They were into Laburnum before it was cool.
Photo courtesy of Jamie Farage-Conners/Farage Photography

by Enrico Villamaino

The differences between generations can be both slight and substantial. It would be ambitious, to say the least, to ask someone to distill down these contrasts to a single sentence. But Maureen Murphy, owner and operator of Bayview Farm and Garden in Langley, WA, sees the demographic distinctness through her own specific lens and readily stated, “Baby Boomers love to get their hands dirty, Generation Xers want low maintenance, and Millennials prefer it when things are pre-packaged for them.”

A native of Minnesota, Murphy was raised around greenhouses. “My father was in greenhouse manufacturing,” she said. “He was very successful and held several patents on greenhouse ventilation systems. His products were featured in both the Walmart and Kmart chains.”

Located on Whidbey Island, a heavily touristed haven often described as the Martha’s Vineyard of the Pacific Northwest, Bayview is today as much a destination as it is a retail business.

“This was all just a hayfield when I started here in 1993,” Murphy said. She spent over 25 years transforming that two and a half-acre plot in Puget Sound into something much more. “It’s an experience. For the people coming here from Seattle, from British Columbia, it has to be all about the experience.”

Evening classes at Bayview Farm and Garden cover a wide range of topics including pruning and potting.
Photo courtesy of Bayview Farm and Garden

Bayview offers its customers high quality seeds and bulbs, fertilizers, remedies and garden tools. But Murphy is quick to point out, “You can’t just succeed with plants nowadays.” In order to continue to thrive, Murphy has had to take steps to address the changing tastes of her customers. “The Baby Boomers loved to jump in headfirst. They would spend a lot of time on their hands and knees in their backyards. They’re true hobbyists, but a lot of them are now aging out of active gardening. Gen Xers have really taken to our succulents. They enjoy having nice-looking plants about the house, but don’t seem to be willing to dedicate the same amount of time to it. They gravitate toward what’s low maintenance. Millennials don’t dig holes! These kids are amazing, and a lot of them show an interest in gardening. But it seems they didn’t pick up a lot of hands-on experience from their Baby Boomer parents. They are very concerned with not having GMOs or unnecessary chemicals, which is great. But they’re also used to having things put together for them, which is a bit of a marketing challenge. So we make sure that our displays have everything they’ll need up front and together.”

In transforming Bayview, Murphy is ever adding new features, products and services for her guests.

A series of classes at Bayview cover topics from pruning to potting, and take place on evenings during the workweek. “We are constantly expanding our programs,” said Murphy.

The Arbor, a creation of 24 Laburnum trees woven into a welded frame, was first introduced in 2000. It provides the perfect floral framework for family photos. “It blooms in mid-May. We get a lot of tour buses full of people from the mainland here for the Arbor for Mother’s Day pics,” Murphy noted.

As a venue, Bayview hosts a number of after-hours events for local young professionals. These gatherings feature hors d’oeuvres, wine and live music. Murphy laughed as she explained that these get-togethers are not only well received but well lubricated: “We go through $1,000 of wine in an hour!”

Perhaps the most successful initiative at Bayview is its Floral Café. Beginning as a small coffee bar just six years ago, the café now boasts a full kitchen with an extensive menu. “Our avocado toast has a killer aioli sauce, and our chicken salad sandwich with walnuts and apples is to die for,” Murphy said. “Everything we serve here is made from scratch, and we’re constantly busy.” The café alone brings in over $1 million annually. “It’s responsible for about a quarter of our total annual revenues now.”

Always aspiring to improve, Murphy has plans for Bayview’s future. “I’ve studied English gardens in the UK, and starting this spring we’ll be building a Victorian glass greenhouse. We’ll also be converting an on-site barn into a bar. It’s all part of the evolution of Bayview from a seasonal place into a year-round one.”

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