Buy local for a better garden

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a seasoned gardener, gardeners all want to fill their gardens to the brim with all the enticing plants available. That is why gardeners get very excited when the nurseries open in the spring and the planting season starts. I write this column with the intent of helping gardeners get the best value for their dollar when buying plants.

Although the large chain stores locally and in larger centres carry some terrific plants, keep in mind that these plants are purchased for the company from a large mass producing grower somewhere in Canada (probably near Toronto) or in the United States. Often many of these plants available at these large chain stores are distributed across Canada but may have been grown for the climate of southern Ontario.

Many of these plants will go on sale in the chain stores so gardeners think they are a good bargain. Ask yourself “is this a good bargain if it does not survive the winter and it dies by next spring?” I think that you will think twice about that mystery growing zone plant that looks so nice on the label of the package. Most of the roses sold in this manner are not winter hardy for this area. But always check the label and see what planting zone is recommended. I am not advising you to never buy plants packaged like this, but to be aware that perennials hardy for Toronto area are usually annuals in our part of the province.

Many gardeners are misled by the photographs in magazines and seed catalogues. Magazines are a great place to get information and garden design ideas but the same plant in your garden may not look like the one in the magazine. Remember you have no idea where that picture was taken, how old the garden is, the growing conditions, the photographer’s tricks to enhance the shot. Just keep an open mind and do not be too critical of your own garden if it does not match the picture. Also keep this in mind when ordering from mail order sources that a seed company is not going to put the worst picture of that plant in their catalogue or on the internet and expect customers to buy it. They are going to use the best picture they can get which sometimes can be an exception to the normal growth of the plant.

The nurseries in our region work very hard to bring you the very best in both plant quality and selection. There are many benefits to buying plants at your local nursery. Most likely the plants that they sell are appropriate for our zone rating and growing conditions. If there is a particular plant that customers want for this area that is not suitable, the nurseries won’t lie and say it will grow here. Instead they will promote the plant accordingly and let you know how to plant it and take care of it in our region. Our local nurseries have the best quality plants available. They stand by their products and will offer the customer a positive solution to most situations. Nurseries get many of their plants, trees and shrubs from other larger growers, often from the Unites States. Your nursery goes through the appropriate measures to bring those plants into Canada legally and disease free.

Our nurseries are very busy during months of May and June but don’t forget about them the rest of the summer. Some selection may be reduced but you can purchase trees, shrubs and perennials throughout the summer. I always visit my local nurseries throughout the growing season. It is amazing what you will find when a new shipment arrives or something you didn’t see previously. I also have a list of plants that I would like to add to the garden and look for them on every visit.

As an avid gardener you will find many ways to spend money on your garden but a few rules to follow and some careful shopping will help you stretch your garden budget and get the most for your dollar.