How to Navigate the Nursery

At the nursery, the profusion of colors and scents, varietals and blooms can sometimes make even the most enthusiastic gardener a shrinking violet. But there is an easy-to-adopt strategy for making a visit to the local nursery a successful shopping experience.

- Make a List: Just as you would for most shopping excursions, when venturing to the nursery make a written list of what you hope to accomplish and buy. Be as specific as possible, taking into account such factors as sun vs. shade and container vs. ground plantings. The more specific you can be about the cultivars you want, the easier it will be for the staff to expedite the order and fill you in on availability (if you're really ambitious, have an alternate list of plants in mind, in case what you want is not in stock). Consider bringing along pictures of the space you are going to plant.

- Choose a Color Palette: To build a color palette, clip images from catalogues and magazines, or use swatches of your favorite colors from paint chips, ribbon, or fabric. Make this color code your reference for comparing plants you think may fit the plan; trust your eye, for you'll immediately be able to discern if the plants you choose coordinate.


- Make Preliminary Choices: Gather your initial selections on nursery wagons. When you isolate plants from massed displays, their colors, shapes, and textures come into sharper focus.

- Request a Complete Plant List: Most independently operated nurseries maintain a catalog or printout referencing the season's current offerings. Before you begin your tour of the nursery, take a few minutes to orient yourself, review your list and the nursery's stock, and make brief notes as you wander the aisles. Be realistic about the climatic and soil conditions of your garden for accommodating unfamiliar plants.

- Consult the Staff: At a reputable nursery with a large inventory of plants, such as Baker's Acres Greenhouse, you can count on the expertise of staff members. Ask questions. Many nurseries arrange their offerings alphabetically by genus and species (the Latin name). If you are an inexperienced gardener, consider shopping during the week when staff members are more available to spend time with you. Many nurseries offer extended spring evening hours.

Read more on Assessing Plant Health and 4 Steps to the Right Tools.

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