Big Box Boo-Boos (as usual)

ljrmiller(z7 NV)September 12, 2005

I live in the Reno, Nevada area. Our hardiness zones run from 5 to 7. We have a very short growing season (in reality there is NO first or last frost date--it could freeze/snow any day of the year), and average nighttime temperatures are 30-40 degrees colder than daytime highs. We don't get nighttime temps above the high 70's. Ever.

Okay--so on to the Big Box thing--the buyers for the local Big Boxes (Home Depot, Lowe's, Wal-Mart) are all in the California Bay Area or Sacramento area. They send all kinds of things that aren't appropriate for our area. And then there are the houseplants--I never know what treasures will turn up. The most recent oddness (and yes, I bought one) was Alpinia zerumbet, the variegated one, in 10" pots for about $15.00, and sold as a house plant.

I've seen tree ferns (Dicksonia spp)--are the buyers INSANE-- tender Passiflora spp. sold as hardy vines, Loropetalum, Crape Myrtles, you name it. I suppose it's a good thing the big box stores put a one-year guarantee on all their plants, because the mortality rate must be staggering.

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bihai(zone 9)

Tell them to send it here! LOL not really. We get things that are mostly appropriate for our area, most of the things you mention are hardy here and routinely sold. A few more "marginal" things are also sold, but you gotta know what you are buying and take your chances.

WHat I hate is people who work in box stores who think they are experts and have the nerve to give bad advice to customers. About a week ago I was a Lowes getting some mulch and this lady asked the "resident expert" with the ASK ME I AM A HORTUCULTURAL EXPERT tag on his shirt to direct her to the selloum philodendrons. I watched him take her directly to the Tropicals section (the selloums are in the Landscape section) and hand her a Monstera deliciosa. She said, "Are you SURE this is a selloum philodendron? My mother in law sent me to get one and I don;t know what they really look like" and he said "Oh yes this is it".

Well I just couldn;t let her make that mistake, especially at $12.99 a pop, so I casually walked over and said, "Actually, that's a Monstera deliciosa and is not routinely used in North Central FL for outdoor landscaping, it has only about a 20-30% hardiness rate outdoors here, and that's if it's planted in an EXTREMELY protected warm microclimate of your yard. The Selloum Philodendron is a completely different plant that is 100% hardy here and I will be happy to show you what one looks like if you don;t know".

The expert gave me the skunk eye, the woman said THANKS and I took her to the selloums. She was happy to have been spared the wrath of her mother and law and the inconvenience of having to come back and return the wrong plant.

I know I should not do this, but I do it all the time when I hear someone giving rotten or incorrect advice or information to customers in box stores.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 11:12AM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

Heh. I do the same thing--actually butting in and saying to customers loading up their carts: "You know that isn't winter hardy here, right?" I give out lots of unsolicited advice in the big box garden centers. At the locally-owned nurseries I merely "shill", by arranging my selections artfully on a cart so that they look interesting and attractive. Next thing I know, people ALL have the selections I chose at the checkout line :-)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 12:43PM
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bihai(zone 9)

I like it when the distributors "test market" stuff at the box stores. They will ship some stuff that you usually have to go to an independent nursery to find, like plumerias and stuff not "widely known" to the general pansy and impatiens planting public.YOu have to really watch the pricing though.

This year they had big 3 gallons of Amorphophallus, fully up and about 4 ft tall. They were very very nice, but they were $19.99, and I had already gotten my Amorphos for the year way back in March for $1.99 each as dormant bulbs and planted them and already had plants about the same size established in the yard at 1/10 the cost!

They also had 3 gallons of single serving Musella lasioscarpa for $29.99, again they were large and very nice, you might think a good deal, but I have 2 specimens in my yard that I bought several years ago as 5 gal multis (they had at least 8-9 in each pot) for $39.99 each!

Once at Walmart they had a single red Alpinia purpurata, nice full 7 gal pot, 5 ft tall, in full bloom, for about $30. Not THAT was a steal! I bought it.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 7:24AM
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suzannie(zn6 pa)

A couple of weeks ago I bought 3 curcuma petiolata'a at Wal Mart. they were beautiful. Brought them home and in a matter of days, the leaves started curling up, and turning brown. Two eventually died altogether and the other is on it's last legs. I'm taking them back, don't know how I'll make out but, I'm trying anyway.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 2:04PM
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bihai(zone 9)

ARe you sure they aren't just going dormant? Although I do think its a tad early for that?....my petiolatas and other fall bloomers are blooming and the spring bloomers still up and strong, but then I water every day especially during this extremely hot dry spell. Curcumas take their cue to shut down more from lack of water than lack of heat. How did you care for them?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 7:40AM
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