The horticultural trades association (HTA) has over 2700 member locations, many of which are one site nurseries often specialising in a small quality range of own locally produced plants.
The UK gardening industry has a retail turnover of over £5 billion a year and according to the HTA it is a buoyant and growing market. (well it would be growing!)
- Like supermarkets the modern garden centres now sell more than plants and garden accessories, they even provide cafes and coffee shops.
- Much of the stock has been grow abroad and brought to you at the cost of many ‘garden miles’.
- Garden centres often have special offers and vouchers often designed to get you to spend in a way that extends their selling season. Not quite BOGOFF’s but 4 for 3 at Hayes or 20% off in November on selected items are examples.
- Stock that is past the retailers sell by date may be reduced. You need to understand why the reduction is offered – if the stock is weak, damaged or unfit then stay well clear.
- If Tulips, say are reduced in October to make way for Santa and the Christmas stock (that is so important to us gardeners) then fill your gardening boots because Tulips can be planted in November.
- Normally look these gift horses in the mouth – a cheap wilted plant may never recover
- There seem to be as many chains of garden centre as there are plants nowadays. Hayes, Dobbies, Strikes, Wyevale, Nocutts, Webbs, Klondyke and RHS are just some of the 130 members of the Garden Centre Association. http://www.gca.org.uk/
- You may get a money back guarantee but will you return in 12 months to be told you killed the poor little plant.
- Many large perennial plants can be split before you plant them to make several smaller plants that rapidly grow on. I have just bought and split a robust aster that I bought pot bound from a nursery and got 3 good and several smaller plants that will grow in the next couple of months.
Mail Order Companies
- I like Thompson & Morgan for seeds and Jersey Direct often have good offers for annuals that provide bulk colour.
- Buy-in seedlings and grow on yourself. Kinder pots and seedlings at the cost of a seed packet can be an economic way of getting a lot of stock for your garden.
- Mini mail order plug plants are the next level of cost up but can be good value particularly for seeds that are difficult to germinate like begonias.
- I like buying seedlings as a way of getting several vegetable varieties that will crop at different times and provide variety and insure against one crop failure.
- Of the retail choices available to gardeners my preference is to buy from Nurseries. The stock is likely to be local, hardy and ‘good to grow’.
- The choice and selection of many varieties may be better although the overall range will be tighter.
- The knowledge is often detailed and willingly imparted.
- Many nurseries specialise and offer something different.
- Owner managed business units need or help it is unnecessary for big business to cream off the profits made from hard working gardeners.
- Nurserymen and women are some of the most knowledgeable gardeners I know.
In Praise of the Nursery