Behnke's vs Lowe's
I visited Kim Kaplan's garden Friday -- very nice, by the way! -- and saw that she had just planted several of the new heuchera "Midnight Rose" -- maroon with pink splashes. She told me she had gotten them at Lowe's. This was a surprise to me, since Behne's introduced this cultivar just a couple years ago. And she said they were less than $12. I know my local Lowe's doesn't carry their premium plants, living in a low-rent district as I do, but I poked my nose in anyway before driving up to Laurel, where the market warrants the good stuff. The low-rent local store had nice pots of relatively recent cultivars like Silver Scrolls and Purple Ruffles for $5 a pot, as well as nicely grown Jewels of Opar and other good things for less than $2. They must have been fresh off the truck as they were not dried out (yet). And I did get the last Midnight Rose at Laurel. With 10% off for being military (good over the Mem Day weekend -- show any form of military ID, and get 10% off. Pity the Garden Dept crew didn't know about it. Big Box is still Big Box.)
But when you combine this abundance with the lovely things Bell Nursery is selling cheap by consignment at Home Despot -- and they get around the big box neglect syndrome by sending their own staff out to care for the racked plants -- I fear for the specialty nurseries. A garden club I belong to had a booth this year at the big Green Springs sale, and we noted that attendance was way down -- probably half previous years. We conjectured that it might have been due to the economic downturn, housing drop or gas price increase, but as I visit the Big Boxes I think it is also because you can readily get cool plants for cheap there -- and I don't know how they can afford some of the pricing.
That said, Merrifield and Meadows Farms were both hopping yesterday. And Merrifield had one of the cool new Vitex cultivars I was looking for, where Behnke's didn't (they just had a generic) and Meadows Farms didn't know what a Vitex is.