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Local viburnum source-big box stores

Posted by coxy N.J. 6 (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 20:47

I want to get a large number of good sized viburnum this season which precludes mail order because of shipping costs. I'm looking for specific types and wonder if anyone has experience with the type of selections at places like Home Depot, etc.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

I don't think you'll know what you can get at the big box stores until you go and look. Lots of times I've found amazing stuff along side all the half dead junk. What's at your Home Depot won't be at mine, for the most part, so that's another hurdle for possibly guessing what you'd find.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

Thanks Brandon, I guess I phrased my question incorrectly. I wondered anyone has seen decent varieties with any frequency in these places. I'd hate to spend half the season looking. I'm also going to check out some nurseries just because of their(supposed) knowledge base about pollinators, etc. but from what I'm reading that's doubtful too.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

Without wishing to stir up a discussion of the effects the various big box stores have had on the plant industry in general, why not give one of your local independent nurseries a chance? Given some advance notice, they should be able to order the viburnums you want from their wholesale suppliers. You'll pay more than big box prices, but you'll receive better plants, you'll avoid the direct expense of shipping and you'll know you're helping a local business succeed and maintain the diverse inventory of plants big bx retailers do not have.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

I'd also suggest looking at local independent garden centers. While the box stores may have a variety or two, a retail nursery should carry numerous species and cultivars. FWIW, I have never seen much of anything in the way of viburnums at box stores in my area........

I'm a little confused about your statement regarding the knowledge base of any nursery staff.......IME, most fulltime retail nursery employees have a significantly deeper horticultural knowledge base than any box store employee.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

thanks everyone, gardengal, I know you are right but after reading so much and hearing, more than I'd like, about nurseries either ignoring the pollination issue entirely or telling folks to just order two of a kind, I wonder. Also, the term "nursery" is a loose one since anyone can just buy a bunch of plants whole sale and retail them. To me a real nursery is where they actually grow stuff. I actually made a great connection at Home Depot last year by calling the nursery listed on the vast majority of shrubs they sold. I needed about 30 large boxwoods and the young lady who was a sales rep for the nursery sent them directly to HD in my name and I picked them up on the day they were delivered. I called her yesterday and she said to send her a wish list and she would check availability at the farm. She also told me she could get specimens that were balled & burlaped as opposed to smaller plants in pots. That's exactly what I need since I'm in my 60s and don't have all the time in the world:) We'll see what she comes up with.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

"IME, most fulltime retail nursery employees have a significantly deeper horticultural knowledge base than any box store employee."

I so wish that was my experience, but it sure isn't. Even the majority of large well-respected nurseries in this part of the country seldom have well trained employees (or even owners, in many cases). I do know of a nursery or two around here with knowledgeable employees, but they are the exceptions. I get thoroughly disgusted with the stupid answers I get, the majority of times I ask something, from the nurseries in my area.

What's even more troublesome for me is that I usually feel that I can't really say much when given such poor answers. Sometimes I question a little to try to get them to at least think about what they are saying, but that doesn't usually do much. I need a good working relationship with many of the local nurseries, so I usually just keep my mouth shut until I get to the truck. Many of the answers really drive me nuts because of their complete lack of even common sense.

Some of the big box employees have a tiny bit of training. Nothing impressive...but at least enough to know the difference between an annual and a perennial.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 20, 14 at 13:34

Same as with other retailing, the dominant structure at a large independent garden center is a bunch of monkeys running around with a few people in management jobs who are in charge of ordering and making other decisions that put them in a position to know a little something about the merchandise. And even they are liable to be working for substandard pay, could have come from an unrelated field like the restaurant industry before taking the nursery management job.

Consumer advocate David Horowitz was saying "A clerk is a jerk, talk to a manager" many years ago and if anything the situation is worse now. (By jerk he meant not enabled by the business to be helpful).

I worked in multiple different local garden centers over a period of decades and off the top of my head I can think of only one that had weekly staff meetings where the managers would tell the people on the front line what products were coming down the pike and so on.

Like Brandon I find that since I often know more about the plants than even the management employees I have attempted to interact with at garden centers here it often works better to just quietly move around in them without talking to anybody - or just making small talk when someone familiar is encountered. I can pretty much forget trying to say anything that might help them improve their business, like pointing out misidentified stock - there seems to be no ability to follow up on what I said and see for themselves that I am right, even with all the photos and commentary that is at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection.

Big box store plant departments here are pretty much a wasteland, I just went sniffing around in a Lowe's here the other night and wow! - even more awful than usual, right before the first day of spring, in Zone 8.

As for saving on shipping by buying locally if you are not driving to the farm and buying them there you are still paying for them to be trucked to where you are going to be picking them up. Tree and shrub growers selling directly to the public is a recent phenomenon resulting from a major decline in sales of woody ornamentals that has actually bankrupted or closed many operations.

This post was edited by bboy on Thu, Mar 20, 14 at 13:43


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

Having worked in both the retail and wholesale nursery industry in this part of the country for a couple of decades now at a number of different establishments, I hope I have some basis for making that statement :-) At least for my area of the PNW. At all of these establishments, there were at least 3 or 4 staff members who were Certified Professional Horticulturists, a professional industry designation that requires a significant amount of experience, knowledge and testing. At my current position, there are several degreed horticulturists as well as 8 staff members with the CPH designation, probably one of the most extensive knowledge bases of any nursery I've encountered.

I realize that may not be the cases everywhere, nor to this extent, but I've yet to meet any box store employee that has anything more than the most cursory plant knowledge, if that. IME, any permanent (non-seasonal) nursery employee I've encountered in this area at the better nurseries or garden centers exceeds that level of expertise easily.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 20, 14 at 14:40

I'm talking about the industry in this area, am familiar with the CPH and what is involved. I starting working in local hort. in the 1970s, have never encountered anything different from what I have described.

Of course, none of us know everything, and hubris is a character flaw, but...

Despite the depictions made by advertizing coming from the national chain, it appears to me big box plant department employees here consist primarily of stockers who blow through and disappear, and seasonal cashiers. Some time ago there was a move to having employees of suppliers stocking shelves instead of doing it in-house - I have seen this in action at both Home Depot and Lowe's. If a shopper happens to be present when the grower employee(s) are unloading and arranging their wares they can ask them about the plants. Otherwise..

One multimillion dollar local independent plant outlet was following this kind of model years ago. When I worked there we were actually told not to approach shoppers, to let them make the first move. Most of the focus for those of us out where we were accessible to the public was on stocking and watering.

About this time I heard the Dutch garden center industry was pushing self service formats also. I never looked into what was going on there, but it is an area where the activity is taken to be one that leads the way.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

The reference to garden center employees as a "bunch of monkeys" is needlessly offensive. No doubt there are independent nurseries with employees lacking in knowledge, especially in the early stages of training. In most of New England, however, I've never found this to be the case. Nurseries which have survived the economic downturn have been around for years, sometimes generations. They are mostly family owned and successfully compete against the big box stores precisely because they care about the plants they sell and emphasize customer service over quick profit. The "low , low" prices at Lowes, Home Depot, and others are a constant temptation, but if gardeners do not support their local independent retailers we are going to wind up with just the mega stores pretty quickly.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 21, 14 at 14:20

Same as other retailing the usual situation is a core group of key employees doing office functions etc. and the rest are often seasonal clerks and car loaders who aren't being used by management as anymore than bodies - when it gets busy during the peak spring season there can be a lot of bouncing around from one station to another, in response to customer requirements.

Hence "monkeys".

They all have a pyramid structure, same as other stores, with most of the people "on the floor" not being the best informed and best paid part of the staff - any operations that are doing otherwise are the exception rather than the rule.

In his book on the subject called Profitable Garden Center Management (which I must have loaned out and never gotten back, as I haven't seen it in years) Louis Berninger (sp) described an actual garden center that had had an expert employee called Otto who was available to customers and able to answer their gardening questions, said every garden center should have their own "Otto" to meet this need.

Note that he was talking about a single employee providing this function - of course in combination with other duties - and felt it necessary to point out the desirability of having somebody interacting with shoppers who really did know something.

I know people who have been awarded the CPH - I can talk circles around them about plants and gardening.

What it boils down to is that in actual general practice the advertized cadres of multiple expert staff persons always on hand to answer your every question is a lie. Both at big box plant departments and at large independents.

Hence the numerous posts over the years complaining about getting a bum steer from somebody at a "nursery" - whether they were actually talking about an actual stand alone garden center or a big box plant department.

In retailing in general the irony is that at the same time that diversity and complexity of modern inventories is driving an increasing demand for service retailers are moving in the direction of more limited service.

This post was edited by bboy on Fri, Mar 21, 14 at 15:33


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

Most of the larger/better nurseries and garden centers in this area have designated information centers that are staffed by the more broadly knowledgeable of the permanent employees, where questions can be answered, advice given and ID's or diagnoses made. The floor staff is just that - the basic sales staff - and while many are pretty darn knowledgeable, they are not necessarily "experts" on anything.

FWIW, I think one needs to look at this from the aspect of Joe Q Public and not necessarily from some of the broader horticultural backgrounds that some of our usual posters may possess. In general - always a risk to make broad generalizations - the permanent staff of better retail nurseries and garden centers is going to have more experience and more knowledge than that of your typical box store employee. No one said these nursery folks were all-knowing - no one is (although it seems some GW members would like to have us think they are :)), but I am willing to bet most will have sufficient levels of experience and knowledge to provide the general gardening public with helpful and accurate information.

Based on my personal experience over the years, without exception the retail nursery shopper with any significant degree of horticultural knowledge is a very rare commodity. I may encounter 1 or 2 for every 100 or more "regular" customer I serve. The vast majority just don't have a clue! Heck, horticultural knowledge of any significant depth with anyone is a pretty rare commodity these days. I can't tell you how many calls I get from supposed 'landscapers' working on projects asking for assistance in identifying some sort of plant they are working with. And for suggestion on replacement or other plants to include......isn't that supposedly what they are being paid for??? Why am I expected to do all the legwork and effort to benefit their paycheck?


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

Oh boy. If I could even find a nursery with a clueless staff that had at least some of the viburnum I'm looking for I'd be happy. I don't mind doing my own research, just looking for inventory. I've called numerous "nurseries" who say they can get what I'm looking for. I want to know, WHERE! They have everything I want at Classic Viburnam but I live in NJ and they are in Nebraska. I want large plants and the shipping would probably be more costly than the items.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

You need to talk to someone who grows viburnums, and makes annual trips to NJ...

And you might post a list of the viburnums you are looking for - some of us might be able to point you in the right direction.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

In New Jersey, Fairweather Gardens lists almost 50 different viburnum varieties. Their website indicates they are "on sabbatical until late 2014". Whether this applies to pickups or just mail order is not totally clear. A call would be worthwhile. Even if it's all sales, it might be worth waiting for the resumption of business.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 22, 14 at 13:32

Why do you need to start with big specimens? Maybe you can let loose of that requirement and thereby remove a filter that is making it more difficult to get what you want. Esp. back East there should be a lot of them available. Even in my area, where this genus may not be as big a deal as it seems to be back there certain species are standard items that are much produced and much planted. Independent garden centers will typically have quite a number of different kinds in stock each spring.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

bboy, I need big plants because I'm 66! Don't have all day here :)
I'm going to call Fairweather. thanks


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

I visited a grower in Allentown yesterday. He had an absolutely pristine operation with no less than 19 viburnums listed. Assuming that you cannot buy @ wholesale you could have your contractor go and buy for you.
You are in the "Garden State" if you can't find it in NJ you are looking in the wrong places.


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RE: Local viburnum source-big box stores

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 22:09

Often with shrubs of normal vigor and not dwarf types the difference between a one gallon and a five gallon plant may be only one year. Yet the five may be triple the price or more.

The more often growers can finish a crop on a patch of ground they more money they make. Much stock offered has been "pushed" to size up as fast as possible.


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