Trouble in Greenwood, SC



It was the first gardening catalog I ordered from ten years
ago. It is memorialized in Michael Pollan’s Second Nature as “reveling in the
sexiness of its flowers,” and cited by Tony Avent  as setting him up for his first big gardening disappointment,
when he discovered that despite its lush catalog, there was no corresponding show garden at
the Wayside Garden’s physical site.


 I think of Wayside Gardens whenever I prune Charlotte, a
David Austin rose I bought from the nursery in 1999, or clear away the dead
leaves from my two biggest clumps of hellebores. I never ordered from them
again (there were a number of failures stemming from that first purchase), and
I’m not sure if the catalog I used is even published anymore. 

As many of you will have heard, Wayside’s parent, Park Seed  has filed for bankruptcy along with Jackson Perkins. David Austin roses, which
used to be sold through these companies, now sells directly to US garden
centers. Park, after various corporate merges and purchases over the years, operates 4 companies, including Jackson Perkins, under one umbrella, and the sales for all of their companies declined 29% in 2009.

You’d never know that Park was in trouble from the biweekly
emails I still receive from them, touting various wacky hybrids. Jackson
Perkins, too. Indeed, they hope to restructure—saying that this should not
affect customers—and fight their way back to financial stability. In his
monthly letter to his customers, Tony Avent concludes, “many … seem to think
that Park's problems are more of a management issue than an economic one. 
… Regardless of the cause, the Park family of companies are a very important
part of the mail order nursery industry and a large employer in the Greenwood
area.  We wish them the best of luck in turning their ship around.”

I guess I do too, for the sake of their employees, and
because I did get some very nice plants from them once.

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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. This economy is affecting the gardening world in so many ways. We’ve lost many small nurseries here in Austin and watched as several publications have gone under. We will miss them all as our choices become limited and homogenized.

  2. What a shame. Is this another case of death by internet, I wonder? The internet has caused a sea change in communication, sales and distribution channels, which many businesses have been unable to master.

  3. I’m a SC native, and sorry to hear that any employer might fail.

    That said, I ordered from them last year (in the 29% decline year) and the service was abominable. When I called about my order (seeds and trays) the young lady basically said I hadn’t gotten them because they did not yet have the merchandise. By the time I received what I’d ordered (months later) it was too late for spring planting.

    I used to work for a company that had money problems. I remember telling customers that items were backordered when (in fact) we had failed to pay our bill so we couldn’t yet get the product. So alarm bells rang when I talked to them last year.

    Greenwood can’t afford to lose jobs. It’s a relatively small place. I hope they can figure something out.

  4. I think their poor customer service was their undoing. The Internet allowed smaller nurseries who could never afford to print and market an enormous catalog to reach sophisticated customers who know what they want. If you search the Internet, it’s full of people disappointed (and angry) about their experiences with any of Park Seed’s companies. Competition is a good thing and in order to compete a large company like Wayside/Park Seed/ Jackson Perkins needs to do more than rely on a the last vestiges of a reputation from decades ago.

  5. Wow. That’s depressing. I used to order from them (Wayside and Jackson and Perkins)up until 2000 when we moved to NH. I don’t know if they were the same company at that point or not, but the catalogs were always my saviour at the end of the bleak winters. I never had any problems with delivery or merchandise.

    Since I try to source plants from closer to home to help with the hardiness, I stopped getting their catalogs years ago. But I certainly hope that they can fix this, for the sake of their employees and for the contribution they can make to beautiful gardens everywhere.

  6. I find this news not terribly depressing. I can’t think of much good to say about any of those companies, and lots of bad, starting with truly wretched customer service, uninteresting plant selection, and annoying marketing schemes (like persistent, unwanted e-mails, and a new Disney princess (yuck) line of roses). Give me Plant Delights, Arrowhead Alpines, and Asiatica any day.

  7. You should have seen the Wayside catalog back when the nursery was still in Mentor, Ohio. I still remember the wonderful (if slightly “enhanced”) photo of Geranium himalayense. *Sigh*

  8. I am unfamiliar with Wayside Gardens or the Park name (although I know Jackson & Perkins for their roses), but this is such a sad story. May they read these and other comments, learn from them, and turn the wheel of change to make something beautiful again!

  9. I’ve always enjoyed the Wayside catalog but I regularly heard bad things about their service so I never tried them. I hope they work on their business model because that bad word of mouth has probably cost them thousands.

  10. I also get those weekly emails from Park Seed, but opted this year to order from companies that are clear about not accepting any GMO seeds so I could be sure about having all OP seeds for saving. On another note, I’m so glad I found your blog. I’ve been looking for the past month for a good garden blog, and have found NOTHING! I guess that all of the good garden blogs aren’t on the google radar yet, but now I feel like I’m tapped in. Thanks for all of your hard garden and writing work!

  11. I did a graduate school project on Park Seed a few years ago. When I did that project, none of the Park family members or the new owners would speak with me. It was pretty clear that there was bitterness and in-fighting going on.

    I visited the company and was shocked at how small it really is. The catalogs make you think there are hundreds of employees scurrying around, but really there were only like 20 (or fewer) full time employees.

    I am sad that they filed for chapter 11 but not surprised. I think the horrible reviews on Garden Watchdog did them in. I wanted to support them, but I wasn’t going to order from them having read the reviews. Hopefully they will restructure and improve their service and product.

  12. Their prices (Wayside and J-P) were so out of line, too, with what’s available more and more locally. I did not buy any bareroot roses wholesale from J-P this year. There wasn’t a difference in quality but the prices were higher and the service wasn’t comparable to places like Weeks. Or container-grown roses closer to home. As for Wayside, I liked browsing their catalog but for me they were never really a serious source.

  13. I buy bareroot root and Redi-plant boxed roses from J&P, and have done so for nearly 15 years. Things started going down hill for me a couple of years ago. Last year I got my roses, but it took 4 phone calls to get them to send me a bill. This year they sent my boxed roses to some place in North Carolina and the bare roots were less then perfect: unlabled roses, missing roses, duplicate roses and lower grades substituted for #1s. With this kind of service, I am not surprised they are having trouble.

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