grow, marvel, eat, laugh, persevere

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Independent Garden Centers: Judge Ye Not Lest You Be Judged!

Over the past few weeks there have been a barrage of posts related to garden bloggers doing product reviews, endorsing products and placing ads on their blogs.  The issue is complex and annoying but one part keeps resurfacing and, well, pissing me off.  There seem to be a few owners of Independent Garden Centers (IGC) trying to insinuate that garden bloggers are somehow playing a part in the demise of their business.  With all due respect, this is about as ludicrous as insinuating that garden bloggers are causing the global failure of print media.  I mean I like the concept that we're so powerful and all but it's just not very believable.  What's next?  Garden bloggers responsible for the collapse of the American economy?

In one case an IGC owner and blogger posted on this same topic day after day after day, taking slightly different angles each day but usually coming back to the same conclusion. Big Box stores are bad.  IGC's are good.  Bloggers who do product reviews or giveaways and, God forbid, show up at a big box store *gasp* are bad too, or at least not credible to talk about gardening. Even if it's just gardening in their own backyards.  That somehow my agreeing to work with Troy-Bilt, to learn about their company, give an honest review of a product and yes, show up at Lowe's to hang out at the Troy-bilt tent and answer gardening questions for a few hours, all for a fair price, means I have turned my back on the entire IGC world.  The commenters on the first post went nuts, all of us calling each other out on various perceived ethical infractions, bloggers got caught in lies and put on blast by the blog owner.  It was great fun and reminded me of a wrestling match that starts with a couple of people but gets completely out of hand as more wrestlers spill onto the ring, everybody whooping each others asses while the crowd screams and chants and eggs them on.  The main fight breaks into sub-fights, each new wrestler entering the ring trying to decide which side to take, which wrestler to punch.  Eventually the fight kind of dwindles and the wrestlers, eyeing their opponents, saunter back to the locker rooms, chests still puffed up in a don't fuck with me fashion. 

In a more recent blog post on a whole different site that blogged about the same topic but from a different angle (bloggers are good! you should hire us!), another commenter who is also an IGC owner flat out said that garden bloggers using ads on their websites and developing business relationships with any product sold at Home Depot or Lowe's means the garden blogger is "promoting big box stores...and in turn widening the gap between bloggers and independent retailers." Really?  What is this "gap" you speak of and why was I not informed about it before?! What about companies like Terracycle?  A couple of college kids who started a business making woom poop fertilizer in recycled 2 liter plastic bottles.  Terracycle is now sold at big box stores.  Where do you stand on the owners? Should they be hanged by the neck until dead?

IGC's - hear this.  Nothing alienates people more than to lecture them about how and where they should spend their money.  And that's what you've done.  I don't mean just garden bloggers, I mean anybody! I shop local and small businesses whenever I can, but the reality is that we're all trying to work an honest job and feed our families.  I work a regular IT job all day then I write and garden for fun.  I find it personally insulting that these IGC's are going around the Internets bashing garden bloggers while they sit there owning their own company and reaping the rewards of that.  I'm not saying anybody is getting rich off it, but neither am I with my 9-5.  Be happy that you are doing something you love and that you are your own boss.  And take responsibility for the success (or failure) of your business!  If you read enough of our blogs you'd know that most of us do patronize your stores.  Unfortunately, the things you've said have really soured my image of IGC's.  I realize there are only a few of you blaming your failing business on garden bloggers but that's how it works.  You make global statements about garden bloggers and suddenly here I am all offended writing a negative post about IGC's.  Because I've got the attention span of a gnat and incorrectly assume all IGC's are mean like you. You know, painting you all with a broad brush like you're doing us.

My personal feeling is that IGC's have failed miserably at reaching out to gardeners, especially new ones. Maybe it's just me but many of them seem to be places you go after you are well versed and can navigate through all those cool plants.  I have not found them to be overly welcoming and often feel it's a haven for plant snobs.  I fashion myself a bit of a plant snob, too, so I'm OK with it.  But if I were a knew gardener I'd never step foot in one. A coworker once told me that she doesn't shop at Whole Foods because she feels like the other shoppers would look down on her.  Like snarl, look at her trying to pretend like she knows the difference between organic and commercially grown strawberries!  Of course I told her that wasn't the case at all but thinking of it in the context of this discussion I realized that's exactly how I felt the first time I went into my local IGC.  At Menards or Lowe's it's like hmmm which shed should I get...wait! how did I get over here with all these pretty flowers?

The bottom line is that the Internet is part of an external environment that is dictating a lot of changes in print media, the music industry and evidently IGC's.  In business it is the responsibility of the business owner to be aware and responsive to these external factors.  If you sit back using the same business model you've always used, ignoring the changes and only taking action by attacking garden bloggers, I suspect you'll be like Blockbuster and Borders, going out of business right and left.

Lastly, I wanted to point out that while you IGC garden blogger haters go around criticizing garden writers, realize that many of them are struggling to make a living.  I know enough to know it's not a lucrative business for most.  It's pretty shallow of you to indict people who may write full time to feed their families for the failure of your business when in reality, they are "the little guy", not you.

Lecturing people doesn't work.  We're all out here doing the best we can to support our communities, our local and small businesses, etc but I don't appreciate being demonized for establishing a business relationship with Troy-Bilt, a company that started out a very small business and has done the right things in order be successful any more than I do being lectured about how the fact that I eat cheese yet don't eat meat is somehow flawed (even though the milk cows aren't killed they're still tortured!) and makes me a bad person, or at least a stupid vegetarian.  And what about the small PR companies who work with folks like Troy-bilt to help them grow their business.  They are small businesses, too and I don't know this for sure but I can only imagine in ruff economic times like this, one of the first cuts a company might make would be to their marketing and PR which could put these small firms right out of business.  You seem to think your businesses are the only ones that matter.

It's funny, the thing that has kept me out of IGC's more than big box stores has been seed companies.  This year everything in my vegetable garden has been started from seed which makes me wonder why you haven't gone after them.  I guess in 2011 blaming everything on the big box stores and the Internet is much more fashionable.


  1. Wow! Very well put! I totally agree with what you're saying about how we've all managed to get into an arms race with ourselves regarding who is more morally/ethically pure. It just leads to the fracturing of our (gardening) community.

  2. Gina, I really don't think IGC owners, as a whole, are taking issue with you and me buying our portulacas at Lowe's or Home Depot. And when I go to the IGC, I don't want to FIND portulaca there. I want to find something with a big ol' Latin name I can't pronounce despite my heritage. It's all good. We can all play in the sandbox together. Our feelings get hurt if we think you like your new friend better than you do us, but at the end of the day, it's all good. Our economy sucks right now, and those trying to squeak by are just nervous and desperate and scared and slightly pissed that Lowe's and Home Depot aren't earning it by the sweat of their balls. (They are but it's hard to think of big brown and orange balls with sweat.) You keep doing what you're doing, girl, and IGC owners need to keep doing what THEY'RE doing. Ranters need to rant, gardeners need to garden, and first-time homeowners need to keep planting those marigolds in a straight, single row. We all started somewhere. It's all good.

  3. By the way, Gina, I've missed you terribly and hope you'll write more about what grows in your garden. I need a good Tomato Sandwich story. *wink*

  4. I've followed all the threads you've mentioned, Gina, form start to finish, and that is NOT what the IGC blogger you speak of was saying at all. I like most of what you wrote, but the key component was that the bloggers at the PAS event are supposed to reveal that their way was compensated, just as travel writers are required to reveal if their analysis was sponsored or a restaurant critic is supposed to pay for their meal and go incognito in order to not get preferential treatment and write a skewed report. This was NOT done, except by one blogger, Shawna Coronado---and she ALWAYS does it. Another blogger edited her previous blog to APPEAR that she had followed the rules and was caught red-faced, so to speak. It brings to question integrity, motivation, biases, etc. I have no problem with shilling or selling, but say it. For the record, I am NOT an IGC owner, operator, employee, nor investor. I have no financial interest in any retail operation. Many of the bloggers, both garden bloggers as well as IGC bloggers are personal acquaintances. They are ALL good people, both sides, but wrong is wrong, and should be accepted and acknowledged. Nobody said box stores are bad---quite the opposite, they get gardeners introduced to gardens, and when they decide to make the next leap, the Locally-Owned Garden Center is supposed to be there---BTW, THAT is a far better term than IGC. Nothing 'independent' when the bank, gasman and taxman own you. And I have yet to see a box store that is LOCALLY owned, unless you are in Arkansas. How about pushing THAT idea? Better plants, cooler plants, locally owned, invested totally in the local community, usually a strong personal relationship with their customers---and they should have that relationship with YOU, too. Try spending time with them instead of
    Menard's. JMHO.

  5. BTW, Gina---don't get me wrong. I REALLY liked your column, and would like to follow. And I have plants that will totally change your perspective on great plant ideas

  6. another commenter who is also an IGC owner flat out said that garden bloggers using ads on their websites and developing business relationships with any product sold at Home Depot or Lowe's means the garden blogger is "promoting big box stores...and in turn widening the gap between bloggers and independent retailers."

    I have looked in vain for this quote, so if you are paraphrasing my comment I would be happy to elaborate on it. If it is someone else's comment, my mistake.

    What I do hope comes out of this is a better understanding that our industry has really split over the last decade or so. There are growers and manufacturers who service the big box stores, and growers and distributors who serve the small IGCs. It is a rare grower that can do both. Most of what we see being advertised is exclusively or predominantly available not in big box. In fact, they are even fighting with each other as to who gets the exclusive new petunia or calibrachoa.

    Unfortunately, some of those brands (PW, Burpee) used to be strongly supported by independent nurseries. So they feel betrayed. Others such as Scotts/Miracle-Gro are so dominant that they are crowding all their competition out of the market.
    Unfortunately, when we see a good company go into the box stores, it usually doesn't end well (think Smith & Hawkin....)

  7. sigh.
    "not in big box"
    "only in big box."

  8. I just want the truth told. The growers that service the big box stores want plants that at their largest take no more than three shelves on a shipping cart. They also in general want smaller frame plants so they can put more plants per square foot in a greenhouse and make more money. Why do you think we have Fiesta Ole and Fiesta Varieties, Wave and Easy Wave Varieties, Sonic and Super sonic, Compact and vigorous Sun Impatiens. Do you think the consumer knows the difference in growth between the names? If the plants grow too much they want to know how to apply enough growth regulators to keep it small. I also want the consumer to know if a growth regulator is over applied by the grower because he does not want to dump a mature crop this plant will not grow for the consumer. I have personally bought crops from a large box grower and held them for sale and they did not grow for 6 weeks in ideal conditions in my greenhouse. I also want the consumer to know another reason large growers apply growth regulators is it turns the plants dark green and they need less water so they hold better at retail. One of the chemical names is Bonzi and it does just what the name implies. It keeps the plant smaller. I also want the consumer to know if the plants are very dark green and the flowers are smaller than normal they have too much growth regulator on them and will not grow. Consumers in general are not informed about how flowers are grown in this countries greenhouses. They think their failure is because they failed when in reality it could very well be because the plants they have purchased had too much growth regulator applied. The buyer should establish a personal relationship with the grower so he knows what is going on. Would you be kind enough to spread this trueth in your blog.

  9. Gina: I'm following commentaries here and examining both some statements made as well as some of the ads and popups on your blog.One thing that JUMPS out is the comment that the IGC owners are REAPING THE BENEFITS of business ownership, as opposed to your position as a 9-5er and blogging outside of the requirement to generate income to pay the bills. Essentially, you are saying that your GARDEN involvement has no overhead, except purchases for yourself. The person who pays your 9-5 wages? Same issues that the IGC folks have--payroll, insurance, taxes, helath care for emplyees and other bennies, cost of goods, heat and fuel that has gone up 60% in the last year while prices for sales and purchases can't rise in a difficult economy. THOSE are some of the 'benefits' they reap, and to push business to box stores---who DO NOT OWN THE PLANTS THEY ARE SELLING (Bet you did NOT know that)--hurts these people terribly. They are fully invested in YOUR community. YET---you have a button for the 350 campaign---which I fully support in my community and follow and participate in---on your blog. So, you APPEAR to support that, yet your blog and actions supporting box stores and their brands directly harm that valuable initiative. Ibelieve that you my not have thought the end results through entirely, as evidenced by this dichotomy in actual vs perceived actions. I'd urge you to make a statement supporting YOUR local community and economy, and follow up with some ACTIONS to show that. You are, in most cases, a capable writer and communicator. I'm sure there are LOCALLY-OWNED garden professionals who could utilize your verbal skills to actually achieve the 350 priciples. Otherwise, it's just shilling for the boxes---that's why people turn OFF P.Allen. PT Barnum said it well--you can fool some of the people......

  10. First off you break your own commandment by lecturing to the IGCs. Otherwise your post was quite to the point. Fact is the crux of the matter is that P A Smith brought in a bunch of bloggers to wine and dine them. That should raise a flag when P A Smit should even need to use bloggers. Another major sticking point with IGC operators is any garden operators hiring outsiders to do their blogs. If an IGC needs to hire out a blogger to "rant" about their store maybe they should rexamine their commitment to the industry. It is very easy to pick out the phonieness of a blog that has been hired out

  11. I have to laugh at the commenters who are telling Gina she needs to do more to support her community. If you are regular readers here at all, you'd know better. She co-founded a community garden in her neighborhood, and (as she said in her post, several times, actually) she does support her local IGCs.

    Like Gina, I support my local IGCs as much as possible. I also shop at the big boxes. I look at them as two different things. Big boxes are good for things like bags of mulch, the occasional impulse houseplant purchase, and things like that. When I'm seriously plant shopping, I go to my IGCs. I don't really care if anyone agrees with me or not on that, it's just the way it is for me.

    Her point, and I agree with her - is that instead of constantly ripping the big box stores (and making people feel guilty for shopping at them), IGCs should spend that time talking up the things they excel at (healthier plants, better selection, knowledgeable staff). It's much more attractive to see someone (whether it's a person or a business) fighting for something, rather than constantly fighting against something. I'd rather hear about how awesome you are than about how terrible the other guy is.

  12. So many points to respond to.

    RE: Answering questions at Lowes. I don't see this as supporting the box store, but rather reaching a market. As a writer, you go to the markets that you haven't yet reached in order to expand your audience. Of course, that can get tricky when you are bringing your audience with you by being there. Which is why you go all sorts of places. Balances it out. But still, I spoke at Disney World this year -- something I never thought I would do. But all of those people heard me speak and show what I am doing organically and I think many left inspired to do things differently.

    ICG Intimidation: Your story about new gardeners who are intimidated by garden centers got me thinking. I'd never thought of that. I can't think of a single one that gave me that vibe, and I've been to a lot of garden centers. But then again, I'm not a newbie. As a photography student, I recall the first time I went to a real photography store to buy film. I was super intimidated (so many choices!), but then over time I got to know the people there and every visit was pleasant. Any intimidation I felt was due to my own feeling of insecurity and nothing to do with the shop.

    That said, I have been to many ICGs that were not helpful. There is one I frequent that hires students who don't know jack about gardening. I often answer people's questions while waiting in line to pay! And I am NOT on the payroll. They do not offer me any support or carry my books, etc. In fact, none of the local shops do. But I support them. I buy their plants and I always mention them in the talks I give etc well before I would ever mention a box store. Thinking about that, it is a two way street and I do think many ICGs are short-sighted in that regard. I have the same problem with some local bookshops. I live in their neighbourhood but getting them to sell my books (which are fast sellers and not dead stock) is surprisingly difficult. But that's the point of your post. This back and forth finger pointing isn't helping. I don't know what the solution is.

    RE: Shilling for The Man: It is indeed extremely difficult to make a living as a garden writer and becoming more difficult all the time. I wish there were more paying opportunities that were simply: I write an article/take pictures/etc and receive payment for that work. My concern is that in order to make a living, we are resorting to being PR agents for these companies rather than writers. The lines are very blurred.

    I have no problem with ads and as long as you deem them appropriate for your site and are not worried that they will alienate your audience, then that's your business. It's tricky because on the one hand ads are clearly marked as they are. We know they are paid sponsorship so we know how to react to them... what context to place them in.

    Of course, this is why companies want more than just ads these days. Because they know that if they can get a blogger to speak positively about their product (wherever that may be) then that's much better value for their dollar. The line is much more blurry.

    There's so many questions in all of this. All I know is that I need to pay the bills, but am also very cautious about how I do that. Lots of tough choices.

    I'm very interested in learning more about what some of the ICGs have been saying recently about growth regulators. Interesting stuff.

  13. Hi Gina, Really enjoy your blog.
    Found it after stumbling across the infamous IGC owner's blog and followed the link. Actually, stumbed across his from another blog - though I don't think I'll be going back to his... very IGC.
    As a new to gardening person who's just looking for a bit of inspiration, general information and maybe a bit of 'I did it, so you can too.' the original post and the hubub around it was really off putting. Luckily, it did let me find several great bloggers like you.
    I just wanted to say that everyone needs to give people like me (the readers) a bit of credit (as you've done). We're adults and able to make up our own minds about products and services.
    Second - it's a blog - reasonable people don't expect the writer to sight their income sources or share anything else they don't want to for that matter.. as I said, it's a blog!
    Anyway, really enjoying what I've read so far on your blog... it's exactly what I was looking for.

  14. J-Dog, Yes!

    Wendy, I've had a few really huge projects going but things are settling down now and I hope to be able to write (and garden!) more. I agree, there's a place for us all here somewhere! Also, thanks for incorporating "by the sweat of their balls" into your comment. That's awesome!

    Lloyd, thanks for commenting. I don't see any reference to my blog overhead and I'm fully aware of what's involved in running a business from payroll to HR etc. My father is a retired small business owner who raised a family of 5 that way. I was trying to make the point that there are a lot of us who work 9-5's that wish we had our own businesses (headaches and all). Being your own boss and earning a living doing something you are passionate about is a whole different kind of reward in itself. There are trade-offs in any of these scenarios. Regarding your comment about me being active in my own community I would encourage you to read more of my blog than this one post and to check out, a local 501c3 community garden which I cofounded. Regarding PAS, I was not involved with that in any way but I was rather surprised that the original IGC blogger who brought up this topic chose to call out by name 2 of the 6 Troy-Bilt bloggers and not mention any of the 20 PAS bloggers especially considering how egregious some felt the violations were by PAS and those bloggers. *shrug* I will say that I do not feel that any of the bloggers involved in either project willfully and maliciously failed to disclose anything. You aren't born knowing this stuff and we're all learning over time. I feel very lucky that Troy-Bilt has guided us through this process like they have. They have made very clear the expectations on disclosure and transparency with regard to this project and have sent us many examples of ways we can add these statements to our posts. They haven’t told me this but I believe they are monitoring our posts around this project and would contact us if they felt we had said or not said anything inappropriately. In the case of PAS, I am not sure what type of guidance the bloggers got from the organizers.

    Don, thanks for commenting. I get what you’re saying and I understand the betrayal thing but I think IGC’s may assume we know more than we really know around these issues. With regard to the advertising part, I’m curious why IGC’s never try to put up a banner ad on blogs in their area? As far as advertising goes, it’s VERY cost effective.

    Edward, I need to know more about these growth regulators! I’ve never even heard of this but it sounds like something we could all benefit from understanding. Thanks for commenting!

    Greg, touché! Lecturing somebody about lecturing. I think there’s a word for that! LOL Thanks for commenting.

    Colleen, I love you. That is all.

  15. John What is so amazing is I also am finding out that many garden center retailers that do not grow had no clue growth regulators like bonzi existed. It sort of has been a closed group by growers. Dont tell them what we did to the plants. They just want nice looking plants. For many IGC's they also want their customers to be successful. As a grower I can't many times even get a list of what has been sprayed on the plugs before I get them. Really hard to run a beneficial insect program without that information. I have been lied to about plants from 4 star greenhouse. I had angelonia plugs that were three inches tall in full bloom and roots that were so old they looked like an old bristlecone pine tree. They told the broker and myself no growth regulators had been used. Well when I applied two applications of GA to counter act the drench they had put on they finally came out of it and grew normally but it was two months later.

  16. Gina - I would love it if the consumer knew the big boxes cared so much about the customer they won’t even buy the product and take the risk that it will work for the customer. I would love it if consumer knew that big boxes cared so much about their customer’s success that it does not cost them one cent if a product is returned as they get full credit from the grower. Just let the consumer know the whole truth so they can make an informed decision.

  17. Gina: Thanx for getting back to me. I'm not a box basher, for the record---well, except Walmart. I agree with just about everything you've said---but I did bristle at the part about the IGC guys 'sitting there reaping the benefits'. These folks don't sit much--they are working too hard for that, especially since they have had to cut back on personnel to stay in business. I, again, am NOT associated with any IGC, but I do know how HARD the job is---perishable goods, vagaries of weather, yadayadayada. My bottom line? I think you misread most of what they were saying. It wasn't about them vs the boxes, or them vs YOU. Additionally, I just found your blog YESTERDAY, so it seems a bit unfair to censure me (and YES, I realize it was mostly your followers who were doing so)for not realizing the full extent of your local bent and participation. We donate, in case you are interested, thousands of Certified Organic vegetable and herb plants to urban gardens, Community groups, challenged communities, seed banks, and school garden projects. Rest assured, I will follow you and respect your views and commentary. You have lots to contribute, and I know your heart is in the right place, but the UPSIDE of keeping money, and business and jobs in your local community is just too important. These people CARE about your community, just like you do. When donations are requested for the high school band to go to some competition, they hit up the LOCALLY-OWNED businesses FIRST---bacuse they will give what they can--just like you. They put their heart and soul into what they do, just like you. Does the kid at Home Depot? No, because he doesn't really care, he's just putting in hours. Does he learn what works in your area? No, because he has no control over WHAT goes in the store, because Home Depot doesn't own the plants--the grower, who may be hundreds or even 1000 miles away owns it 100% until it is scanned at a register. So, to answer your follower, Colleen, who states that I'm arguing AGAINST something instead of FOR something---welll, I don't believe she understood what I say in full. I think the boxes have improved greatly, and they understand what they do--sell bread and butter plants in huge quantity and a consistently average quality standard, taking plants and making them into SKUs and commodities, using symbols of holidays into loss leader to get you in the store to buy high margin products like drills---and they do this well. Congrats to them---but they do NOT care about you or your relationship with them (except that you come again), and they will not, long-term, educate or excite you or introduce you to new realms of horticulture. If all the customer wants is a Wave petunia---then they should stay shopping at Depot. If you want to explore organics, or sustainable growing, or heirlooms CORRECT for YOUR area---then it is time to move on down the road---to the place that has been there for decades and has people who KNOW the soils and the right plant for the right place. That is what I speak FOR.

  18. Gina,
    I work at a family owned garden center in Chicago. I am an hourly seasonal salesperson, not an owner. I do garden consulting on the side. My blog exists to help with exposure for my business and is linked to my website. I do not have ads and am not blogging often or for pay. With that out of the way, here are my thoughts:

    Perhaps we are different than the IGC near you. I have heard about rudeness at a certain north shore store. But we are all about service and have experts as salespeople in each area. I am in perennials and regularly get new gardeners who need advice. We give them plant suggestions, information, tips, design ideas. I assume we are well-known for our customer service because people ask about plant care or diseases on plants they did not buy from us. We get customers who want us to design their gardens on the spot. Some of it is time spent and service I would not ask of an independent retailer in any field, especially if I were not planning on buying from them. But they know they can. And we do what we can for them without regard to the source of the plants or how much they might pay to get a designer instead. Our concern is with educating the customers. Those of us in my area love plants so it becomes a personal desire to share that passion. We explain care and the benefits of good soil. We don't stress fertilizers over healthy soils and I doubt any of us use chemicals. We even un-sell plants we think won't do well for the customer's needs.

    We do get savvy gardners of course and regulars we enjoy seeing each season. But I would say half or more are new to gardening. New home and yard, condo deck or roof gardens, new to the area, trying to learn about natives, etc. All I can tell you is I regulary get feedback on how helpful we are and how much it is appreciated.

    Unfortunately we also get asked if we have warranties since the big box stores take anything back at any time. That's because they have a deal with the (exclusive?) grower. Not only what they get returned that's dead, but what they don't sell goes back. Hardly the way a family owned business can operate successfully. We don't have that kind of leverage and use various growers. So we do get hurt some by big box stores that way. Even clearly neglected plants without a receipt are expected to be returned or exchanged.

    Also I am told that even a brand such as Proven Winners is not selling the same quality plant at big box stores as at locals. So paying more seems silly for a brand but the brand is not an indicator of a certain quality. And I have heard of the growth hormones. Keep them short to fit on the truck racks. I had heard though that they do grow fast when in the ground, hence the appearance of doing something right. In reality it is all chemicals.

    As a final note, I recommended Japanese Forest Grass to a client who told me she bought it at Home Depot and it was clearly marked as such. I walked by the house and it is clearly variegated Liriope. I have seen plants stocked as perennial there that are not cold hardy here. And I think many people know plants are treated as stock on shelves and not cared for over time.

    If ever there were a place for a newbie not to go for correct plant info and any info on care, big box garden centers would be it. Fine for those who already know what the plants are. So I guess I could make the opposite argument of what you said. But not based on comfort level - based on consumer satisfaction.


  19. herbsr4u - are you the same person as Lloyd Traven? I'm so confused! Also, I didn't censure you unless I don't know the definition of that word. LOL What are you referring to? But I would also say that if you only found my blog yesterday it is unfair of you to assume I'm not active in my community. Why would you make that assumption about a person based on a single blog post? That may work sometimes but in this case how uninformed you would be glaring to my regular readers, at least around the assumptions you made about me. I am not saying that to insight confrontation but I spend an enormous amount of my time giving back to my community and encouraging everybody I know to do the same so I found that pretty insulting.

    Anon - thank you so much for reminding us all how important the readers are and how nobody seems to be giving them any credit at all. To think that the readers don't have the sense to filter through the bullshit is just, well it's bullshit! And thank you for the positive words. Even though that original post was really frustrating, I'm glad it was written if it led you to my blog. Welcome!

    Edward, thanks for explaining more about the growth regulators. These are the kinds of things we all need to be aware of. Some won't care but. I am still so curious why IGC's haven't tried to work with bloggers more? This growth regulator crap is just the kind of thing we would love to write about and it's a really important factor! In fact, after reading your comment I was telling a coworker about the growth regulators on the way to the parking garage and she was really fired up about it and noted the difference in size of similar plants from big box stores compared to her favorite IGC.

    All Commenters, I would like to reiterate that I love and support my local IGCs. I was in no way trying to say people should not shop at them I was simply trying to say that IGC's shaming people for shopping at big box stores may not be the best advertising for your stores. Like Colleen, most people would rather hear about what you do well rather than bashing the competition. Also, I'm very aware the that IGC's usually have a deep understanding of plants, soil etc and provide a lot of good education to shoppers for free. But also understand that shoppers who run in a big box store to pick up a petunia probably know not to bother asking the staff anything about the plant and that if they need that kind of information they should go to a specialist. It's no different from buying a bicycle at Walmart versus a proper bicycle shop.

    Gayla and Anon 2 - I received an email about your comments but for some reason they are not showing up here. I'm trying to get to the bottom of this but wanted to apologize. Both of them are awesome! I'm trying to get them re-published. Bare with me.

  20. Well put!

    I am definitely among those novice gardeners who has felt judged and uncomfortable at several IGCs. I've stuck it out when I can afford to, because I want to support local business, but it can be difficult.

    Anyway, thanks for this thoughtful post!

  21. This line hit home for me: "My personal feeling is that IGC's have failed miserably at reaching out to gardeners, especially new ones. Maybe it's just me but many of them seem to be places you go after you are well versed and can navigate through all those cool plants."

    For good are bad, most people who are new to the whole gardening thing are going to buy the cheap marigolds from Lowe's before the spring for the more expensive ones at an IGC, or for some other exotic plant that they're sure they'll kill. Even if the IGC is helpful, many novices just aren't going there. And novices also aren't reading garden blogs to even really be aware of the reasons why they may want to go to an IGC (why does it annoy me that there's even an acronym for it?).

    I had planned to blog about this too, and will link to your blog.

    Interestingly, there is actually a local IGC that is a bit of a conglomorate - lots of different stores etc. I'd actually rather shop at a big box than there sometimes, bc they are SO big and SO ubiquitous around here (and often SO expensive).

    And anyway - our thing really doesn't have a lot to do with Lowe's other than the fact that they sell Troy-Bilt products! If any of my local IGCs did (they don't sell any of that stuff), maybe that would have worked out.

  22. Herbsr4u -- Yet at least half of your comment was about how bad "they" are -- the kids that work at the big boxes don't know anything, they don't own the plants, they don't care about their community -- thanks for proving my point for me.

  23. Herbsr4u and Lloyd Traven are one and the same---I was logged in one time as a google acct and another as a name.
    Sorry, Colleen, but once again, you MISS the points made. Actually, I say that I respect the box stores, that they are very good at what 'they' do. (BTW, 'they' is an acceptable designator when referring to multiple parties and should not be automatically assumed to be negative at all)what should I call them---those guys? Anyway, I am comparing and contrasting, that is all. I congratulated them for what they do--I prefer a different path, but I am not exactly bad-mouthing them.
    Gina---no need to come down on me (another way of saying censure, not censor) when I consistently agree with most of what you say, but geez, I was pretty clear that this was the very first time i had read anything from you, so it is safe to assume that I was unaware of any altruistic activity. I was commenting on your words vs the 350 button on your blog---that's all. I understand how that might annoy you.
    Again, I am NOT bashing boxes (and I surely do not support them, either), but giving them props for what they do, and throwing out the challenge for the locally-owned garden center (I also don't like the acronym, but it sure saves time typing) to step it up. I am also known widely for throwing down the gauntlet to the LOGC for being pretty damn BORING, arrogant, and not very welcoming---and I get away with it because I am not one of them, and if they would stop whining about how the cometition is hammering them, they realize that the assessment is correct. My position is that I want to make people think. That is all. If I were an IGC owner, they'd gang up and beat me. LOL.
    Anyway, allow me to say again that you need to keep doing what you do, keep writing and speaking up---and disagreeing with what you see as shortcomings. The idea is for people to listen and think about what you say. However, one does NOT "insight confrontation." You may have an insight, but you INCITE confrontation. Lastly, as lovely as you are and as beautiful as you look, surely you did not mean to "Bare with me." I am flattered, however.

  24. I am the owner of an independent garden center; so I kinda sorta compete with the big box stores; though not really...they have so many advantages that we don't have that it is a wonder we are still here! I don't fault anyone for buying anything at Lowe's instead of me, unless it's a piece of junk they let go dry for a week and water it jsut before you come in and it's so stressed it won't live much longer after you plant it!!! Now, most of you do NOT know about the unlevel playing field we face with the Big Box Stores: Lowe's, Home Depot, Wal-mart, and most regional chain stores DO NOT PAY for their plants until AFTER the plant is scanned and paid for by the consumer: you! Therefore there is no ownership of the product by the big box no need to keep the plant healthy for you until you get it. Yeah, I know, they guarantee the plant for 1's been proven that less than 1% of you guys will EVER bring anything back to a big box store; the hassle of going to the services desk rathere than the garden center, etc.; while it's been proven that 85% of YOU will bring a dead plant back to me IF I had the same guarantee!!!!! But, my guarantee is that the palnt is alive, healthy and well-cared for when you get it form me; and that is a guarantee the big box stores can not cover!!!!!
    We've quit trying to compete with them; we have our own wealty customers who come to us for the big ticket items, $100 & $50 baskets, ferns, etc.
    the big box stores get their stuff FREE until its sold, so they hardly ever water when it is time to water; they also put the shade stuff in the sun and the sun stuff in the shade!!! The send their customers to my palce to tlell them how to take care of the things they buy there!!!!
    I've got my life savings invested in my plants every year, so i have to take care of them!! As a result, I've got the best damn plants within 100 miles!
    Wink Tidwell Hidden Gardens, nash, Texas 903-838-9524