A recent Which? report of online garden centres shows how wary of shopping for plants online, gardeners need to be. 1 Ordering from both large well-known suppliers and smaller specialist outlets, the survey concluded that it’s a bit of a lottery:-
“Let downs included small plants that were little more than cuttings, damaged plants, dried-out roots , diseased plants…” 2
Buying plants online is probably the least desirable option although ‘needs must when the devil drives’. In Camden, my nearest nursery is far too pricey to warrant the poor condition of many plants. The alternatives are the local market stocking cheap and cheerful seasonals or the superstore Homebase which sells a common-or-garden range. In short, I shop online out of necessity.
The Which? survey confirms my own experiences and could not have been more timely for I’ve just had the worst experience of buying blind and trusting to the online plant nursery.
I love Caryopteris probably as much as the hoverflies and wanting to add more summer blues to my beds, ordered C. x clandonensis ‘Heavenly Blue’. The order arrived promptly and on opening the box I could see these had been well-packed but…
…all 3 pots were choked with a thick layer of moss which had obviously been there long enough for the moss to flower. The plants themselves looked rather sick, having lost their lower leaves and only a top tier of somewhat jaundiced foliage remained.
My worst fears were confirmed when tipping the plants out of their containers, a spaghetti of pot bound roots was revealed. Naturally I emailed a complaint to the company with accompanying images as proof. In return I received advice from their ‘expert’:-
“Turn the plant upside down out of the pot and first cut in half, just half way down and then turn to cut again in half, so your cutting in 4 quarters half of the way down and then pull roots loose with your fingers and plant directly into your garden. Rest assured it’s completely guaranteed so if it fails to take to your garden just let us know and we would be happy to arrange something.”
I have quoted the response in full if only because I was astounded that the company seemed to regard this as a minor complaint which I could easily rectify. Were I a hospital for sick plants, I might have accepted the suggested remedy.
To be fair, having sent a very ‘disgruntled of London’ reply, a full refund was forthcoming but without any acknowledgement of the shortfall on their plant quality guarantee. 3 Moreover this was not an unfortunate one-off incident as the rest of my order was also in a parlous state of health.
As a gardening community of bloggers we can help each other with our experiences of shopping for plants online. Over the years, I have sampled quite a few internet garden shops and nurseries and have given a rating according to experiences thus far. Roll over the links for my brief reviews:-
- Blooming Direct: **
- Best4Plants ***
- Crocus **
- Long Acre Plants ****
- Simply Seeds and Plants ****
- Thompson & Morgan **
The good news is that more of the smaller, specialist nurseries, with reputations to uphold, are providing internet shopping in conjunction with mail order catalogues. For those of us seeking to be more adventurous with plants, I can recommend
Far Too Many Plants – a Brighton nurseryman with an expanding catalogue of unusual plants.
This Yellow Bleeding Heart (Dicentra scandens) was one of my purchases from here a couple of years ago. It’s a delicate leaved vine which clambers easily against a wall or grown through a shrub. Shade loving, D. scandens produces small yellow flower clusters in mid-summer although mine probably would be more floriferous in a brighter-shady spot. Slugs love it too.
What, if any, have been your experiences of shopping for plants online?