Thursday, May 6, 2010

Garden Centers

Yesterday I led my eleventh annual bus trip from Kingwood. We load up 46 people and spend the day plant shopping. It's lots of fun although anything that goes wrong falls on me, so I worry. We have probably visited over thirty different places that sell plants over the years. and it has been an interesting study in what appeals to the group and to me. It isn't feasible for me to visit each site before the trip, so I rely heavily on word of mouth, Internet, and now my experience. Unfortunately some stinkers can sneak in. One year a gardener who I respect highly recommended a water garden nursery. Always ready to find a diamond in the rough I directed the poor bus driver down a winding dirt road to the almost abandoned site. Everyone was polite and the owner valiantly offered up a paltry assortment of pathetic looking plants. On this year's trip our last stop was a place that touted their fine wines and designer purses. Unfortunately their garden center business seemed to be a relic. Fortunately the other four garden centers we visited were good.

Even more difficult is finding a garden center that offers a distinctive line of plants. Often times the biggest and most successful garden centers are almost indistinguishable from one another. The same plants in over sized and over priced containers can be found in all of them. I like the garden centers that cater to the plantsman more than the instant gratification seeker.

Some of my favorites over the years have been:
Bluestone Nursery the mail order nursery north east of Cleveland that allows you on site access to their full catalog of plants
Baker's Acres east of Columbus loaded with a wonderful range of plants
Dave Dannaher's Nursery near Columbus, a grafting enthusiast who has more grafted woody curiosities than he knows what to do with (by appointment)
Mulberry Creek Herb Farm near Sandusky, a tiny family run nursery specializing in miniature plants and herbs
Meadow View Growers a large upscale garden center near Dayton that also caters to people looking for the different and the unusual.

Other garden centers that were good but not necessarily favorites were Lowes (no, not that Lowes) Greenhouse and Florist Shop in Chagrin Falls, Cahoon's in Westlake, and Corso's Flower and Garden Center near Sandusky.

Then there are the places that are just fun to visit even if their offerings are a bit hit and miss. I guess Daisy Hill Greenhouse in Hunting Valley near Cleveland is the most fun. I just wish they labeled their plants or at least knew what their more unusual plants were.

Finally the best treat is when wholesale nurseries let us in to shop. I won't mention any names. They probably would prefer no one knew they ever did that.

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