Oh, the ethical turmoil I’ve been in! Should I stay home and shop for food only, or support other local businesses, too?
Plus, it’s spring and we gardeners need to buy plants and supplies. I’ll confess that my greatest personal fear (after dying, of course) was that the garden centers would be closed this spring. But we got lucky, I guess – garden centers/nurseries have been deemed essential – presumably because what they sell is needed for both food-growing and upkeep of properties.
What about mail order, you might ask? I can’t imagine buying shrubs that way, and that’s mostly what I need. I DID order some seeds online, but I’ve never had much luck buying perennials or annual plants that way.
So I’ve ventured out to buy locally, and the results have been mixed.
I’d been waiting for months to buy very particular plants (especially Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’ – four of them) and as soon as they were in stock at a local garden center, I emailed my request to use their “personal shopper” service. That meant that an employee would show me the plants on offer and the particular ones being set aside for me to pick up. Oh, boy!
Got no response, so several days later I called and an employee found my order. She reported that “Unfortunately, “Tangerine Beauty begonias are all sold out.”
Glad I was listening closely and could ask her to check BIGnonias – not BEgonias – and promptly heard, “Oh, we have plenty of them.” Whew!
I was so thrilled to get a hold of the plants I wanted, I hadn’t bothered to ask for prices and the grand total was a bit of a shock but dammit, I DESERVED them. The next day when I unloaded the plants from my car I checked the tags and found out those Bignonias were $50 each! Which I’m happy to pay if it’s a well developed plant like these are, rather than one that’s barely started. As a gardener my natural impatience often surfaces, and sometimes wins out.
Needing Wanting a few MORE plants, and hearing from several sources that this same garden center was now serving customers completely outdoors, I drove back for more, eager to stroll the aisles like in Before Times. That info turned out to be incorrect, and customers had to go inside to pay. And it was inside that I was surprised and frankly pissed off to find employees practically in my face, they were so oblivious to the 6′ distance they should have been observing. Several of them!
When I asked (saying it was for an article about “how safe it is to shop here”), I was told staff were all wearing masks – but again, no. Not even the staff members taking customers’ money were wearing them. Including the manager on duty.
Oh, they told me to notice the plexiglass shield they’d installed at the cashier. But it’s of little to no benefit, with the cashier having to do a full-torso reach-around the plexiglass (without wearing a mask) to scan items in shoppers’ carts.
Here in Maryland, most of the independent garden centers are offering pickup/delivery only only, with customers banned from the grounds and indoor shop. I urged this one that’s open as usual to do more (do something?) to make their in-store shopping experience safer. And is there really no way customers could pay outdoors, say with their phones?
With in-store shopping hard to get right (apparently), I wonder if there’s another way to give customers the experience of seeing what’s there and then seeing the exact plants they’re buying. Something better than buying plants sight unseen, which must certainly lead to some unhappy results.
Hey, indie garden centers, with all the technology that stores and customers have, is there no solution? Your loyal customers want to buy more from you! Many of us avoid buying plants at the Big Boxes, and with reports of crowding and 2-hour waits to pay at Home Depot, will definitely not be doing it this year.