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Why the Local Garden Store is a Beginning Gardener's Best Friend

Your're not an avid gardener, but you're definitely a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to handing a large wad of cash to a professional landscaper simply to dig a few holes and plop some plants into them. So if you're a beginning gardener, or even if you just want to plant your landscape and get it over with, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by tapping into the expertise of your small local garden store owner.

Note use of the words "small"and "local." Be sure to go to a small, locally owned garden store where the owner is humming and grinning from to ear to ear as she tends to the plants. Avoid mega superstores, where the teenaged summer help doesn't have a clue about gardening.

It’s a good idea to avoid purchasing plants from giant superstores such as discount retailers or home improvement establishments. That’s because you can’t guarantee the expertise of the people who work in the garden area. Just because an employee is assigned to work the cash register in the garden area doesn’t mean he or she knows squat about gardening.

Rather, you want someone who is an avid gardener. That’s most likely to be your local garden store owner and his or her employees, who are most likely also avid gardeners, or perhaps college students majoring in horticulture. When it comes to people like that, they think the next best thing to digging in the garden is hanging out in the garden store and helping people like you plan theirs! They will be thrilled to help you, and they will give you loads of helpful advice, which won’t cost you one red cent. As a matter of fact, they will be seriously tempted to show up at your house and do the gardening for you!

Further, local garden stores are more likely than mega stores to carry only plants that are uniquely suited to your local hardiness zone and soil conditions. Megastores carry hundreds of plants, not all of which will necessarily thrive in your area.

Also, local garden stores are more likely to stand behind their guarantee that the plants you purchase will thrive if you properly follow planting and watering directions. They take the quality of their plants personally, whereas at a megastore, a plant is just one of literally thousands of items that may be scanned at a checkout register.

It’s a good idea to browse all the plants are your local garden store in a leisurely fashion. This will help you figure out what you do like, and what you don’t like.

You can choose from trees, shrubs and flowers. Trees and shrubs are either evergreen or deciduous. If they’re evergreen, they stay green all year--such as pine trees. Deciduous trees and shrubs lose their leaves in the fall. Flowers are either annual or perennial. Annuals have to be planted every year, and perennials only have to be planted once; they come up year after year. Most people plant mostly perennials with annuals sprinkled here and there for color--and for an excuse to dig in the dirt in spring.

Keep in mind your favorite colors. Do you prefer cool, soothing colors, such as lavenders and blues? Or do you prefer bright, vivid colors, such as oranges and yellows? Or do you like to mix it all up? You might discover that you prefer certain styles of plants--such as flowers whose petals resemble daisies, or tall plants with wispy foliage.

When you figure out what you do like, ask the garden store owner if it’s a high-maintenance or low-maintenance plant. For example, you may love the intoxicating fragrance of roses, but they’re one of the most demanding plants you could possibly purchase. They are very persnickety plants that demand pruning and fertilizing that is just so. Your garden store owner can steer you to plants that require minimum care.

When you locate plants you like that require only the bare minimum of maintenance, you need to read the tag on the plant. Perennials will have a tag that states whether the plant requires full sun, shade, or part-sun with part shade. Annuals will have a small plastic spike sticking in their soil with the same information. This will help you choose the right plants for the right parts of your yard.

When it comes to leapfrogging the gardening learning curve, helpful local garden store owners are worth their weight in gold!

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