Houzz Logo Print

a problem with local nurseries

12 years ago

I've spent oodles of fun time planning and putting in beds in the front front yard. It's taken months to kill the grass with newspaper and create spaces that would grow into beautiful plantings in the coming years. I hadn't planned on putting in my perennial beds in the backyard this year. At least, not until my husband repeatedly complained about "those piles of leaves in the backyard". Somehow I couldn't get across to him the supreme importance of those bags and bags of curbside leaves I drug home and dumped on the outline of a perennial bed in the backyard. :) That clay pit isn't growing much but weeds and crabgrass and I'm still a long way from figuring out how to turn it into a garden whose design provides privacy and beauty. But the constant harping about how horrible those piles (now significantly reduced by the magic of cold composting) made me go stick a spade in the ground to see how the transformation from corruptible clay to delightful garden soil was progressing. What I found was truly amazing. Yes, it was still clay. I could still make a fist with it and it would clump up. But there was definitely something else pretty exciting going on here too. Many of those leaves decomposed into the soil and created something that looked a lot like dirt. Yippee! This newbie gardener was thrilled so I decided that perhaps I could get a start on this perennial garden after all. But I had to be quick because the scorching heat of summer is just weeks away and I needed to get those roots a chance to establish themselves.

I pulled out my lists of perennial plants cobbled together from various sources especially from _Easy Gardens for the South_. I researched local plant nurseries and made a plan to visit as many as I could to make my purchases so I'd be supporting local, independent businesses. Most of my plant purchases for the front yard came from the old reliable big box store, Lowes, who always seems to have the best variety and selection of all places I usually visit. But I was feeling a little guilty about giving all my plant money to the big guys so I made a plan to visit the small local ones last week. I visited two and the experiences were very strange.

First, I visited a local plant nursery I had just found out about from last month's secret garden tour. I must have driven by their place gobs of times but never noticed the sign. I followed it back on a twisting road and found the beautiful place as a delightful scenic overlook from the road. I wandered around and finally talked with an employee, handing her my list and explaining what I wanted. She was very helpful. But a couple of strange things happened. First, the owner interrupted us SEVERAL times to question the employee about the poor job a car wash place had done with his vehicle. Apparently the employee had taken it in for him and reported his dissatisfaction with the results to them. The owner kept coming back every ten minutes or so to ask her more questions and all the while he kept ignoring me and the fact that he was cutting her off mid-sentence as she tried to explain other plants I may want to purchase. Additionally, this very helpful and nice employee was very helpful and nice to everyone and the three other customers that came through during the time I was there got the same care which left me standing there for a LONG time. It seemed pretty odd that the owner was so busy on the phone with someone discussing his dirty vehicle situation that he couldn't be bothered to help the customers. I spent a lot of money there but I would have probably spent more if I'd had the information that those plant experts could have provided me. And I definitely would have given them more of my money in the future if I hadn't had such a weird experience.

There are very few independent plant nurseries in my area. I drove twenty-five minutes south to one that seemed fairly large based on their website. Much like the previous one I visited, this one struck me as quite beautiful. I wandered around for a few minutes until an employee approached me. Once again I brought out my list and asked for particular plants. The employee was clearly not pleased with my list. She gruffly demanded to know where I got the names of these plants from, "some book?", she sneered. Her attitude was that she'd seen it all before with ladies coming in with their lists of plants that couldn't possibly thrive in our zone 8 environment. Not for one moment did she give me the benefit of the doubt that I may actually have done my research to select plants that would do well in our area. But then the madness continued.

I felt very rushed as if the employee wanted to be rid of me. She proceeded to interrogated (I do not use this word lightly) me about the garden I was planning. She told me that MOST people bring in photos of their yard so they can give advice about what to buy and they can help folks create a successive season of blooming garden. In my mind I was screaming "yes! yes! That's what I want too and I don't know how to do it" which is why I was enduring her condescending attitude. But then the next thing out of her mouth stopped me cold. "Because if you just buy plants and put them all in together yourself it won't look any good". Dang. Wow. I suck, is that what you're saying lady? There is no way I can design a perennial garden that will look good, are those the words that are coming out of your mouth? I found myself stuck with her a bit longer and even found myself buying a couple of plants. I wanted to buy more because I could see some that were definitely on my list and also some of their gardening accouterments were delightful. But you know what? I couldn't stand being there a moment longer and even though it's now been days since this experience, I still find myself dwelling on it in quiet moments.

Why were both of my local plant nursery visits so horrible? What was it about these businesses that made the experiences of shopping there a disaster? How are they so different than my tried and true big box store Lowes where the employees are ALWAYS super helpful and friendly? What is going on here?

At first I thought it was me. Perhaps I was a little off that day? But no, I was in a great mood both days and excited to be picking out plants with experts. Perhaps it's just the loss of all common courtesy in anything we do in our society these days? I'm not sure. But one thing is sure, my unhappy experiences with both places make me want to skip the whole small plant nursery shopping and stick with the ones I know. Sad but true.

What about y'all? Anyone else had similar experiences?

Comments (17)