Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Garden Departments in June

My wife and I like to garden. We have flowerbeds around our house and a vegetable garden in the back corner of our yard. I love flowering plants and plants with interesting foliage.

We live in Western Pennsylvania. Here, unlike our native California, May is unpredictable. It is not consistently "good" gardening weather. May is a month with days of snow flurries and days that hit 80 degrees.

Yet, May is when the national chains expand their garden centers into the parking lots. Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowes place young trees, shrubs, and lots of annuals outside their fenced-in and covered garden areas.

It promptly freezes two or three nights in a row. The injured survivors are placed on clearance racks. I've purchased a few of those weakened survivors, with mixed results. Still, clearance is clearance, and plants aren't cheap.

The local Master Gardeners suggest planting after Mother's Day, which is usually the last freeze. This year, Mother's Day was over 80 and humid. It was horrible. And now, just a few weeks later, it was in the 50s and cold enough that people are in jackets again.

Local garden shops at the national chains should know the region.

Instead, the local garden shops are downsizing this first week of June. Just as we finally enter the predictable planting season, the plants start to vanish.

This is Western Pennsylvania, not the Southwest.

You see the colorful annuals, the early perennials, and you want to plant them. But, knowing they will die or at least go into shock, you wait for the first week of June. You drive the Jeep to the garden center, all ready to trade green paper for green leaves. The plants are gone. Not moved. Not on clearance. Gone. So you drive to the next garden center. And the next.

The best places to buy plants, we've discovered, are the local businesses. They get it. Maybe they have a deal with the distributor or something, but as the chains shrink their garden areas, the local nurseries and landscaping suppliers expand.

At least the chains' ignorance of local climates is great for local business.

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