Stalking the wilds of Amazon

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Via A Verdant Life and Art of Gardening, my attention is drawn to Amazon’s live plant section. I don’t know how long they’ve been in the plant-selling biz, but it is a bit scary. Much like the bizarre plant auctions Amy found on eBay, Amazon’s offerings seem geared toward the exoticists among us. And the gullible.

There are things I’d readily buy from Amazon. Books, obviously. But I also buy some clothing and other sundry items. (For example, a couple years back, they had an amazing BOGO sale on Speigelau wine glasses.) I like Amazon because all my information is already there, they’re reliable, their shipping is prompt (and much cheaper than it used to be), and they carry some companies I like (Lands End, Speigelau, Fresh). But plants? Not so much.

Here’s what you can buy on Amazon for $16: A Shrek Chia Pet. It’s listed, along with a bunch of other Chia items, a jasmine plant, some bonsai, and seed-starting kits, in the “outdoor plants” section. Along with a few things you actually can grow outdoors.

Here’s what you can buy for around $100-200: How about an artificial palm tree? Well, I guess strictly speaking, that could count as an outdoor plant.

And for $1000, and up, may I suggest anything, including this, from Bonsai Boy? Yes, just as on eBay, the bonsais get the big bucks. I think they’re kind of cool, but don’t see myself paying four figures. (A lot of men I know like bonsais. Why is that?)

As Jim and John (linked at top) point out, you can get seriously ripped off in the perennial section, like $50-60 for five-gallon plants, but fortunately for the uninformed, most of the perennials are “currently unavailable.” And unlike the trusted names in clothing and glassware that draw me to Amazon for bargains, I haven’t heard of most of these seed and plant vendors, like Hirts, Clifton’s, Orchids ‘r’ Us, and Calyx. The ones I do know I generally avoid: Park, Spring Hill, Michigan Bulb.

But, you know people will order this stuff, and it just might turn them off gardening. Though, on the bright side, it might make them chia believers. Or bonsai freaks.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve found some really beautiful and interesting plants on ebay. If you tend to become bored by local nursery offerings, ebay can be a great outlet. Check out the Plants, Seeds, Bulbs section.

    I’ve ordered orchid cactus cuttings, South American bulb flower species that come true from seed, succulents, a rare Japanese morning glory, and more. Small-scale collectors buy on ebay, but they also sell on ebay.

    Sure, there are some horticultural hucksters on there, but if you stick with highly-rated sellers and plants that do ok in your area (or greenhouse), problems are very unlikely.

  2. I have has some very good–and very bad–eBay experiences. With so many reputable vendors out there, I can’t see going the eBay route for plant materials.

    I think part of the appeal of eBay is the competitive aspect or the perception that you’re getting a good deal. I wonder how many people actually shop around before clicking that “Buy” button.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  3. Thanks for telling us about this, Elizabeth. Since I only rarely buy bulbs or seeds online, I’d be not likely to check out any of these perennial offerings (and bonsai is what my kitties say when they ninja-attack each other), but not everyone is as skeptical as I am!

  4. I saw the chia-Shreck and a few other chia-characters at the Fred Meyer last week. Really cute way to introduce kids to seed germination imo.

  5. Hopefully, the feds are watching out for people who might be selling illegal wild-collected plants on Ebay. I sometimes wonder about that.

    I bought a Cestrum nocturnum cutting on Ebay a couple years ago, and just recently some hard-to-find seeds of southwestern US native wildflower Mentzelia lindleyi from a woman in Tennessee who sells wildflower seeds from her garden. Excellent germination, and a real bargain for the price.

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