Hi - I have the chance to buy the same varieties of daffodils, tulips, and crocuses from a reputable catalog or Lowe's. The prices are similiar - I'd be saving shipping. What do you think?
I'm new to this forum, so thanks for your help.
The varieties sold in large bags or buckets at Lowes are cheaper if you don't care which bulbs you get. The more choiced varieties in smaller bags are more expensive and the size of the bulbs is substantially smaller at Lowes than , say Van Engelen.
When I did some rough calculations at Lowes, choiced bulbs at Lowes came between 50c- 60c a piece. From VE, I got Pink Impression tulip for 32c, Scilla sibirica 'Spring Beauty' 15c, Fritillaria meleagris 17c, Allium 'Purple Sensation' 34c. On and on. Even with 15% shipping & handling, it's still cheaper from VE. If there's a problem, VE gives you credit with no fuss.
Van Engelen sells bulbs in bulk, usually at least 100. You can get pricier ones such as Allium 'Globemaster' in a smaller number. John Scheepers, VE's sister company sells at a smaller number and the prices are slightly higher.
Bulbs look best when planted close and a good number together rather than a few here and there.
I have been a VE customer for years. Might have to go for Scheepers next fall. My garden in stuffed. :-D By the way, 'Gklobemaster' from VE/Scheepers are still the cheapest this year. I got several the last couple years. They were huge and have multiplied.
Check the bulb sizes. All other things being equal, buy the ones you can see provided they are clean and healthy. If you pick online, make sure you go with a reputable supplier since some are renowned for problems. Most online merchants are good about refunds, but personally I find that no compensation can make up for the wrong bulb or a dead bulb. I have tried several online merchants for bulbs (none that would be any good to you!) and there is only one that I will use now.
I use both online/mail order suppliers AND Lowe's/Home Depot. I use the online/mail order suppliers (Brent and Becky's Bulbs, John Scheepers/Van Engelen, Old House Gardens, Odyssey Bulbs plus a few more specialist suppliers for native Western bulbs)when I want something specific. If I want a rare variety, or to be certain I get the variety I paid for, I use the online/mail order people. I also use them for bulbs I plan to have as perennial bulbs.
I use Lowe's/Home Depot for bulbs I plan to treat as annuals by putting them in containers. Sometimes the bulbs perennialize, sometimes they don't, but the cost is lower and I don't fret so much if something fails.
Exactly what I do - I am planting out tulips for the first time - some lovely mixed pastels. I don't want to spend any money on them really, so I just bought some bags at HD, knowing they will be annuals for me. Last year, I bought lilies from JS - I am so happy I did. While one of them turned out to be something else, it was still a glorious lily, and the bulbs are the biggest I have ever seen. You will not find lily bulbs of this quality or size at HD or Lowes. For lilies, I suggest you definitely go with a catalog/online retailer who specializes in bulbs, but not Brecks, Michigan Bulb, or any of those other unreputable companies. The Lily Garden is another good place for lilies.
I also bought daffodils and hyacinths from JS. The daffodils I was very impressed with also. Huge bulbs with at least 2 if not 3 necks. I bought a double yellow, Golden Ducat, and Avalon, a pale yellow. They look great together. I bought the mixed hyacinth and was very impressed with them, too, although they were a smaller bulb than if you buy the named hybrids....still produce very large flowers.
I've shopped both. I agree with everything said above.
If you have never ordered from one of the reputable online cos you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
BTW a friend just ordered from Touch of nature. Her anemones were even bigger than the giants I got from VE. So there is another supplier. So many bulbs, so little space....and $$$
Consider, also, how the bulbs have been stored at Lowe's. You don't know how long they've been there in a non-temperature-controlled environment. You'd better bet John Scheepers/VE is storing its bulbs as they should be stored. I personally never go w/Lowe's for bulbs, although I often do for annuals and perennials, because I think the prices I get online are just as good and the selection and storage better. Although I can understand making an "impulse" purchase.
Oh, I don't go so far as to "never" buy them at Lowe's or HD. I have had many successes with some of their bulbs, and even the failures are not a big loss. I bought some Johan Strauss, I think they call them water lily tulips, last year, and every single one of them came up and bloomed. They were lovely. I've also bought glads and dahlias, arum, red hot poker, polianthes, sea daffodil, alliums, and all have come up and bloomed - well, except for the sea daffodil, but we are discussing this on the Oklahoma Gardening forum, and others are having problems getting theirs to bloom also.
So, if you are wavering about trying something different, I'd at least start with something from HD or Lowe's that you don't invest a lot in....just to see if it grows for you, and if you like it, etc. I started with lilies from there, too, and I have got some marvelous lilies, asiatics and orientals, that I started with from HD. Later, as I became more interested, I started buying from JS.