Supermarket plants – good or bad? Well yes. And no. ! Just over a year ago, Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don stirred up the argument by urging gardeners to steer clear of supermarket plants.

His argument was that they diminish choice: “You get lots of exactly the same thing, mass-produced to be as cheap as possible.”

You also can’t get advice on growing them. And by competing with independent nurseries and garden centres, they could harm the trade of places where you CAN get expert advice, and a wide choice.

The supermarkets, and the nurseries that supply them, naturally argued back. Horticulture Week quoted people saying standards were high, and that buying supermarket plants often got people interested in gardening for the first time. They were then likely to go to garden centres as that interest expanded.

Having created my front and back gardens from scratch, I know the origin of almost every plant. (I did inherit a total of seven shrubs from the house’s previous owners). Mostly, I’ve bought them from nurseries or garden centres. Some are cuttings from friends/family. Some I’ve grown from seed.
To be honest, the few I’ve bought from supermarkets haven’t done very well. I think the problem lies in them being laid out on shelves in conditions more suited to fresh veg or soap powder than living plants. And they may be there a long time, and not get the attention they really need while waiting for someone to buy them.

But, there have been three happy exceptions.

Supermarket plants – the successes

First up is a rose bush I bought – not strictly from a supermarket, but from Wilko. For anyone outside the UK reading this, Wilko is a high-street chain which sells homewares and household goods. When I bought this house, I bought a lot of new stuff there like towels, and storage boxes.
I also bought two rose buses (variety unknown) for something like £1.50 each.
The blooms are going over a bit now, but they’ve been amazing.

roses, supermarket plants

Second up is the cherry tree I bought from Aldi. I popped in one day to buy olive oil, and came out with a cherry tree as well. To the great amusement of a work colleague I happened to run into when I was queuing at the checkout.
It was basically a stick when I bought it, four years ago.
I’ve just made a nice batch of cherry jam from this year’s crop.

cherry tree, supermarket plants

Third up is a clematis, from Morrisons. Clematis aeotearoa, to be precise. Their plant section lacks natural light, but the staff do seem to take care of the stock. It cost me £2 last year, and as you can see, is flowering nicely this year, in a tub against a wall.

I’ve used it as the main picture. In this one, you can see it is entwined with thunbergia (black-eyed Susan), grown from seed.

clematis aotearoa, thunbergia, black-eyed Susan, supermarket plants.

One thought on “Supermarket plants

  1. Nurseries do not always have much better selection. We grew hundreds of cultivars of rhododendrons, but almost all were limited to about twenty main cultivars. There really were a few that were better for home gardening than the rest. Most people who buy them are not collectors. They just want ‘red’, ‘purple’, ‘pink’, ‘white’, and so on. Sure, there are others that bloom more impressively, but they take more work. There is a reason that there are limited choices.
    Now, I buy almost nothing in nurseries. If I see something I want, I take a piece and grow it myself. However, on the rare occasion that I want annuals at work, I purchase what is the lease expensive (within reason). As a grower, I know that the material in less expensive garden centers is the same as that in fancy retail nurseries. Even the imported material in the junky big box stores that I hate so much is not always that bad. Since I can distinguish between good and bad material, I do not mind buying really cheap material.


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