I may be the only person in Haddon Heights who is happy about the rainfall we’ve had this week. I honestly think I can hear the plants just drinking it all in. This said, it is a bit chilly out and I have a counter-load of seedlings plus the plants for the community garden that just arrived this week by mail. Last Friday, rainy though it was, I made my way to the garden center to get “pick of the crop” annuals for the container plantings. I was also on the lookout for the remaining plants necessary for empty spots. There are several solid reasons why I went on the day I did, which I will describe below. I call it “Working the Room” in the garden center way.

Mother’s Day is the opening bell for annuals, baskets and plants in the garden center industry. From what one owner told me, sales in May are by far the best of the season. Inventory is at its peak at the beginning of the month in preparation for robust sales and for gardeners wanting to buy Mother’s Day gifts. Armed with this information, here are my tips for you:

1. Pick a day last of April or first few of May when the weather is just a touch inclement. This reduces the amount of traffic ( a retail term for number of customers) at the garden center a good bit. Put on some Wellies, a rain coat and a hat. You’ll be fine;
2. Because there are fewer customers you will have more attention from the staff as you make your way around. Use this to your advantage and don’t hesitate to ask where plants and products might be located and let the staff round them up for you;
3. Be sure to plan your strategy in advance. Make a list of the number and sizes of containers you want to fill. Maybe decide on your color scheme for the year. I am going with a “Merlot” theme this year after writing about it in the recent newsletter about the color wheel. Also include also on your list any plants you are looking to add or replace. This might require some research and that’s a good thing. I find it a lot easier to go with a specific plant in mind so you can engage the help of staff–saves time hunting for it on your own;
4. Many times the garden center staff assemble “end caps” of plant combinations in order to “up-sell” the number of plants a customer might purchase. The “end cap” is the end of the aisle of plants, focal point places.  You might find some good inspirations here and plants that may not be located anywhere else in the garden center. Feel free to shop this display and buy more than one there if the “up sell” effort on the part of the staff makes sense for you. Or maybe even evaluate what they have there as to how you might use a similar theme either with color or foliages;
5. Pencil works better on wet paper than pen;
6. Notice other shopper’s carts; ask them where they found things you like to save time looking and ask the name so you can ask a staff member if you still can’t find it;
7. Clear your trunk and car of all other things to have the best space to load. It is annoying to try to fit plants in around the yoga mat, the bag of re-useable grocery bags, and the like. You might want to take some large plastic contractor bags to line the trunk and car seats;
8. Go on a weekday or evening instead of a weekend if you can to avoid crowds. Mother’s Day weekend at the garden center is like the day after Thanksgiving at the shopping mall and for me I feel a slight bit agoraphobic. I also want to capitalize on the selection so I go ahead of the crush. I don’t aways plant everything right away, either; sometimes plants stay in the holding zone until it’s time. I realize I have to care for these plants until planting happens, but I consider this a reasonable trade off since I know have the plants I want without the stress of the crowd and concern that certain things may sell out.

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