The Gardening Diva
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Direct Gardening


Buying Plants, Seeds, and Gardening Supplies Online
By LMG Calla Victoria


     Avid gardeners shop for plant material everywhere. Always on the lookout for a good price or a rare find; we shop local nurseries, local greenhouses, the grocery
stores, big box stores, Craigslist, and online. Of course
the advantage of buying plant material locally is the instant gratification of grabbing what you want and taking it home right then. The advantage of shopping online is
convenience as well as the ability to locate rare plant material, and the Direct Gardening Association is
striving to make our online shopping experience
even better.

The Direct Gardening Association (DGA), formerly the
Mail Order Gardening Association (MGA), is a member organization of gardening and garden magazine
companies. The ultimate goal of the DGA is to provide
the finest gardening products, information, and service through the catalogs, magazines and online websites
of its members.

The Direct Gardening Association (DGA) held their winter conference in New Orleans last month. Their membership reached out to The Master Gardeners of Greater New Orleans (MGGNO), and requested we provide a panel of Master Gardeners to participate in a question-and-answer segment as part of their conference. I was one of five Master Gardener’s from our organization to participate in the panel. With the increase in online sales, DGA membership mentioned missing the personal interaction with customers and genuinely wanted feedback on our online experiences; what we expected, what we experienced, and how they can improve the online shopping experience.

The panel was quite an eye-opening session with knowledge gained and shared on both sides of the table. We,
as gardening customers, had certain expectations and ideas, while they, the suppliers, on the other hand are
faced with certain challenges with reference to getting their products into our impatient little hands in a timely manner.

Shopping online is amazing. It's like magic, you place an order online and presto, it shows up in your mailbox. However there are a few things to be aware of to ensure a positive online shopping experience with plant material.

1. Know that the online nursery that you are ordering may be located in one of the northern states.

     a. If that is the case they may be limited as to when they can get outdoors to dig up seedling.

     b. They also may be limited as to when they can ship due to their harsh winter conditions.

2. Pay attention to when the supplier plans on shipping your item. If that information is not clearly listed call them and inquire prior to completing the order. In most cases if you order in January or February you may not receive your plant material until late April or early May. In zones 9B and above where we can plant almost year around,
we do not expect to wait until May to plant because of our very hot summers. Several companies do offer you a few shipping date options.

3. Make sure that you are aware of the size seedling that you are purchasing. In many cases when you purchase online what you receive is a small plug sized seedling or smaller. I once ordered 20 periwinkles online and what I received was a plastic baggie that was filled with what looked like spaghetti or bean sprouts. Needless to say I
was not too happy with that purchase.

4. Orchids and certain other bulbs will not survive below 40 degrees, therefore depending on where the supplier is located and where they have to ship threw will dictate when you will receive your items. The suppliers want you to be happy and receive a living healthy specimen. They do not want a lot of dead plant material returned to them.

5. Also do a little research before purchasing fruit bearing trees and shrubs, there are a few varieties like blueberries that require having two separate plants to set fruit.

6. Make note of the return policy of any online suppliers and hold on to your receipts.

7. If you are unclear on anything by all means call the company or email them prior to completing any purchase. I wanted to create a living willow gazebo and I found a company online to purchase the plant materials from. As the willow rods must be shipped and planted while they are dormant there is only small shipping window. I was able to coordinate everything with the supplier, I received and planted the willow rods last fall, and I look forward to seeing them start to grow and green up with foliage in the spring.

With a little research and communication your online shopping experience for plant materials and seeds can be quite gratifying.

   This article was printed in Data News Weekly's January 31, 2015 edition.

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