What are garden centers? And what makes a good one?

We all love a good stroll around a garden center but what are garden centers?

According to Wikipedia “A garden center is a retail operation that sells plants and related products for the domestic garden as its primary business. It is a development from the concept of the retail plant nursery but with a wider range of outdoor products and on-site facilities. It is now usual for garden centres to obtain their stock from plants which have been propagated elsewhere, such as by specialist nurseries or wholesalers.”

I know that local garden centers near me sell not only plants but tools and landscaping equipment, garden furniture, garden ornaments all types of garden accessories and they even have a pet section to get all you can think of for your pets! Some garden centers have even branched out into selling camping equipment and have a party section to get inflatable balloons and accessories for all aged birthdays and occasions.

Garden accessories ideal for gardening gifts

Garden accessories ideal for gardening gifts

Large chains like B&Q and Homebase and in the US The Home Depot and Lowe’s are home improvement stores and DIY stores and have incorporated their own garden departments within the stores – these ‘departments’ are often larger than traditional local garden centers.

Flower bulbs buy in garden center

Stargazer Oriental Lily – Buy one now

So what makes a good garden center?

A lot of the time it will be a personal choice, parking, layout, friendly staff, good value, good choice and so forth, but I know that in the UK most leading garden centers are members of The Garden Centre Association and are inspected annually and so have to ensure certain high standards, which for us the customer is a plus and to be honest what you would expect – you can be assured you are not buying dud flower bulbs or plants and the above association assure their customers that they are buying plants in confidence and if any hardy plant that fails to grow can be returned to the garden center where purchased, within a year, and it will be replaced. This is buying with confidence.

But overall having a horticulturist floating around or a few of them giving simple tips and advice and not being a salesman in the process is the best and most important thing in any garden center. Most people visiting lets say garden centers Houston tx are just looking for something pretty for a certain part of the garden and might not think about soil type, drainage, if you want an annual or perennial, shrub or bush – so to firstly be told the difference between all of these is a plus but then to be given some useful planting advice along with pruning or feeding tips is that added personal touch that we all love, which leads to happy customers and returning customers, a win win.

On top of garden centers you also have landscape garden centers which are like bespoke garden centers there they would have a landscape designer or architect on hand to give advice and try sell their wares. They will guide you through the whole process from flowers, plants, trees, paving, patio even your pool so your space looks even better than you could ever imagined …..And charge you for it! If you were thinking of gardening gifts for someone very close to you and could afford it this would be a five star gift.

garden ornaments

Landscape ideas to use garden ornaments, structures, patios in your garden.

I witnessed this type of approach not long ago while I was in a landscape center looking for some railway sleepers and while rambling around there was a customer getting some advice on a computer stand – I turned into a nosy shopper and observed from a distance. It was a very clever system where the customer had a picture of their garden and on the design computer they were creating a garden design instantly, and it was a free service. Where the clever part was that all the plants, hardscaping and all other materials needed were conveniently in stock in the center ready to be paid for and taken away. Once the design was complete it prints off a quote with all plants and materials listed and I suppose forces the customer to make an on the spot decision.

I know garden centers are great and they are a must, a source for buying all things ‘garden’. I came across an article in Readers Digest www.rd.com that I thought was very useful and could save you some money also.


  • Newspapers makes excellent mulch
    • Lay sheets of newspaper over soil and then cover with mulch – helps retain moisture and suffocate weeds.
  • Tea is natural plant food
    • Sprinkle new or used tea leaves around your plants and cover with mulch – when you water nutrients form the tea will release into the soil.
  • Aluminium foil deters insects
    • By mixing strips of aluminium foil with mulch will keep bugs away. The light will also reflect light back on the plants to help growth.
  • Salt is a natural pest killer
    • It kills snails and slugs when sprinkled on them.
    • It also kills weeds on patios or paths – simply mix 1 cup of salt with 2 cups of water and sprinkle it on the weeds


On the topic of saving money and where I am it is now summer time and it is the thick of the gardening season and the bugs, ants, snails and weeds are all thriving and invading the plants and the house! Of course local garden centers supply all types of sprays and weed killers and potions to keep all at bay but this all comes at a costly amount and more or less a weed killer contains herbicides and no matter what way you jazz it up a herbicide is a herbicide whatever the container looks like. Garden centers stock all the big brands and labels the high value brands with a big mark up for the owners.

I recently bought a weed killer in a local discount store and also a more well known brand at a much higher price in a garden center. And the results are in …..

weed killer

One of the big weed killer labels on the market

They both performed the exact same and it what it says on the tin, killed the weeds. I then bought some ant powder in the discount store and again served its purpose – I suppose it just shows the competition that your local garden center is under from the likes of local discount stores for some of the smaller and more common feeds, powders and weed killers etc but I am still a lover of my local garden center and love to see the plants blooming and hear the birds singing while sitting outside admiring my creations and talking to my plants to will them on and giving them their nightly drink to encourage them to bloom some more all the time plotting my next trip to the center and what garden decoration I might position in a certain area of the garden. Sometimes the garden just seems like a bottomless pit pouring more and more money into it but it is my escape and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

On a finishing note some of my little garden tips for this time of year when plants are at their peak:

Constant weeding, dead-heading – a must to encourage growth, watering but be creative with how you trap water, use rain water or bath water (make sure not too use detergent or suds), slugs, snails and caterpillars are at their best – see my note above about salt or if using pellets and have children or pets please be careful and use the correct type and quantity, but overall enjoy and happy pruning.

I would love to hear any tips or advice you have. Please get in touch by our contact page or share this post.

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