Anyone have any experience with those mats of seeds that you supposedly just unroll and water? I saw them at Menard's and wondered if it was worth a try. They had one with a mix of seeds for shade and I have just the spot if indeed it works as well as the box claims.
I have a gardening-challenged friend who tried a couple of these, one of "wildflowers" and the other of some sunny mix. Both did pretty well and were a nice assortment of color and sizes. You have to prepare the ground of course, and for the money, I thought you'd be just as well off buying a package of mixed seeds that seem to be pretty common now anyway. The mats usually have a little fertilizer in them and the stuff the mats are made up of seem to help keep the ground moist, a plus for beginners. I think you can even cut the mats and use them in more than one spot. Most are annual flowers.
I've had terrible luck with Menards, ACE hardware, and Home Depot plants, bulbs, and pre-prepared stuff like seed matts and seed mixes. Even their seed packets don't seem to do as well as a local greenhouse or online ordering.
I haven't tried the seed mats, but I suspect if it works for grass seed (and it does in my experience) it should work for flower seeds with a little preparation and care.
As for box store plants, I think we happen to be pretty lucky here. The Super Wal-Mart just a couple miles down the road from me always seems to have a decent selection of perennials each spring and the ones that I've purchased have thrived. Whoever manages their garden center seems to have their act together. At the other box stores I've been to (including other Wal-Marts), it's pretty evident that whoever runs the garden center doesn't actually have an ounce of garden know-how, and it makes such a huge difference! I think the person who runs our local Wally World must be a gardening enthusiast.
I find that the big-box stores get in an interesting variety of plants, usually a good prices, but they go downhill quickly due to lack of even basic care, like watering! They provide gardeners a great service by offering some unusual varieties that many independent garden centers don't or won't carry for some reason. BUT, those big-box stores often get in landscape plants that aren't hardy in the local zone, or "houseplants" that are just not good for indoors (ex. 'Majesty' palms). You have to know what you're doing, as they sure don't!
I sure don't enjoy the pop up ads, but I think my computer is getting wise to them as most of them have been getting blocked. Perhaps it's the Firefox system I use, or the computer (iMac)...not sure which.