The Secrets to Shopping a Nursery

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Mistake: Shopping for just flowers, no foliage.
Solution: Every plant is beautiful at its prime—full of lush abundant blooms—a waterfall of color. But you should also understand how it looks for the rest of the year. Before you buy consider the plant’s leaves and structure. Include specimens with spectacular foliage such as annual coleus, the shrub cotinus, or decorative grasses to help keep beds interesting while flowers are not at their peak

Mistake: Buying insufficient amount of a single variety.
Solution: Taking home only one or two pots of a particular specimen is a surefire way to make your garden look hodgepodge. Depending on the size of the pot and the type of the plant, buy at least three containers (though six or more of a species is preferred) for a unified, well-designed look.

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Mistake: Purchasing unhealthy or diseased plants.
Solution: Leaves can tell you a lot about the health of the plant. Avoid picking specimens with brown, yellow, or wilted leaves which could signify poor health. Give yourself a fighting chance to have the plants survive by starting with the healthy one.

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Mistake: Choosing flowers in full bloom.
Solution: Don’t be seduced by pots with abundant flowers. Instead, look for healthy foliage and plump buds to be your guide. Let the plants peak in the ground at your home, rather than in pots at the nursery.

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Mistake: Picking plants with poor root systems.
Solution: Steer clear of anything that is root-bound (you’ll notice a mass of roots coming out of the bottom of the container), because tangled roots can suffocate and rob the plant of its nutrients. Also, leave those with underdeveloped roots (ask a nursery employee to check) to mature longer at the nursery.

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Mistake: Ignoring labels.
Solution: The plastic tags sticking out of the nursery pots contain vital plant information. In addition to water and light requirements—and bloom times if applicable—they describe how large a plant with get. While it may seem obvious, mistakes such as planting a tall perennial in front of a border or tucking a dwarf variety toward the back of a bed a very common.

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Mistake: Failing to commit to a color scheme.
Solution: When you’re shopping for plants, don’t think of each one separately, think of them as a collective color palette. All colors can be beautiful, but not all colors can be beautiful together. Consider your plants as part of an ensemble cast, one that works together towards the overall aesthetic goal. If you love cool colors such as purples and blues, go for a cooler toned garden, if you also love warmer colors such as oranges and yellows, you can still have that as well—just put those color schemes in a different bed.