Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Review of Online Gardening Retailers

Greenwood Nursery

We purchased 13 Knockout Roses, 5 Japanese Snowball Trees and 1 Nikko Blue Hydrangea from Greenwood Nursery this Spring. The plants were all packed very carefully and received in near perfect condition - it was quite an impressive packing job. One of the Knockout Roses suffered root damage from the journey, but the company is sending a replacement for free.

The Knockout Roses are a bit smaller than I expected, and vary in size from 5 inches to 12 inches, but they seem to be of quality stock and should even out soon enough. They were shipped in 1 quart containers. Several of the little bushes already have buds on them, and one of them is in bloom right now. It's a tiny little plant, but the bloom is beautiful. I hope they grow fast! The company also offers roses in 1 gallon containers, but they are significantly more expensive, and since this is my first season gardening, I didn't want to invest that much money into something I may kill.

The Japanese Snowball Trees were shipped bare root and tightly wrapped in soggy shredded newspaper to keep them moist. The trees stand about 3 feet tall and have seemingly healthy root systems. They have been planted for less than a week now, but I see no reason why they would not thrive.

The Nikko Blue Hydrangea was a lot smaller than I expected, but it is very healthy and vibrant. The leaves are firm and a beautiful bright green color. I noticed after three days of being planted in a large container though that the leaves were wilting and turning brown, so I dug it up and found that the roots were browning too. I called the Customer Service Department at Greenwood Nursery, and the agent told me to plant it in the ground, because these plants are not recommended for containers. After just one day of being in the ground, the plant has perked right back up!

The only complaint I have about Greenwood Nursery is that they do not provide enough information on how to plant and care for your newly planted items. I'm not sure when I can start fertilizing my roses, how much to water the plants or what plants can be placed in containers. I almost killed that poor little hydrangea due to ignorance. It would be nice if their website contained more comprehensive information on things like this. It would also be beneficial if their boxes were stamped "fragile". They do such a great job packing things, but the UPS man playing "Kick The Cheat" could still harm the fragile contents.

I will certainly be ordering from Greenwood Nursery again in the future, and they are at the top of my recommendation list for online gardening retailers, unless of course all my plants die.

Park's Seeds

I ordered two packs of Sundial Tropical Fruit portulaca from Park's Seeds this Spring. The seeds were shipped promptly and arrived as expected. I have not sowed the seeds yet, but I am happy with my purchase so far. The seeds also shipped with simple instructions on how to sow indoors and outdoors.

Park's Seeds stocks some very unusual and exciting seeds that are not available in stores. I will order from them again in the future.

House of Wesley

Despite warnings to the contrary, I ordered a Patio Tree Rose and Climbing Shell Plant from House of Wesley. The rose arrived 6 weeks after ordering, shipped in a thin plastic bag with absolutely no padding or moisture control. Many of the branches and roots were broken off in shipment due to the poor packing. I was very saddened to have to clip it back, but the branches could not be saved. The resulting plant was very sparse and unbalanced. I had no hope for it. I planted it in a large container and wished it the best. After only a couple days of being planted, the rose started to sprout buds. I have been watering it regularly and giving it plenty of sunshine, and it seems to be doing great. The broken branches have not started to regrow, but I'm not sure how long that takes since this is my first tree rose.

The Climbing Shell plant was not included in my first order. The packing slip indicated that this was the first of two shipments, but that was several weeks ago. I will call them to inquire about the second shipment some time soon.

Although the rose does appear to be growing, I will not order from House of Wesley again. Their poor packing is just unacceptable, and they charged my credit card 4 weeks before they actually shipped the item.

Springhill Nursery

Our catalog from Springhill Nursery arrived with a $25 Gift Coupon - No strings attached! We leafed through it and found some beautiful Purple Wintercreeper groundcover that would look great at the bottom of the front yard where clover and weeds are trying to take over. We ordered 40 plants for $57.99 minus the $25 Gift Coupon. It seemed like a good deal!

We expected the plants to be comparable to the small containers of ground cover offered by Lowes and Home Depot for $1.50 a pot. We didn't expect much, but what we received was so far below our lowest expectations that it actually became funny. We received 40 dried up 4" sticks in baggies. Some of the sticks didn't have roots or leaves, and we had no idea what end was supposed to be planted. The instructions were to plant the shriveled up sticks 2-3 feet apart. We laughed trying to imagine what our front yard would look like with these sticks poking up every 2-3 feet. It would take 3 years to even notice there was anything there!

Needless to say, I called and complained. The agent told me that she would credit my card for the full amount and to just throw the plants out. My card has yet to be credited, but I will give them a couple more days to get things straigtened out before calling again. We did plant the sticks in some containers just for kicks. I can't imagine them actually growing, but we'll see what happens.

I will never order from this company again. I don't care if there is a $100 Gift Coupon attached to my next catalog.

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