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Hi- I've heard that there are many perennials that are best ordered by mail-order, or sometimes only found in mail-order...which plants and flowers have you found are best ordered via mail order vs. purchasing at local nurseries and big box stores?
I very rarely purchase plants mail order as I like to support family owned nurseries as they also allow you to pick up the plants, look to make sure they are not pot bound (too long in same pot and requires re-potting) they also give you amazing info re their plants as they want you to return for more stuff,
If there has been a plant / tree / shrub that has not made it through the season, I have found they will give either a refund, replace the items OR even give extra items as way of apologies. To be fare, these type of gardeners have usually grown up in the family nursery and know their stuff but like ALL businesses, you have to get to know their stock and know the people who run the place, they need you to keep them in business but, they need you to help them provide the kind of plants you like within reason, very few of the small nurseries grow hundreds of the same plant, they are craftsmen / women therefore want you to but the best, not mass produced plants that wont even survive in your area.
Garden centres / Big Box Stores are great for lots of stuff and can beat lots of prices for tools, plant feeds, bags of compost ect, but few have employed staff that are interested or trained in the actual products like plants, the staff get paid regardless IF all the plants are dying due to lack of water ect, they can cover their losses by bulk buying plants by the truck load and adding the loss onto the customer, most I visit have staff that know little about their plants where as, a small nursery HAS to know there stock, how it grows, what conditions it requires, so the reality, we get what we pay for and please, dont expect a mail order company to treat there plants the same as a nursery.
Now I would add, there are nurseries and there are nurseries, a plant nursery is a place where the staff either take cuttings and grow these plants on or they grow from seeds, or they but small bare root plants that require more specialised treatment and takes maybe several years to grow to sale size and they nurture these plants along instead of shipping them from all over the world, usually places like Holland, and many other fertile places that are good at growing in spaces under plastic covered houses yet these plants can barely survive their journey due to the sudden shock of movement at such a tender state of their growth.
Mail order plants are usually a quick turn over and these places have to make as much money in one season as possible, they usually rely on the customer never bothering to complain or ask for refunds as it's such a hassle and who wants to fight for plants that will arrive toooooo late for your growing season.
All I say is, ask around, try get in touch with gardening Clubs in your neighbourhood, they will soon know good or bad nurseries in your area, go on line and search for nurseries in your area or growers of the type of plants you need,
I have to add that there are many, many people who wont go past there local Big Box store for there bedding plants but here in UK, there are so many small nurseries that have closed because their plants are maybe a few pennies more expensive than the later but I have to say, they wont have on display ANY plants that are in a poor state, they depend on the best condition of their products to sell the plants, that's their way of advertising, better conditioned plants that wont fall over on the way home.
I know lots of Mail order buyers who have had great results from a company one time and complete failure the next time, but I like to see what I want and the condition, Gardening aint cheap so I have to justify why I've spent ex number of ££££££ on plants especially if they died within a few weeks.
Take your time and get to know what others are doing, I'm sure your question will be answered by many people who have had good and bad experiences so take it all in and just do the best you can.
There's not likely any real truth to the statement that some plants might be "best ordered by mail-order".
My reason for mail-order has always been to get access to the varied or specialized selections carried by particular specialty growers. Local suppliers often have to appeal to a very general market, and so they may have a wide selection (a little of everything), but not as complete a selection as a specialty grower.
Just because a place offers mail-order does not make it suspect in any way, and all places should not be painted with the same brush. The vast majority of mail-order places I've ordered from have supplied excellent quality plants and service. (Mind you, I have intentionally avoided companies that I considered to be lower quality (the kind of suppliers that I think WeeNel is referring to)... not that those companies were selling what I wanted anyway.)
I fully agree with the sentiment that local suppliers should be supported whenever possible - unless you are looking for specialized sorts of plants, that's a great place to start.
Thanks to both of you for such thorough and good information and for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate it. I'm new to gardening and find the ability to ask questions on these forums so helpful... particularly since I'm not plugged into any local gardening clubs yet.
I buy bulbs only from online sources because I won't find better bulbs in a box store
I find there is a much better variety in the online companies, good thing one of the highly rated companies is only 20 mins from me and another I can drive to to take advantage of their open house
but I find local garden centers have just the same stuff as Home Depot or Lowes, for instance last year I stopped in 1 that I used to frequent and they had rows and rows of the same variety hydrangea,but if I want garden decor, I shop there