Guarantees on Plants

Guarantees on Plants

Today I updated guarantee and return policies on the store website. There are many joys about working in a garden center, but dealing with plant guarantees isn’t one of them. First and foremost, plants are living things and living things are quirky. They are also fragile, and vulnerable to extremes in weather or other growing conditions.

When I speak with owners and employees from other garden centers about their store guarantees, their replies often make me laugh. “We tell people that our plants are guaranteed to perform as expected,” a garden center owner in Indiana says. “Plants are expected to die if you over or under water them. And they are expected to react when exposed to insects, disease or extreme weather.”

Another man, who works at a nursery in Connecticut, said “We guarantee that we sell healthy plants and will give the customer the information needed for planting and care. But beyond that, we can no more guarantee that the plants will live and thrive than the obstetrician who delivers a baby can guarantee that the child will live a long, healthy life and get great SAT scores.”

People frequently comment that the box stores guarantee their plants fully for a year. The boxes can afford to do this since plants are a tiny fraction of their sales. It isn’t fair to expect a local, independent garden center to extend the same guarantee. IGC’s are solely in the plant business; they don’t have hundreds of stores with multiple streams of income that balance out plant returns.

Our customers demonstrate that they appreciate that Country Garden is different from the box stores: they call us for advice, not the boxes. They read our blog, because it’s local information, and come to our educational events. In fact, we’ve had people actually come in with a car filled with plants they’ve purchased elsewhere, but on the way home they stop here to ask about how to care for their purchases!  Needless to say, we’re pleased that they value our expertise, but we wish they’d show that appreciation by spending their dollars here as well. Without their monetary support, we might not be around to advise them in the future.

As a consumer, I understand the desire to have a guarantee…if everything I  purchased came with a money-back assurance that it would work well and last a long time, I’d be a happy camper. Who wouldn’t want that? But as a gardener, I know that it’s impossible for a garden center to warranty all plants. Experienced gardeners have repeatedly seen plants die even when given the best, most appropriate care. We’ve also seen plants survive against all odds, thriving even when we’ve done everything wrong.

Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that gardening is good training for life. Happy, successful gardeners learn to be flexible, pay attention, try to accept failure with good humor (learning from those failings), approach it all with an attitude of gratitude, and to take satisfaction in the triumphs. Given that methodology, a pleasurable gardening experience is pretty much guaranteed.

This was a lovely, full, vigorous Rhododendron...before the winter of 2014/2015. Long, sustained cold winds took their toll that year and the plant had a great deal of dieback. I imagine Mother Nature saying, "So sorry about that dear, but I don't guarantee my plants."

This was a lovely, full, vigorous Rhododendron…before the winter of 2014/2015. Long, sustained cold winds took their toll that year and the plant had a great deal of dieback. As I pruned out the dead wood, which left me with a lopsided shrub, I imagined Mother Nature saying, “So sorry about that dear, but I don’t guarantee my plants.” She shakes her head, lamenting, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”

 

By the same token, a few feet away the garden was looking fantastic! Here I can hear Mother Nature say, "It does look splendid, doesn't it?  See? Sometimes we make a good team, you and I."

By the same token, a few feet away the garden was looking fantastic! Here I can hear Mother Nature say, “It does look splendid, doesn’t it? See? Sometimes we make a good team, you and I.”

C.L. Fornari – for the HCG Green Team

 

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