Azalea Northern Lights Series 'Electric Lights™ Red'
It is nice in a weird sort of way to peruse seed selling sites and see "sold out" banners on various varieties. After years of decline in the horticultural sector, suddenly everyone is gardening. Growing some cut flowers for your own summer supply is becoming a "thing". It means people and their businesses will make money on the plants they hold. It means more plants will be available to more people rather than held tightly in the hands of a few collectors. It means more plants will be hybridized and more research on plants will be done. It is pretty much a big win all around.
In the short term, however, with more demand comes shortages. With shortages, comes rising prices. Last year, it seemed there were no clematis to be had. A scant few rose varieties were available. What was available, seems to have high price tags attached. There were some poor quality plants out there, in stock; and everything was smaller. A particular shrub cultivar? Good luck sourcing it-- anywhere.
This year the costs of shipping are going add to the price tag of the plants at your local independent and big box store garden center. I work at a local independent garden center. Last spring we had numerous varieties of perennials sell out in just days from our Open for the Season Day. Your independent garden center buyer is already getting in line for their 2023 and even 2024 orders for everything from plant plugs to pottery.
So words of wisdom, if you see it and you really want it-- buy it. Don't assume you will see it cheaper at the big box store. Make your plan. List the plants you are looking for and have an alternate plant listed. Look for the alternatives at the same time you are looking for your favorites. Expect sticker shock.
Dahlia 'Penhill Watermelon'
Last year when we could get a particular plant, it was often a smaller size or grade than we had previously offered. For me personally, I was shocked at the small size of the dahlia tubers I received on orders placed in January, and the number of varieties that I was shorted after having previously had a confirmed order. Approximately one out of every three tubers, did not have an eye and did not sprout. Only half of the remaining tubers actually pushed out a flower or two.
One Impatiens 'Big Bounce Lilac' filled a whole container with a 16" diameter.
Don't expect sales. At the garden center, in early June, we have typically run a trunk load sale, with a "buy some number of annuals, get one free" to clear annuals we hadn't sold by Memorial Day. (It is often a hectic number of days between Mothers' Day and Memorial Day as everyone plants up all their pots and containers for the summer months.) This last year, we had the sale, but many things we had previously featured on the sale were not on sale and the volume of material to discount was low indeed.
What to do? As I mentioned, if you want it, buy it. The. First. Time. You. See. It. Know where you can scrimp on plants. (Will one Impatiens 'Big Bounce' fill a pot for you rather than planting three starts of something else?) While you are at the garden center will an herb fill a pot as easily as a flowering plant and add to your food budget, as well? Can a tomato fill an ornamental void? How about chard? Salad anyone? Take advantage of any value-added services the garden center may offer; pruning technique class... a soap-making class?
I am so glad we are all reconnecting with our gardens and nature. The independent garden centers have had a hard pull the past decade. Support the garden center that brings in plants from their region or produces their own plugs. Do they have their own native beds to produce their native plants or grow on their own seed. Ask where they purchase their garden art. Is a large percentage produced locally? Do they support their local community and charities? Make local as important as native. Make community count.