starting on page 14, detailing the experiences of several retailers affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Despite being busy restoring their businesses and homes, many were willing to share their stories and eager to explain how they prepared, in order to help others who might face a similar storm in the future. We are grateful to all who weighed in, and understand that those who didn’t respond may have been in harder-hit areas.

The garden centers interviewed were well prepared, and many were back online soon after the storms. Despite having their own cleanup projects, IGCs organized events to raise money for their communities, posted virtual workshops with classes on topics like mold remediation, and provided financial assistance to employees whose homes were destroyed.

Rolf Nelson, president of Nelson Water Gardens and Nursery, along with his son and two employees, navigated the flooded streets of Houston in a jon boat and a canoe to rescue people, risking their lives and putting their business on hold.

Before hearing from independent garden centers, we weren’t sure how they fared. We wondered if this article would focus on the destruction of the hurricanes and how businesses rebuild after an extreme event. Instead, it’s a story about how to weather these storms with careful preparation, and a story of the resilience and altruism that defines this industry.

Michelle Simakis