Plant nurseries, you either love’m or hate’m. Personally I LOVE them. Yes, I’m a total plant nerd, but I also understand how plant nurseries work.
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!
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 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 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.
A good plant nursery will have a large selection of uncovered plant material. You will usually find like grouped with like. Think roses with roses and succulents with succulents, lavender with lavender, etc. This is when I find it helpful to already have a list of what I’m interested in e.g a red rose, a tall succulent, a shrub w/ green leafs to hide an ugly fence. You get the idea.
Take a few minutes to figure out how your favorite nursery is laid out. Once you start paying a bit of attention, you’ll most likely find that the flowering perennials are all close together. And the same with the grasses, shrubs and trees. Once you’ve got this figured out, now you can really start to shop!
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