If certain trends in my business continue, you will eventually find that you
will have the best of all these features in one store, including the lowest
prices. It's what customers want, and they will have it, or the stragglers
will be spanked. Winn Dixie's being punished right now for not updating
their stores. Here (Rochester NY), we have a chain called Wegman's, which
does a great job of driving its competitors up the wall. Roughly every 6
weeks, the local newspaper does a sample shopping trip at all available
stores (Wegman's, Tops, Aldi, Wal Mart, K-Mart and one or two others).
Wegman's always turns out to be the cheapest. Meanwhile, they have the best
selection, best specialty departments, cleanest stores with excellent
traffic flow, best produce, best seafood, best service. How they do it is
beyond the scope of this discussion, but it's enough to say that if you
mention them to anyone in the grocery industry, anywhere in the country, the
reaction is usually "Yeah....I wish we could do that".
Well, that's no surprise. It's random. I don't expect to run into someone
with a doctorate in botany at a big-box store, or even at most garden
centers. But, it *would* be nice to find someone who loves plants. These
stores could do that, if they wanted to, and it would NOT be so difficult.
They might have to go looking for talent, but they could also be more aware
of when talent is staring them in the face.
Example (but an unusual one): Here, we have a home improvement chain called
Chase Pitkin. I was at one of their stores back in May, looking through
their outdoor plant selection. They keep most of it under a tent. The lady
running the area was all over the teenage help like cats on mice, making
sure they were doing exactly what she wanted done to the plants. "The tag
says "shade" - put it with the OTHER shade plants! In two hours, everything
on that side of the tent's gonna be roasted." With the rest of her brain,
she was dispensing good advice to three customers. Every plant on display
looked as if it had been readied for a photo shoot in a horticultural
magazine, and she was not letting the teen staff relax when it came to
continuing the manicuring, deadheading & watering.
When she was done, I told her what a pleasant surprise it was to find
someone in a store like that who actually knew her stuff. She said that the
year before, she was shopping for plants there, and noticed that the "help"
consisted of drooling teenagers. She was looking for a job, so she walked up
to the manager and TOLD him that he needed her to work there. He hired her.
She seems like the kind of lady you'd be afraid (and stupid) to fire, even
if some of the teenagers need psychological counseling after working with
sales person is supposed to study every plant they sell
Sadly in my youth (30-35years ago) I worked for nearly 5 years in a
Rhododendron nursery and still don't know what is currently "attacking" my
own Rhodies.....The owner if any hint of disease showed up simply trashed
the plant and any others in close proximity.....I hesitate to trash my
entire back yard and my assorted 25year old rhodies....He'd also on occasion
would clear an area, cover with plastic and inject "chemicals" to purify the
soil or kill the undesirables...again not a viable choice here....on a
humorous note he originally just tossed the sick and maybe sick plants over
the bank or in his dump.......The whole neighborhood soon discovered this
gold mine of "free plants" and soon peppered the place with rhodies (that
neighborhood is still rather pretty to this day), since he didn't really
want a neighborhood full of potentially diseased plants he took to cutting
them off at the root ball....not a nice man at all<G>.
This spring at HD I saw 5gal rhodies marked down to $5.00, nice looking
plants but past the bloom.....I asked the clerk about the plants mostly
because the size and price was almost too good to be true (both types were a
white and both were ones I had burlaped by the thousand years ago)...anyway
she said "both are only $5.00 but she didn't know why the manager priced
them so low, there must be something wrong with them"....I just smiled and
picked out my plants, he was simply dumping past bloom plants....Rod
For humorous purposes yes, but not totally. You see this expectation
for others to be a somewhat difinitve source of knoweldge because they
wear a name tag that says they should. People expect doctors to just
know it all. TO be an expert diagnostician, know every drug, every
side effect, evey interaction, know your history and recall every
visit, to read every page in your file and instantly digest it and
just know it. To know how a foot problem can manifest symptoms in
other areas, even though they aren't a foot specialist. Meanwile most
doctors are purely mediocre, like a salesperson who rings you up but
isn't particularly sparkling at their job. Sure he can blindly write
prescriptions and advice for all the most comon ailments which covers
60% of his patients, but the other stuff he'll flounder about on.
the bell cuurve says something like 65% of all samples are purely
mediocre-average. 15 are good/better, 15 are worse, and the remain 5%
are split between very good and very bad. Now we all hope that
something is in place to get rid of the very bad, but we all know
somehow they sneak through.
I accept that people may take a best guess or actually believe they
are saying something true. People repeat urban legends swearing to god
they know somebod who knows somebody that it happened to. People lie.
Especially when they feel inferior and unprepared. Like an untrained
salesperson who is just workign this lousy job before they find a job
that's worthwhile that they might care about (I'd say that's a good
40-50% of workers, easy).
DiGiTAL ViNYL (no email)
Zone 6b/7, Westchester Co, NY, <1 mile off L.I.Sound
3rd year gardener
Here's a thought: How many of the complainers here are aware of the
existence of at least one or three small garden centers staffed by people
who care, where the 6-packs of plants are still in nice shape, even though
it's late June and those plants should be a bit stressed even under the best
of circumstances? If you're aware of such places, why do you care if the
6-packs cost a dollar more, as long as the plants are vigorous? Why even
waste the gasoline (at $2.25+ per gallon) to go to stores where there's
about a 25% chance of finding nice, vibrant plants?
At some point, you'll realize that the only place to get solid garden advice
is from the locally owned people. But, if you don't patronize them, they
won't be there when you need them. Remember hardware stores?
The Home Depot in my area doesn't have a wide selection of plants, but what
they do have is usually in pretty good shape.
All the Home Depots may look alike. And they may have theoretical procedures
that should be followed at every store. And they may have centralized
buyers. But when you get to the garden center, each of them is just a
single, stand-alone store. Some take good care of their plants. Some don't.
And that's probably why they're training their garden center personnel.
Very true. The HD down the street reogranized the garden center and it
is laid out better. They also had a better selction thisyear than
lastm, but they got the selection late. That said it is very easy to
find dry pots & wilted plants.
I worked in retail for years and I saw extensive training done
reepeatedly. In a place like a nursery you need to know what your
doing. The Same HD had all the seed rack outside in the rain. The
paper envelopes of seeds were all soaked. If you understand that water
is a major trigger for germination you know that is a dumb thing, but
no one, including the managers at home depot could see how dumb it
They probably wouldn't train people beyond general good basics and
principles. Hot weather, more watering, cooler weather, less.
That said I was at a large professional nursery and going through the
back lots found entire lots of petunias sickly and dying. Obviously
diseased. I also saw a bunhc of cabbage moths visiting the broccoli.
Those types of problems I expect to be beyond any sales person except
for a profesional in the industry long term. (or a hobbyist)
DiGiTAL ViNYL (no email)
Zone 6b/7, Westchester Co, NY, <1 mile off L.I.Sound
3rd year gardener
HD, Lowe's and Wall-Mart, regardless of what people may call them, are
HARDWARE stored and as such are good places to shop.
However for living plants, flowers and trees, find a nursery or REAL garden
center close by where they will have a wide assortment of well cared for
items to choose from.
The information and advice about plants and such from these places tend to
be much more reliable also.
Remember though, even at the nurseries and garden centers chances are good
you will still be dealing with people better trained to operate a cash
register than they are at giving advice on planting roses.
More direct answer to your question:
I'm in the grocery wholesale business. Home Depot training nursery
consultants is analogous to my training brain surgeons. If you're not 90%
qualified on your own, simply from the love of plants and years' of
experience, forget about the "course" you asked about. YOU are the course.
I am a home depo "nursery consultant" and the online training is at the
stores. In a nutshell its 4 hours of computer training on the proper way
to care for plants and their needs. ITs very generalized and really has
very little value as learning about plants. Its a gimmick to bring in
customers. Lowes does the same thing, BTW.
bullshit. I am a plant specialist at a Lowes, and we have specific
waterer's, sales consultants, team leaders, zone managers and managers. My
job for the last ten years as a plant specialist requires me to be
knowledgable about plants of all kinds, be able to receive plant trucks,
handle customers and ordering, displays and other responsibilities. While
we're not required to have a master gardener's degree or nursery document,
we have several on hands training video tapes and Lowes requires that
EVERYONE from managers on down to basic employee's do an hour of training
I have been encouraged thru the years to further my abilities regarding the
nursery. You might run across a Lowes employee in the nursery that might
not know a perennial from an annual, but they're not full time and are
possibly the loaders.
The waterer has to watch a watering video as well as have training. But I
agree that it might seem generalized, but Lowes is more involved. Just
selling plants isn't good enough. We have to be able to honestly instruct
customers regarding them as the inside garden center people have to have a
very substantial knowledge of fertilizers, insecticides and such. We don't
have the Lowes Nursery One year guarantee for nothing.
BTW the class is ALL ZONE 9-10 crapola.....You cant pass the classes unless
you can put all the questions in relation with Atlanta & surrounding
areas......I'm in 7a..What do I care what is in Atlanta....It was a hell of
a ride but I got-er-done last March 2004.....I'm none the wiser.....My
plants keeling over from time to time is due to the fact that the night crew
turns off the irrigation so they don't get their fairy asses wet, and the
plants are too stupid to walk to the tap to get water after a 98degree day
or when shipped to us dry so the trucking co can save on the weight...(Wet
plants weigh more than damp plants, thus affecting the shipping) So when
they get to HD or Lowes they are already stressed some and if someone there
isn't savvy enough to get them watered, then yea, theres your
complaint......The box stores differ from district to district....If your DM
is a garden freak, then your stores follow suit....If they worked in lumber
their whole career, then you see landscape timbers all over the parking lot
and dying plants and poor selections....Give us a break General
Public.....We can't please everyone's interest.....While HD and Lowes are
getting creamed by you-all, no one is noticing that Wal-Mart is sneaking up
on both of us.........
More to come.....
Yes, I have definately noticed that Wal-mart's plants this year were a lot
healthier than last year.
As for my local store, I am a gardening freak, so I have taken the time to
set up misting systems for most ofthe areas we keep the plants. (that is
when the night crew doesn't tear out the hoses with the fork lifts.)
Yesterday I think I scared my store manager when I yelled at him because he
picked up a plant, not by the pot, but by the stem.
The Wal-Mart garden center near me a complete mess, as is the rest of the
store. It always looks like a cyclone just struck. Lowe's has consistently
better plants than either HD, Wal-Mart, or K-Mart. I suspect, as you point
out, that the quality of the garden department depends primarily on how
interested management is in that department. I would be afraid to buy any
plants from my HD if I didn't see them being unloaded. I know that anything
on the sales floor has been stresses over and over due to improper care (or
I mostly just lurk here because I know squat about plants, but I always
pick Lowe's when I can find what I am looking for there. The plants at
the local nursery are about 4x's as expensive, and the plants at HD, W-M
and the grocery tent look sad compared to the Lowe's selection. It looks
like they take good care of their plants, or at least depend on a
At least the Lowe's near me has the common sense to move the dead plants to
the receiving area. That leaves the decent plants on the sales floor.
I like to shop garden centers and spend part of my weekend at such place.
Dedicated garden centers have a much better selection than box stores. They
have more unusual plants and wider choice of sizes. The plants are
generally healthier. The advice is much better. The people who shop garden
centers seem to be more friendly. The prices are often higher, but not
always. If you just want a flat of impatiens, then you are probably just as
well off at Lowe's but for shrubs and trees, the garden center is probably
your best bet. To get the best price you often have to buy things after
they have flowered and no one is interested. People what instant
gratification, so once the daylily or hydrangea has stopped blooming, they
aren't interested. The fall is usually a good time to get bargains on plants
at garden centers because they don't want to carry them over to the spring.
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