How to - Gardening Basics

10 tips for navigating the nursery

Eryn Chesney

Gardening experts and enthusiasts provide their advice for plant-buying season

For many, a trip to a garden centre can be overwhelming. Tables teeming with potted plants, soil mixes galore—where does one start? We asked our favourite gardening experts for their tried and true tips on navigating the nursery.

1. Create a plan

"Good gardens start with a good plan. Whether you're remodelling an existing yard or starting from scratch, it's very helpful to have a vision of the entire layout before proceeding, as it will help you avoid making costly mistakes down the road."

Valerie Stensson, vice-president of marketing & purchasing, Sheridan Nurseries

2. Avoid impulse purchases

"Gardeners are especially vulnerable on their first few visits after the long, drab winter. I ripped out two impulse purchases last fall, neither of which I had any business buying: a Dreamcatcher beautybush (it grew like an octopus) and a rhododendron (that demanded really acidic soil)."

Stephen Westcott-Gratton, senior horticulture editor

3. Shop with a list

"Bring a list, particularly for hard goods, such as soil and tools. It's easy to get distracted by all the choices and as a result, come home having forgotten to pick up all that other stuff."

Paul Zammit, the Nancy Eaton director of horticulture, Toronto Botanical Garden

4. Inspect your plants
"Always choose potted plants that are weed-, insect- and disease-free. If I see a perennial that has liverwort or moss growing on the soil surface, it's an instant signal that the plant has been neglected."

Stephen Westcott-Gratton

5. Bring photographs

Shop with pictures of your garden, patio or balcony. They're great for reference and can be very helpful when asking for advice. I also recommend shopping on an overcast or rainy day as it won't be as busy. This results in more dedicated attention from the staff, who are usually being pulled in three directions at once."

Paul Zammit


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