So, it's that time of year when things begin to trickle into the chain store garden centers (for us here in Seattle, WA, it's mainly Home Depot and Lowe's) and they're beginning to get deliveries of fresh plant material. So naturally, I find an excuse to go in (usually to replace a burned out light bulb or cheap potting soil) and check out the selection.
Over the past few years, I've been finding top-notch specialty plants such as these Hellebores. In the past, I've obtained 'Ivory Prince', but now you can easily get 'Pink Frost' and, recently, I spotted a clone from the "Gold Collection" called 'Jacob' (which, of course wasn't labeled as so because they feel like no one really gives a fuck) a whole series of H. x hybridus hybrids that were once just pukey colors, but now they're pukey colors with ruffles, spots, picotees, DOUBLE AND ANEMONE FORMS! It was just a few years ago that these were like the holy grail of Hellebores that fetched $40-50 easily, but now you can purchase a small clump blooming its head off for around $10.00.
Think of these Hellebores as the new ORCHIDS. They've been micro-propagated in a laboratory so they can be mass-produced and offered at a lower price to the consumer. Sounds awesome, right?? Yes and No, in my opinion.
Good quality plants, true to type for the most part (regardless of how it was labelled), and good plants get to gardeners much quicker and they're far more affordable. Can't argue too much about that, eh?
Real nurseries and specialty garden centers suffer because of the cost of production and retail mark-ups call for higher prices just to break even, but for the most part, it's a severe loss for the small grower who, honestly, cannot compete with a chain giant. Most of these plants are produced in other parts of the country, travel a long way via truck, are regularly mislabeled, and treated poorly once they're stocked on nursery tables at chains.
As a grower, it certainly hurts to see a plant I've worked so hard to propagate, pot up, grow on carefully, and label for an upcoming plant sale only to find the same plants being sold at Lowe's or Home Depot for less than half of what I'm selling them for WHOLESALE!!
This is definitely an area where I feel quite torn and uncertain as to how to go about deciding which plants to get.
I've always said that there's no shame in shopping at a chain. I'm all about budget gardening and encouraging those who want to dabble in growing plants, but I'm also a plantsman who stresses quality in plant development and introduction and fully support local growers and businesses.
I'd appreciate your comments on this, please.
BTW, I caved and purchased that lower flower that impressed me with it's almost 4" flower, heavy speckling, and just how awesome it looked with the dark purple Phormium I was planning on using for a seasonal container.