FULL GARDENS .com - Discussion on the advantage of purchasing plants from a nursery, what to look for, suggestions and advice on your nursery purchases

Nurseries - Shoud you buy plants from a nursery?

The advantages of purchasing plants from a nursery, and what to look for

Gardening Tips Beginner and ExpertA nursery is a place where plants are propagated and grown to usable size. There are retail nurseries which sell to the general public, wholesale nurseries which sell only to other nurseries and to commercial landscape gardeners, and private nurseries which supply the needs of institutions or private estates. Some retail and wholesale nurseries sell by mail.

When purchasing plants for your garden, it is crucial that the nursery you choose has the following:

  • Knowledgeable staff - your garden will have conditions that allow certain plants to thrive and may kill others, and particular plants will do well in your garden providing they are equiped to handle the soil composition, amount of sunlight available, etc. The staff at the nursery must be able to help you pick the plants that will do the best in the conditions your garden provides. If they recommend the wrong plants, you not only lose time but the initial investment as well.

  • Healthy plants - whether you go to the nursery in person or have the plants mailed to you, the plants should be in a healthy condition. The leaves and stem should be undamaged and you can usually tell from how the plants are packaged or handled whether the plant has been looked after. To maximize growth you will want plants that start strong and healthy, not ones that have to be nurtured back to health.

    Nurseries grow annuals, perennials, and woody plants (trees and shrubs). These have a variety of uses: decorative plants for flower gardening and landscaping, garden vegetable plants, and agricultural plants.

    Nurseries often grow plants in a greenhouse, a building of glass or in plastic tunnels, designed to protect young plants from harsh weather (especially frost), while allowing access to light and ventilation. Modern greenhouses allow automated control of temperature, ventilation and light and semi-automated watering and feeding. Some also have fold-back roofs to allow "hardening-off" of plants without the need for manual transfer to outdoor beds.

    Some nurseries specialize in one phase of the process: propagation, growing out, or retail sale; or in one type of plant: groundcovers, shade plants, fruit trees, or rock garden plants.

    Nurseries remain highly labour-intensive. Although some processes have been mechanised and automated, others have not. It remains highly unlikely that all plants treated in the same way at the same time will arrive at the same condition together, so plant care requires observation, judgement and manual dexterity; selection for sale requires comparison and judgement. A UK nurseryman has estimated that manpower accounts for 70% of his production costs.

    Business is highly seasonal, concentrated in spring and autumn. There is no guarantee that there will be demand for the product - this will be affected by temperature, drought, cheaper foreign competition, fashion, etc. A nursery carries these risks and fluctuations.

    Annuals are sold in trays (undivided containers with multiple plants), flats (trays with built-in cells), peat pots, or plastic pots. Perennials and woody plants are sold either in pots, bare-root or balled and burlaped and in a variety of sizes, from liners to mature trees.

    Plants may be propagated by seeds, but often desirable cultivars are propagated asexually by budding, grafting, layering, or other nursery techniques.