Five Types of Shrub Buyers

Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low'
After completing extensive research, mostly from years of buying shrubs, I’ve noted five types of shrub buyers.

The Researcher: The researchers know exactly what shrubs they want to buy, right down to the cultivar name. They’ve done their homework. They’ve done online searches for the shrubs they are interested in and cross referenced that information with books and then double checked their choices through online forums to make sure they’ve picked the perfect shrub. Then they spend more hours trying to find that exact shrub for sale.

The Grabber: The grabbers are the opposite of the researchers. They have no idea what they want other than “shrubs”. They go to the garden centers or big box stores and pick shrubs with pretty blooms and leaves and comment, “It’s green, good enough.” And off they go, with their shrubs, which of course they generally call “bushes” because they really don’t know any better.

The Rescuers: The rescuers can usually be found hanging around the back of the garden center where the broken, battered and bruised plants are marked down to clear them out. They are on a mission. They see those poor mistreated shrubs with half their soil knocked out of their containers, branches broken through mishandling, wilting with no water in the hot afternoon sun, and buy those. They are convinced that with a little pruning, a good drink of water, and some soothing garden talk, those rescued shrubs will be just as nice and healthy as the other ones. Oh, and the money they saved!

The Experimenters: The experimenters are looking for “something different”. They want to be on the cutting edge when it comes to their shrubs. Who cares if no one has heard of the shrubs they are buying or there is no information about those shrubs? So much the better. They are willing to take a chance to be the first to have those shrubs in their gardens. They are willing to push the shrubs a zone or two beyond their published hardiness zone. Common shrubs? Please. Experimenters would rather buy annuals than have common shrubs in their gardens.

The Gardeners: Gardeners can be a bit unpredictable and be all types of shrub buyers - researcher, grabber, rescuer, experimenter, all in the same trip to the garden center.

They go in as a researcher, looking for a very specific shrub and the next thing they know, they are a grabber, putting a couple of shrubs on the cart because they are green and oh, yeah, there was that one bare spot that would be good to fill in with a few basic shrubs. (Playing the role of a grabber once, I bought Rhus aromatica 'Low-Gro' and have never liked it because I don't like its scent.)

Then they pass by the clearance shrubs and even though they had not five minutes ago looked in the rear view mirror and promised themselves that they were going to stay away from the marked down plants, there they are, the rescuer, rescuing just a few of them.

Finally, they wheel their cart toward the check out area, loaded down with their one very specific shrub, a few shrubs just because they are green, and another few shrubs that called out to be rescued and snap, they suddenly stop and look down at the tag of a new shrub they’ve never seen before and purr in their special low experimenter voice, “Well, aren’t you different? How would you like to come home with me?”

And then they load that shrub onto their cart and finally pay for their purchases and head on back to their garden.

Researchers, grabbers, rescuers, experimenters, gardeners… all out there buying shrubs. Which one are you, most of the time?


Probably experimenter or researcher. Nice Rhus. I've been looking for that one this fall as it's on my gottagitit list.
Kathy said…
Temperamentally I am a researcher, but the only two shrubs I bought this year were impulse purchases.
Oh dear, I think you've been behind me at the checkout. Can't count how many times I've been to the nursery for a specific plant (even rung them to ensure they had it first) then discovered something unusual that I just have to try, plus the odd bargain. I'm definitely the final category.
Alison said…
I'm probably all of the above too, but mostly either a researcher or a grabber, depending on my mood. Also, unfortunately, I usually end up with several different shrubs in the cart, and only one spot in the garden to put them! It's hard to argue with the laws of physics, which say that two things can't occupy the same space at the same time.
Anonymous said…
You have definitely been stalking me, Carol, and have taken notes of my shopping habits! LOL Guilty on all counts. :-)

ps, the word verification is irsloam which I am reading as Iris loam, the perfect rhizome planting medium. How appropriate!
I am all the above. I ususally start out after something in particular and then I end up with a bit of everything. There is just no way around it. I'm a gardener.
Gatsbys Gardens said…
Carol, I guess I am not enough of a researcher or I would not have taken the garden designer's advice to put in a long hedge of Rhus Armoatica Gro Low.

It has had an ugly scale for the past two years, tried everything to get rid of it, requires continual clipping to look neat.

So, I will be the researcher after I get rid of this shrub.

Gail said…
Visitors to my garden will tell you I am not enough of a shrub buyer! I need more evergreen~less Hedge! I have marvelous good luck with Rhus aromatica even in deep dry shade. Gail
Rose said…
Carol, you must be psychic or just have a knack for timely posts--I've spent some time the last few days mulling over shrubs I want to add in front of our house. So far, I am definitely a researcher, with books from the library, notes from a workshop I attended, and then online sources, too. When I finally have my list done, though, I'm sure there will be a little rescuing and grabbing going on, too:)

I might as well take advantage of another great resource while I'm here--any shrubs in particular you would recommend?
Commonweeder said…
You have given a good description of shrub buyers, but what about shrub-admirers-in-the-hope-I-might-be-given-a-root while visiting a really good gardener friend. I've done very well in that category.
Cindy, MCOK said…
I'm in the gardener category, but more of an experimenter than anything else!
MNGarden said…
You've pinned me with the last label:I've been all those shrub buyers. Spent last winter researching shrubs, dreaming, plotting, then when spring arrived, off to the garden centers to find-anything but what I dreamed of. Oh, one or two of my dreams, but mostly, what I could find that "would work". I'm not one to mail-order shrubs, so that's my lot. It will be interesting (and fun, I hope) to see how the new border turns out!
Anonymous said…
All the above. I've an Edgeworthia 'Akebono' I've no idea where to put, but I couldn't resist the price. I've half a dozen "Summerwine' ninebark cuttings I simply couldn't refuse. I'm sure I'll figure out some place for them or someone who wants them.

For my DH's sake who hates the one of everything look, I've started buying shrubs in multiples, with a few exceptions (That'll teach him to complain).

pq said…
I'm a gardener, too, when it comes to shrubs or any plants really. But predominantly I'm a researcher at home, finding just what will thrive and bloom in my little area, and then the grabber once I get to the garden center, sucked in by whatever is blossoming and smelling good. This is why my "landscape design" is so haphazard.
Joseph said…
I am... well, I am a research, for sure. And an experimenter. I'll become a grabber ONLY if I never heard of it. Show me a plant with a name I don't know, and bam, it is in the cart. Unless it is really amazingly horrid. But even then, I wonder if it has hidden depths... and I buy it anyway.
RURAL magazine said…
That was delightful, I could see myself in each description.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams
Ha! There may even be one more: the Unbeliever, who pushes zone limits, tries to squeeze a 9-foot tall shrub into a space meant for a 4-foot tall one, loves something like hostas for bright sun or roses for deep shade. I've met them and, truthfully, I've been one!
Greggo said…
you might add "The collector", he or she is probably similar to the experimenter.
Plantaliscious said…
Spooky... I have a limited budget - which I constantly break - and am relatively ignorant, so I start out a researcher, but your description of the gardener made me laugh out loud, because that's exactly what happens to me, and then I too find myself trying to break the laws of physics. I often oust things from the back garden and bung them in the front to make room for new purchases. Am finally trying to turn the front into something more than a dumping ground for the out of favour...
Carolyn ♥ said…
Delightful post! I'm still smiling. I definetly fall into the category of "researcher" on shrubs. They tend to be more enduring purchases so I want to get it right. Having said that, I have been known to take risks on occasion... my small grove of six Leyland Cypress trees. Fell in love with them when I gardened in the Pacific Northwest. Had to have them when I moved to Utah, was told they would not survive here, took the risk, seven years later they are a prized element of my garden. Even the hummingbirds agree...see my "Sunbeams Kissing the Air" post. So maybe another catergory... Risk Takers?
Garden Lily said…
Love this post! You sum it up so well. I dream of getting rid of more lawn, for what I have researched and want, as well as what I will grab, rescue and experiment with!
Karen said…
Thats funny. I just got back from our local big home improvement store with three rescued shrubs. Now to get them in the ground before they truly do die.
Too funny and too true! I can recall trips to the nursery where we exhibited all five stereotypes. I do like low grow sumac as a groundcover, but we have it in an area that is not close to the house or where we sit so I have never noticed a smell one way or the other.