This year it seems that just about every one of the local nurseries is
selling branded plants that come from maybe three big growers. This is
true of both annuals and perennials.
I'm also seeing a trend where instead of selling six packs of annuals
for $2 -$3 they're selling one plant (not all that better looking than
one in a healthy six pack) for $3.50 or more.
Who are these companies who seem to have taken over the nursery
business? Where are they? What's going on here?
I'm finding it VERY hard to find locally grown plants, which bums me
out. The other thing that really bothers me is the uniformity of the
offerings. Since I'm seeing the same nursery stock everywhere, I'm also
seeing the same cultivars everywhere, which is making it tougher to find
interesting things to plant.
What's the story here?
They may be "local" nurseries, but do they actually grow anything
themselves? If not, they are simply distributors.
On the other hand, there are many newer plants out there that are patented,
and it's quite costly for local, small time growers to pay the fees to
propagate and sell the same plants.
And finally, just like most other businesses, the corporate operations are
the big dogs who have a very large share of the market. My opinion is that
unless we support -- as in patronize -- small, local operations, the
situation will only get worse. And as a business, the small local guy
usually can't compete in price with the big dogs who can get volume
discounts for purchasing mass quantities. My thinking is that the small
locals that make it offer what the corps can't or don't -- knowledgeable
staff, great customer service, and high quality products.
Jut my 2 cents worth:)
Are you talking about brands like "Proven Winners?" If so, I am also
irritated by this. That said, we have a huge nursery that produces all
their own plants and offers everything in 3-4 inch pots for $3+. None of
that "PW" rip-off stuff. They have no flats of cell packs. Too bad if you
want small plants or aren't related to Rockefellers. This winter they had
huge pots of poinsettias for $250.00! The same plants in the same size pots
at another nursery were going for $60.
Yes, unfortunately, I can.
A couple decades of dealing exclusively with a local grower, who used to
raise her own plant crop from seed and relied heavily on customer input
for unusual stuff within that crop.
When her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, she was forced to cut
staff and payroll expense and go the mass-produced, Proven Winner Plug
I do still shop there, and she does still raise a hefty portion of the
earliest and quickest bedding plants ( impatiens, pansy, viola) from seed,
but I no longer look for anything new or unusual in her greenhouses.
She has had to define her operation in the same very strict terms, as any
big box store-- lowest possible overhead and a dependable source of
inventory a telephone call ( and 2 days delivery) away.
I don't spend as much there as I used to, and both the grower and I know
why from both sides. Her interests haven't changed, but her financial
necessities have changed. I'm still looking for " that something different"
and in her business plan, I'm a fickle customer, not a profit center.
She makes money from the < three flats of impatiens , 2 red, one white, one
flat of the darkest blue petunias you have, 12 Red Geraniums and 12 Dracena,
and here are my window boxes, please plant them for me> client.
Bizness is Bizness.
I understand what you're saying, and it's probably NOT atypical of what
makes many local greenhouses close their doors. BUT...there's always the
possibility that it's an extreme example (illness in the family, one person
running a business formerly handled by two). Here's another thought:
I live in Rochester NY. Within 10 minutes of my home are several plant
retailers with vastly different profiles:
1) Harris Gardens: No indication of the source of their plants - just the
usual tags. There are also numerous greenhouses with signs out front which
say "wholesale only". I assume Harris gets their plants from these local
greenhouses. They're also a supplier of seeds to farmers and home growers,
and they may run their own growing operations. I have no idea.
2) Three locally owned nurseries, and some of their plants come from "Proven
Winners", as well as other growers who are proud enough to put their names
on their tags. So what? Obviously, I know which of the common stuff needs
certain conditions to grow in my climate. But what about the not-so-common
plants? After 30+ years of gardening, I'm not excited by the challenge of
getting a camelia to grow here, when every book ever published says "no
way", and they're RIGHT. I don't think it's such a bad idea to put out
plants for sale which are much less likely to drop dead in my climate.
3) Home Depot and Lowe's: Good luck. New gardeners should consider
themselves fortunate that the wholesale sales rep advised these stores about
which things to buy for the climate in question, because the store's
employees will pull advice out of their rectums if you ask them for help.
Another thought: Many of the plants I see here are coming from greenhouses
in Canada. Unless those greenhouses are along the Atlantic coast, it costs
them far more to heat their facilities than an identical facility here in
upstate NY. Not cheaper in Canadian dollars, but the currency exchange rate
is such that it might be cheaper for American nurseries to buy plants from
Canada than from local growers.
Have a good night. I have to go get the boat ready for a day in church
I know a small local greenhouse/garden center that's been in business since
1914. The try to keep their prices comparable to the chains, do the plug
thing, and still offer the best selection of "not the same old stuff"
bedding plants and perennials, AND the masses of geraniums, petunias, etc.
that everyone else has. Their "secret"? First and foremost -- individual
customer service. Don't know what to plant in a specific location? They'll
walk you through the greenhouse and yard to point out plants that will work
in your situation. They sell planting soil in bulk -- way cheaper than the
bagged stuff. They had water plants before anywhere else in the area. And
they still have the best selection of perennials in the county.
Of course, as times have changed since 1914, and since they don't have room
to expand the operation -- they're not out in the boonies any more -- they
don't start a lot from seed these days, but have earned a reputation for
quality and unusual plants at a fair price.
They lose money every year on their garden center departments. We own
stock in Lowes and Home Depot and get the prospectus and annual
reports every year. They detail losses and what departments do well,
etc. It's the free eggs scam. Come buy a dollar plant, walk out with
shovels, fertilizer, pool chemicals, etc.
I'm not so sure any more. At one time I'd agree with you, but they
seemingly have been following trends more closely these days.
We have this thing in the paper every Saturday in the garden section.
It will give a Plant of the Week, and all the local garden centers
stock that plant in 4", quart, gallon, etc.
I've noticed the box stores are now also carrying the Plant of the
Week. They also have new sections of native plants. Of coures none
of them are rare, but now and then the occasional rare plant does show
up for a fraction of what the smaller retail centers have.
Eh, I am getting ready to dump the stock. I can't live with myself
any more making money on putting small business out of business.
Everybody changes, eventually.
They don't really come from "three big growers". The three "big
growers" actually contract the growing of the plants out to the
smaller cheaper nurseries. They provide the pots, labels and
seed/bulbs, and have the plants shipped to whoever they sell them
The more middlemen, and the more shipping, the more things are going
They are in a office in somewhere (it doesn't matter where, they move
often (it's the unpaid bills)). It's a virtual nursery and/or broker,
and they get a LARGE cut of the profits.
Most people want to shop in a big box store. It's really hard to make
a small local nursery pay enough to live on. Everybody wants to buy
the cheap annuals at Walmart.
You may not make much as a contractor, but it's more than you'll make
as an independent grower. And if you contract, it's the entire
>The other thing that really bothers me is the uniformity of the
The big box stores buy in lots of 10K for plants. Since most
nurseries can't ship 10K of single cultivars, the brokers are the only
one who can sell to the big boxes. The smaller nursery chains
purchase plants from the brokers because the "leftovers" are cheap,
and it's much easier to call a broker than to actually deal with
The big boxes don't want too many line items, since it makes inventory
and shipping more expensive. The brokers don't want either small lots
or too many line items because it's more trouble to deal with them.
The store buyers don't want too many suppliers or too many line items
because shipping and inventory are such a hassle. The store managers
don't want too many line items because inventory and plant care costs
rise with the number of line items.
They'll sell the same $$ worth of plants, whether they have 25 or 250
cultivars. So why bother?
Welcome to the big box world. You wanted cheap, you got it. You just
have to buy what THEY choose to sell.
See millions of rants about "Walmart". It works the same for plants
as for everything else.
There are several very gigantic growers up in the northeast. One is
Ivy Acres the other Kurt Weiss, both on eastern Long Island. They
supply most of the box stores with annuals and possibly perennials.
When I worked at Ivy Acres they great tens of millions of flats of
annuals, poinsettia's, mums and were experimenting with perennials.
That was about 20 years ago.
In Texas there's Hines, Color Spot and several other giant growers for
the box stores, but if you want the plants you see in the catalogs you
have to visit the small garden centers who hand pick their plants
based on industry trends.
Support your local garden centers.
It's possible (and highly likely) that the uniformity is as much the fault
of consumers as it is of the suppliers. Here, for instance, there are plenty
of sources for unusual plants, both annuals and perennials. But
still....look at many gardens and all you see is marigolds, salvia, petunias
and geraniums. Boring....but that's what many consumers want. This is very
much a plain vanilla country. If you need proof of that, pay attention to
the lack of a decent bagel in most supermarkets, and the disgusting
preponderance of Chrysler mini vans, one of the lousiest vehicles ever to
hit the American highway.
I agree with this. It seems that most consumers don't want any risk. They
only buy what they know will work. It would never occur to them to do ANY
research and most don't even read the plant labels for the stuff they do
buy. Occasionally I will see something unusual show up at the box store
nurseries. We had a couple of large "super" stores like Meijer and Biggs
who occasionally get some flats of unusual annuals. When they do you better
buy them because next year you probably won't see them again. That's why I
buy "bulk" plants like impatiens at the box stores and then get my special
plants at real nurseries. The other think I have noticed is that few people
seem willing to buy an entire flat of flowers. Instead they get a couple of
cell packs of this and that and pepper their yards with insignificant dots
of color. I'm not talking about people who supplement a perennial border
with some pockets of annuals. I'm talking about people who plant the lonely
marigold at the base of a 5 foot holly and then ten feet way put in a
petunia under a dogwood. My neighbors is so lazy and/or indecisive that she
just left the plants in the cell packs and tossed them here and there in her
beds amongst the weed. They have been there since Mother's Day weekend and
now most are dead.
Several years ago (12?) I ran across a "Dwarf Clustered Bellflower" at
either HD or Lowes. I bought one just to see what it was like.
It was nice enough that I divided it over the years into about 16
plants. The only problem seems to be that it has lost its "dwarf"
nature in the last few years. Or it's being replaced by its seedlings
that don't breed true, although I don't think it's a hybrid.
Anyway I've never seen it again anywhere - including at several local
nurseries. I did see seed for it once online, but by then I had my 16
plant circle. Maybe now I'll have to get some to restore the dwarfness.
When speaking of "most consumers" I just assume they aren't bona fide
gardeners, e.g., knowledgeable about plants, interested in more unusual
plants, & enjoy spending time outside & working in the garden. Most people
simply want something to plunk in "that spot" and be done with it. Not
necessarily a bad thing, just a difference in priorities. Drive around town
and take a look at the front yards -- most are the same old, same old. But
I suspect the "same old" folks prefer the same look as their neighbors. As
my mother would say, "There's no accounting for taste."
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