On a busy day, a staff member at a garden centre can answer hundreds of questions. At times, your head can spin from trying to picture the space the person is asking about (“I have a porch that faces northeast, with a big overhang, what hanging basket is best?”) or identify the plant the person is requesting (“I saw a green and yellow plant in my neighbour’s garden; it is about this tall…”).

When armed with questions for your local garden centre, try to have as much information as possible to help the staff member answer your queries and meet your needs. Can you bring a photo or your digital camera with a picture of the space or plant you desire? This is always very helpful! Although you are bringing this information with you, please do not have expectations that one staff person at any garden centre can spend a long period of time providing an in depth consultation with you, unless you have arranged something prior to your arrival. This is the “busy season”; consultations are usually conducted in April, prior to the “craziness” of May and June.

As for the information you can provide, do you know the exposure of the location you wish to put the plant? Is it a hot, sunny space? Is it really windy or very shady? Do you have water restrictions? Is the soil of average quality or do you think it needs amending? How much commitment can you make to these planters or garden plants? Are you looking for something too fussy for your no-maintenance sensibilities? It is best to be honest with yourself about what you are looking for, especially concerning your ability to care for the plants and your budget.

If you are looking for a specific plant someone else has, can you bring a leaf from that plant? How about doing some research ahead of time and bringing a list of perennials you are interested in along with ones you have tried in the past that you either like or dislike? If you bring some identifying feature (photo, leaf, name) of a container planting that you love or plant you are coveting, that information will guide a savvy staff person to help you make choices that will not only satisfy you, but thrill you.

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