You might want to steer away from recommending a favourite garden centre. So here’s another approach: what do you look for in a good garden centre?
Thanks for as many tips as you can give!
What a great question! We’re not permitted to recommend specific garden centres or other places to purchase gardening-related products. There are many features of garden centres that help make them favourites, here are a few:
- Great selection of plants for the garden – some common, some rather unusual or not as well-known
- Annuals/Perennials sourced from local growers, if possible
- Native plants a must
- Plants are in terrific condition, should not look neglected
- Plants are suitable for local climate/growing conditions
- The size of the garden centre does not matter – small centres can be just perfect, with amazing plant selections! Also, specialty nurseries are super-interesting
- Amazing staff
- Customer service top of mind
- Friendly, knowledgeable staff can help with plant selection, design – excellent resource people
- Staff should answer even hard questions – they should be interested enough to research issues and follow up with you
- Reasonable prices
- easy to find and access, e.g., parking very close to the centre
- reasonable opening hours; operating hours should not be a mystery [some are!]
- easy to get around – aisles not too crowded for shopping carts full of plants
- Good supply of plant-related products
- Good quality indoor/outdoor soil, compost, manure, fertilizers, products to treat infestations/diseases
- Selection of plant pots, trellises and other support systems
- I’ve been mostly disappointed at the selection of containers for indoor and outdoor use at most centres; most are clunky and unattractive, with very few that are remotely interesting
- Often centres seem to be short-stocking these products
- Nice to have
- Helpful signage that provides more info than just the name of the plant
- Displays that tempt us to purchase more than what we came for – different plants grouped together to highlight how colours/textures can work to enhance sunny or shady spots
- Good variety of houseplants – not just the “usual” suspects
- Logical perennial returns policy in case plants die/become diseased
- Informative/helpful website – for general information, placing orders etc
- Delivery services provided at a reasonable cost
- Recycling program to take empty pots/other items back
- “Membership”/rewards card to encourage more purchases (….gardeners generally purchase many, many plants anyway, but it’s nice to have further incentives to do so)
- Staying power – I want to be able to return to my favourite garden centres over the course of many years
Here’s a link from Landscape Ontario Horticulture Trades Association: New study examines garden centre shopper habits. This highlights the importance of great staff.
I encourage you to go to a variety of garden centres, see how you like them. Landscape Ontario has a list of retail garden centres.
All the best in finding a few garden centres that you love!
Finally, note that a simple search on “google” yields several great websites and blogs with ideas on what makes a good garden centre.