Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to shopping for plants. And I should know. I’m sort of considered by many to be a bit of a plantaholic. While I do purchase a number of plants online, most of them come from local garden centers. Still, there’s nothing more satisfying than actually strolling through a plant nursery where you can take in all the beauty and touch the plants (maybe even talk with them some too).
Local vs. Big Box Garden Center
Okay, I won’t lie. Many of those big box stores with garden centers offer huge savings BUT they’re not always the best option. Keep in mind that you “get what you pay for.” Sure, if you’re an experienced gardener, you may easily be able to nurse that marked-down, yellowing plant back to health from the brink of death, but what if you’re new to gardening?
Maybe you come across those special end-of-season deals with hoards of flowering bulbs for sale. How many do you really need? Better yet, when should you plant them? What soil will they require? Do they sell soil? What about mulch? Got to have that too, right? Oooh, and look at that beautiful tropical plant over there. Can I grow that in my garden too?
I hate to break it to you newbie, but you might be out of luck when it comes to finding the answers you need BEFORE you make that purchase. Oftentimes, salespeople in the larger big box stores have limited knowledge about gardening. You may even be hard-pressed to find someone readily available to help you load up your cart with those heavy bags of mulch you need. Been there, done that and my back paid the price for it.
And when shopping online, there’s usually no one to help you there either. You may not have to do any back-breaking lifting, but you won’t have that one-on-one assistance for all those gardening questions floating through your mind.
Like many big box garden centers, they may seem to have lots of flowers, shrubs, and other plants available, but they’re usually purchased in bulk at wholesale prices. Little care is provided, hence that dying plant is now on clearance, and it’s no biggie if some of them don’t thrive – they’ll just get more. So how are small nurseries better?
Local Nursery Benefits
First, at a local garden center, not only are the people working there more than happy to assist you, but they’re far more knowledgeable about gardening in general and the plants you’re interested in. They also normally sell plants well suited to your area and are more familiar with pests and diseases.
Got questions? Ask away. Need help loading all those plants or bags of potting soil or mulch? Not a problem. There’s usually always someone around to help with anything you need. Your back will thank you (and them).
Local plant nurseries are hands-on. They often grow the plants themselves or obtain them through local growers, and provide essential care along the way. They want their plants to look their best so they will thrive in your garden space. In fact, having plants in stock that are hardy to your climate, even native, means they are more likely to remain healthy once you buy them.
When you shop locally, you’re also keeping more money in your own community. And buying fresher plants means less of a carbon footprint since the growers are nearby.
The benefits of shopping local pay off in the long run, even if you have to initially pay more for the plants. You’ll be able to get those one-on-one answers before you buy along with tips on what your plants need to thrive.
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Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.