Taking Your Gardening Dollar

What kind of advice are Home Depot’s “Certified Nursery Consultants” giving?

As an unabashed fan of independent garden centers, I enjoy scoffing at their Big Box competitors – the plants, the heavy-on-the-chemicals products, and worst of all, the gardening advice they give to unwitting customers.  But guess what!  According to this announcement, their garden department staff are now getting some training and becoming “certified”.

The Home Depot’s certification is the real deal. We asked theUniversity of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to help develop the training program. After the special training, our certified associates have expertise in plant types and how to care for them, landscaping, flowers and ground covers, lawn care, and a lot more.

And we make sure there are always Certified Nursery Consultants on duty in our Lawn and Garden Centers ready to talk with you about your gardening plans or answer your questions.

Our associates (the guys and gals in the orange aprons) really know what they’re doing when it comes to just about any DIY project, and they are pleased to offer how-to instructions, buying recommendations, and even some friendly encouragement on all of your home improvement projects.

Hmm, that doesn’t claim that all their garden-department staff know something about plants, just that there are always people in the department who do.  If you can find one.  Unlike the one who helped my niece, a complete gardening newbie, select the right plants for her Nashville yard, shown here.

Her question was: what to plant along this north side of the house for “instant color”.  So she was sent home with petunias – on March 8, a full five weeks before Nashville’s last-frost date.  Which petunias would never be very colorful in this sunless spot, no matter the frost date.

I’d have thought pansies were the obvious choice but no, Home Depot said it was too hot for them.

So, what kind of advice have YOU gotten from Home Depot lately?  I’m dying to know.

THE WEBSITE

Another venue for Home Depot’s advice-giving is, of course, their website, which indeed has a whole slew of videos with a guy identified only as “Rick” giving advice.  One example of his advice? “Many experts recommend fertilizing your lawn in late spring, summer, early fall and again in late fall.”  Terrible advice.

There’s another Rick giving gardening advice for Home Depot, as theirgardenblogger. Here’s his bio:

I have worked in the Garden Department for past eight years and I’m a Certified Nursery Consultant who worked closely with a Master Gardener for four years. My family were farmers in Minnesota, and being from Minnesota I love the colder weather. Yah, you betcha! I have a private pilot’s license, the two amazing German Shepherds have since past on, but I have acquired a Cairn Terrier (this one must be mixed with a cat somehow!) and a mixed wired terrier (the wire terrier thinks he is German shepherd!) and I love to BBQ and be outdoors.

Wow, he “worked closely with a Master Gardener!”  Maybe you have to BE a Master Gardener, like I am, to know how little that means – someone who attended some classes, passed an open book, take-home test, and did some volunteer work.  Master my ass!  The rest of the stuff, about his dog and love of BBQ, is just insulting to shoppers looking for knowledgeable staffers to help them.

From the “Rick’s Picks” blog, I noticed his recommendation that we till our flower beds:

Actual tilling of your flowerbed is an advantageous activity.  Tilling not only helps to remove unwanted weeds but it turns the soil over which helps put oxygen down into the  soil and helps to move nutrients down to the root system.

WTF?  To no one’s surprise, he also recommends spray-on color for lawn.

The website also has an Ask the Expert service, but when people send in questions, the person in charge of answering runs over to the community forum to ask participants for help, then posts their answers to the questioner.

Actually, Home Depot used to have a real expert write for their website, but they inexplicably refused to give her name or cite her credentials.  The expert was no less than horticulturist Erica Glasener, who told me about her curious experience with the giant retailer.   Erica’s SO well known and respected, her name alone would have brought new gravitas to HD’s whole gardening operation.

BUT HOME DEPOT’S A BIG STORE
To be fair, I’ve noticed much improved sales help in HD’s other departments lately, and totally love the kitchen designer at the store near me.  Paint department guys, the same.  So, am I being too hard on the garden staff?

Posted by on May 1, 2012 at 4:14 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
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45 Responses to “What kind of advice are Home Depot’s “Certified Nursery Consultants” giving?”

  1. Pam says:

    A tad snarky, I think. The people at our HD are nice and do try to help. I don’t really go there for gardening advice, but at least I feel like if I ask a question, they’re not going to run away and hide (like another big box store in my area.)

    Concerning those annuals in the South…I don’t know about Nashville, but in the Atlanta area, pansies are only good till about April or May. Most people dig them up before then to get their summer annuals in before it gets hot. I’m assuming the salesperson thought your niece would only get one or two months of color from the pansies.

  2. Tara Dillard says:

    Master Gardener? A 10 week class here.

    I teach Master Gardener classes. I have a college degree in Engineering & Horticulture.

    Cannot believe the advice Master Gardeners have given my clients thru the years.

    One of my favorite Landscape Designers, Susanne Hudson, is not degreed or a Master Gardener.

    Certified nursery employees? Garden centers SELL merchandise. Their sellers different than financial advisers at Chase, Wells Fargo, BOFA?

    Always, consider the source. Surely you saw WSJ & NYT about convicted fraud at the big banks? Ethics? It’s sales.

    Alas, some of the garden center employees THINK they are giving good advice.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  3. trey says:

    It’s telling that in Pam’s comment above she credits her local Home Depot employees with not running and hiding when asked a question, like another box store in her area.

    This is what’s it’s come to. We have lowered our expectations to a level that allows places like Home Depot to tout in-house “certification” as somehow meaningful. Remember, the advice you receive can be the difference between feeding your plants, and poisoning the environment.

  4. mael says:

    Well, I think it’s very telling that HD employees were busy throwing away tomato and basil seedlings last weekend, after having left them outside all night, in April, in Boston. While there was a freeze warning, no less.

    “Expert,” my left foot.

  5. The people in our gardening center are rarely seen when you’re in need of assistance. I think the take a master class in disappearing.

  6. Suze says:

    In Denver, the HDs and other big boxes in our area give what we like to call “wrong plant, wrong place” advice (um, no … arborvitaes do NOT belong in full sun around here) and then they have the balls to send people down the road to our indie garden center for diagnostics about why their plant died!

    It drives us nuts, but at the same time, who gets the blame? The HD/Big Box employee who doesn’t know the answer but sends the customer off to someone who does? The customer who sees no ethical problems with buying cheap plants but then coming to the “expensive” garden center for free advice? Or the management of our garden center who won’t let us turn these leeches their way? (Sure, we’ve made a few converts who now buy their plants from us, but they are in the minority.)

    Speaking of Master Gardeners, the MG program through Colorado State is pretty good, but what I find is that everyone has their own area of expertise. If you get an MG who knows trees and shrubs but next to nothing about lawns (me, both counts) then you aren’t going to have a great image of the MG program if you have a turf question.

  7. Suze says:

    Sorry, “turn these leeches away” is what I meant. Haven’t had the a.m. caffeine yet.

  8. I would never expect a sales person to be able to give me adequate advice on types of plants. I would go to an expert. I would expect those sales people to be able to tell me what is on sale and when was the last time they were watered.

    Of course, I’m also a master gardener. I don’t answer questions about things I don’t know and everyone else should do the same. “I don’t know the answer to that question, but you could probably contact xyz.”

    It’s not a problem with Home Depot. It’s a problem with people expecting experts in places there shouldn’t be any or people to be experts on everything.

  9. Li'l Ned says:

    I loathe and detest BB stores for all the above reasons. I also lament the attitude I see in so many gardeners, especially newbies, which seems to be simply ‘tell me what to do so I can a) buy it or b) pay someone to come in and do it for me. Even Sunset magazine has this kind of advice in their new issue on planting a veg garden (make plan, choose plants, hire someone else to dig and install them) — yikes. Gardening Lite, Sunset?! I guess it is all about money, and the BB honchos figure adding the magic words ‘certified’ will make it so. Maybe they even believe, as so many non-gardeners seem to believe, that gardening is a simple thing and one can learn all one needs to know to become an expert, by following an ‘expert’ around for a while and possibly also having good intentions. ha! I’m an independent music teacher (piano) and after 35+ years, am still amazed at the number of people who inquire about lessons, expecting to learn how to play the piano in a couple of months! Or, perhaps like sticking in a few petunias somewhere for ‘instant color’ (hate, hate, hate that term!), just learning their one favorite tune by rote.

  10. I actually cannot fault the employees at many of those places. The same exact situation exists here in Sweden as it does where you are located. In many cases this is a thankless job with a pay-cheque to match and that explains a lot. They’ll never pay for the expert advice employee.

    We have Bau-Haus and Hornbach which are both German owned companies. They advertise every late winter and early spring for employees and mostly they are inexperienced young people looking for summer work. Like America , most Swedes don’t like alot of the manual labor tasks so they hire immigrants. Then complain that they are taking jobs away. Seriously, the States are mirror image of the great Socialist Supperior E.U.

    Gardening here is only a good 4 or 5 months anyway. Most hirees are like I said rookies and young people. Not really any gardening experience but they really try. At least they try to find out info for you by consulting the manager in charge.

    The majority of folks who conduct business at those places are not necessarily you and I or any of the other handfulls of folks reading these blogs who are gardening enthusiasts. Though we all go there from time to time. You and I would probably make horrible employees. We’d be too opinionated offering helpful ideas that don’t necessarily come with a pricetag.

    Well, me anyway. I hate all of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides so I’d never recommend any. I’d encourage them to inoculate with mycorrhizae or beneficial bacteria and create their own home made compost pile. That wouldn’t go over very well with the management.

    I’m sure I’d be fired quickly – LOL

  11. Lisa-St. Marys ON says:

    I know it must be frustrating, but every convert you get also talks to their friends, family and neighbours. Word of mouth of a positive experience goes a long way, as does word of mouth of a negative experience.

    I have to drive farther to a big box store than to get to my independent. Unfortunately much of the staff at the independent don’t know a whole lot, you need to know who to talk to.

  12. Judith says:

    I did a 90 season with HD a few years back in need of some extra cash…. I have worked in Garden Centers for 12 years, have a degree in Residential Landscape Design and Horticulture Management, and am an avid gardener myself. I can assure you – that the HD garden center employees where I worked at were LOST! we’re talking – what’s the difference between an annual and a perennial! Even with my credentials, I was hired to water. I was not initially hired to help customers…. I couldn’t stand back and listen to employees give such bad advice to people – I also couldn’t stand the vagrant plant neglect.

    you are NOT being too hard on the garden center staff – but it’s the management who hires people who don’t know what they are doing! It’d be like me trying to farm equipment…. not a good idea! I don’t know the difference between a combine and a manure spreader.

    I try to steer clear of Home Depot these days and hit up our local hardware store instead. sure the prices are a little more, but I like having them in my community. and they actually know their stuff – about everything! The guys and gals who work there will find you the right person to talk to about whatever you need.

    sorry for my long rant!! I’ve just been scarred by Home Depot and am please to find someone else annoyed with them!!!

  13. naomi says:

    Last year at the larger HD (as opposed to the half size close by that has nothing), I found an employee who had amazing horticultural credentials. She’s been working there for a few years, and said the benefits – including a salary – are the reason why. I prefer the selection at one independent here along with some of the personnel, but it’s quite some distance away. The closer ones tend to be expensive and I’ve found I’m more a source of info to them than the reverse. I don’t count on HD or Lowe’s employees to be experts, but I also have learned to not expect it in many independent stores either.

  14. Roberta says:

    Pam, you are the sweetest. I wish there were more people like you in the world. I get caught up on blogs 1st thing in the morning and it’s disheartening to read a snarky bash post right off. No one is perfect and I’m sure bad advice is given, I wouldn’t think it’s malicious or unforgivable. Subordinates are hired to sell, to comply, to serve. Management knows who they’re hiring and what they’re investing in these people. It’s the luck of the draw for customers. I’ve had very good and not so good help.

  15. auntie beak says:

    i would think that any part of the “certification process” at a bb store would by necessity include indoctrination from the companies that sell their products in the garden center (scott’s, i’m lookin’ at you). i wish more people would consider the source when asking for and getting advice. it’s a store’s business to sell you stuff. if your petunias die in april, they’ll gladly sell you more in may.

  16. Mary Gray says:

    I’m dying to know more about your talk with Erica Glasener and her experience advising at Home Depot. Let us know if you are ever going to tell THAT story and I will pour myself a drink and pull up a chair.

  17. Ed says:

    Tara is right. I, too, have taught Master Gardener classes, and always like to remind the groups that the “certification” is really the entrance exam, not the terminal degree. I can easily envision any number of Home Depot employees being more knowledgeable than many master gardeners

  18. C.M. says:

    I have a hard time getting past the fact that Home Depot (Lowes, WalMart, etc.) sell perennials and shrubs that are not suited to our zone 6. They will freeze here. If the buyers don’t know know what growing zone their stores are in, what chance is there that their $8 an hour temporary employee is going to know anything? By the way, WalMart used to certify their people too.

  19. Nina says:

    Home Depot, Lowes, those are the places you go for nails & bricks, NOT plants. If you want cheap-ass plants that have been allowed to wilt a few times, but are guaranteed! for a year, sure, go right ahead & buy. Don’t whine about it when said cheap-ass plants die.

    It continually baffles me that people don’t do any kind of research before buying. Duh, plants are like furniture, right??!!

  20. emily says:

    I have had excellent help in the non-gardening departments of Lowes and Home Depot. If they can hire people that knowledgeable about plumbing (and we all know how much it costs to hire a plumber) than they certainly able to hire people who are knowledgeable about gardening. I’ve just never met one.

  21. ka says:

    I’m glad they’re friendly, but bad advice is bad advice so no, you’re not being too hard on the staff. Maybe this will keep people shopping at independent garden centers where the staff are passionate about their craft.

  22. Jason says:

    The only good info I’ve gotten from staff at any plant retailer came from the owner or from a llong time employee at a smaller IGC. Otherwise I usually end up with a short term employee who knows very little. In my experience, HD employees are somewhat worse on average than IGC employees. The last one I dealt with wasn”t clear on the difference between a salvia and a coreopsis. There must be exceptions to this, but I haven’t met them.

    Any time I get good help at a BB store I consider myself lucky. Their whole model is built on low prices, not good service.

  23. As a never-never-buy-bboxstore-plants guy, it was quite dismaying to find that the only place in our entire city with red current plants was a Barnyards (or something like that). However as to gardening knowledge of people at bboxstores, it doesn’t go much beyond “green side up”, although certainly exceptions must exist.

  24. marcia says:

    Im a long-time garden associate at my HD.I was hired in the olden times by a fellow who was a former nursery owner and CCN. I was the first to be certified at my store and had some issues with the program as it was published by the U of Georgia. I made the suggestion that it be made regional.
    I’m also a CA master gardener. The program here is from UC Davis. My recommendations for disease and pest problems come from that training and are aimed at doing the least environamental harm. Management has never had a problem when I send a customer to a competitor for a product we do not have.
    I was dismayed when we started getting vege starts in Feb. Also,I am upto my ears in palms and birds-of-paradise and nary a shade tree in sight. I’m discouraged when customers ask me for something that will kill every insect in their yards and ask me for flowers that will not attract bees.
    I’ve been kicked off Garden Club when I mentioned that bermuda grass was a warm season grass and is dormant in cold weather,contrary to their advice.

    enough rant

  25. Robin Ripley says:

    It’s really about the economics. The big box stores don’t hire professionals with real gardening experience but expect them to act life professionals with real gardening experience. It’s a case of you-get-what-you-pay-for. Sadly, not everyone has gotten the memo. Buyer beware.

  26. Laura says:

    I pretty much don’t ask Home Depot for plant advice. We have so many excellent gardening call-in radio shows in Austin that there is really no need.

    Over a 12-year period, I’ve probably purchased all of 5 plants at the Big Box stores and 2 of the 5 were mislabled. I’d say 80% of my plants come from local nurseries and another 18% come from plant swaps.

    I have purchased mulch, potting soil, pots, & hoses at box stores, but that’s pretty much it.

  27. Rachelle says:

    I had a dear friend that went to work for HD at one point. She was one of the best gardeners I knew. I think she eventually made the leap from HD to one of their major local suppliers of garden plants and became their perennials merchandizer instead. Now I think she chooses plants for distribution for a local part of her garden zone. The HDs in her area always seem to be a bit more spot on than the ones in my local area which get shipped plant material for the generic Upper Midwest which includes zone 3-7– a big variation in what is actually hardy and perennial.

    I always ask which day the local HD is getting their deliveries each spring, so I can choose plants before they are neglected by the “certified professionals”.

  28. Erin says:

    Frankly, I don’t think you were hard enough. I loathe having to go to HD for anything. It is truly the most frustrating place in the world to shop.

  29. susan harris says:

    I agree the HD jobs are low-pay and presumably dead-end, and would have no problem if HD didn’t brag about how highly trained and knowledgeable they are. “Certified consultant” and all that.

    Mary, there’s nothing more to the Erica Glasener story – sorry! Except I guess that she told me she DID encourage HD to reveal her name and credentials, but was told they preferred an anonymous corporate presence on the website. Dumb!

  30. filippine says:

    Maybe not the expertise but the merchandise has been, here in New York, greatly improved. Most plants are now coming from local nurseries and many organic plants are available. If Rick with the BBQ doesn’t know what plants are deer resistant, just read the information on the label or bring an Iphone. For real expertise and that one special plant, you should visit the nursery in your local town anyway.
    Don’t want them to go out of business do you?

  31. Susan, you really opened the can of worms on this posting! I’ve worked at a big box store and always requested working in the garden center (cuz I have a BS in horticulture) but the stores don’t care. They do give “training” to the employees but nothing specific about plants. If a person in the garden center received trainingl, it was probably the asst manager who is never around.

    All that aside, THIS is exactly why the IGCs need to unite and communicate with the public about the services, assistance and education (not to mention value!) that they can provide. Keep up the GREAT work!

  32. greg draiss says:

    My new Motto:

    If You buy plants at Home Depot are you really a gardener after all?

    the TROLL

  33. Katie E-P says:

    Couple things:

    1. If only you knew what goes on with HD and their content.

    2. One of my best friends works at HD in the garden center. She has a Masters in Environmental Science and knows more about plants than pretty much anyone I know. She works there because a) she likes plants and b) it is a job. She works her butt off, and unlike other people in my town sitting around collecting unemployment, she works.

    Why does she work there instead of somewhere else? There are no jobs where I live. None. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. It took a couple of years for her to get hired on there.

    Additionally, the commenter who mentioned health insurance–yeah. How many IGCs can afford to pay their people and give paid leave and health insurance? Not many that I know.

    Listen, I’m an equal opportunity plant buyer. I buy from HD, Lowes, my IGCs, the Farmer’s Market, and I’ll mail order, too. I hate to knock anybody selling plants of any kind.

    That being said, whatever is going on with their “certified this or that” online or in the stores is going on from the top, down.

    Don’t hate on the worker bees. That just makes me sad.

    If I had to take a job at a clothing store to pay the mortgage, everyone would be sent away with a polo shirt. Polo shirts are my petunias of the clothing world.

    It is one thing to be mad at the corporation. I’m upset with plenty of corporations. It is another thing to be mean to the people who are working for a living rather than collecting unemployment because they can. (My neighbor spent 11 months surfing instead of working because he said “Why get a job if I don’t have to?”) And yes, I’m a democrat, and no I’m not against social programs.

    I try really hard not to react online. It doesn’t do any good, but really? Being hateful about people trying to do a job? That’s pretty low.

  34. susan harris says:

    Katie, I’ve read through the post and the comments and have to wonder what statements this conclusion of yours is based on:
    “Being hateful about people trying to do a job? That’s pretty low.”
    My criticisms are of HD’s corporate policies, especially in the marketing department that’s responsible for touting their certification, and posting bad info on the website. I’m as sympathetic toward worker bees as the next lefty, I swear.

  35. TKM says:

    About gardening as it pertains to Home Depot: Last summer in Massachusetts I could only find women’s gardening gloves in the Garden Department. Unless things have changed, if you are male, you have to get work gloves in one of the building /construction departments. Interesting.

  36. Laura Bell says:

    I don’t ask for advice at HD garden centers anymore. I don’t buy there either unless I’m looking for generic merchandise. I live in the Central Valley of California & we are blessed with many a fabulous IGC (even after losing several to the Great Recession). Whether I want something unique or just high quality I go there. HD is great for home interior & hardscape (to a degree anyway) advice, but my plant $$ go to the IGCs.

  37. Riva says:

    Sigh–the Home Depot Garden Center. I want to hate them, but I just can’t. For years, we went to a nice, basic, friendly family-owned IGC. Nothing exotic, but they good prices, good quality. Then a couple of years ago they decided to go all upscale on us. Catering to the condo-development set. Instead of stocking the workhorses of the summer garden, they now carry a full line of bougainville (sp?)and other Chicago- area “annuals.” [note the quote marks]

    At the same time, the garden center at the closest HD has improved greatly. Better options and quality than in the past. An attempt(if admittedly mercenary) green bandwagon. Would I ask them for advice? No. Would I buy big shrubs and trees from them? No. But annuals for summer color. Sure.

    I agree with the commenters that point out that most of the HDGC staff is seasonal. And as Syms always reminds us, the educated consumer is the best buyer.

    And finally…I’m sorry about the woman who bought petunias instead of pansies. But personally, I think that planting annuals is a great way to learn about gardening through experience.

    My Rant is Done Now.

  38. FlowerPower says:

    One of the most honest blogs I’ve ever read. Not only did you expose “certification” for what it is, but you took on that most sacred of cows — the Master Gardeners!
    As a 60+ year gardener who has achieved Master Gardener “status” in two states (because there was no reciprocity) I can tell you that the title is pretty much a joke!
    MG training suffers from the same problem that all other “adult education” training does: The only qualification for admission is that you have the money for the tuition.
    Yes, you can certainly learn something in their classes, but that’s a far cry from making you an expert. In one of my MG classes a person graduated who didn’t know how to plant a seed! In the other we actually had a lecture on the importance of becoming a community activist. Give me a break!
    The best thing to come out of MG training was that I met some nice people.

  39. jemma says:

    Makes me wonder if there are progressive factions in the HD cubes: the certification program, and about a decade ago, a NWF-HD program. I looked into that program, where volunteers would represent NWF in HD stores and offer information on wildlife-friendly gardens. But then I went to the local HD and looked around. The entrance aisle at the garden center is lined with poisons! If you have to wait in line, you’re breathing poison for as long as it takes. It makes sense from a retailing pov (expensive stuff near the registers), but it reeks. Aside from the poisons, the general lack of wildlife-friendly plants (and no natives at all) made me wonder why a retailer like HD would even want to have a partnership with NWF.

    Or maybe it’s just greenwashing: you can post signs about your nursery professionals (see? we’re as qualified as that local garden center!) and about your environmental creds (see? we encourage people to plant wildlife-friendly gardens!).

    As with the MG program, ultimately it comes down to knowing which individuals you can trust. I don’t think much of the MG program for the reasons stated, but it looks like a great social activity for women (mostly) who are interested in plants and want to put together a bulk order of garlic or seeds. And some of the individuals who are MGs know what they’re talking about — I don’t discriminate because they’re MGs :). I do, however, think twice when I encounter someone who uses the MG title in contexts unconnected with the MG program. One person added “master gardener” on her business card because she said it made clients think she knew what she was doing.

  40. purpleRose says:

    I, too have gotten horrible advice from Home Depot employees. I started container gardening this year, and I had to go back three times before I found someone who knew the right type of soil for the purpose (the first time they sold me what was essentially mulch, the second time they recommended a brand which I later found out is notorious for growing mold and mushrooms better than plants). I’d love to be able to get better advice, but don’t know where else to go. In my area, the only other options I know of are Calloways (a chain, but at least they specialize in plants) and a couple independent places. I used to work at the Calloways, and they do have some people who know what they’re doing – but for the average customer it’s often a 20-30 minute wait before they can talk to you. And at the independent places, I have trouble getting anyone to talk to me at all.
    Does anybody have any ideas at all about where else to look for advice? I am dangerously close to giving up and just turning to Yahoo Answers for my gardening questions.

  41. lucia says:

    Here is one of my favorites. I was at HD and remembered I needed bone meal for upcoming bulb planting. So I wandered over to the garden section, and asked where the bone meal was. The guy was nice enough. He finally located it, and then asked, “Do you mind my asking what you use that for?

  42. John says:

    I like the BB stores like HD for very late season cheap plants. I’m never going to go there for advice or to ask substantive questions to their staff, but in late summer and fall when they’re getting ready to pitch the perennials/shrubs/trees into the dumpster (since they’re getting ready to close the outdoor area or make room for X-Mas stuff), you can actually find some bargains. Yeah they might be ratty looking or in rough shape, but some are worth taking a flier on and seeing if you can nurse them back to health. And depending on who’s working, you also might engage in a bit of haggling and get things for even cheaper.

    And even though I’m not necessarily proud of this, there are fantastic treasures to be found (for free) if you live on the edge of the law and don’t mind “dumpster diving” for plants that have been thrown away at the Home Depot’s and Lowe’s of the world.

  43. You cannot be too hard on a place that sells Miracle-Gro & pesticides, and then sells a package of ladybugs to make up for the fact that killing all the native plants (“weeds”) keeps away beneficial insects who need them, thus removing the food supply of many birds (the insects)–And so on, along those lines & worse.
    “Scotts Miracle-Gro — the bird-killing company?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk
    The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company pleads guilty to knowingly selling poisoned birdseed and lawn and garden care products containing undocumented pesticides to an unsuspecting public …”

  44. The big box stores are getting better. In Phoenix, AZ with 300 chill hours annually the HD’s are actually getting fruit trees that will fruit. In the past it used to be a laugher what they were selling to their customers. Now my big complaint is no rootstock info is present.

    But the BAD NEWS for the local mom & pop nurseries that sell their trees for $35-$70 each is that the big box customers can buy the same variety for $10-$12. Even if not ideal, I know Amerikans; cheap wins every time.

  45. MaryContrary says:

    Putting aside the many inherent limitations of big box store garden centers, there are two failures I cannot forgive them for.

    1. Failing to water the damn plants. Better get there the day the truck arrives with new material or you’re in for half-dead, badly stressed plants. The failure to water trees and shrubs is even worse than the failure to water annuals and perennials. You don’t have to know anything about plants to hold a hose — or to tell your subordinates to hold a hose. So. Water. The. Damn. Plants.

    2. Egregious zone denial. I was visiting Minnesota last weekend and ended up in a HD in Richfield. I was happy to see lots of staff watering plants, but I laughed out loud at some of the plants being sold as perennial in zone 4 — as well as some of the very tender annuals being pushed in early May (albeit in a freakishly warm spring).

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