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Artemesia Dracunculus

Posted by msfuzz (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 28, 10 at 20:26

Aka French Tarragon. I thought I would share with you all my experiences today. I live about 2 blocks from Nick's Garden Center in Aurora, and have so far been impressed with their selection and service. I went over there today to relish in green and growing things (instead of the dead brown stuff in my own yard). I've been keeping an eye on what herbs they are growing, since that's a big part of what I'm putting into my garden this year.

Armed with warnings from you all, and from the Herb forum, regarding the difference between French Tarragon & Russian Tarragon, and the prevalence of garden centers foisting off Russian as French, I looked carefully at the French Tarragon offered at Nicks. It clearly stated "Artemesia Dracunculus" on the label. I then performed a taste test on one of the largest seedlings, one about 6" tall with good-sized leaves. It didn't taste like anything...At all. I thought perhaps that the tarragon doesn't develop it's flavor until it's more mature.

So on a whim, I went up to Timberline Garden Center in Arvada, and performed the same test on their clearly labelled (and similarly sized) "Artemesia Dracunculus." Wow! It immediately tasted of anise, and the characteristic "tongue numbing" was there too!

As happy as I was to find true French Tarragon, I am really saddened to know that Nick's is foisting off Russian Tarragon as French. This makes me very hesitant to trust any of their seedlings! How do I know they're not doing the same thing with other plant varieties?? Ack!

So, I ask you....What would you do? Would you still shop at the near place with the good selection that may not be trustworthy, or would you drive across the city to a place with less selection, but you know you can trust?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

  • Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 28, 10 at 22:43

Hi MzFuzz,

Ive never been to Nicks, so I dont really have a comment about the place, but if youre buying something, like the tarragon, that comes in "similar" types, you might want to go somewhere else to be sure. Ive always been under the impression that Nicks buys all their stock in, but I dont really know thatjust that having been in the green industry, I never heard anybody talking about them growing. So if theyre buying all their stuff in, the quality and accuracy of labeling depends on the grower. You mentioned "seedling." Could you tell if the tarragon you found at Nicks was a seedling or grown from a cutting? Its my understanding that the French tarragon cant be grown from seedbut Im not positive about that either!

Timberline and Paulinos grow virtually all, if not all, of their herbs and veggies on site. Timberline will never have a really great selection of herbs because Kelly is WAY into perennials, and second to that, nursery stock (most of which is shipped in from out of state for all the local garden centers). So if youre looking for the absolutely best perennial selection in Denver, Timberline is the place to go, and with Cheryl back at Paulinos (for now at least), theyre the second best place for perennial selection.

But for herbs, Paulinos is going to have a really goodpossibly bestselection, and, especially in spring, all freshly propagated plants. When I was over there a couple weeks ago, I met their new herb grower, and from what I saw, hes really good. The house they grow the herbs in is packed full and they looked great. And they already have a pretty good selection up in the retail houses, and will be adding more in the next couple weeks Im sure. So if you want a good variety of herbs, I recommend Paulinosand theyre closer to you than Timberline. If youre looking for something specific and want to be sure, call first to check, but if Paulinos doesnt have an herb youre looking for (unless theyre temporarily out of it, which they shouldnt be at this time of year), Id be surprised if anybody else in the metro area had it either. (One great thing about looking for something at TimberlineKelly puts his complete lists of perennials and other plants online so you can look to see if they "normally" carry somethingbut youd still need to call to verify that they have it in stock when you happen to be looking for it. I just checked his site, and he has his perennial list up, and is working on his herb list. Didnt check the other lists!)

Now, having said all thatif youre coming to the Spring Swap, I could dig up a start of French tarragon for you! I got mine at one of the Fall Swaps I had heredidnt actually "get it," but it was left over after everybody was gone (somebody brought a whole bunch of starts, and I stuck the leftover ones together and planted them. Watched it like a hawk the first year, having heard how invasive the Russian type can be, but what I have is clearly not invasive, and it definitely does have that tongue-numbing effect if you chew a leaf! When I did my yard-walk today, I noticed that its really coming up well. And I dont even like the taste of licorice that much, but Im gonna keep growing it and when I cut it down I just give it away to somebody!

So it sounds like you actually bought one, but if you didntcome to the swap!

Skybird


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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

I didn't buy one actually, Skybird. I'm waiting a few weeks yet before I transplant my perennial herbs. Thank you so much for the advice regarding Paulino's. I was going to go up there yesterday too, but ran out of time. Maybe I'll go today and have a peek around! I would really prefer to support whoever grows stuff locally. I was under the impression that Nick's did, but that seems to have been in error. If I can't find a FT there, I'll try to make it to the swap. You guys usually do it on Saturday, and I always have to work. :(

Oh, and when I said seedling, I just meant a little teeny plant, not an established one. I couldn't tell either way if it was grown from seed or not.


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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

First, the BH taught the Master Gardening class that the boys there took, so we all like each other at Nick's and spend our money there. Second, many nurseries purchase from suppliers or buyers; if they don't know and no one tells them, they will continue to foist sell the plant. Undercaffeinated and can't recall his name right now, but the 40ish tall Dutch-Belgian looking guy is very knowledgeable and if you bring this up to him I'll wager it'll get fixed.

We have to have a reason to go over to the other side of town for Timberline - too far for our blood, but Paulino's is usu a destination a couple times a year and AIUI they would have the same issue Nick's would have with the tarragon.

Dan


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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

  • Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 29, 10 at 16:07

With herbs theres a pretty good chance that they WERE grown locallyby somebody. There are several growers in the area that either sell only wholesale, or sell what they grow retail and wholesale to other retailers. But herbs are fairly fragile things, and what you buy at the decent garden centers will often have been grown somewhere around here. Now the big box stores are something else! They have a VERY minimal selection, and when you look at the stuffwell.......

I was thinking of suggesting the same thing Dan did, but not knowing Nicks or anybody there, I just didnt! I know if Paulinos or Timberline had something out that was mislabeled, theyd want to know about it, so next time youre over there, if you feel comfortable doing it, you might want to tell somebody about the tarragon, just the way you did in your post above. How they react might help you decide if you want to keep going there in the futurehow much you "trust" them. And then, of coursesneaky meyou could go back a week later and check out the tarragon to see what, if anything, they did about it! I think its called, Trust but Verify! ;-)

One other thing about "local" plants. There are several good perennial growers in this area who only wholesale their plants (same is true with annuals). So a few/some/most of their perennials could be grown locally too, but the only way to know for sure would be to ask. Since I didnt really know anything about Nicks, I checked out their site yesterday, and the only thing I found for sure was an indication, on the perennial page, that they buy from Monrovia. Monrovia is a good companyIm sure most of the garden centers around here buy from them, Paulinos gets a lot of their nursery stock from them. Theyre based in California and grow most of their stock on the west coast somewhere, but I think they have growing facilities in the southeast somewhere too. So if Nicks is getting many of their perennials from there, theyre not grown locallyin my experience anything bought in from Monrovia will have their name on the label somewhere. But if Nicks has a really good selection of different varieties, theyre probably buying locally too! The big, National growers only carry the "bread and butter" items that "everybody" buys and that they know for sure they can sell! Why dont you ask somebody next time youre over there where their perennials (and annualsand herbs) come from. If they want to know why youre asking, tell them you prefer to buy locally. Nothing wrong with that! On the other hand, especially if youre planting in spring, even plants shipped in from other states should do well around here and have time to acclimate before the next winter. And just because something is grown locally, doesnt mean its of superior quality. You get back to the fact that, with plants, the quality of whatever youre getting depends on the individual growerwherever they are.

Some day I need to do a "garden center tour" to find out something about the garden centers around here that I dont know anything about! Havent checked out City Floral for, oh, maybe more than thirty years (lived in Park Hill MANY years ago!)

Wherever you shop, as long as they have quality plants and a selection that keeps you happyand knowledgeable employees, I say go for it!

Skybird

P.S. MzFuzz, Im all the way up in Thornton (120TH & Colorado Blvd.), but if you cant make it to the swap, and if you should feel like driving up here some day, Id be glad to have a French tarragon waiting for you!

P.P.S. Dan, when youre looking for a "way carried away" selection of perennials, Timberline is worth the drive once or twice a year. For the other stuff nursery stock, roses, herbs, annuals, and house plants, Paulinos has Kelly all beat to heck!


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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

Well, after reading y'alls suggestions, and a similar suggestion on the Herbs forum, I went back to Nicks today and spoke to one of their managers, Randy.

I introduced myself, and said up front how much I like Nicks and have always had great experiences with their products and especially their service. I then carefully explained what I had discovered with the tarragon. He listened carefully, then asked me to show him what I was talking about. We looked at the starts they had for sale, and I again explained why the plant was Russian & not French Tarragon, and that it was clearly mislabelled. He said that they do indeed get most of their starts from a grower, and that they came already labelled. He was courteous and understanding, and thanked me for bringing it to his attention. We ended the conversation with my desire to remain a Nick's customer, and his apologies for my feelings of "betrayal," and his desire that I be able to continue to trust their products.

So, I'll go back over there in a week or so, and see if they're still offering the same plants with the same labelling. If they are, no more Nick's for me! If they're not, I will continue to shop there, albiet with a critical eye.

And thank you, Sky, for the kind offer of a start! I may take you up on it, depending on how things go. That's not too bad of a drive on a nice day. :)


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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

Nick's already bought that lot. The next lot may already be labeled. It may take until fall season to get the grower to change the labels, if they do at all.

None of it is Nick's fault - nor Randy's even though he is more on the ornamental side, and not so much into the food side of the nursery business. But as you can see they are a people business, not like the BigBox, some of which are using vendors now for their plant stock and not a single employee touches it or restocks any more.

Dan


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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

I don't care if they continue to sell it...I care if they continue to sell it as genuine French Tarragon. If they don't have some means of telling people, "Hey, this isn't what it says it is," then in my opinion, they're knowingly defrauding their customers. That is what I believe would truly set them apart as a people business. Being willing to take some loss in order to be fair to the customer, as opposed to making a profit no matter what it takes.

How they choose to address this issue will tell me a lot about how Nick's views their customers. Do we fix the problem (by relabelling, posting a sign that says "This is actually Russian Tarragon," or by pulling the product entirely), or do we assume that very few people will know the difference anyway, so let's just sell it?

I don't hold Nick's (or Randy) responsible for the faulty-labelled product. I do hold them responsible for how they choose to address the problem, now that they're aware of it.


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RE: Artemesia Dracunculus

  • Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
    Mon, May 17, 10 at 20:34

Hi MzFuzz,

I was gonna PM you about this, but you don't have personal messaging enabled, so I'll just post it here!

I did get a SMALL French tarragon started and I'm wondering if you want it and want to make some plans to come get it. If not I'll find somebody else to give it to since I'm leaving town for almost two weeks in a few weeks and need to get rid of everything in tiny pots before I leave.

Let me know here or PM me if you do or don't want it. I'd hate to give it away to somebody else if you'd like to have it!

Skybird


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