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Let's Go Shopping

Last week I wrote a blog post about buying 'Kent Beauty' oregano at my local grocery store, and I was a little surprised to read a comment from someone who was upset that I would promote buying plants at a supermarket instead of an independent garden center (IGC). I was mostly surprised because I didn't intend the post as a message that you can buy awesome garden plants at a grocery store. I'm glad that Lisa, the commenter, spoke up, so that I could explain as much in a reply to her comment. Also, she gave me some inspiration for this week's blog post.

I'm not one to tell people where or how to spend their money. However, if someone asked me where to get plants for their garden, I would recommend an IGC over a "big box" store. I buy most of my plants at a few favorite IGCs in my area. Here's why:

  • Selection. I always have a list of plants I need, and I find IGCs are more likely to have exactly what I'm looking for—and if they don't have it, someone on their staff can recommend a good alternative. I also like just browsing and seeing interesting, not-so-common plants.
  • Quality. I have usually found that the plants are in better condition at IGCs, especially later in the season, which I believe makes up for the difference in price. I'm willing to spend a little more for a plant that's been well taken care of, because it's a better long-term investment. Just last weekend I bought a 'Green Velvet' boxwood (to join the two I already have) at an IGC. It was on sale, super healthy and good sized. I then saw the same variety at a wholesale grocery club, and they were cheaper but not looking so happy.
  • The People. I like chatting about plants and nursery workers are some of the best people to talk with. They also can offer great advice on planting, care, etc. The "big box" workers aren't always well-versed in gardening.

Now, this is just what I've generally found in shopping for plants. There's always exceptions. I've been to a couple IGCs where there was no one in sight to answer a question, or they were giving off that "don't bug me" vibe. There's also a woman at my local Home Depot who works in the garden department and seems very helpful. I once heard her literally begging people to keep their new plants watered. (They were buying annuals for next-to-nothing in July.)

I have bought annuals at Home Depot and Lowe's, as well as potting soil and tools. I did not feel guilty about it.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. I know for many this is a hot-button issue.