Spring Freeze at the Garden Center

Have you ever experienced a spring freeze at a garden center?

Everything is set. It’s spring and the garden centers are stocked with hanging baskets, flats of annuals, and rows of trees and shrubs and perennials.

You are eager, you are ready. It’s time to plant. Through all the winter months, you’ve been reading, planning, plotting, and making lists, so that when spring finally came, you’d be ready for this very moment.

Finally, the day has arrived. You go to the garden center.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, you freeze.

You can’t decide what to buy. Your mind swirls. Are you getting the best price? Does this particular garden center have the best selection? Maybe the next garden center up the road has a better variety? Is that plant really the one you want in your garden? Are there bigger, healthier plants available some place else?

If you find yourself facing a spring freeze like this, here are some tips to thaw you out.

- Plan some time to go to garden centers to look around when you aren’t going to buy. This will give you a chance to become familiar with who has what, what kind of help you can expect, and what plants generally cost.

- Shop at garden centers when they aren’t busy. This isn’t always possible with work schedules, but if you can go and shop during “off hours”, you’ll find that staff have more time to help you and you won’t feel as rushed to grab up plants before anyone else.

- Make and take lists of what you want to buy to increase your confidence that you are buying what you want.

- Plan to buy some plants that aren’t on your list. Give yourself permission in advance of shopping to splurge a bit if you see a plant you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it.

- Shop with gardening friends so that if you do freeze, they can talk you into buying those plants they know you want and need.

I hope you don’t experience a spring freeze as you are out and about shopping for plants this spring, either this kind of freeze or the kind brought on by cold weather! But if you do freeze up, you can relax knowing this has happened to other gardeners, and hopefully this advice will help you out.

Gardening Vacation Update

Today was cloudy with scattered showers, the perfect day to check out a few garden centers nearby. I managed to purchase several shrubs including Deutzia gracilis ‘Duncan’ and Black Lace Elderberry, Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’. Plus, the UPS man delivered my new Lilac, Syringa vulgaris 'President Lincoln'.

Normally, I try to plant newly purchased plants as soon as possible, to keep up as I buy more plants each day. However, we are expecting rain for the next 24 hours and I sort of, kind of, am not quite sure where I am planting my newly purchased shrubs. But I'll figure it out once the rain stops! And it won't cause me to freeze up and not buy more plants tomorrow.


  1. Yes, I went through a freeze when the centers first opened. Once thawed out I haven't looked back. ha... I did take a list with me and I did glance at it a time or two. A list didn't help me much though. Ha... I become enchanted with new colors of old favorites and when all are blooming their heads off...well I am simply lost.

  2. I was working at the garden center today, Carol. You're right about rainy days being the best ones to shop because we are usually catching up with all the things we didn't have time to do when we were waiting on the thousands of customers visiting on the weekends.

    Great selections you made with the Deutzia and Sambucus.

  3. I hardly ever buy plants locally. For years either lack of transportation or lack of a babysitter kept me home, and I either ordered plants through the mail, got them as passalongs, or grew them from seed. And the habit has stuck with me. Sure, you can buy marigolds and petunias almost anyplace, but I never think of more permanent plants being available locally.

  4. If I don't soon get all of my things planted that I grew from seed, I'll not get to shop at any other garden centers. I've made a few purchases already but more often than not, I freeze thinking about all that I have to plant already.

  5. Hello from Carol in the Nora area! Your garden center photo sort of reminds me of Soule's on the south side, but I don't think they have annuals - can you say what nursery that is? The geraniums look so gorgeous and healthy.

    I needed a serious "freeze" today as I am headed to Minnesota for a few days and am already leaving some purchases in need of planting - but wouldn't you know, this afternoon when I came to the fork in the road my van chose the one that led to the nursery! I have no will power once I am there :)

  6. I'd like to cultivate the ability to freeze at the garden center...maybe have some key word that friends could say to get me to back up slowly from the plants I want to buy and yet have nowhere to plant. Instead I'm just avoiding the garden centers for now...

  7. I freeze from indecision, occasionally. That's why I live my life with lists. :) Great advice!

  8. When I saw your title, Carol, I thought of earlier last week when the garden centers had to scramble to cover all their plants from a literal freeze!:)
    Good tips; I've certainly "frozen" before, especially when I am unsure of prices. This year, with a little more time on my hands, I've actually been following your advice. We'll see if it holds up!

  9. Lisa at Greenbow, It does take a minute to get warmed up at the garden center, doesn't it? But then you are right, once you have the cart or wagon and are filling it up with plants, there is no looking back.

    Carolyn Gail, Thanks for affirming my shrub selections. They are "Proven Winners", too. Of course, on a day when it is raining non-stop, it isn't so good to be anywhere outside, even a garden center.

    Kathy, Interesting how geography and life circumstances affect our buying habits, isn't it? I rarely buy plants through the mail (other than bulbs and seeds.)

    Robin's Nesting Place, Yes, our buying is so concentrated in the spring it is important to keep up with the planting, too. I've gotten to the point some years where I didn't have anyplace to unload my plants, I had so many pots and flats of them sitting around waiting to be planted.

    Flower50, Nice to hear from you again. The nursery where I took the picture was Court's Yard and Garden, also on the southside, just around the corner from Soule's. I plan to go to Soule's once the rain let's up. We are getting a good soaking!

    Leslie, I like the idea of a keyword, that would trigger you to stop and contemplate before buying. How about "full"?

    Nancy J. Bond, I can get indecisive at the garden center when there are so many choices.

    Rose, Good luck, and yes, when you have time, it makes it easier, sometimes.

    Thanks all for the comments and for adding to the topic.
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  10. I like that term Carol...and apparently we have spring freeze at the garden center here in the mid south, too. Just recently I stood in front of gorgeous native plants and couldn't decide, thankfully I can go back and get them later! I freeze the most on how many of the same plant to buy. It gets expensive when you get into the multiples.

  11. Oh yeah, how many times has this happened to me? I am so overwhelmed with the choices that I walk away with nothing.

    Good suggestions. I find that a list of needs and a list of wants are my two best tools in this situation. Oh, and a lot of time.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  12. That's why I always try to take you with me when I go to buy flowers, I need you to give me permission to buy, that it's a good pick and not something I already have hidden somewhere amongst the weeds!

    Your little sister

  13. Back when I was a teenager, that exact same freeze happened to me in record stores! At garden centers, it's more a matter of narrowing down what to add to my garden, not what all I'd like to buy or whether the prices are good (cheap people always know good prices!). ;-)
    ~ Monica

  14. Oh yes, I'm familiar with the "freeze". Unfortunately I get the "trance" more often, where I can't think straight, and find myself wandering like a zombie, picking up what I came for plus WAY more. Causes me to speculate that the stores are using subliminal messages to get me to buy, even though I know it's illegal. What other reason could there be? (Oh yes, I bet it's a retail version of GADS. ;-)

  15. You got me with "spring freeze"; I know the feeling.
    I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the beautiful colors and plants on offer, and try to limit myself to buying only a few on each trip to a plant nursery, so I can plant them while they are healthy.
    I have four plants waiting to be planted right now, so I aim to head out to the garden today.

  16. Carol, I'm glad you're getting to take a garden vacay.

    I have Black Lace. I bet it will do great in your climate. I've finally gotten it happy here after two years.

    Love this post. A freeze. Boy, isn't that true!


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