How one bad apple can ruin a whole bushel

ljrmiller(z7 NV)May 26, 2006

I read this posting on another website:

"I visited [a very reputable nursery] on a Master Gardener tour and purchased approximately $150 worth of plants. Everything started failing immediately and ultimately everything died. When I called they said it must have been something I did. Since I'm a Master Gardener (and know a little about gardening) I don't think I could have killed ALL the plants. They have a no replacement policy which I didn't know when I made the purchase (my fault). [snip)"

I found it disturbing as an admittedly former Master Gardener (I haven't gotten re-certified in my current home state) that ANY Master Gardener would assume that experience and the Master Gardener certification would guarantee survival of one's plant choices.

I grow lots of different plants, many of them very well. I also kill an awful lot of plants, sometimes all from the same source, sometimes from different sources. Or more correctly, the plants fail to survive for me. Some of that is my experimental temperament. Some of it is the nature of living things, and plants are living things.

I know this person isn't representative of Master Gardeners in general, but for someone encountering an MG for the first time, it wouldn't be very fun to have encountered that particular MG.


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1. It's a rare nursery that doesn't have some policy on plant returns. I persnally don't know any. A "reputable nursery", especially, would not do without such a policy.
2. A credible nursery with a return policy would have a decent operation that would encourage one to buy $150 worth of plants. I can't imagine a noncredible nursery looking good enough to warrant such a purchase.
3. When newly-purchased plants start failing, THAT is when I call the nursery for help. To allow one's plants to die and THEN call the nursery is a nurseryperson's serious pet peeve -- it didn't allow them a chance to even offer help. It's this help opportunity that gives independent garden centers the advantage over the "big box" nurseries.
4. Yes, plants are living things and prone to problems. But an entire batch (100%) of "$150 worth of plants" going down the tube makes for curious revelation.
5. On the other hand, if the plants were all of the same kind and the MG treated them all in the same -- but improper -- way, it would not be a surprise that each and every one would die.
6. If the plants were all from the same wholesaler and were, indeed, contaminated with a soil-brone disease, it would not be a surprise that each and every one would die.
7. It's highly probably that this "very reputable nursery" had degreed horticulturists on staff and flaunting one's own MG certificate doesn't increase one's chances of winning a debate.
8. This person's frustration/anger could include some exaggeration to make a point -- possibly in some way disparaging the nursery on a "critique" website that rates businesses.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2006 at 10:42AM
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Just because one is a Master Gardener doesn't guarantee plant survival. I , for one, watched 'Little Henry' hydrangea go into decline and die and it seemed there was nothing I could do to stop it. I doubt the MG in question bought all the same plant for $150 though it is possible. It does seem strange that ALL the plants died. My brother operates a backyard nursery and has only one sprayer. He once sprayed all his plants with fertilizer or something right before a big plant sale and most of it died. The problem? He had previously used Roundup in that same sprayer. An expensive lesson learned the hard way. Not saying that is what happened to the MG in question. In fact, we'll never know what killed her plants. I agree that she should have called the nursery sooner or carried a few plants back but I am surprised they had no return policy. That type of thing does not endear customers to you. Yes, some customers might rip you off but that's the price you pay to stay in business.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 9:50AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

To watch $150 worth of plants die without finding out what was killing them seems incredible. When I lose a plant I will spend considerable time finding out the problem. This is a part of my education, an important part. Al

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 6:42PM
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There are just too many unknowns in this story to make a sound judgement on what happened and place blame on any one party. What plants were bought? When? High summer in the middle of a drought? How had they been treated before purchase? What was done to them (or NOT done) after purchase? Were they left in the pots or planted out immediately? Were they fertilized after purchase? If so, with what? Sometimes the "devil is in the details."

I've been gardening in one form or another for 45 years and have been an active Master Gardener for 7 years. That background does not protect my plants. I've killed more than my share and most often it's because of my neglect. But if I feel I've treated the plant correctly and it starts to decline anyway, I'm like Al, I will pry up heaven & earth to find the cause. I'm just too curious personally to let it go and feel I owe it to the MG program to learn from the experience.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 3:51PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

I tell people that the difference between a "green thumb" and a "brown thumb" is that the "green thumb" has killed more plants, but just kept observing, experimenting and trying.

I think I've been having a "bad MG month". Last weekend the self-proclaimed Master Gardener at a garden center which will remain nameless told me that: 1) Begonias can't tolerate any frost and 2) It was still too early for them in my area. I've gotten sooooo tired of people telling me what I can't plant when, and what won't grow in my climate when I've got the "can't grow" items either growing in my garden or have had them the previous year.

Maybe I should start drinking a small glass of red wine with dinner or something.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 4:16PM
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I'm not seeing a ruined bushel here. I also didn't read it as claiming that since the writer has is an MG she couldn't kill a plant. Although I have had very, very few plants die in my 20,000+ sq. ft. garden, I grow stuff not run science experiments.

It's too bad the writer forgot to check on the return policy. Myself, I don't buy plants from a nursery that doesn't offer some kind of warranty, and I wouldn't buy from a place that required me to call while the plant was dying.

I'm not a perfect gardener, just experienced enough to know that if a plant dies there was a problem outside my control. Maybe outside the nursery's control also. They don't have to offer a guarantee if they don't want to eat that cost. Sure, we pay for somehow/someway, or maybe the nursery makes less profit for increased good will and repeat business.

On the other hand, I've seen people of breathtaking ignorance buy plants. Maybe the nurseries should administer a quiz to the prospective buyer and based on the answers sell with a guarantee, sell without one, require a "maintenance agreement", or even not sell at all! :-)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 2:14PM
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"People of breathtaking ignorance" is totally gonna be my new phrase this week.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 5:48AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have always thought being of "breathtaking ignorance" was an ideal condition. For these people "nothing is impossible". Al

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 10:35AM
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Lookes like you had a bad experience with a bad nursery Pass on the name to your extensiion service and th possibilities of it being investigated, may happen . Extension are not the plant police, but they should be informed of bad things happening to good gardeners.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 7:57PM
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I'm curious. You made no mention of the types or varieties of plants, what time of what month you purchased them, or how you cared for them. It's difficult to diagnose whether the problem was the plants, the nursery, the client or some other factor.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2006 at 3:04PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Perhaps the clue to this gardener's woes lies in the words 'tour'. If the plants purchased were left on a hot bus while the group trooped it is reasonable to assume that decline and death could follow. Cooked to perfection.

It wouldn't have to have been a large number of plants, either. Six at $25 each - and I can think of a lot of mature plants with price tags in that range. Ouch. Sympathy - and maybe they've learned to look at, pay for, and go back in a private vehicle to collect the treasures.

Given that I have a penchant for plants on the remainder table, I wouldn't have the hide to go back and ask for a refund (!) though I have felt tempted to seek an apology for some of the plant-growing practices I've unearthed.

Agree on plants that have died in the pursuit of learning: I have luxury-cost compost to prove it. ;-D

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 2:13AM
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7. It's highly probably that this "very reputable nursery" had degreed horticulturists on staff and flaunting one's own MG certificate doesn't increase one's chances of winning a debate.

Bears repeating. When i worked at a plant nursery, we had 1-2 MG's who wanted to argue with me about everyhting we did there- like what type of shade cloth we kept our hostas under, or best ways to adjust pH of soil for hydrangeas. while i understood they thought they were being helpful, it was very annoying. I think the MG program is great for hobbiest, but it does not make you immune to plant failure.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 7:14AM
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