Ministry of Controversy

Home Depot: Not Feeling The Love Yet

Once inside, in a dark spot was a shelf full of organic fertilizer and various organic-okay bug and weed killers.

There was also a prominent rack with an awning that said "eco-options" and labels that promised "earth-friendly" vegetables.  It was utterly bare except for a pair of bedraggled herbs.

Chaos_2

Blocked aisles, garbage on the floor…now I know where I am!

Otherwise, the place was the same contemptible Home Depot of yore…blocked aisles, garbage on the floors, pots with no prices, stuff falling off the shelves, very few plants on offer except for the kind of broad-leafed evergreens that depress me into a coma… your average funereal rhododendrons, pieris, boxwoods, and azaleas.  And not an orange-vested human in sight.

So, nice that "earth-friendly" is now in your vocabulary, Home Depot.  But, for God’s sake, hire somebody who actually likes the earth to show you how to run a nursery!

There are half a dozen people among the Garden Rant commentators alone who are qualified.  Drag Pam Penick, for example, away from Austin or convince Christopher C. to skip North Carolina and pay him the big bucks to come to Atlanta and tell you a thing or two about how to turn non-gardeners into plant-purchasing gardeners–and how to make the already plant-committed so happy, they overspend themselves silly.

Posted by on April 20, 2007 at 4:35 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
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30 responses to “Home Depot: Not Feeling The Love Yet”

  1. Susan Harris says:

    M, that was awesome. S

  2. shira says:

    I truly hate that place. I won’t dare check my local Home Depot for their “earth-friendly” products – I know I’ll just be disappointed.

  3. Pam/Digging says:

    Whoa, that was a jolt to see my name pop up in your rant about Home Depot, Michele. Thanks, I think, for the compliment.

  4. Pam, definitely a compliment!

  5. Beth says:

    I’m tellin’ ya, you are right on, girl! There are so many times you express my feelings — I just can’t say it near as well as you!

    I put Lowe’s in the same category by the way.

  6. Lisa says:

    JUST DON’T GO. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FAMILY OWNED NURSERY THAT ACTUALLY CARES ABOUT YOU AND YOUR SOIL.

  7. I’m refurbing a house. I need to go to Home Depot. But I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate it. The last time I was there, buying a pack of 100 demolition blades for a reciprocating saw, I asked the guy “What’s the best and easiest way to demo plaster on metal lathe?”

    His answer: “Hire someone, who wants to do that?”

    So… the “You can do it, we can help” store suggests to have someone else do it.

    I HATE HATE HATE THEM.

    I try to limit my Home Depot Hell Experiences to no more than one a month. I’d like to get it down to zero.

    And the garden department – well – if your looking for impatients. Whatver. And like you said, I’m predisposed to doing stupid-stupid things in nursuries. Do I NEED another $100 worth of those? No. But Load ’em up! At the end of summer I always scratch my head and wonder why I’m financially off my plan. Answer: The Garden. I just can’t resist. What is that thing for $39.99? I probably need two.

    But not at Home Depot.

    In fact, I’ve cut up my Home Depot credit card as some kind of internal gesture to myself: JUST DON’T GO.

    Did I mention that I hate them?

  8. chuck b. says:

    Ugh, a big one of these stores got approved to open in a nearby neighborhood after considerable citizen protest. Apparently, it’s going to provide jobs for low-income teens in the neighborhood (i.e., ghetto). Well, you can call me skeptical about that.

    There’s an independent nursery across the street, and a new one opening nearby soon. Should be interesting.

    The thing that bugs me the most about the garden centers in these super-stores is the fertilizers in cubic foot or larger sized bags sold to the ignorant public by clueless sales staff. (Should I put sales staff in scare quotes? “Sales staff”.) People get all freaked out about pesticides in the environment; the over-application of fertilizers, especially P, is far more damaging to the environment.

  9. County Clerk, you really ought to open up a bit and express yourself more freely!

    Look, I live in a small, sophisticated Victorian city of 30,000 people–and there is not a single decent nursery in town. Not one good, family-owned place. Nothing. That ship has clearly sailed here–though I promise, if any reader wants to move to Saratoga Springs and open up such a business, I will give you 100% of the approximately $300,000 a year I spend on my yard.

    Short of that, if you want a shrub in my fair city, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, or another dreadful chain store called Hewitt’s are the only choices.

    Usually, to buy something nice, I just wait until I have a few hours to spare and then drive across the Vermont border to the land of really glamorous, privately-owned nurseries. In Vermont, they understand plant chic.

  10. Eliz says:

    This is one of the reasons a group of Buffalonians have opened a co-op garden center in the middle of the city. I posted on it over at GWI.

    But yeah, Michele, even though we do have several VERY good nurseries in our burbs, I find myself in the HD for cheap flats of annuals I need for neighborhood beautification projects. And they do have inexpensive pots for urban gardners who use a lot of containers. Cheap and pretty. Good nurseries ream you on pots.

    HD sucks no question. Now, however, i must go to see how the one here handled their organic options.

    Also-is your article online? I couldn’t find the mag at B&N, though I have yet to check some of the other bookstores. Congrats!

    Oh yeah—great post.

  11. Eliz says:

    “Hire someone, who wants to do that?”

    You know Clerk, I’m kinda with the guy on that one!

  12. From reading the posts above it is obvious that I am in the minority as well as the Marin County CA Home Depot.

    I luvvvvv , appreciate and often shop at my local Home Cheapo , especially the Gardening Department which is managed and run by HORTICULTURIST , Charlie Rossi.

    Unfortunately the secret is out in the North Bay / San Francisco area and I often bump into the whose who of the horticultural gardening world cruisng the isles of this extremely well stocked , organized and well run nursery.

    Sure there is lots of petunias and marigolds lining the isles that the hort snobs ( count me in ) walk briskly by and head for the mid isles where some of the gardening gems are tucked neatly into their isles.

    Last year I walked out with an extremely rare variegated Agave attenuata from the catus and succulent area , a set of huge beautifully grown Cyperus papyrus ‘King Tut’, a Charles Grimaldi variety of Brugmansia, Queen palms, King Palms, Pygmy Date Palms, Alocasias, 3 different types of Bananas and full hedge of Callistemon ‘Little John’.

    Yesterday while cruising the isles I spied a gorgeous isle of various phormiums and the new hot vibrant red Cordyline Red Sensation . They were about 2 dollars cheaper than my wholesale supplier.
    There were also some huge Buxus m. Green Beautys that were already topiaried into large boxes, spheres and cones. _ Already for the estate garden – in squat 15 gal. containers at $ 69.99.

    The imported pottery department was also fully stocked with great finds from Vietnam, China, Italy and Mexico.
    Almost all of my blue glazed pots and glazed spheres came from Home Cheapo .

    It’s a bummer that so many Home Depots do not take advantage of their great resourses by hiring proper management , because when they do , it is a incredible place to patronize.

  13. I am looking for a real job now. As an act of desperation I do know there is a Big Box right when you come into the first town of Clyde and another a few blocks away. I didn’t really pay attention to which Box they were though. Very scary thought.

  14. Wow, Michelle, I wish we could get Charles Rossi to explain why his establishment is so good–and when other Home Depot gardening centers are so bad. Maybe Rossi just works under an enlighted store manager? Though, under Nardelli, it certainly sounded as if they kept their managers on a very short–and very standardized leash.

  15. I believe the Marin county Home Cheapo gardening division is successful because it is managed by a very dedicated, passionate and professional nurseryman , Charlie Rossi, and that he is given an ample leash .

    The other nearby Home Depot in Oakland is downright pathetic bordering on disgusting and the one in Santa Rosa is Ok but doesn’t hold a candle to the Marin store.

    There are a few other great little horticultural gems that one would be surprised to hear about that are also located in the so called ‘chain stores’.
    Another nursery that comes to mind is the highly regarded ‘Ace Hardware’ garden center in Piedmont ( near Berkely and Oakland ). It is managed by one of the hottest horticulturist in the Bay Area who brings in new hort. introductions on a regular basis. His plant selections rival near by UC. Botanical garden.

    I suppose that if one is given the opportunity and they have passion that awe inspiring things can happen, no matter what and where the label is located.

    – a link http://deviantdeziner.blogspot.com/-
    to some of the pots and plants that I have purchased from my local Home Cheapo and Ace Hardware.

  16. Ace Hardware! Horticulturalist! My mind is simply blown!

    However, we are talking about Berkeley and Marin, where you can throw a stick and hit Michael Pollan or Alice Waters on any given day. An entire region of fine-living people–and I guess even Ace Hardware knows it.

    Good reason for the rest of us to hate Home Depot even more. It’s not as if the company couldn’t do better–it just thinks most of us don’t deserve better.

  17. Yes… I’d like to hire some people to come demo the rooms and do a number of things. In fact, I’ve tried. No one shows up regularly. The day a check gets written means you won’t see ANYONE for a week. But we only have about 80 minutes of summer here. I have to get these walls down and up again before winter. And I have to get them down so I can get this place CLEAN. I can’t live for extended periods in plaster dust.

    So… I wait for contracters to arrive and just do it myself.

    Michele Owens: Saratoga is wonderful. As a young man I spent several summers there… you know… August (the horses). But not for years and years.

    I’m shocked there is no nursery there? Is SPAC still there? What about Yaddo? Madam Jamels?

    At $300K a year in the garden, do you live at Yaddo? I actually have “return to Saratoga” on my life-list. Life didn’t turn out how I’d expected… I’d hoped to get there sooner. Now I wonder if I’ll ever see it again at all.

    Christopher C: you should side trip to Saratoga and open a nursery outside of town (Ballston Spa?). Summers in Saratoga are, as I recall, very grand and marvelous things. I hope they still are.

    Hank

  18. Okay, Hank, I exaggerate slightly on the spending front.

    Saratoga is delightful. The New York City Ballet and gambling on the horses in the summertime. Dinners at Yaddo with the artists and the patrons. Sitting on the front porch with a stiff drink. Come visit any time.

  19. bev says:

    I don’t know how old y’all are, but the sad thing to me is that Home Depot wasn’t always like that, either in the gardening section or the rest of the store. Both their stock and service used to be much better. Nardelli really did a bad number on them and then took his millions. The REALLY irritating thing is that they drove out all the local alternatives in our area, so one can’t even take their business elsewhere (I am referring to the hardware store part now.)
    Unfortunately, our dominant local garden center (in a large metropolitan area which shall remain nameless), while good quality, knows it has no competition so is exorbitantly expensive – and raking in the $$ for the owners.

  20. Ellis Hollow says:

    Snark-a-licious post Michele.

    The Marin Home Depot kinda gives you hope for capitalism. They’ve responded to a market made up of educated, sophisticated and well-off customers who appreciate plants. The problem with the dream of starting the kind of nursery we’d all (GardenRant type) would like to see in our neighborhoos is that there probably aren’t enough people in our neighborhood to make the nursery possible. Best way to drive that is to educate our neighbors to create a critical mass of customers.

  21. eliz says:

    Absolutely, EH.

    Most I see in our local HD couldn’t give a s about a gorgeous phormium or anything else. They EXPECT what they see there.

    That’s why we did Urban Roots, and honestly, I have very low expectations. Crazy gardeners in WNY have to order online.

    Hank–the reason I said that is that I don’t know what a reciprocating saw is. And I’m not sure I ever want to know.

  22. angelap789 says:

    I’d heard about the Piedmont Ace Hardware having exceptionally good nursery offerings, but hadn’t heard about Charlie Rossi and the Marin County Home Depot. Hallelujah! It can happen. Ok, well, it can happen in extremely wealthy Bay Area suburbs. Still, we now have proof that Home Depot muckety mucks do, on occasion, hire plant enthusiasts.

    I haven’t spotted any horticulturists at Home Depots in the Sacramento, CA area, but I do find myself favoring some locations over others.

    I think we need to be careful not to make sweeping generalizations about Home Depots… nor should we assign automatic sainthood to all independent nurseries. Not all HD’s are awful and not all independent nurseries are run by sweet lil’ organic lovin’ mom-n-pop owners.

    Like I was telling Trey over at The Golden Gecko Garden Center, no nursery is immune from the occasional boring, wilted or dead plant. Every nursery is hit or miss depending on the day of the week, the weather, and staffing numbers on a particular day.

    Michelle, I think you might have had a better photo op if you’d visited an HD in an area where Spring comes a little earlier; parts of California having long growing seasons, for example. The HD I visit most often is pretty hoppin’, and I shop there year-round. Sorry… what am I supposed to do with nearly 365 days of growing season? No snow days for this gardener.

    That’s why I’m a nursery hopper. I visit little ones, medium sized ones and big box sized ones in Sacramento, the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Bay Area and Mendocino. Annie’s Annuals is only an hour and a half drive from my house, as is Berkeley Hort and The Dry Garden. I’m spoiled, but not so spoiled that you won’t see me in line at HD with several flats of color, some really fun 4″ perennials, herbs and inexpensive gallon-sized shrubs and perennials. And mulch. And succulents. And orchids. And whatever else floats my boat at the right price.

    Let’s also remember that HD offers decent starting wages, medical, dental, vision, etc., even to its part-time employees. They also have coverage for dependents and domestic partners. If you look at their Careers page, like I just did, you’ll see terms terms like: 401K, stock options, vacation, holidays, sick days, medical, dental, life insurance, etc.

    If they would just lose the orange vest or apron, I might even be tempted to fill out an app. 😉

    HD is here to stay, so we should continue giving them the feedback they need, including how we feel about their impact on local nurseries. From a local economic standpoint, I think it’s fair to regulate how close a new HD should be to existing nurseries. Not very, in my opinion. Wonder if they are regulated in that area already… anyone know?

  23. –I think we need to be careful not to make sweeping generalizations about Home Depots —

    Yeah… because there’s a single good one in Marin County. I lived in or outside of Philadelphia, Dallas, San Antonio, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Naples, Florida. All the Home Depots were essentially the same… and I’ve spent tens of thousands.

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it IS a duck, even if one of the ducklings looks like a swan.

  24. God bless you, County Clerk! The idea that my poor cold-climate market doesn’t deserve as good as balmy Marin makes me see red. We have tons of sophisticated, wealthy, educated people here! And if the Information Age and Martha Stewart have accomplished anything, it’s mass sophistication–the spread of knowledge about fine living far outside the Sunset demographic and various pleasant villages in Southern France.

    And, as Bev points out, the state of my local Home Depot is NOT a local problem, but a corporate problem. The direct result of mechanistic GE-style management under Bob Nardelli that was totally unsuited to a retail brand. In other words, they get rid of all the floor employees who knew anything about anything because they considered them too expensive.

    Plus, I’m sorry–there is no excuse for the lack of staff in my Home Depot–or for the fact that there are so many obstacles in every aisle, the poor gardener cannot wheel a cart through them. No excuse.

  25. angelap says:

    County Clerk,

    I’ve been in plenty of well-stocked, clean Home Depot nurseries in northern California (and one near Portland, Oregon by chance) and none of them had a horticulturist manager. That’s my main gripe… lack of knowledgeable customer service.

    Michelle,

    You say “Sunset demographic” like it’s a derogatory term… Zone 14, in da house! 😉

    You do deserve better conditions at your local Home Depot. Maybe a chat with the local management is in order. Or go higher up the corporate ladder. Or boycott them.

    What I’m imagining, though, is that nurseries respond to planting season. Either your local HD has an under-performing manager… or they’re still gearing up for planting weather. That’s a guess on my part because I have no idea what your weather’s like right now. If it’s sunny and dry and soil temps are warm, then there’s NO EXCUSE!

    As for blocked aisles… that is usually a temporary situation while palettes are being unloaded. If the same aisle is still blocked a week later, now that’s another story.

    I’m sure your Garden Rant coverage of this issue is not going unnoticed by HD corporate. Have you cc’d Mr. Nardelli on this discussion?

  26. Oh, God no, Sunset demographic is not derogatory! I love California. I’m just saying that California has been very sophisticated for a very long time–I think that Mediterranean climate helps.

    And yes, it is early here–though May 1 begins the frantic gardening season in earnest. And I promise you, Home Depot is just as bad then–worse, because there are enormous lines at the checkout and no one who knows anything in sight.

  27. angela says:

    “I’m just saying that California has been very sophisticated for a very long time–I think that Mediterranean climate helps.”

    Sophisticated?!!! California? Nah… we’re just zonally lucky. Stuff grows here. Every month of the year. That can get exhausting.

    “And yes, it is early here–though May 1 begins the frantic gardening season in earnest. And I promise you, Home Depot is just as bad then–”

    Then I’m not going to torture you with luscious Technicolor photos of my local HD nursery… unless you want me to. 😉

    “worse, because there are enormous lines at the checkout and no one who knows anything in sight.”

    Amen, sister.

  28. Bemidjigreen says:

    I am with all of you on the Home Depot snobbery. But I don’t think that finding HD a dissappointment is necessarily an endorsement for the ‘local, family owned nursery’.

    For shrubs and slow growing perennials, I’ve had good luck at both venues. Last year I got a lovely korean dwarf lilac at Lowes for $4.77 in a 1 gallon pot–its covered in blossoms right now. And a week ago I bought a renaissance spirea at a ‘local family owned nursery’ that I new was potted badly when checking it out to buy. Since there weren’t any better choices at the nursery and this was a must have for me, I bought it. I waited a week to plant it—thank god I didn’t wait longer. Although it was in a gallon pot, it didn’t have a root ball to speak of–basically like a bare root.

    For shrubs, trees, perennials–Its not so much the nursery as the its suppliers. And for annuals–no matter where you go its the same ‘ole petunias, geraniums ad nauseum.

    If you want healthy unique gorgeous plants I followed the advice of the renegade gardener….learned patience and started my own annuals and perennials from seed.

  29. In April I posted my honest heartfelt opinions toward HomeDepot… above. I don’t how “public” this is, but is the internet and many people pass through this blog. So… I should be EQUALLY public with this:

    I have had a change of heart. The (2) Home Depots that I patronize have had WONDERFUL garden sections this year. Great selection. Great prices. Great help. I have been won back over.

    Someone at Home Depot is doing something right. I’ll post something positive on my own blog soon.

    I just didn’t want this “searchable” page to stand without my correction.

  30. Orange Guy says:

    I hear you loud and clear.

    I run a Home Depot garden department, and I see where you are coming from.

    I love my yard, and my garden…and have fought 2+ years to get into the garden department in my store.

    I am going to print this page out and take it to work and post it where my associates can read it.

    I find unsolicited feedback and customer photos to be the one thing I can use to show what is wrong and what needs fixed.

    I for one read and take this stuff to heart.

    Keep it coming, we need to hear and see it!

    Thanks!

    Orange Guy

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