Messages posted to thread:

Patti30-Jan-02 08:36 AM EST 5a   
bruce31-Jan-02 12:15 PM EST 3   
carmen01-Feb-02 12:38 AM EST 8   
Susan01-Feb-02 08:21 AM EST 6a   
Ed01-Feb-02 09:32 AM EST 5b   

Subject: HELP Pls. - Market Research
From: Patti
Zone: 5a
Date: 30-Jan-02 08:36 AM EST

Dear Fellower Gardeners,

I am opening a new small garden centre with my own field grown perennials. My target market is novice, busy and black thumb gardeners who want easy care, low maintenance plants. My questions to you are: 1. What perennials are your favourite ones 2. What perennials do you plan on buying this year? 3. Suggested price for a small 3.5" pot plant? For a larger pot? 4. What do you find lacking at your local garden centres?5. What do you like at your favourite place to buy flowers?

Many many thanks for your time and effort, it is greatly appreciated. If you send your replies to with your address, I promise to send you some seeds in return for your time. Patti

Subject: RE: HELP Pls. - Market Research
From: bruce
Zone: 3
Date: 31-Jan-02 12:15 PM EST

Hi Patti. I'm zone 3 so i don't pay much attention to what is available in zone 5 but congrats on starting your own business. I wish I had the time to do the same. The only advice I can give you is to get every catalogue you can to see what is offered. Then go to your local nurseries and compare prices and plants. I love a lot of the plants in the catalogues buy can't find them at any nurseries. Offer the tried and true but also have a good stock of anything differnt or even of plants a zone or so higher than yours. Good luck and good gardening.

Subject: RE: HELP Pls. - Market Research
From: carmen
Zone: 8
Date: 01-Feb-02 12:38 AM EST

Dear Patti: Some good suggestions from Bruce. I'll also thow in my two $$ worth. I am not zone five so forgive if anything I suggest is not appropriate. I am contemplating studying for my master gardeners certificate. I do remember (and still have) many of my early plants that people advised me to get and that were relatively easy for a nubie to handle! Helenium: a must for autumn Euphorbia: great filler plants Echinacea: I'd love to see some "different" varieties in nurseries, I tend to only see the white one (swan something) and the purple (I can't remember the name-purpura or some such, the one that one the awards alchemilla mollis: a great self seeder perennial geranium: goes on all summer echinops and eryngium: great for conversation pieces. (no one ever seems to know what they are!) Hosta: the best woodlander around Hellebores: second best woodlander Daylilies: spread easy and soooo many colors to choose from campanula persicifolia: personally I have numerous types of campanula and all have been easy to maintain and high level of satisfaction gained. perennial grasses: what could be easier. mind you I have met very experienced gardeners who don't care for the "grass" look. I suppose each to their own taste. Scabiosa: a must for the "cottage look" Knautia Macedonia: I tried this purple (actually it was sort of a wine color) and it just kept going well into November. Monarda: what could be easier. The "bubble gum" I tried was just fabulous with white phlox also tried Rasberry Wine, it too was really nice and quite mildew resistant. Phlox: Perfect filler for clematis, roses and Monarda (I also love it with asiatic lilies and trumpet lilies. Heuchera: great in a variety of places.

Those are just a few of the plants I found to be relatively carefree.

I often look on the website (and visit at least twice a year) the Perennial Gardens Website. They grow all of their own plants and develop new ones (bubble gum monarda was one from last year) They offer the "common" stuff and the newer not so common stuff. Their prices are fairly reasonable (for my province). I can't speak (naturally) for anyone else but, I certainly don't mind paying a bit more for the "newer" name if it is something I really fancy. (Yipes I bought some double white blood root for $8.00 each last year!)and they never even flowered because they were so small. I also like the products from Frasers Thimble Farms as they also sell mostly native and some very unusual stuff. I always thought that unusual must mean hard to grow, but now know it just means PRICEY!! Personally what I would like to see more of at nurseries is the "planning" aspect of things. While everything is I suppose personal taste, I'v learned the hard way (wasted seasons etc) sort of what really are nice combos. I wish when I am looking over stuff that things could at least be nearer together to see how they look but also that staff took the time to give pointers a bit more. For the inexperienced I found I was told about positioning (sun, shade etc.) but never about combos etc. Ah maybe I am dreaming but that is the part of gardening that has taken a long time to get the hang of. And most (if not all) was by books and trial and error. Too many errors (like my sister!) and people give up.

Perennial Gardens is located at the owners home. They offer alot of lectures and classes at reasonable rates. I wish more places did this. I hope I have been of any help at all.

Best of Luck in your endeavor. Carmen R. Victoria, B.C.

Subject: RE: HELP Pls. - Market Research
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 01-Feb-02 08:21 AM EST

Carmen has lots of good ideas. I just discovered The Perennial Gardens web site and catalog and I have just submitted a rather large order for the spring and had to restrain myself from ordering about twice as much! I envy you, Carmen, that you live close enough to shop in person... What I liked about the catalog was that they had a great mix of unusual and more common plants and provided good information, even in the very brief discriptions, of how the plant grows, what is unique or special- the reason to buy it... One thing I'd like to see almost everywhere I shop for plants is better information on which ones are likely to become 'thugs'; it's one thing to buy something you know needs to be controlled and another to buy something that goes nuts when you aren't expecting it! I'm always leery of buying grasses because so many can get out of hand too easily and nursery staff frequently don't know enough about them to answer you accurately if you don't already know the answer yourself. I also like plants that are not commonly found in garden centers but should be. Epimedium and bunchberries are two examples of plants I want lots more of for my shady woodland areas but they're so hard to find here and so expensive when you do find them.

I think, even for newbies, having some slightly unusual versions of things would be attractive - it's always fun to be able to 'show off' with the less common versions of things...think of bleeding heart - a common, relatively easy starter perennial for shade. I think the white version is prettier, more unusual than the common pink and I prefer some of the exima and formosa types for their ferny foliage and their lesser tendency to go dormant in the sumer (or, if they do, they leave less of a hole in the garden - always a problem for a newbie to deal with...)Blue corydalis mixes well with them. As does the Dutchman's Breeches, a Dicentra which I find very hard to find in most nurseries.

Knowledgeable staff is a very key issue, especially if beginners are your target. If they feel they can get good advice and explanations, they're going to go back to you the next time they're looking for something. I shop at one particular nursery locally solely because the owner/manager is incrediably helpful at bringing in plants I'm looking for (I visit early in the season with a list of plants I want and she makes sure she stocks them); also she knows the type of garden I'm creating and keeeps her eyes open for things that would be suitable so, whenever I visit (which is almost weekly in sporing...), she always has lots of good plant suggestions for me - and I always end up buying twice as much as I planned.... I get nice plants; she gets lots of business and I recommend her place to friends and neighbors... Service is as important as the plants in creating a successful nursery I think.

Subject: RE: HELP Pls. - Market Research
From: Ed
Zone: 5b
Date: 01-Feb-02 09:32 AM EST

Patti, having " been there ", my suggestion is to hang out your shingle and play it by ear. My perennials outgrew their space, so I shared them with neighbours, many of whom insisted in paying for them. This did not seem unreasonable and resulted in my placing an attractive sign for all to see, along with ads in the local newspaper; the rest is history. A year later, I had acquired a list of grower nurseries from whom I was able to purchase wholesale whatever I felt would best supplement my own material, always bearing in mind customer needs and my ability to deliver. Up to this point,I was moonlighting and a decision had to be made if this was to be a hobby or a career. Your situation cannot possibly parallel mine, but personal interest and dedication, as in any successful business, are just the beginning. I hope this helps. p.s. Just noted Susan's message before posting this, and I couldn't agree more!

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