Coming clean before the IGCs


A fall scene at one of my local igcs

Little did I imagine as an art critic, then museum curator,
then magazine editor that I’d ever be attending anything called the Independent
Garden Center Show
, much less speaking at it. Yet, I am getting on a plane to
do just that today; All the Ranters are giving a panel presentation
Thursday—as you’ve already heard.

You never know what you’re going to end up doing in life—and
that’s fine by me.  I have been
gardening for a couple decades and writing about gardening for a bit less than
half that time. By this time, I do have something to say to those who run
garden centers, and why not—I spend many hours and many, many more dollars at
my three or four local igcs every gardening season.

Here are some of the most important issues I have with
garden centers:

I am a total sucker. I am your dream customer and I’ll spend
every last cent of my expendable income at your business, but if you must buy
novelty items, let them be novelty plants. Not Christmas tree ornaments. I came
intending to leave with a carload of plants, and healthy, interesting plants
will keep me coming back. I don’t care about the other stuff.

Novelty can get old. It’s so sad that the tried and true
varieties of—say, hydrangeas, for example—are never available anymore. Half the
plants in my garden that people admire have vanished from the marketplace and I
either have to divide a perennial then and there or tell them they’re just out
of luck. I’d rather have them supporting a local business.

Please stop selling useless crap in spray bottles. The
bottles are getting prettier, but that doesn’t make the stuff inside any more
beneficial It all takes up too much space and it’s time for someone to stop the

And I don’t care what hysterical list comes out from
whatever agency. Please don’t take my buddleia away.  (See the comments to Susan’s post on porcelain vine, below.)

Is there anything you didn’t get a chance to tell Amy,
Michele and Susan about your igc pet peeves and fave raves? Throw it into
comments. I hope I will see some of you in Chicago.

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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


  1. I hope, for those of us who can’t attend IGC, you’ll do a summary of what you learned in all those surveys and comments… I’d be very interested to hear what other people think about garden centers.

  2. Your expectation of an IGC is a bit narrow. But expected with your self-described background. Your observations are, sadly, too accurate.

    Wholesalers, big box garden centers, & advertising are a driving force in new plant introductions. Most are patented, thus, make more money at each step of the supply chain.

    Follow the money, always.

    Over 5 years ago I realized my garden was already ‘history’. Why? The plants are mostly straight genus/species & the cultivars are not patented.

    How much longer before the plants in my garden are unavailable at the IGC or big box?

    Do you know about CANR? Center for Applied Nursery Research. Look them up before your lecture. What they do is wonderful. And, what they do is creating what you find at local IGC’s & big boxes.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  3. One more piece of advice for GC owners — hire and/or train people who know the names of plants. Referring to “the red thing” doesn’t cut it when I ask about a plant.

  4. I like your thinking and I agree with you. My mom has flowers growing in her garden that I have not seen at our local garden center in quite sometime. I have gotten clippings from her and that is the only way that I have to get them.

  5. I have been at THE IGC since Sunday. Did the 14 hour GC tour on Monday. Nothing but walk the floor Tuesday and Wednesday. 1100 booths of mostly cool stuff, lots of funny whimsical garden art.

    Best item so far was Filtrex planting “socks” Like super pot grow bags except it comes n a kit four a 4×4 raised bed with drip irrigation. Grow-Box is a much better designed knock of Earth Box and a at a 40% lower wholesale cost as well.
    Earth box introducing a cool vertical garden kit from Portugal.
    Eva-organics has a cool vertical planter except the young lady demonstrating the product keeps coming close to wardrobe malfunctions. Guess that’s what happens in Tennessee.
    Raised bed kits galore but none breaking the price point into affordability

  6. I went to the show on Tues – the enthusiasm was great (considering the economy is not so hot) but I really saw a lot of silly, useless stuff I would never buy. Amy referenced the goofy plastic baggie that creates heart shaped peppers. Disappointing.

    I’m very concerned about the push for independent garden centers to go with ‘branded’ names. There’s a couple in my area that I would love to patronize more because I like the staff and am a big believer in supporting the smaller guys but they sell mostly the branded names like Monrovia, PW & Bailey – good quality plants but they cost way too much even with a discount to pass on to clients. Some only sell retail which makes them sky high.

    Since I went Tues and will not be able to attend the panel – please let the Independents know they really need to remember the professionals, good discounts makes us happy and very loyal – maybe even have a separate area to accommodate us too which has loose materials like good quality potting soil, compost, mulch etc – plain wrapped. I don’t need to see them in colorful, little pretty bags – I saw that at the show and that really irritated me.

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