Taking Your Gardening Dollar

On Earth As It Is At Bachman’s

When I was in Minneapolis, I stopped in at Bachman's, a sort of destination garden center loved by the locals.  But these Minnesota people are too modest.  No one had really been able to convey to me the sheer scale of their Lyndale Avenue store.  Really, I don't think there's anything like it anywhere in the country.  230,000 square feet of retail space?  You tell me.

I know what you’re thinking: big, pretty garden center, maybe a little coffee shop, nice gift store—big deal. Seen it.

Oh, how wrong you would be. Bachman’s is like the Macy’s of garden centers. And not, like, the small-town Macy’s you sometimes visit when you go to see your mom. No, Bachman’s is truly the glittery, big city, luxurious and over-the-top fancy shopping extravaganza of the plant world. We’re talking the downtown Seattle Nordstrom’s. The Union Square Macy’s. The Saks that is actually on Fifth Avenue. Only they sell plants instead of shoes.

Some of you have already stopped reading and booked your tickets. I know. It’s too much to contemplate. You could actually shop all day long—all day!—and never see a single dazzling trinket that is not somehow related to gardening.

The gift department alone is worth a few hours. Jewelry. China. Fancy vases. Scarves. Fountains. Pots. I don’t even know how to convey the fabulousness of the gift department to you. Words fail me.

Then there’s a huge flower shop—Bachman’s is a full-service florist with locations all over town and cheery purple vans that deliver the flowers—and a full-sized card shop. I got to take a behind-the-scenes tour of their floral department, and seriously, it’s bigger than most wholesale markets I’ve seen. If you go, try to score a tour. It will blow your mind.

Oh, and the plants. One greenhouse after another full of cheerful blooming annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables, houseplants, gift plants, trees, shrubs—really, every time I turned a corner, I’d see another sales floor larger than most ordinary garden centers, all devoted to yet another category of plant.

The hard goods department—that’s garden center speak for tools, seeds, fertilizers, and so forth—was as large as most grocery stores, with just as many cash registers open. They had everything. Every. Thing.

And then there’s the café. Bachman’s put in a fancy little bakery and a lovely deli that does high-end sandwiches and salads, and you take your food and sit in an extraordinarily elegant and oversized version of a greenhouse, with the glass roof high above you, and plants and deliciously tempting merchandise stretching on for acres around you, and some kind of elegant jazz floating through the air, or maybe that was just in my head. It was lovely in the spring, but can you imagine how rejuvenating it would be in the middle of a long, frozen winter? Bachman’s stays open until nine every night in summer, and until eight the rest of the year. I’d be there every night until close. If they would only put in a bar I bet they could keep the place hopping until midnight.

The only word of warning I have for you plant geeks who are planning on making the trip is that this is not the place to find obscure, hard-to-find, unusual plants.  The plant selection is all cheerful and familiar and, for the most part, heavily branded–Monrovia, Endless Summer, and so on. I'm sure that if I lived in Minneapolis I'd go elsewhere for weird and surprising plants, but I'd hang out here for the sheer fun of it.

I had hoped that this little video would help convey the enormity of the place, but I really think you have to see it for yourself. Sorry I couldn't come up with anything better for you. Just know that every shot is taken from an entirely different part of their vast, sprawling, retail horticultural empire.

Posted by on June 5, 2009 at 10:46 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
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24 responses to “On Earth As It Is At Bachman’s”

  1. *sigh* I’ve been to MPLS 7 times and NO ONE bothered to tell me about this place? Booking another trip out soon.

  2. Alex Crittenden says:

    As a Minnesotan – I have a weird ‘relationship’ with Bachman’s… It’s very nice, very clean, and very ‘put together’, but it’s also very expensive and, as you say, very familiar…

    It’s a nice place to go a couple of times per year, and they always have some of the more uncommon tools that you occasionally need, but it really is wicked expensive compared to some of the less impressive garden stores in the area.

  3. Sarah says:

    I’ve visited several Bachmans locations during my travels. LOVE the Lynndale store. If only it could be transplanted into my neck of the woods. Sigh.

  4. Bob Vaiden says:

    …and all of those native wildflowers?

  5. Holly says:

    I wanna go…insert whine….

    but I am way over in PA.

    sniffle.

  6. possumlady says:

    As a native Minnesotan (but living out East for the past 27 years), I have fond memories of Bachman’s. It was always so special when a purple box was delivered to the house.

    Sad note, the CEO of Bachman’s, Todd Bachman, was tragically stabbed to death in Beijing last summer during the Olympics while he and his wife were there to support their son who was the men’s volleyball coach.

  7. Michelle G. says:

    Another Minnesotan here… My experience with Bachman’s is similar to Alex Crittenden’s above – Bachman’s is great for the basics, but expensive. At the moment, it’s also challenging (or infuriating, depending on the time of day) to get to the Lyndale store with all the construction on the Crosstown/I-35W. Still, it’s a very nice nursery when budget isn’t an issue.

  8. Jen says:

    My goodness, how soon can I get there. That is amazing. Never seen anything close to that.

    Jen

  9. Peter Hoh says:

    Then there’s Bachman’s Cedar Acres in Lakeville, on the south side of the Twin Cities Metro. Want some really big rocks? They got ’em.

    Uncommon Gardens is a small garden center with plenty of unusual varieties just a few blocks from Bachman’s Lyndale Avenue store.

    And that just scratches the surface of what we have here in the Twin Cities. Linders and Gertens ain’t shabby, and for my money, it’s hard to beat the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, where a couple growers sell native perennials. Check out the plant list at The Vagary.

    In May and June, many of the farmers sell vegetable seedlings and flats of annuals priced much lower than at the garden centers.

    And I still haven’t mentioned the biggest volunteer-led fundraising plant sale in the USA.

  10. naomi says:

    I want to go to England just so I can visit this place – http://www.petershamnurseries.com/home.asp – sounds similar, but the plants are a bit more unusual and the restaurant requires reservations as it’s so popular. And, of course, some neighbors don’t like them.

  11. Nancy from Brooklyn says:

    Amy!
    I heard your Wicked Plants lecture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last week — lots of fun!

    But hey, you gotta spend more time in New York! You will find that Macy’s is in HERALD Square, not UNION Square.

  12. Amy Stewart says:

    Macy’s at Union Square in San Francisco.

  13. Funny to hear of Bachman’s here. My wife’s grandfather was a nurseryman in Minneapolis. His nursery WAS the Lyndale Ave. nursery at that location before the his family sold it to the Bachman business.

    Amongst other credits, he bred the first double mockorange.

    Never been to it, but near it. My mother-in-law is buried in the cemetery across the street.

  14. Susie says:

    Looks fabulous….. If you So. Cal gardeners need a similar jaunt, still huge but smaller than Bachman’s try Roger’s Gardens in the Newport Beach area http://www.rogersgardens.com/
    or my favorite in the Central Coast is Ron’s Nursery…nowhere near as large as Bachman’s, but very fabulous, I just stop in to walk around & drool.
    http://www.rons-nursery.com/

  15. Elizabeth Stump says:

    DROOL! I am soooo jealous! But I suppose I am the envy of those who live in Minnesota, as I can grow oranges in my yard – in the ground.

    San Francisco Bay Area has some lovely nurseries, but I suppose that an all encompassing one stop garden and gift shopping mecca like that can’t be hand in one place here. I humbly bow to Beckman’s garden center awesomeness.

    I still envy for you guys the fact you can grow peonies in Minnesota, yet I can’t in my 9b zone.

  16. I think we who live in Minneapolis just take Bachman’s for granted, and you are right, a little French pastry and a cup of French roast sitting in the greenhouse in February with the blazing (if short) winter sun is an inexpensive respite. Peter Hoh mentioned many other great plant places and I’ll add a couple. Tangletown Gardens is less than a mile away on about 53rd and Nicollet (“Nickle-it” for you non-Minnesotans, not Nickolay or Nick-oh-lette, we don’t do French that well, never mind the pastry & coffee). They are the place to go for the exotic plant you might be looking for, but guard your wallet, they’re pricey. And the Minneapolis Farmers Market also has fantastic produce and great starter plant buys, from exotic ornamental to vegetable to some natives. Linders has viral marketing wired, as they have maybe 50 mini-garden centers set up in shopping center parking lots scattered throughout the Twin Cities area.

  17. Marte says:

    I’m with Alex and Michelle. There is another nursery in Long Lake (just west of Minneapolis) that also has a huge, if expensive, selection of plants: Otten Brothers

  18. Laurie says:

    I love looking at the Bachman’s stores, I dislike buying many things from them. They do have a tendency to be wildly optimistic about the zones their plants will grow in, the seasonal staff can be a bit hit and miss (when I asked about seed potatoes, one worker directed me out to the plants) and if you want something unusual, it’s not the place to go. On the other hand, they do have a very good flower seed selection, and are one of the places I go for something different to start when it seems like winter will never end.
    For something different and native, Mother Earth Gardens is one of my favorites in the area.
    http://www.motherearthgarden.com

  19. secret agent girl says:

    Another Minneapolis native here. I do shop there sometimes. Their stores are nice. But certainly not worth a trip to visit, nor drooling over what you’re missing, because it’s really not that much.

  20. judybusy says:

    I’ll ditto the other locals. I rarely visit Bachman’s except for supplies–I bought some seed-starting stuff there this year. I think they have an acre of pelargoniums!

    To round up the other great plant places in Minneapolis/St. Paul: the two farmer’s markets, Mother Earth, Tangletown, Uncommon Gardens and The Friends Plant Sale, which Peter Hoh alluded to.

    Rice Creek Gardens has re-located near Rochester, I think: now that is a place I’d love in my back yard! Sadly, it looks like they have really scaled down the plant side and are focusing on design.
    http://www.gardensofricecreek.com/nursery.html

  21. Peter Hoh says:

    I think that Highland Nursery in St. Paul deserves to be on the list of specialty garden centers in the Twin Cities. A visit to their home page indicates that they are under threat of redevelopment.

    http://www.thehighlandnursery.com/home.php

  22. Foy says:

    That was a well written fun blog post. While I am sure I have been to Bachman’s it must not have been the same one. Or possibly it was just many years ago before they evolved into their current state. This post makes me want to go again the next time I find myself out that way.

  23. Jennifer says:

    Bachman’s is the BEST. They did our wedding flowers. The customer service is top notch and the owners are great. Go at Christmas time and they have a red and black plaid-shirted Santa. It’s so much fun — even if you don’t buy anything.

  24. Emily says:

    Hi all! I am a MN native as well. I frequently shop Bachmans and also love Pahl’s in Apple Valley and Cal’s Market in Savage… all are fantastic. Bachmans is expensive on the surface but if you really look – their 1 gal shrubs are the size of 2+ gal shrubs elsewhere and usually only a couple of bucks more – so more value. Wait for the sales! They are worth it! I got an AMAZING hanging basket that retailed for $75 on sale for $24… and buy your trees for penny’s in September! Be a smart shopper and Bachmans is worth it!

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