~Rex Stout via Nero Wolfe
Last year I read an article exposing the pay-per-scan agreements generally contracted between big-box-hardware/garden center stores (BBHGC) and the growers supplying the nursery plants. I think it bears further discussion. I
When we buy a plant from an independent nursery, in addition to having access to knowledgeable, helpful staff, they often give planting and care directions with the receipt as they want us to be successful with our purchase because the return of a dead plant will cost the nursery money and sometimes reputation. They paid the grower already for the plants they received in the shipment, so any returns go against the nursery’s profits not the grower's.
On the other hand, when we buy a plant from a BBHGC, the staff usually has no gardening expertise to guide us and no additional plant care information is given with our purchase. Our dead plant can be returned simply with a receipt…no questions asked. Since the garden dept staff is usually assigned to the garden dept and not experienced in plant care or gardening, the plant we bought could have been either: under watered, over watered, fried, frozen or otherwise abused depending on how long ago it was delivered to the big-box store. By the time we get it, it may look ok but is already beginning to die.
Case in point…you may know that Hostas are generally a species that needs shade or partial shade, with a small handful of varieties that can handle some sun. Last year, while at one of these large BBHGC I saw an entire 4 tier rack of Hostas parked in the full hot afternoon sun on an 80F+ (27C) degree day. They were all in various stages of wilt. Each tier holds 3 trays. Each tray holds 9 one gallon plants. That’s a whopping 108 plants, toasted by the store’s staff that the grower will never get paid for, because they were too damaged to ever be sold! Or if some poor unsuspecting customer did buy one, it was no doubt returned due to its demise as the damage progressed. Who looses? The grower, who grew and shipped in good faith but who will never receive a dime for those 108 plants. From my perspective, that’s appalling!
That was last year…a few days ago when I took the picture it was a 45F (7C) degree blustery day with a wind chill factor of brrr! and what did my little wandering eye spy? Approximately 90 Delphiniums whose flowering stems had been broken down by the wind and a cart of Gardenias whose leaves had all curled and withered from being displayed outside in the cold temps. What a waste!
Should you stop buying plants from these BBHGC? If you do you’ll also hurt the grower, but it’s definitely a buyer beware situation. If I buy plants at a BBHGC, which is rare, I only do so if it’s obvious the shipment is relatively fresh and newly arrived. I much prefer to support small, independent nurseries that truly have a love for gardening, want to help you succeed in your garden and employ knowledgeable staff that are gardeners too.
Thanks for putting up with this gardener’s rant…I feel better…a little…well only marginally. I need a cup of tea!
In bloom in my garden today: Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ (Yellow Fawn Lily),Wisteria, Tulipa ‘Gavota’, creeping phlox, Daffodil ‘Erlicheer’, Oxalis oregana ‘Wintergreen’, Anemone nemerosa ‘Robinsoniana’, Dodecatheon (Shooting Star), Alpine strawberry, Muscari (Grape Hyacinths), Fritillaria, Primrose, Hellebore, Skimmia, Mahonia repens (Oregon Grape), Heather, Rhododendrons, Clematis, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’, Wood Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides hispanica)