I know many gardener’s feel that if you’re not killing a few plants each season, you’re doing something wrong. Honestly, I don’t subscribe to that mantra. I’m not saying I’m a perfect gardener, but I really don’t kill too many plants. I can probably count on both hands the number of plants I’ve killed over the past few decades. And the death rate has slowed significantly as I’ve learned more about gardening in general and my own garden conditions specifically.
So, you can imagine how distraught I was to see I had apparently killed a seemingly healthy Pennisetum orientale ’Karley Rose’ some time between last spring and just a few days ago. I had been lusting over ‘Karley Rose’ for a few years and got it into my head last spring that I needed to buy one so I could trial it in my garden before using it on any of my landscape design projects. I looked at all of my usual wholesale suppliers but no one had any ‘Karley Rose’ grass so I decided to head to my ‘go-to’ ornamental grass nursery, Poundridge Nurseries.
For those of you not familiar with Poundridge Nurseries, here’s a bit of background history. Poundridge is an independent nursery about 10 miles from my house, located in Poundridge, NY. It has been in business for years and years and years. It has the reputation of being very expensive but also having very good quality plants. I used to consider it the best place to get hard-to-find ornamental grasses. Whenever I teach a garden design class or am asked by a garden coaching client about the best place to buy ornamental grasses, I always tell them to head straight for Poundridge Nurseries. I never hesitated because I had bought plants from them periodically over the years and never had any issues. Until I bought my ‘Karely Rose’ last spring.
Not only are ornamental grasses almost impossible to kill, I grow about a dozen different varieties of ornamental grasses in my garden and none of them have ever died. ‘Karley Rose’ is hardy to zone 6 (I garden in zone 6) and she was planted in a somewhat sheltered spot so I wasn’t pushing the zone with her like I knowingly do with some other plants. Add the fact that last year, I added/bought/transplanted/divided over 150 different plants in my garden and none of them died – except ‘Karley Rose’. In case you’re wondering, yes, that number of plants in transition in my garden in one year is very high and it happened for many reasons but I mention it because I didn’t ‘kill’ anything else.
When I finally had to accept that ‘KarleyRose’ did not make it through the winter, I decided to dig out my receipt and take her back to Poundridge Nurseries for a refund. I hate to admit it, but I definitely overpaid for this grass. Like I said, I was determined to own a ‘Karley Rose’ grass last spring so I forked over $32 for a 2-gallon container. In my defense, I thought I was getting a one year guarantee. What reputable nursery doesn’t offer one of those? Even Home Depot refunds your money if you bring back your dead plant and a receipt.
Ok, I admit it, I assumed there was a plant guarantee. I’m not saying Poundridge Nurseries lied to me or concealed any facts – more than likely the big sign over the cash register with all that little writing says something about perennials not being guaranteed (apparently they do guarantee woody plants) but I never even thought twice about it. I was buying a plant from a local, independent nursery who I assumed was my gardening partner and valued my business. Guess again!
So the moral of this GOOPs is buyer beware. Sometimes you get a ‘lemon’ plant. It happens. But you shouldn’t have to eat the cost of the lemon. I wonder if anyone else had any issues with their ‘Karley Rose’ that was purchased from Poundridge Nurseries last spring? Could I be the only one whose ‘Karley Rose’ died? Could my green thumb have turned black for just that one plant last season?
So make sure you only buy from reputable nurseries who offer a one year guarantee on all their plants (except annuals). And make sure you ask about that guarantee before you open your wallet. Take the time to read the fine print on the sign hanging over the cash register. Don’t be like me and look around to see what other interesting things you might be able to buy. Focus on the transaction. And finally, while I still highly advocate buying plants from your local, independent nursery, even if you pay a few more dollars – if that nursery does not offer a guarantee, run away. Believe me, the next place down the street values your business and wants you to keep coming back so they will happily offer a one year guarantee.
Will I ever shop at Poundridge Nurseries again? I hate to say it, but probably. They are still the ‘go-to’ ornamental grass nursery in the area but I will not unconditionally recommend them like I used to. I will probably only visit at the end of the season when the ‘un-guaranteed’ perennials are on sale and I know what I’m getting myself, and my wallet, in to.
Thanks to Joene Hendry of joenesgarden for hosting GOOPs (gardening oops – a celebration of the mistakes we all make in our gardens) again this month and giving me the perfect forum to rant about my dead ‘Karley Rose’ and my frustrations at wasting my money. Don’t forget to head over to Joene’s blog and see what her GOOPs is all about for June.