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Don't take your gardening advice from big box stores (and other pearls of wisdom).

You’re walking through the chain garden center and spy a beautiful plant you just HAVE to have. You take it home and plant it, dutifully following the instructions on the tag. And then it dies. Admit it—you’ve done it. I know I’ve done it.

Let’s. Stop. Doing. That.

Retail chains are in the business of selling all the things, NOT ensuring all the things don’t die. It seems counterintuitive that something thriving in the garden center could be wrong for our climate or completely out-of-season, but I see it all the time. Equally as egregious are things like sunflowers growing in pots that are quite possibly single stem, one and done plants. Ranunculus in bloom look beautiful in the pot come spring, but that’s not at all how to successfully plant ranunculus down here.

Resist the urge to buy those unfamiliar plants on a whim. Do some research. Do you genuinely have a space in your yard where that plant will thrive? Will you be satisfied with enjoying the sunflowers for the moment you have them in the pot, or are you wanting something to last a whole summer season?

I don’t think it’s that the big box centers are necessarily setting out to cheat you of your hard-earned money. The fact is that growing advice varies WILDLY from one end of the country to the other. Selling gladiolus bulbs in June just makes no sense for warm climates, but it may for our Northern neighbors. it requires a massive amount of knowledge to understand those distinctions on a scale larger than your own local climate, so I don’t think it’s a fair expectation that the chain garden centers have that knowledge for you. You have to do it for yourself (or hire someone that can do it for you <ahem>).

When I started growing flowers five years ago, I quickly realized something was amiss with the advice I was getting. I realized it was tailored towards cooler climate growers, landscaping gardeners, or both. These are the people who told me to plant dahlias in late spring. Well guess what—they died a miserable death. These are also the same people who told me I couldn’t grow dahlias at all. Well guess what—that is wrong, too.

I wish I had an easy resource for you. A book or website to give you all the right answers for cut flower production in mild climates, but to my knowledge, it doesn’t exist. By all means—if you find something, PLEASE let me know! And in the meantime, I’ll share with you some of what I’ve learned after years of trial and error. Sooooo much error. But lots of pretty things to show for those tears.

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