It’s the end of January in the Midwest and I am suffering from gardening withdrawal. I’m feeling queasy, irritable, unable to concentrate. I must have plants! Herbaceous perennials, shrubs, small flowering trees, I don’t care! Just something!
One way to take the edge off of gardening withdrawal is to order plants online. This produces a feeling of satisfaction and calm, at least briefly. I’ve been holding back, though, because I have to go through a period of indecisive fretting trying to decide whether it is better to order online now, or wait to buy plants at the garden center later on.
Of course, some things you just naturally buy at the garden center. Annuals, for example. (Who are these people who spend $9.50 for a single Impatiens plant (plus shipping) from White Flower Farm? I assume that they are either billionaire Wall Street types, or they are on their way to bankruptcy court.)
And some things are best ordered from online retailers. For example: seeds, bulbs, unusual varieties and specialty plants you are unlikely to find at the garden center.
But for other plants, the conscientious gardener has to weigh a number of pros and cons:
- Online you have the greatest variety and are most likely to get exactly what you want.
- But at the garden center you can inspect your specific plant before you buy it.
- On the other hand, garden centers have the annoying habit of only selling plants once they are in bloom. This can either mean that your plant has been subject to unnatural practices (how else could there be blooming Echinaceas in May?), or that they won’t make the plant available until late in the season (as with Eupatoriums and Ratibidas).
- At the garden center you get bigger plants, which satisfies your inner child’s need for instant gratification.
- On the other hand, those larger plants generally mean higher prices. And you often get more plant for your money by ordering bare root plants online. Of course, opening up a box of bare root plants feels a little bit like receiving a shipment of dried squids – not the most satisfying experience for the lover of green things.
- Also, this is not a big deal, but getting rid of the packing materials that come with your plant deliveries can be a pain. Worst case was when I received a box of plants that had been packed with those styrofoam peanuts – and opened it outside on a windy day. Wind-borne styrofoam peanuts are darn difficult to catch.
As the gardener in charge, it’s my job to make the tough decisions. But it’s a difficult burden.
So how about you? Are you primarily a consumer of horticultural e-commerce or a patron of your local garden centers? Or both? Or do you go the frugal route of seeds, propagation, and pass along plants?