I moved here about four years ago from Cincinnati, a nice mid-sized city with good shopping, including some really nice garden centers. For the most part, those garden centers had really good selections of very healthy plants at prices higher than the big box stores. You shopped the garden centers because that’s where you could find plants that were a little out of the ordinary, and that’s where you could get your gardening questions answered. Plus, they were merchandised so beautifully that they were a great source of inspiration. There were some garden centers I would make a point of visiting in the spring because being there fed my soul.
A lot of people don’t realize that most garden centers don’t grow their own plants, and the fact that most don’t was my paradigm when I moved here. I wrote about Crow’s Nest Greenhouses on Saturday; I first heard about them from the retired horticulture professor we purchased our house from, but didn’t actually visit until the spring following our move.
That spring, we had laid claim to the garden already cleared by the previous owner and had planted a lot of veggies I had started from seed. I was over at one of the big box stores purchasing some seed and decided to go ahead and pick up a flat of marigolds for insect control. I was reasoning that they were “just marigolds”, nothing special, and I didn’t want to pay the premium price at a garden center. Back in Cincinnati, they would have been about 30% more expensive – better plants, mind you, but more expensive.
So, I got a big surprise when I then went to my first visit to Crow’s Nest and saw marigolds that were twice as big as those I bought for almost exactly the same price per plant. “How does he afford to do that?” I asked, and found out he grew his own plants.
We are really lucky to live in an area where you can find garden centers growing their own plants. The concept is a dying one across the country as the little guys succumb to the competition of the big box stores. Now, nothing against those stores. Sometimes you come across a good plant that you can’t find anywhere else. But, I do believe in buying locally when I can, and if I end up getting a bigger plant for the same money, the choice is a no-brainer.
So, keep the names of your favorites coming in, whether they grow their own plants or just source them locally or regionally. I’d love to know about them!
Speaking of which, a reader from Salem, Sonny Campbell, emailed me about one of his favorites in Salem, Riverside Nursery. He said the owner sells mostly plants they grow themselves and that they carry 70-80 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Sounds like a place to check out!