Spring Expectations – mail order wise

Spring for the nurseryman is a taxing time. Some plants don’t make it through the winter, turning up their toes just as spring dawns, while other more tender varieties come through beautifully. This year the astrantias have been incredibly slow to emerge. I’m not sure if the heat of March (do you recall those 2 hot weeks) which stopped them in their tracks. Even now in May they are only just pushing the leaves above the pots. April was incredibly cold and wet.

The problem is trying to explain these things to some of the gardening public. While to my eyes the astrantias look fine (a little slow) to those gardeners who regularly visit garden centres our plants might look poor. The trouble is that the push for Easter and spring sales means garden centres insist on lots of top growth so the plants look big. To achieve this the wholesaler has to put his perennials into a poly tunnel and risk a late frost can damaging the soft top-growth.

Sadly should the garden centre shoppers decide to buy through a nursery on the Internet this is what he assumes all plants grown throughout the country should look like.  He forgets that something grown in Cornwall will be weeks ahead of plants grown in Scotland. Here on the Welsh Marches we are a good 10 days behind Somerset.

It was one customer in particular who has prompted me to write. He returned his plants complaining that were barely the size of plug plants, having ordered 9cm and 1lt plants that were potted last year.  When we opened the returned parcel we were totally bemused. They were fine, well rooted and in good condition, however having visited RHS Wisley garden centre last week and saw the Astilbes (he had ordered 2) were at least 3ins taller than ours. It was then I began to realise what the problem was.


The real bug bare for us is how customers complain. Most people are fine and with a short discussion the problem is solved. It’s just occasionally you get someone who feels it is within their rights to be downright rude, especially if they write via email. They feel as though we are sending them plants that are not up to their expectations deliberately. All we want to do is please.

So please if you do want to complain about anything to a retailer, just be nice, assume that the mistake, dead plant or what ever is an accident and it’s amazing how much better everyone will feel.


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