What's in store
When choosing a garden centre, here are some things to look for:
- Well-maintained plants arranged logically according to growing requirements
- Labels with photos of the plant in bloom, how-to-grow information and expected height and spread
- Nursery wagons or carts to hold your purchases while you shop and aisles wide enough to manoeuvre in
- Staff who can answer gardening questions and make suggestions—or will take the time to find someone who can
- Display gardens are a bonus—great garden centres often showcase choice perennials in demonstration gardens.
Choose from a wide selection
When buying perennials, look for:
- Balanced, healthy-looking leaves (abundant new growth indicates a vigorous plant). Browned, stunted or slimy foliage is a sign of damage caused by insects, wilting, frost or disease
- Short and sturdy over tall and spindly
- Healthy roots. A soil surface covered with weeds or moss usually indicates the plant has been in the same container too long and may be pot-bound. Such plants may struggle to get established
Beat the rush
The busiest time at any garden centre is a sunny weekend in May—and Victoria Day weekend is usually the worst. If you like to take your time and ask for advice, go at off times: during the workweek, early or late in the day; during the dinner hour; or try a cool, rainy day when you can't putter in the garden.