Proceed at your own risk — and please, bring a list. That’s my best advice for spring visits to the garden center.
Do not misunderstand: I am all in on shopping for plants anytime, just not on making buying decisions based on the giddy madness of pure impulse.
Instead, consider strategically delayed gratification, which probably means skipping the showiest of-the-moment plants in favor of those that might not be in peak form yet, or even have fully awakened.
On the ride home from such a well-tempered shopping expedition, the car won’t be stuffed with color. But in its aftermath, the garden will be — and at less expected times, when it may otherwise be lacking. I admit to pacifying myself with a flat of violas on the passenger seat (oh, the scent). But as for the springtime perennials and shrubs, I mostly leave them behind.
“GrowerTalks” and the companion “Acres Online” newsletter, “most garden centers I talk to will throw out the 80-20 rule: that 80 percent of their business is done in what the industry affectionately calls ‘the 100 days of hell.’”
incorporating native plants. It provides insects and, in turn, other creatures with what they need over an extended period — a sequence of pollen, nectar, fruits and seeds — starting with February’s first pollen-covered pussy willows (Salix) in my Northeastern garden.
A backbone late-season element of my bird-focused plantings, the fall-fruiting, lipid-rich winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), fuels some birds’ migration and sustains others who stay behind. But the winterberries you see at the garden center now may look like little more than a nursery pot of sticks and tiny leaves, as will powerful late-season native perennials like asters and goldenrods.
They might be the plants you need, but they won’t be the first thing to catch your eye.
“What’s in bloom will be up front, along with the roses and hydrangeas everyone is asking for,” Mr. Beytes said. “At the good garden centers, all the other stuff is there, too — but maybe in the back hoophouse. Ask.”