You may either adore plant nurseries or not quite get their appeal. As for me, I’m head over heels for them! I’m an unabashed plant nerd who revels in the fun and fascination of a good plant nursery.
Your First Encounter: Showy Plant Material
The fun, showy plant material is always front and center. Think of this area as grocery store end caps with the seasonal stuff that makes us excited for what’s coming next! This is where you find your annual plant material and your tender perennial/seasonal color. I like to use these plantings grouped in larger beds as accents or scattered throughout seasonal flower beds to give it vavoom!
Moving Beyond the Showy: A Shade Haven
Once you pass the showy stuff in front you’ll have a lot of options. There will be a section covered in shade cloth that houses plants that need protection from the afternoon sun. This area can house anything from ground covers like Ophiopogon japonicas (Mondo grass) and Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny) sold in 4” pots, Begonias and Camellias in 1 or 5 gallon containers to young specimen palm trees in 10 or 15 gallon containers.
Remember that anything you buy from this part of the plant nursery will need to be protected from the heat of the afternoon sun. Plants can burn, just like us. If you buy something from this section of the plant nursery, but want to plant it in a part of your garden with afternoon sun, it’s best to do what is called hardening off. Hardening off is the practice of slowly exposing plants to harsher conditions.
The Open Selection
In any decent nursery, you’ll come across a large selection of uncovered plant material. Typically, you’ll find similar species grouped together – roses with roses, succulents with succulents, lavender with lavender, and so on. This is where a pre-determined shopping list comes in handy. Looking for a red rose, a tall succulent, or a green-leafed shrub to obscure an unsightly fence? You’ll know just where to find them!
Mastering the Nursery Layout
Spend some time understanding your favorite nursery’s layout. As you pay more attention, you’ll likely find flowering perennials grouped together, and the same with grasses, shrubs, and trees. Once you’ve cracked this code, shopping becomes a breeze!
Decoding Plant Labels
Don’t be embarrassed to read the plant labels or the little tags that are stuffed into the pot. These are tools provided by the grower, to help you choose the right plant for the right location. They will usually list the common and the Latin name of the plant. The Latin name is the MOST important. Many plants have the same common name, especially in different parts of the country.
If you LOVE a specific plant, learn its Latin name. These tags tell the sunlight or shade needed. And the water requirement for the plant. They usually give the flower color, if any. Also they should mention how tall and wide the plant will be at maturity, but keep in mind that this is a generality! Some tags or labels will even give more specifics, like which season the flowers bloom, where the plant is native to and if the plant likes a specific type of soil.
As you can see, it’s easy to spend hours in a nursery, so slip on some good walking shoes, get that sunscreen and hat on and let’s go shop for plants!
Author: C.J. Crockett