When I’m looking to buy plants and supplies for my garden or yard, I like to visit locally owned garden centers. They tend to provide the best service and products, and I get to help to support my local economy. The last few decades, we’ve witnessed an influx of big-box stores, lumberyards and grocery chains selling plants and gardening supplies in an attempt to lure business away from neighborhood garden centers. While these new garden retailers certainly provide convenience and lower cost products, consumers often pay a higher price in terms of poor-quality merchandise and overall shopping experience compared to dedicated nurseries and local garden centers.
1. Customer Service
Perhaps the greatest strength of the local garden center is the staff. Garden center employees are often better trained and more knowledgeable about the plants and products they’re selling than big-box employees who may have been randomly assigned to their plant sales area that day. Having a staff of gardening experts on hand means that your difficult questions about complex issues, such as fertilizing rates, specific plant diseases and insect pests will be answered correctly. Additionally, many garden centers take consumer education seriously, hosting a variety of talks and workshops that teach gardening skills and introduce a range of new plants and tool options.
2. Product Selection
Selection is another distinguishing factor. Local nurseries often pride themselves in offering unique items or unusual plants, like colorful heirloom vegetable starts, that aren’t stocked by the national chains, which all carry the exact same plants at each of their many locations.
While overall selection is a great boon, buying local also means that you’re purchasing plants that have the greatest chance to survive and thrive in your garden and yard. The plants sold by local nurseries are varieties and cultivars that are well suited for your particular USDA hardiness zone. Additionally, these plants also have been watered and cared for properly—unlike many plants you see at big-box stores that are visibly in poor health, either wilted or afflicted by some disease or pest infestation.
3. Local Economy
Finally, purchasing plants from local garden centers also helps support the economic health of your town or region. Money spent at locally owned merchants tends to be reinvested in your community. Various studies on local purchasing behavior have shown that between $45 and $60 of every $100 spent at regional, non-chain stores will stay in your local economy compared to only $20 to $35 for every $100 spent at national big-box stores.
So next time you are shopping for plants, take a detour and visit your local garden center—it will be worth it. Leave me a comment and tell me about your favorite neighborhood garden center!