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A tad snarky, I think. The people at our HD are nice and do try to help. I don't really go there for gardening advice, but at least I feel like if I ask a question, they're not going to run away and hide (like another big box store in my area.)

Concerning those annuals in the South...I don't know about Nashville, but in the Atlanta area, pansies are only good till about April or May. Most people dig them up before then to get their summer annuals in before it gets hot. I'm assuming the salesperson thought your niece would only get one or two months of color from the pansies.

Master Gardener? A 10 week class here.

I teach Master Gardener classes. I have a college degree in Engineering & Horticulture.

Cannot believe the advice Master Gardeners have given my clients thru the years.

One of my favorite Landscape Designers, Susanne Hudson, is not degreed or a Master Gardener.

Certified nursery employees? Garden centers SELL merchandise. Their sellers different than financial advisers at Chase, Wells Fargo, BOFA?

Always, consider the source. Surely you saw WSJ & NYT about convicted fraud at the big banks? Ethics? It's sales.

Alas, some of the garden center employees THINK they are giving good advice.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

It's telling that in Pam's comment above she credits her local Home Depot employees with not running and hiding when asked a question, like another box store in her area.

This is what's it's come to. We have lowered our expectations to a level that allows places like Home Depot to tout in-house "certification" as somehow meaningful. Remember, the advice you receive can be the difference between feeding your plants, and poisoning the environment.

Well, I think it's very telling that HD employees were busy throwing away tomato and basil seedlings last weekend, after having left them outside all night, in April, in Boston. While there was a freeze warning, no less.

"Expert," my left foot.

The people in our gardening center are rarely seen when you're in need of assistance. I think the take a master class in disappearing.

In Denver, the HDs and other big boxes in our area give what we like to call "wrong plant, wrong place" advice (um, no ... arborvitaes do NOT belong in full sun around here) and then they have the balls to send people down the road to our indie garden center for diagnostics about why their plant died!

It drives us nuts, but at the same time, who gets the blame? The HD/Big Box employee who doesn't know the answer but sends the customer off to someone who does? The customer who sees no ethical problems with buying cheap plants but then coming to the "expensive" garden center for free advice? Or the management of our garden center who won't let us turn these leeches their way? (Sure, we've made a few converts who now buy their plants from us, but they are in the minority.)

Speaking of Master Gardeners, the MG program through Colorado State is pretty good, but what I find is that everyone has their own area of expertise. If you get an MG who knows trees and shrubs but next to nothing about lawns (me, both counts) then you aren't going to have a great image of the MG program if you have a turf question.

Sorry, "turn these leeches away" is what I meant. Haven't had the a.m. caffeine yet.

I would never expect a sales person to be able to give me adequate advice on types of plants. I would go to an expert. I would expect those sales people to be able to tell me what is on sale and when was the last time they were watered.

Of course, I'm also a master gardener. I don't answer questions about things I don't know and everyone else should do the same. "I don't know the answer to that question, but you could probably contact xyz."

It's not a problem with Home Depot. It's a problem with people expecting experts in places there shouldn't be any or people to be experts on everything.

I loathe and detest BB stores for all the above reasons. I also lament the attitude I see in so many gardeners, especially newbies, which seems to be simply 'tell me what to do so I can a) buy it or b) pay someone to come in and do it for me. Even Sunset magazine has this kind of advice in their new issue on planting a veg garden (make plan, choose plants, hire someone else to dig and install them) -- yikes. Gardening Lite, Sunset?! I guess it is all about money, and the BB honchos figure adding the magic words 'certified' will make it so. Maybe they even believe, as so many non-gardeners seem to believe, that gardening is a simple thing and one can learn all one needs to know to become an expert, by following an 'expert' around for a while and possibly also having good intentions. ha! I'm an independent music teacher (piano) and after 35+ years, am still amazed at the number of people who inquire about lessons, expecting to learn how to play the piano in a couple of months! Or, perhaps like sticking in a few petunias somewhere for 'instant color' (hate, hate, hate that term!), just learning their one favorite tune by rote.

I actually cannot fault the employees at many of those places. The same exact situation exists here in Sweden as it does where you are located. In many cases this is a thankless job with a pay-cheque to match and that explains a lot. They'll never pay for the expert advice employee.

We have Bau-Haus and Hornbach which are both German owned companies. They advertise every late winter and early spring for employees and mostly they are inexperienced young people looking for summer work. Like America , most Swedes don't like alot of the manual labor tasks so they hire immigrants. Then complain that they are taking jobs away. Seriously, the States are mirror image of the great Socialist Supperior E.U.

Gardening here is only a good 4 or 5 months anyway. Most hirees are like I said rookies and young people. Not really any gardening experience but they really try. At least they try to find out info for you by consulting the manager in charge.

The majority of folks who conduct business at those places are not necessarily you and I or any of the other handfulls of folks reading these blogs who are gardening enthusiasts. Though we all go there from time to time. You and I would probably make horrible employees. We'd be too opinionated offering helpful ideas that don't necessarily come with a pricetag.

Well, me anyway. I hate all of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides so I'd never recommend any. I'd encourage them to inoculate with mycorrhizae or beneficial bacteria and create their own home made compost pile. That wouldn't go over very well with the management.

I'm sure I'd be fired quickly - LOL

I know it must be frustrating, but every convert you get also talks to their friends, family and neighbours. Word of mouth of a positive experience goes a long way, as does word of mouth of a negative experience.

I have to drive farther to a big box store than to get to my independent. Unfortunately much of the staff at the independent don't know a whole lot, you need to know who to talk to.

I did a 90 season with HD a few years back in need of some extra cash.... I have worked in Garden Centers for 12 years, have a degree in Residential Landscape Design and Horticulture Management, and am an avid gardener myself. I can assure you - that the HD garden center employees where I worked at were LOST! we're talking - what's the difference between an annual and a perennial! Even with my credentials, I was hired to water. I was not initially hired to help customers.... I couldn't stand back and listen to employees give such bad advice to people - I also couldn't stand the vagrant plant neglect.

you are NOT being too hard on the garden center staff - but it's the management who hires people who don't know what they are doing! It'd be like me trying to farm equipment.... not a good idea! I don't know the difference between a combine and a manure spreader.

I try to steer clear of Home Depot these days and hit up our local hardware store instead. sure the prices are a little more, but I like having them in my community. and they actually know their stuff - about everything! The guys and gals who work there will find you the right person to talk to about whatever you need.

sorry for my long rant!! I've just been scarred by Home Depot and am please to find someone else annoyed with them!!!

Last year at the larger HD (as opposed to the half size close by that has nothing), I found an employee who had amazing horticultural credentials. She's been working there for a few years, and said the benefits - including a salary - are the reason why. I prefer the selection at one independent here along with some of the personnel, but it's quite some distance away. The closer ones tend to be expensive and I've found I'm more a source of info to them than the reverse. I don't count on HD or Lowe's employees to be experts, but I also have learned to not expect it in many independent stores either.

Pam, you are the sweetest. I wish there were more people like you in the world. I get caught up on blogs 1st thing in the morning and it's disheartening to read a snarky bash post right off. No one is perfect and I'm sure bad advice is given, I wouldn't think it's malicious or unforgivable. Subordinates are hired to sell, to comply, to serve. Management knows who they're hiring and what they're investing in these people. It's the luck of the draw for customers. I've had very good and not so good help.

i would think that any part of the “certification process” at a bb store would by necessity include indoctrination from the companies that sell their products in the garden center (scott's, i'm lookin' at you). i wish more people would consider the source when asking for and getting advice. it's a store's business to sell you stuff. if your petunias die in april, they'll gladly sell you more in may.

I'm dying to know more about your talk with Erica Glasener and her experience advising at Home Depot. Let us know if you are ever going to tell THAT story and I will pour myself a drink and pull up a chair.

Tara is right. I, too, have taught Master Gardener classes, and always like to remind the groups that the "certification" is really the entrance exam, not the terminal degree. I can easily envision any number of Home Depot employees being more knowledgeable than many master gardeners

I have a hard time getting past the fact that Home Depot (Lowes, WalMart, etc.) sell perennials and shrubs that are not suited to our zone 6. They will freeze here. If the buyers don't know know what growing zone their stores are in, what chance is there that their $8 an hour temporary employee is going to know anything? By the way, WalMart used to certify their people too.

Home Depot, Lowes, those are the places you go for nails & bricks, NOT plants. If you want cheap-ass plants that have been allowed to wilt a few times, but are guaranteed! for a year, sure, go right ahead & buy. Don't whine about it when said cheap-ass plants die.

It continually baffles me that people don't do any kind of research before buying. Duh, plants are like furniture, right??!!

I have had excellent help in the non-gardening departments of Lowes and Home Depot. If they can hire people that knowledgeable about plumbing (and we all know how much it costs to hire a plumber) than they certainly able to hire people who are knowledgeable about gardening. I've just never met one.

I'm glad they're friendly, but bad advice is bad advice so no, you're not being too hard on the staff. Maybe this will keep people shopping at independent garden centers where the staff are passionate about their craft.

The only good info I've gotten from staff at any plant retailer came from the owner or from a llong time employee at a smaller IGC. Otherwise I usually end up with a short term employee who knows very little. In my experience, HD employees are somewhat worse on average than IGC employees. The last one I dealt with wasn''t clear on the difference between a salvia and a coreopsis. There must be exceptions to this, but I haven't met them.

Any time I get good help at a BB store I consider myself lucky. Their whole model is built on low prices, not good service.

As a never-never-buy-bboxstore-plants guy, it was quite dismaying to find that the only place in our entire city with red current plants was a Barnyards (or something like that). However as to gardening knowledge of people at bboxstores, it doesn't go much beyond "green side up", although certainly exceptions must exist.

Im a long-time garden associate at my HD.I was hired in the olden times by a fellow who was a former nursery owner and CCN. I was the first to be certified at my store and had some issues with the program as it was published by the U of Georgia. I made the suggestion that it be made regional.
I'm also a CA master gardener. The program here is from UC Davis. My recommendations for disease and pest problems come from that training and are aimed at doing the least environamental harm. Management has never had a problem when I send a customer to a competitor for a product we do not have.
I was dismayed when we started getting vege starts in Feb. Also,I am upto my ears in palms and birds-of-paradise and nary a shade tree in sight. I'm discouraged when customers ask me for something that will kill every insect in their yards and ask me for flowers that will not attract bees.
I've been kicked off Garden Club when I mentioned that bermuda grass was a warm season grass and is dormant in cold weather,contrary to their advice.

enough rant

It's really about the economics. The big box stores don't hire professionals with real gardening experience but expect them to act life professionals with real gardening experience. It's a case of you-get-what-you-pay-for. Sadly, not everyone has gotten the memo. Buyer beware.

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