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Today is May 9, 2021

Southern Gardening

Independent garden centers help intentional gardeners

By Dr. Gary Bachman

Independent garden centers help intentional gardeners

One advantage of shopping at independent garden centers is their experience with local and regional plant selections and growing information.

Garden and landscape planning for the 2021 season continues to move forward as we get closer to the day we can get back out into the garden full time.

If 2020 showed us one good thing, it’s that huge numbers of people discovered the joys and benefits of gardening. As the calendar moves into better gardening weather, I hope most of the new gardeners from 2020 will continue their gardening practices.

This means there could be some horticultural shortages, so planning becomes even more important.

That’s where becoming an intentional gardener will result in more garden enjoyment.

All intentional gardeners must decide where to buy landscape and garden plants. When putting my gardening skills to work in my home landscape, I often want to buy plants. When it’s time to shop, I like to patronize the local, independent garden centers.

Sure, I could and sometimes do go to the big box or home improvement stores, but there is a huge difference between plant material bought from these sources and independent garden centers.

Now, I’m not knocking the selection of plants at these stores, and the quality of plants is really good most of the time. But most of these stores don’t individually order plants for their garden departments. It’s most common for these companies to have buyers in regional corporate offices contracting with big growers to supply their stores.

For example, there’s a huge greenhouse grower outside of Auburn, Alabama, and this one facility supplies plants for more than 100 locations of a familiar home improvement store.

There are advantages of shopping at your local independent garden centers.

You can count on working with a knowledgeable staff. Many independents pride themselves for having experience with local and regional plant selections and growing information. Don’t hesitate to ask questions because they’ll have answers and suggestions for you to be successful.

These professionals are happy to give you personal assistance with your plant purchases. Many independent garden centers are associated with design and build or landscape maintenance divisions. They can offer a high level of services available besides the basic plant material.

The plant selections at independent garden centers are usually more extensive than those found at other outlets. And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, many will try to source it for you.

Independent garden centers typically work with an assortment of wholesale growers. Having a grower network like this can really be a benefit to the home gardener.

The last point I want to make maybe should have been my first.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated quarantines threatened the independent garden centers as businesses. In Mississippi, we were extremely fortunate that garden centers were deemed essential and could remain open. That situation could have changed at a moment’s notice.

Independent garden centers rely on the customer base of the home gardener, as sales of consumer horticulture products account for 100% of their revenue. These sales are less than 5% of revenue for the big box stores.

I want to encourage all of us to be intentional and support our local independent garden centers this year.

 

Gary Bachman, Ph.D., Extension/Research Professor of Horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also host of “Southern Gardening” radio and TV programs. He lives in Ocean Springs and is a Singing River Electric member.

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