Part of a series: Living the Good Life with Chris Olsen
You will have lots of choices this time of year when it comes to places to source and buy plants. Even those of us who live in small towns can drive to a big box store, one of those places with acres of parking and thousands of plants. The problem with those behemoth home improvement stores is that you can rarely find a knowledgeable person to answer your plant questions, and the inventory–while deep–is rarely varied, much less stimulating. Geraniums, anyone? Buying plants for your yard and garden should be a thoughtful process in order to ensure vigorous growth, color, and great seasonal display. And, you should have questions about plant growth habits and requirements, which will need answers that consist of more than a shrug. I’m in the plant business, and this is my opportunity to show you why buying from a typically smaller landscape and garden center can give you great return on your time and investment.
Usually, you’ll find inventory divided up into plants for sun and those for shade. More plantings fail due to lack of proper placement than anything else. ‘Full sun’ means six hours or more of sun, mainly afternoon. Recommendation: Time sun hours by observation before you go the nursery. ’Shade’ means less than six hours, and should be morning sun, not afternoon, which is the hottest part of the day. This photograph is of the sun area in the nursery, which can consist of hibiscus, croton, and other tropicals that flourish in heat and need many hours of sunlight. While these plants are true perennials in their native habitat, we treat them as mostly seasonal items that die after the first frost. Your plant salesperson will convey information to you about watering needs and other requirements. Even though perennials are typically larger plants with deeper root systems, they’ll need lots of water. Most high-color plants–those with the best bloom cover and variegated foliage–need plenty of consistent watering. Ask your salesperson for recommendations about watering every time.
During the height of growing season, nurseries need every bit of flat area to display our stock. This rolling rack suits the purpose well for augmentation because it can go from storage to sales floor with ease. You’ll rarely have the luxury of a salesperson standing nearby at a big box, so you’ll need to read the inserted plant care tag. Note: Just because the sun is shining on the rack does not mean the plants within are for full sun. But it’s kinda fun to be able to ‘buy right off the truck,’ so look the display over. These multi-shelf units are best for annuals because the plants are still small coming directly from the grower, which means asking about growth habits. If your choice doesn’t get very large, you’ll probably need to buy more to make a better show for pots or garden border. Your salesperson can help you calculate what you’ll need for your desired area.
If you don’t have a color scheme in mind, a trip to the nursery can mean you get to see what’s available in your area. And if you are shopping for certain hues of bloom, you will find variety at your local ‘mom-and-pop’ garden center that simply does not exist at the home improvement stores. And variety is something you’ll want, especially after you’ve driven around town, or observed what your neighbors plant. But what if you keep seeing a certain bloomer during a drive somewhere, but you don’t know the name? What do you do? Knowledgeable plant people spend a lot of time supplying clues to questions just like yours. And while you’re shopping, don’t forget to look up. We put a lot of cultivars–sun and shade–in overhead hanging baskets. And we’ll cheerfully get one down for you.
That’s me, your knowledgeable plantsman, talking to a pair of customers. I don’t recall the conversation, but, looking at what they had in their cart, I assume we went over the following: What’s good in shade that will grow and fill up the space? I recommended acuba, and aspidistra, two of the best shade perennials available. Is there something we can plant out by the mailbox in full sun that will also take a bit of drought? Echinacea, also known as coneflower, which comes in a variety of colors, is great in full sun, plus will take a bit of abuse. And, it’s a perennial, so you should be able to keep it going for a few years.
These customers just wouldn’t have been able to get the help, or the plants anywhere else.
We live in a temperate part of the country, and have many choices when it comes to what we can plant. But we also have choices when it comes to where to get them. I urge you to drop in your local garden center and wander around. You’re always welcome, and can pick up a great addition to your house, yard, or garden. We’re happy to help at both Botanica and Plantopia, and look forward to your questions and ideas.
Enjoy Every Moment,
Chris H. Olsen