A Few Words About Shopping For Plants At The Big Box Stores
by David Salman
Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman Weighs In On The "Dumbing Down" Of Horticulture
The "Big Box" stores have become a major force in the marketing and sales of plants across the US. They have transformed the retail plant business over the last 15 to 20 years from an industry traditionally serviced by independently owned nurseries, hardware stores and greenhouses to one that’s dominated by spreadsheets and not horticulturists. They have done so by working with very large wholesale nurseries and gigantic bedding plant growers who are large enough to supply their numerous large stores to drive down prices. This also has the effect of “dumbing down,” or greatly reducing the selection of plant varieties available to choose from.
What is a Well-Intentioned Gardener to Do?
The solution is simple: Do your homework and make the bulk of your plant purchases from reputable locally-owned greenhouses, garden centers and specialty catalog/on-line retailers. If you expect to have access to accurate horticultural information, regionally appropriate plants and quality organic/natural gardening products, you need to support these non-Big Box vendors. Otherwise who is going to grow the unusual plants and afford to have experienced, educated horticulturists on staff? Who is going to ensure that our vast palate of biologically diverse plants is not simplified down to those that make the most money? I always caution folks that "if all you buy is fast food, don't be surprised when there are no farm-to-table restaurants when you want access to healthy meals." The same holds true for plants.
A dazzling selection of this California native wildflower species, 'Marian Sampson' (commonly known as Scarlet Monardella) has clusters of brilliant red, tubular flowers held over low mats of dark green, shiny leaves. Blooming in late spring it is certain to attract hummingbirds. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Blue Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ssp. aristadus) is one of the very best Old World plants for attracting and feeding bees and bumble bees. A medicinal herb, its aromatic foliage, and bright blue flowers are a highlight of the mid-summer garden. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Owl's Claw (Hymenoxys hoopesii) is a fabulous native mountain wildflower with huge golden-yellow flowers in summer. With its long, downward curving golden-yellow flower petals and center cone, the graceful flowers are eye-catching. Highly attractive to many types of butterflies and bees, this durable perennial likes average to wet soil moisture and cool growing conditions, not for hot climates.
'Vision® Violet' Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) packs a purple punch in late-spring with vivid magenta flowers that bees and butterflies love. Easy-to-grow and critter resistant, its low mounding habit makes Cranesbill perfect for borders and in between other plants, knitting together the garden in perfect harmony. In autumn, the foliage turns brilliant red-orange. This reliable groundcover is deer and rabbit resistant.
A super cold hardy Old World native, Golden Candles (Thermopsis lupinoides) blooms with stunning bright yellow lupine-like flower spikes in mid-spring. It pairs beautifully with mid-spring daffodils and tulips, and after flowers fade, attractive foliage mounds will enhance your garden through summer. Easily grown and long-lived, Golden Candles delivers welcome early-season color after a long, cold winter. A 2020 Plant Select® Winner.
'Mars Magic' Single Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) brings classic style and architectural form to the summer garden. The tall stems are covered with scarlet-red single flowers with lemon throats. Flowers rise above the garden from mid-to-late summer, casting a colorful red sunset glow over the garden. Hummingbirds love these bright red flowers, as do butterflies. This cultivar is a true cold-hardy perennial, blooming every year.
Red Birds in a Tree is a rare perennial from the southern mountains of New Mexico and Arizona. It blooms all summer with spires of small red, white-lipped flowers that resemble a flock of red birds perched on a tree branch.
'Shell Pink Improved' Lamium (Lamium maculatum) is is a tough and long-lived groundcover with lovely with heart-shaped leaves dashed with a silver streak. Interesting foliage is topped by soft pink blossoms from mid-spring to frost. It’s a beautiful groundcover, container plant, or lawn alternative to brighten part-to-full shade areas. A new form found in HCG Chief Horticulturist David Salman's Santa Fe greenhouse.