Make the most of your next trip to the garden centre

by Jen in garden centre,gardening

make the most of your next trip to the garden centre

Okay, fess up. How many times have you gone to a garden centre, become totally overwhelmed and walked away empty handed. It has happened to me many times. Too many times, in fact. The garden centre can be a totally foreign place if you go in unprepared. Good thing you are reading this post! Here are a few tips for navigating the garden centre with the greatest of ease.

Plan ahead
garden plannning

When you go grocery shopping with a list, life is much easier. Same thing for plant shopping…make a list. You might not know exactly which plants you want to buy, but you should have an idea of what your garden needs. Are you looking for shrubs, trees, annuals or perennials. Read all about creating a plan for you garden here.

Timing is everything
Yes, it’s the long weekend and yes, that is probably the only time you have to go to the garden centre…but that doesn’t mean you have to go at the busiest time of the day. If you can, visit garden centres on a weeknight. If you can’t then go first thing in the morning. You would be surprised how early they open, most are open at 8am. Arrive at 1pm and you’ll have a hard time finding a parking spot.
Bring water
bottle of water and muffin

Garden centres can be very hot, sunny and busy places, so bring along a bottle of water and maybe even a snack. This is especially true if you are bringing your children. Picking out plants takes time, there is a lot of reading involved you want to be hydrated and well fed.

Bring your camera
Sometimes I find the decision just too overwhelming, especially when I’m on my own. So, pull out the camera and take a picture of the plant and the tag. You can write down the name of the plant, but a picture will help you remember which plants you loved when you go home an ask for a second opinion.

Don’t forget a notebook

notebook and pencil

If you have drawn up a garden plan, bring it. If you have done some online research, bring it. Anything you bring along can significantly improve your experience. I’m pretty low-tech, clearly you could use your iPhone to record what you need and what you find. In fact check out this list of 10 cool gardening apps for your iPhone.

Get the lay of the land

Garden centres have a definite structure to them. Because plants need different growing conditions, garden centres are layed out accordingly. Plants that need shade will be under some sort of shelter…head there if you are looking for shade plants. If you need plants that can take a ton of sun then head outside.  Garden centre also like to group shrubs and trees together, closer to the perimeter of the property. Most garden centres make it easy to distinguish between perennial plants and annuals by grouping them together. If you get lost, don’t give up, ask for help.
Read the label
plant labels

Those tags on the plants are filled with very important information…read it. They usually have a picture of the mature plant, so you can see what the colour and style of the flower will be. Sun/shade requirements of the plant, some even specify the number of hours of sunlight a plant will need. Size of the mature plant is given, usually with two numbers…the height and the spread. Take note of these numbers as they made determine the placement of your plant. The tag will also explain when the plant will bloom, this helps you plant an all season garden, where plants are in bloom from spring – fall. Take the time to read the small blurb about the plant on the tag. This description usually has words like “clumping” which means it will be a short and squat plant or “trailing” which means this plant would be good for a planter or “spires” which means tall and thin. The more you read, the more you will know, the better your garden will grow.

For the kids
The reality is that sometimes we have to bring our kids (ha! most of the time) why not make going to the garden centre an adventure for them. Give your child a small budget…plants can be quite inexpensive $5 is plenty to spend. Let the kids do a little roaming through the “forest”, the tree section. One garden centre we frequent actually has a kids playground right in the middle of it. This makes for a great break in when we visit. Don’t forget arrive early, wear sunblock, hats and have plenty of water…again garden centres get hot.
The bottom line is that the garden centre is a great place to spend some time. There are usually amazingly informative staff that can point you in the right direction if you get lost. As with anything in life you get out of it what you put in. With a little planning and by giving yourself some time a visit to the garden centre can actually be a fun outing yourself and your family.
Do you have any other garden centre tips? I would love to hear them. Stop by our Facebook page or leave a comment below. Also, I belong to a fantastic Pinterest Gardening page – check that out too. 
Abbie May 17, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I LOVE this post! We just did the big garden center this week and I wish I would have had these suggestions. We ended up buying way more than we needed because I didn’t have a list (and my husband let the kids do most of the picking!). These are great suggestions. Sharing this all over the place!

Rebekah May 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm

So glad to see you have joined as a host for the Outdoor Play Party, and I can’t wait to see what you post for tomorrow!

Mama Pea Pod May 24, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Our kids love to hang out at the garden centre, and get so excited when we let them each pick out a tiny flower to take home and plant. We have a couple of lovely ones near us that have play areas for the kids, but even if they don’t, they like to look at all the flowers and give kisses to the garden gnomes!

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