Tips for Garden Centre Shopping 

 Originally Written: June 15, 2009

By  Hanna Trafford

annuals4I have been visiting quite a few garden centres lately – even though most of my plants in my garden are perennials, I like to add annuals in some spots, to balance colours in all parts of the garden. Watching people shop, it dawned on me, that this would be a good topic to address.

1. Do Your Homework and Make a List:

Take a pad of paper and a pen and walk around your garden to remind yourself what holes need filling and what plants might best fill the gaps. Consider your working style, overall gardening goal and your garden’s variables (such as the soil you have, hours of sun, etc.) The shopping list you will create will help you stay on track and within your budget. It will also make it easier if you have a question you need to ask garden centre professional, not to mention that it will prevent impulse purchases, which are so easy to make in a garden centre!

2. Select the best Annuals and Perennials:

Check each of your selections for nice, deep foliage (check top and underside of leaves) and compact form with multiple, healthy stems. Avoid any plants with cracked, blistered bark, spindly stems and damage. Anything with spots, mildew or hole in the leaves (possibly from insects) will not likely be a good purchase for you. It is a good idea to turn the pot with plant you are considering on its side and gently slide out the root ball to check for lots of healthy, firm, white roots that aren’t overcrowded or creeping out of the drainage holes. And it is better to take a plant with more buds than blossoms!

3. Choose healthy Shrubs and Trees:

Look for healthy roots and foliage and avoid shrubs or trees that have yellow, brown or decaying needles or leaves at their centres. Check overall shape and watch for strong branches. Pick trees that have a single strong leader, a sturdy trunk and an open crown with lateral branches that grow out and don’t cross. Most smaller shrubs and trees are sold in pots – if they have been container grown, their roots should be undamaged and they will adopt well when transplanted. Bigger trees are sold bailed and burlapped – check that the rootballs are firm and moist and avoid any with thick, broken roots poking through the burlap.

4. Pick the Perfect Rosebush:

If you are shopping for resebushes, find out what the hardiest one available is. Then – look for healthy roots and foliage, as well as three to five sturdy, well-spaced canes with swelling buds. Choose potted roses (rather than those in cardboards) and avoid any with soil that is dry, waterlogged, mossy, mouldy or sprouting with weeds.

5. Read the Plant Tags:

These are actually mini instructions that will list each plant’s hardiness zone, sun and shade requirements and give you information on planting, fertilizing and watering. Some will even suggest companion plants!

6. Don’t forget Fertilizer!:

Soil is the soul of your garden – if it is happy, your plants will be too. Soil amendments such as bonemeal, peat moss and composted manure may be helpful. And if you are not composting yet, this may be the perfect time to get a compost bin and start – you will be creating your own nutrient=rich soil and your plants will love it!

7. Don’t be afraid to ask!:)

Good Garden Centre staff are a great source for all kinds of free advice. They will also tell you about their best deals, newest stock and even what is still coming in. If you bring photos of your garden, they will also be helpful in giving you advice and tips – you just have to find time that they are not over their heads busy – so don’t expect too much on the first nice weekend of the spring (it’s like the last shopping day before Christmas

And finally – one more tip:

Think about shopping on a rainy day – you will most likely beat the line-ups and then you will also be able to plant you new plants at the best possible time – after a rainfall!

Hope this was helpful to you – please let me know, your comments are always welcomed!


Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

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