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A few weeks ago, I needed to buy some high-quality potting soil for a plant installation I was about to do for one of my clients. I drove over to Jericho Nursery – the location on Pan American Freeway, just north of I-25 and Osuna – not realizing that they’d closed about 15 minutes before I arrived.

I walked up to the door, saw the hours, turned around and headed back to my car. Before I could reach it, I heard someone call out to me.

“Can I help you?” the voice asked.

I turned around and found one of the employees holding open the front door and calling to me. I smiled and shouted across the lot that it was no big deal, that I didn’t realize they were closed.

“What did you need?” she asked.

“Soil,” I answered.

“Get in here,” was her response.

I thought, how sweet is she? So I raced inside, and found the employees and the owner hanging out, closing up the shop. One employee got the soil for me and loaded it in the car. Another said she recognized me as a regular (thank you!). And the owner, Rick Hobson, as always, was just as nice as nice could be.

Rick may not remember me, but he and I have had a few plant conversations over the years. He’s super knowledgeable, and generous with his time. On that evening, he was also a perfect example of how to earn a customer’s loyalty. From now on, I’ll be using Jericho as my primary source for plant and garden items.

If you’re an Albuquerque plant lover, I recommend you shop at Jericho Nursery, too.

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, my favorite plant nursery in Albuquerque

The plant industry in Albuquerque has been dismal for several years now. It’s been marked by poor selection, sky-high prices and bad customer service, as well as closings – we lost Corrales Road Greenhouse, we lost High Country Gardens and Santa Fe Greenhouses. Also, I’ve had a bitch of a time finding decent houseplants at reasonable prices in this town (one reason I started growing my own).

There are a couple of other nice nurseries in town. For example, Rio Valley Greenhouse is awesome, but they don’t sell houseplants. Also, Rehm’s is good but they have a much smaller selection. Plants of the Southwest has knowledgeable employees but no houseplants. Besides those three places and Jericho, I’m not willing to recommend any of the other nurseries in the city, including the two largest, due to consistently crappy customer service and ridiculous pricing.

So Jericho’s emergence as an industry leader is great.

They cleaned up their greenhouses and renovated their houseplant selection. They added a whole section for enthusiasts of miniature gardens, which I think is adorable. They have a great selection of bedding plants, flowers, trees, veggies and herbs. And while their prices aren’t exactly cheap, they are better than the competition. I don’t mind paying slightly higher prices knowing that they’re supporting local green jobs.

And it’s those jobs that make all the difference. The employees at Jericho are the best in town. They’re friendly, they’re helpful, and they’re plant lovers.

The example I led with about them letting me buy soil after hours is only one example of many. Every time I’m there, I get multiple employees asking if I need help with anything – in a good way (not in the harassing, won’t-leave-me-alone way).

It’s important to me to emphasize how good their customer service is. I’m very interested in supporting local businesses, but unfortunately, some of the nursery owners in town do not seem to care where I spend my money (this bad attitude isn’t limited to nurseries, of course). For that reason, they have lost me forever as a customer. Too bad, so sad. I’m not willing to keep spending money at a business where the employees ignore me or can’t answer my questions, or worse, act like I’m bothering them with my questions in the first place.

In all this time, I’ve never once encountered a Jericho employee with a bad attitude. Not once!

The last time I was at the Pan American location (their other location is at 2nd and Alameda), I took a few quick photos with my phone, to give you an idea of what the nursery is like. Here they are:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, my favorite plant nursery in Albuquerque

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, my favorite plant nursery in Albuquerque

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, my favorite plant nursery in Albuquerque

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, my favorite plant nursery in Albuquerque

The photos aren’t great, sorry about that, but hopefully they can give you the flavor of the place.

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, my favorite plant nursery in Albuquerque

So woohoo for Jericho for being awesome. Thank you! I appreciate that you’re here for us! Please keep up the great work!

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Good To Grow is an Albuquerque-based interior and exterior landscaping service. We use plants and flowers to decorate offices, homes and patios around the city. We also offer memorial garden services, meaning that when a loved one passes, we can plant a customized garden in his or her honor. If the person who passed was an avid cook, we can plant an herb garden to honor that person’s memory. If a Veteran dies, we can plant a red, white, and blue perennial flower garden. If you lost a beloved pet, we can plant a garden around the burial site.

If you’d like to know more about the landscaping or memorial garden services offered, please send an email to lizatheplantlady at gmail dot com. Thank you for your consideration.

Who wants to go on a field trip? You do? Excellent, come along then.

Today I’m taking you with me as Tina and I visit McLain Greenhouses, located in Estancia, New Mexico. Estancia is southeast of Albuquerque, on the other side of the Sandia Mountains, south of Moriarty. It’s about an hour drive from the city.

Tina, a long-time friend and one of my Friday Experts (the only one who’s an actual plant expert), encouraged the trip. She wanted me to talk to Milton, who owns the greenhouse, about growing flower baskets over the winter for my summer patio clients. Custom grown flower baskets? You don’t have to ask me twice!

We both also wanted to check on the Poinsettias that Milton and his crew are growing for us.

So on a recent fall morning, she and I headed east.

We wandered through their big house first – it was filled with their fall plants and flowers. Everything looked gorgeous.

McLain is a wholesale nursery, which are few and far between in New Mexico. My regular readers might remember me lamenting the closing of Corrales Road Greenhouse in Albuquerque last year. It was so sad to see them go.

McLain grows some houseplants (Chlorophytum ‘Spider Plant’, Zebrina ‘Wandering Jew’, Epipremnum ‘Pothos Plant’), but mostly they grow outdoor bedding plants and flowering baskets.

Such a lovely morning to stroll through greenhouses.

Everyone say hi to Tina:

She couldn’t help ogling the blue Delphinium. Look how gorgeous it is:

Wow!

They also grow a lot of beautiful succulents:

Another greenhouse held Pansies:

Have I ever told you I’m a sucker for Pansies?

Such cheerful flowers!

The nursery had a garden of trial containers, to showcase their annual flowers (there are a handful of perennials mixed in):

The containers were planted at the beginning of July.

Milton told us they had an open house at the end of August and invited folks to see the flowers, to see how well they grow in the hot New Mexico sun. It sounded like a great community event.

Here’s the homestead on the property, with its pretty landscaping:

In this shot of the big greenhouse, you can see the Manzano Mountains in the background:

We wandered the grounds for a while before finding Milton and talking about the business of growing plants. He was super knowledgeable and nice. He and his family have been growers for 35 years.

Here’s Milton posing for me:

He took time out of his busy morning to chat with us about plants and the industry. There are lots of challenges to be faced. The big growers have become enormous, using automated machinery to grow mass amounts of plants. Smaller growers like Milton are trying to provide for niche markets, like New Mexico’s. His greenhouses grow flowering baskets for the city of Los Alamos, for businesses in and around Albuquerque.

They grow Poinsettias not because it’s a passion for them, but there’s a need for people with small plant care businesses like mine.

I’d been buying Poinsettias from Corrales Road Greenhouses for years, so when they closed, I had to scramble to find Poinsettias last year. It was a fiasco – the Poinsettias ended up being shipped from Florida so they looked like crap when they got here. Plus I felt bad about my giant carbon footprint.

This year, Milton’s growing them for me.

They’re growing great!

After a really nice meeting with Milton, and touring the grounds, Tina and I reluctantly said goodbye to Estancia.

And drove back through the mountains to the city.

It was a great way to spend a morning. I’m glad to have met Milton and his crew, and look forward to working with them in the future. I’ll be doing what I can to support this vital New Mexico business. We need growers like him to help us with our plant businesses, so we’re not dependent on the big box stores and their plant supplies.

I hope you enjoyed our field trip today. I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here!

Hi kittens, welcome back to the Good To Grow site.

A couple of my regular readers like to comment on how upbeat I am all the time. How grand life is! Aren’t we so lucky to live in America?

That’s an act, life is theater, this site is most certainly meant for entertainment. Of course I’m not upbeat all the time – I’m a human, with feelings and emotions. My family and friends know me, everyone else knows a slice of me.

There’s no such thing as being happy all the time – life is designed to be challenging so that we learn and grow, become better people.

A few weeks ago, a new client made a simple enough request. Can you get me some poinsettias to decorate the tavern? Sure, I said.

From where, I wondered. I’ve been getting Poinsettias for years from Corrales Road Greenhouses, but they’re closed now. I texted Tina (one of Expert panelists, she has a plant maintenance business like mine, Total Plant Management) and she suggested McLain Greenhouses in Estancia, New Mexico. I called, and a very weary sounding woman informed me they’d been sold out since July.

Of course they were. Because once everyone heard that Corrales Road Greenhouses were going out of business, back in June, they all called Maclean. Except for me because I’d successfully weaned my clients off Poinsettias.

So then I called my local wholesale flower shop (I’m not going to name their name, because I like them too much), and a few back and forth calls later, they scored plenty of plants for me. Yay! Poinsettias at the last minute, that’s great. I assumed they were getting them from McLain.

They arrived last week, and I guess I should’ve known by the tense atmosphere at the flower shop that something was up. One of the employees brought the first box up and went back for the second.

I looked at the box. They were from Florida. Florida? FLORIDA!

I brought the boxes home to inspect them – there were 9 poinsettias in each box, each in a protective paper sleeve. I pulled out the first one, took the sleeve off (carefully, I was going to reuse it) and inspected the plant.

It was soaking wet. Worse, there was what at first looked like spider mites, but on second look, was some weird fungus. Neither mites nor fungus are desirable in someone’s home or office. Not even in a tavern.

When I say it was soaking wet, I mean really, really soaked. And it came from Florida. By truck. What the hell?

I set the plant down, and got really, really sad.

Think about it from the plant’s perspective, but not the Florida Poinsettia. Let’s imagine a Poinsettia that Ann grew last year at Corrales Road Greenhouse. First, he was born. He had a comfortable little pot, he had even doses of food and water. And because Ann’s so kind, she played classical music for him.

Then he grew, just like he was supposed to, and it was great. He was there with his extended family, and life was fun, right? Who wouldn’t love hanging out with their family and listening to music? They’re plants, so they can’t dance to the music, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate it.

Then one day, he begins to bloom into beautiful, vibrant colors and he thinks, man, I have it made! Life is the best!

Shortly after that, Chris and Mike start picking up his cousins, slipping them carefully into paper sleeves and putting them in trucks, cars and vans. He didn’t know that his family was being broken up so they could be sold into service in people’s homes and offices around New Mexico.

When his time came, he tried to be brave as he was suddenly inside the paper bag. When someone started carrying him, he began panicking – he’d never moved in his whole life. And the noises – everything became very loud. He grew terrified for his life.

That’s what happens when living, breathing creatures are threatened – they get scared because they want to live and grow and be.

I knew a peacock once who taught me a lot. He always made a lot of noise, but one day he was screaming his lungs out. I went running to see what on earth was going on, I was worried something was hurting him. No, it was the UPS truck. It was really loud and he was terrified. He was screaming, “I don’t know what you are, but please don’t kill me!”

Plants can’t scream or bark but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel or experience. They are alive.

Anyway, let’s get back to our Florida Poinsettias.¹ They may have had a loving home-spun operation like Ann’s, but probably not. They would’ve been born like hers, but to a much, much more extended family. Like a corporate factory family where every sibling had a dollar sign branded into its cheap, crappy potting soil. I doubt there was classical music. I don’t doubt that everyone catered to the almighty dollar in the operation.

These 18 Poinsettias that I had in my kitchen, they were given a potentially lethal dose of water, yanked from their home, put on a truck and carted across the country. They were grown at sea level, Albuquerque is 5,000 feet above sea level. To say that they were stressed out was an understatement.

The growers may have meant well. Most people who have relationships with plants don’t mean to harm, but when money gets in the way, well, people will do what they can to feed their family. Or build a mansion.

I looked them and I thought, this is not where they thought they’d be.

It’s not what I wanted. I didn’t mean to have all that truck fuel burned on my account, just to keep a client happy. Had I known, I never would’ve placed that order.

I took each plant carefully out of its sleeve, sprayed it soil with Neem oil, gave it a saucer and a decorative container, then put it back in the sleeve and delivered them to the tavern. I kept one at home as a gauge.

When I saw the one at home had crashed on Day 2, I went to the tavern to check on the others. One was crashed, one was stolen. Not bad, I thought. But now I have two plants to replace (I wasn’t going to replace the one at my house – it would just be a sad reminder).

So I go back to my flower shop and I told one of the gals that two of my plants crashed, and I wanted to replace them, if she had any to spare. She offered me a credit on the third plant, and I was like, “You’d do that?”

That question opened the floodgates. She started talking about what a disaster it was, how they would never do that again, how they tried to order from McLain in the summer but they were already sold out and so they scrambled to find Poinsettias from anywhere and the only place that could guarantee them was in Florida. She was so bummed – all her customers were furious. She was giving credits left and right.

She had a small selection left that seemed to handle the trip ok, so she gave me two of those.

How come some plants managed the stress and others didn’t? I dunno. Maybe some have faith that everything’s going to be ok, and others worry themselves to death. Or maybe they didn’t want to live in those conditions.

The ones who remain are still getting fed, but on a slightly different schedule. No one is harming them, everything is fine.

They’re still going to die soon. For one, I urge employees to take them home and that’s a death sentence right there. If they don’t, they go in the trash. Sorry, I know that’s harsh, but these factory-born plants aren’t made to be good year-round houseplants. Everything is against them – they have poor soil, they need intensive care, they break easily because they were grown quickly and forced to bloom prematurely.

It’s shameful. This isn’t the America I know. I didn’t sign up to participate in these corporate schemes. People are greedy, and the plants are suffering, just like the cows in those horrible factory farms.

Poinsettias are supposed to be a symbol of the qualities of Christmas we collectively seemed to have forgotten – peace and goodwill on Earth.

Here’s what snopes.com says about Poinsettias:

Mexican legend has it that the poinsettia originated in a miracle. Having nothing to offer Christ upon his birthday, a poor child gathered weeds into the form of a bouquet. Upon approaching the altar, the weeds transformed into brilliant red blooms. (Another version of this tale has the poor child’s sadness causing the colorful plant to spring from the ground at his feet.) Product of a miracle, the poinsettia’s colorful bracts became known as Flores de Noche Buena, Flowers of the Holy Night.”

So no, I’m not upbeat all the time. Sometimes I’m very, very sad at our current state of affairs. I get angry at our elected officials who instead of working for the American people, are acting like two-year-olds saying “no” to everything. I get upset when I think about our American military men and women out fighting for no good reason. I’m appalled by the numbers that are present in modern day – trillions? I can’t get my tiny brain around that much money. It’s absurd. And gross. I get annoyed at faceboookers who think that changing their profile picture does anything to stop violence against children – it does not. This list goes on for a mile. Do not get me started on those Westboro assholes.

But. Then I stop. When my blood starts boiling, I stop.

I think about my family. My friends. And I think about the trees and mountains. And I remember that there are lots of really kind people in this country.

And I think about the gal at my flower shop, who learned a lot of lessons really quickly and won’t make the same mistake again next year.

Now, who wants to buy me a greenhouse, fill it with equipment and let me hire a bunch of plant enthusiast friends of mine to run it? It’s a bargain basement price!

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¹ mr_subjunctive at Plants Are the Strangest people has a lot to say about poinsettias. I urge you to click here and read what he has to say. His brain is much larger than mine.

Hello chickpeas, and happy Wednesday!

Happyish, anyway. The content of today’s post is well, sad. The Mom-n-Pop wholesale greenhouse, Corrales Road Greenhouse, that I love here in Albuquerque is done. Gone. Finito. Lights out.

I actually don’t know if that’s true. I haven’t been able to bring myself to visit for the last few weeks. Ann, the empress of green, told me the last time I saw her that if they hadn’t found a buyer, they were shutting their doors September 1st. Next week.

It’s not a huge surprise that they’re closing. I’ve written about the decline of the wholesale plant business here in Albuquerque before, many times. They just can’t compete with Lowe’s and Home Depot.

I reread what I’d written about the local nursery vs. big box store fight, and I sound so naive. I still feel naive. I’ve never worked for a local nursery – I just buy from them.

In my small business, Good To Grow, I have access to wholesalers, which is how I came to love Corrales Road Greenhouse. A few years ago, this was a bustling, thriving business.

Prettiest flowers in town, best Poinsettias [shudders with dislike]. And of course, the nicest people. Super knowledgeable, too.

I still remember the very first time I went there. They had speakers in every greenhouse playing classical music for the plants. I thought that was magically sweet of them.

Since that day, I’ve left the radio on for my plants. I think they like listening to the community station.

Do I know exactly how the business went from thriving to closed? No. I know it had to do with hurricanes in Florida, rising fuel costs and competition from bigger suppliers. I remember when it first became difficult for them to get trucks to drive from Florida to New Mexico – it got too expensive for them.

The industry appears to be in a mess these days. Certain growers have deals with the big box stores, and the local guys are getting squeezed out. It’s sad, that’s all I can say.

I wish I had the power to change the industry, to urge Americans to think like their grandparents and do everything locally. But I know that’s not realistic.

It’s easier to buy houseplants from Home Depot and Lowe’s, and frankly, there are a lot of lazy Americans out there. Ok, maybe lazy is harsh. More like, unaware. Obtuse. Self-absorbed. Introverted. Blind. Hmmm, still too harsh?

Well, I’m not going to apologize, it’s true and we all know it. There are also shit tons of creative, intelligent, motivated and wonderful Americans out there.

Most of the smart ones about us are already shopping at growers’ markets or local nurseries. But we still go to Home Depot and Lowe’s because they are convenient and inexpensive, and some of might feel sorry for the plants there and rescue them.

But then we bring those plants home and they turn out to be infected with bugs – because they always are unless its a particularly resilient plant.

And we realize if we’d just gone to our local nursery, we could’ve gotten a higher quality plant for only a little bit more money.

Remember that guy I told you about a few months ago? He walks by my house every day with his dog, who’s not on a leash so he terrorizes the dog next door. One day he came walking down the sidewalk while I was out working in the garden. It was Spring, and my Delphiniums were tall and bright green. He sees me, stops, looks at the plants, and asks me, “Is this a plant?”

It was such a hard moment for me. I thought, really? You don’t know what a plant is? Do you know what a tree is?

I smiled and told him yes, and that in a few months it would be covered with purple flowers. I have no idea if he knows what flowers are.

No one taught him any better. No one instilled a love of Nature into him. It’s shameful.

See? I told you this was a sad post. I’ll be back manana with something more cheerful.

Now this is embarrassing. It’s America’s birthday, and here I am without a gift for her! Rude!

What do you get the country that has everything? A gift card to Target? Concert tickets? A cake the size of Texas?

There’s a Mom-n-Pop greenhouse here in town that’s going to be closing its doors soon, having lost the fight to the big box stores. The other day while I was there, I picked up a gallon container of sedum. When I got it home, I discovered a little friend in tow – a small Praying Mantis.

I’ve heard it’s good luck to find a Praying Mantis. I don’t know if that’s true but it’s a sweet thought. And of course, I’m inclined to believe it since I found one. That said, he hasn’t brought much luck to the plant nursery where he used to live.

If it is good luck, then that’s what I would offer America for her birthday gift. Granted, a bug isn’t the best gift ever, but if it is a symbol of good fortune, then I’m ok with that. We could use some good news these days.

Here’s what the birthday card would say, “Happy Birthday America! I hope this is your best year yet. I love you, thank you for all you do. Love, Liza.”

Hi applejacks, and happy Thursday.

Have you ever gotten really, really excited about something, thinking it was special, only to find out the situation was the opposite of what you imagined? No? Huh, funny, that happens to me a lot. Note to self: Find a good therapist.

Most of you know I’ve been obsessing over vertical gardens and living wall art for the last several months. I can’t get enough. So I’m growing several of them now – they’re horizontal until the root system gets strong enough to support them hanging on a wall. I’m using a variety of succulents mostly – they are thriving.

Or so I thought. A few weeks ago, I excitedly showed you the Hens and Chicks (sempervi) that I added to a garden I was making specially for myself. They looked like this:

I thought it was awesome that as soon as I separated some of them out to go into my vertical garden, they started growing funny. Like this:

Up, up and away! I was thrilled. I was captivated. I was sure that this was something special.

Nnnnnnnnnnhhhhhhh! Wrong.

Well, not entirely. It is gorgeous, a very flashy display. I feel honored to see it – I’ve never seen a bloom from a semp. But the plants are all in the throes of death. This is their last dance. That’s not exactly the type of special for which I was hoping.

I kinda already knew something was wrong. One of the semps I added to my original vertical garden, immediately went limp. I felt it, and honestly, it was gross – it felt like a skinny little carcass. I got the sense that it was dead, but I kept tending for it, and over the following days, it twisted and contorted and grew taller and taller until finally it began to bloom profusely.

I forgot my misgivings and became so proud – I’d turned that little guy’s life around! He wanted to live – what else could blossoms mean?

Uh, well, imminent death, actually. Claude was the first to say something, “Liza… that’s a sempevivum, and semps, like agave, die after blooming… however, by this time they should have produced many offsets, which is why you should only buy and plant smaller semps. They have to be 2 or 3 years old before they bloom, and that gives them plenty of time to produce ‘chicks’ before they bloom.”

I was crushed – I thought they were supposed to live forever. I couldn’t wrap my little brain around the fact the the one little cluster of semps that I picked out from the nursery were all now committing mass suicide. At my house! What did I do?

On Tuesday, I went back to the nursery where the semps came from, twice, to find out from them if what Claude said was true – were these enthusiastic plants dying? Let’s just say, both times were unpleasant. It’s not entirely one party’s fault – it was hot, and I was annoyed that all but one of their employees took their lunch break at the same time. That nursery is always busy, but especially at lunchtime – good businesses need to learn to stagger their lunch times (are listening, banks?). Take a cue from restaurants and staff up during busy times, sheesh. Anyway, I wasn’t all that patient, but the guy I spoke with was rude. He wasn’t listening, he was irritated by my presence and my questions. He called some colleague, the “so-called expert,” who said definitively that semps were not like Agaves, which flower then die. What I wanted to say was, “But Claude said they are like Agaves. Are you doubting him, because he’s an expert, too?” But I didn’t say that. The expert guy was busy, the guy I’d interrupted from lunch was staring at me with eyes glazed over, so I left.

Went home, got the blooming plants, and went back, with the same question on my mind. Are these guys dying? I said in my Tuesday post that I’d update you. Well, on the second visit, I was assured by “expert guy” that semps don’t die after they flower. The way he said it, I could tell his day was not going the way he wanted. He was locked into that answer. I was the dumbass for even questioning his authority. Whatever.

I don’t know for sure, for sure yet, but he’s wrong. For one, I have more experts in my corner¹ than he does. Here’s what mr_subjunctive from Plants Are the Strangest People said:

“Cactus Blog has said the same thing, semi-recently. (I think I saw their post about it one day before you posted about yours, actually. For a while there, someone was posting about blooming Sempervivums every time I went on-line.) I didn’t say anything because it’s not like there was anything you could do about it either way, and you seemed so happy. . . .

The “I know this because I’m so much smarter than you” tone of voice seems to be something that happens to people once they’ve worked a certain length of time in a garden center / nursery / whatever. Don’t take it personally.”

Haha, he was right, I was ecstatic – blooms on little chick? I thought I was the bomb!

Another expert chimed in, Peter from the aforerefrenced Cactus Blog, commented:

“Sad to let you know, but they will definitely die after they bloom. The reason they are called Sempervivums, i.e. latin for “Live Forever” is because they form a colony that can live, well, a long time. The cycle goes like this – each rosette lives 3 to 5 years, and then blooms and dies, surrounded by lots of other baby chicks long before then. So you have a colony of these rosettes and every year, 1/3 to 1/5 of them shoot up bloom stalks – very pretty! (If you like them).

Now probably the reason yours are blooming now when the store’s plants are not is because you divided them. The larger rosettes decided this year was their last shot to produce seed so they bloomed under stress and now it’s your job to help them along by hand pollinating (just kidding.)

But it sounds like you still have smaller rosettes, so all is good in sempervivum land.”

Evelyn from Sensational Succulents also commented. She said, “Greetings…
I havent got good news – my ref books say the same thing, and yes, they did die on me too. Only a short while after I got them home from the nursery! And yes, they looked kinda goofy… And I did even get a chance to get any rosettes… sigh.”

Thanks to all of you who weighed in on the subject.

I’ve never met Claude, mr_subjunctive, Peter or Evelyn. But even so, I trust them more than the condescending “expert” at the nursery.

That makes me kinda mad. I’m not going to name the nursery because I’ve already stated who my favorites are, and this one has never been one of my favorites. It doesn’t matter which one it was – the condescending attitude is pervasive at all the local nurseries, because lots of “plant people” don’t like “real people.”

The reason that makes me mad is because it’s stupid.

Local nurseries are getting creamed by Home Depot and Lowe’s. Creamed. Judging by the mass amounts of plant deaths that occur in their garden centers, I’d say the employees aren’t properly trained in plant care. And the times that I’ve asked them questions, I get apathetic “I don’t know” for responses.

When I want to talk to an actual plant expert, I want a local nursery. So I drive out of my way to support “the little guys.” I don’t need attitude when I get there. Local nurseries should have the best customer service, not this belittling bullshit I get all the time. If I have questions, can’t you just answer them professionally, please? I’m spending money at your nursery, check your attitude at the door.

I’m just saying.

There’s an all-new Ask the Experts edition of Good To Grow coming up tomorrow. Until then, happy gardening!

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¹ And by corner, I mean google reader.

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Just to be clear, not all plant people dislike real people, and not all plant nursery employees are unhelpful or apathetic. I will, of course, continue to support local nurseries!

Hi rosettes, and happy Tuesday!

Today I’m adding to the list of my favorite local nurseries. Locals know I couldn’t go too long without spotlighting Plants of the Southwest – it’s a longtime iconic favorite.

For those of you outside Albuquerque, in my mind, I’m imagining reaching out my hand to you and saying, “Come along, won’t you, while I show you this pretty place?” In my mind, you smile, take my hand and respond, “Well, of course!” Then you go on to tell me how beautiful I am, how funny I am, and how much you enjoy reading  my posts even though you’ve never even been to Albuquerque. Haha, my fantasies are pretty elaborate!

Enough about me, let’s talk about why this nursery ROCKS. They are headquartered in Santa Fe, but have had this nursery in Albuquerque forever. It’s on the busy north 4th Street, just north of Osuna. It’s like an oasis in the city.

See how welcoming it is, right from the get-go? I never tire of coming here.

Hey mr_subjunctive, look! Everything is clearly identified and priced. EVERYTHING! It’s astonishing, I know.

I told Louis, one of the employees, that one of my favorite aspects of the nursery was the clean wide paths and the signs everywhere. He looked at me like I was pretty weird. That’s ok, mr_s and I know how nice that is – we’ve talked about how some nurseries fail to see the importance of being organized. It’s refreshing to walk into a business and easily be able to identify the plants and the prices.

At Plants of the Southwest, the pathways seem to go on and on, and each of them lead to someplace wonderful.

I love looking at desert plants, like the tall, exotic Ocotillo in the middle of that shot. I guess that’s because I grew up in Indiana. There’s not a lot about Indiana that’s exotic.¹

These Desert Willow blossoms have a sweet scent, very rich like melted sugar. Not everything in the desert has thorns.

Whoa! What’s this? You’re a customer, and innocently walking along one of the many paths in the nursery, and you come around a bend and boom! The path has led somewhere enchanting.

Why not have a charming little structure for people to hang out in?

Uh-oh. Once inside, I realized why my eyes were burning and itching at the same time. All those white clumps stuck on the branches? Cotton. I high-tailed it out of there.

Still, if I were a kid and my parents were shopping, this is where I would hang out until they were done.

The employees I talked with were knowledgeable and sweet. I was asked three times, by three different employees, if I needed help finding anything. That was really cute – very polite and not all up in your grill. It wasn’t just me – I was there a long time, and I watched as they checked on all the customers.

Those of you familiar with my obsession for vertical gardens will appreciate how much I would love to see these ice plants decorating my living room wall.

Am I the only one who loves anything that plumes? When my good friend Lynda was here a few weeks ago, I couldn’t remember the name of this plant. But duh, it’s Apache Plume. That’s three out of four, right, Lynda?

Way in the back of the nursery is their edible landscape. Louis identified a number of the plants for me, but I was busy admiring the view. It was hard to believe I was in the middle of a bustling city.

Haha, I said bustling city with a straight face. Albuquerque’s still the wild, wild west. The North Valley, where this nursery is located, is very rural. There are lots of farms and feed stores, orchards and gardens.

As I was gathering my plants (yeah, like I could spend that much time at a nursery and not buy a single plant, whatev), I noticed these adorable herb gardens. Some were medicinal herb gardens, others were mixed salad herbs. So cute.

Plants of the Southwest is definitely one of the best nurseries in Albuquerque. We’re lucky to have them here. Thanks, guys, for all you do!

That does it for this edition of the Good To Grow site. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new story filed under The Plant Lady Chronicles. Until then, happy gardening!

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¹ Insert your own dancer joke here. Oh, you did already? Right.

You are, that’s who!

Hello, purple carrots, and happy Tuesday. Hope your work week is off to a smashing start. Unless, of course, smashing involves your boss breaking things. Then that would be bad, and I would feel sad for you. Fingers crossed that’s not the case!

I would like to acknowledge upfront that the following post may be super boring to people who live outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m willing to take that risk for two main reasons. One, it’s important to me to build a database of my favorite plant nurseries around town so my fellow ‘burqueans can use that info. I love living in Albuquerque and I want to share knowledge with the other gardeners and plant lovers – this is a really easy forum to let me do that.

And two, I trust that gardeners will never pass up a chance to look at photos of glorious quantities of pretty plants.

A worthy bet? Let’s look at some pretty pictures, then decide, shall we?

Welcome to Rio Valley Greenhouses¹, in Albuquerque’s south valley. It’s like a slice of heaven.

This one of their growing greenhouses, they weren’t for sale. I just loved the undulating waves of green.

Yolanda let us wander around and take pictures. Everything was growing so obediently, I knew the plants had great caregivers.

Plants in containers, and to a lesser extent, garden plants, believe it or not, are a lot like puppies, kittens or babies. Someone has to take care of them or they’ll die. They’re all living breathing creatures, even if they all speak different languages.

As a plant lover, I love to see mastery at work. Excellence in the craft of plants, flowers, vegetables, trees. This nursery has it going on!

Is it just me, or do these little fellas look cheerful?

I would adopt them all if I could!

“Hello world!” says the blossom that will live exactly one day.

Local, local, local. We Americans be loving us some local right now. Go team New Mexico! Oooh, I really hope we win!

Oh, here’s something novel – clearly marked prices on a pretty sign. They earned my loyalty for that alone!

Thank you, Rio Vally Greenhouses for keeping the plants alive all these years, and for greening up Albuquerque. You’re plantastic! The nursery is located at 2000 Harzman Road, SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105 (505-242-4423).

Thanks also to Lauren for the tip, and to Rex for accompanying me. You’re both planterrific!

Thanks to all of you joining us here today. I’ll be back tomorrow with an ode to flowers on a new edition of The Plant Lady Chronicles. Until then, happy gardening!

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¹ There seems to be a contradiction between the sign – which clearly says Rio Valley Nurseries – and the business card Yolanda gave me. Maybe one day  I’ll chase the back story, but for now, I just don’t care.

I found this at Corrales Road Greenhouse today (that’s the little mom-n-pop wholesaler I love in Albuquerque). Gorgeous!

I love plant people.

Ok, ok, this was supposed to be Albuquerque Week!, because I love this city and want very much to share that with everyone!¹ Plus I’ve been upset about the cuts in funding for social services and depressed about homeless people and people in crisis in general. But if that’s what I really want, I can start another blog dedicated to those ideas. This is a plant blog, and from now on, there shall be plant talk!²  Please, feel free to take a collective sigh of relief.

Hi, nature lovers, my name is Liza. Happy Wednesday! Thanks for being here. I mean, really, thank you. It’s been depressing around here lately in regards to humanity! It’s so therapeutic to be thinking about plants again.

Do you guys read the posts by the ladies over at Garden Rant? I really like that site – they don’t really rant so much as provide important information in an easy-to-read style. There are tons of good sites out there. (I’ve been slowly updating my “Plant and Garden Blogs” blogroll to include even more favorites – I hope you check them out, and check back as I’m adding more. People are so creative!) Many of them touch on gardening or plant themes that affect us all.

One debate I keep hearing is the question of buying plants at the big box stores versus the local nurseries. I think every single one of us wants to buy from a local nursery, but oftentimes, that’s hard. As Benjamin over at The Deep Middle said, he wanted to buy a tree from a local nursery, but they charge a gasp-inducing $75 just to deliver it. Many people have talked of this subject. I’ve discussed the topic a few times myself, featuring my favorite local nursery (High Country Gardens) and ranting against the pest-infected soil you buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s.³

I have a small plant care business here in ‘burque, so I’m constantly checking out places that sell plants – wholesale, retail, big box. I would love to have one convenient place to do all my plant shopping, but I don’t see how that’s possible. And I’m ok with that because I’m bouncing around town anyway – how hard is it for me to pop into this place or that? Albuquerque’s small, but there are plant sellers everywhere. There are a ton of Home Depots and Lowe’s, and they are certainly useful for a lot of things. I think it’s important to spread money around – buy a succulent at the local nursery, or a cactus from the guy by the side of the road, or buy soil for outdoor containers at the big box place. It’s all ok, as long as we’re not ignoring the little guys.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been on the prowl for a particular type of plant. I need something tall. Now, you would think that would be sooooo easy. Just go pick out a big ol’ Ficus (like Samantha the Ficus tree) or go buy a Corn plant at my local nursery. Here’s the deal though – it’s for one of my clients, his office has no windows. A Ficus tree would hate that!

Here’s the general rule of thumb for indoor houseplants – the darker the leaves of a plant, the less light they need. So a plant with yellow leaves, variegated leaves, light green leaves, they really relish the sunshine, a bright sunny window. But a plant with really dark green leaves will be totally happy in a dark office, or a corner of your living room that doesn’t get much light. It’s not a foolproof rule, but I’ve found it works really well. I’ve also found that you can sortof force it to work – plants are amazingly resilient, and most of them will just put up with whatever conditions you provide. That’s why my Pothos plants do so well in offices with no natural sunlight – they’re plantastic. They’ve learned to love fluorescent lighting. They still clean the air while they’re being so deprived of their natural surroundings. Isn’t that adorable?

Ok, so back to my dilemma – why is it so hard to find a tall nice plant for a dark office in Albuquerque? As Dottie would say, “Oy vey!” So many reasons! Please, bear with me! I can explain them!

My first stop is always my little mom-n-pop nursery, Corrales Road Greenhouses. They’re wholesalers. They’re the ones I want to buy the most plants from, they’re the ones I want to reward for their incredibly difficult work. Ann runs the place, she’s the sweetest lady, and Chris and everyone else work their asses off – they have five huge greenhouses, growing everything from Poinsettias (you can see pictures of Points here, if you really want to – I personally, do not) to Salvias to Petunias, well, everything. When I first started my plant business and started going there, I was absolutely enchanted that they played classical music from speakers in their greenhouses. They are the reason that I leave the radio on and tuned in to our community radio station even when I’m not home.¹ So, you get that I love these guys, right?

Well, back in 2003, 2004, these guys were doing pretty well. They had more employees, and were growing more plants than they are today. Then there was a hurricane in Florida, where most tropical plants are grown (I apologize, I don’t remember which hurricane, the date, or the specific sequence of events, nor do I have the time or desire to research that knowledge, but this is how I remember Ann explaining things to me), and that hurricane wiped out a big swath of nurseries. Not long after, fuel prices began to soar.  It seemed like alluvasudden, there were fewer plants on the market, and Ann couldn’t afford to pay someone to drive from Florida to New Mexico anyway. For awhile, they would just gather customers’ orders, and when they had enough to fill a truck, they’d place the order.

It didn’t take long before truck deliveries became a rare occurrence. Months would pass. I know Ann would order anything I needed for me in a heartbeat, but who knows when I would get it?

[I don’t want to get off the track of my quest for the perfect tall office plant, but I do want to quickly say that I’m hoping to interview Ann and get more specifics from her, and I’ll post that here. I went there last week, and almost cried. Their biggest greenhouse, well, the roof was just gone from the spring winds. Blown right off. I wanted to buy succulents, which they have recently started selling, and they were covered with spider webs. They’ve lost so much revenue in the last few years, they are just clinging to hope at this point, and clinging to holidays, like Christmas and Easter. Oh wait, those have already passed. What’s the next big seller? Oh, it’s Poinsettias at Christmas. Yeah, you see the face of this? It’s so sad, but I think it’s important to discuss.]

For now, back to my quest. If the wholesalers in town aren’t bringing in the tall plants, who is? Certainly not my favorite locals, who all rely (I think) on big trucks carting in plants to the desert from Florida and California. So High Country Gardens is out, Jericho is out, Osuna has some stuff but they’re so pricey it bugs me. I’ve been checking out other nurseries but most concentrate on outdoor plants. I’ve been looking and looking, but none of them had the plant for which I’m searching. That leaves Home Depot and Lowe’s. They have the resources to bring tropical plants to the desert.

Sadly for me, I need a decent plant that can handle an office with no windows. Most of those are tropicalish – Palms, Corn plants, Sansevieria (I say tropicalish as opposed to desert-loving plants, like cactus and succulents). Many Corn plants have variegated leaves, meaning they would like some sunlight, but I am looking for one with dark leaves for the dark office.

There’s one Home Depot near my house, and I know that their plant delivery days are Thursdays and Saturdays. Yesterday, though, Tuesday, I finished with a client in Rio Rancho and decided to check out the plants at the Home Depot by Cottonwood Mall. I don’t know their delivery schedule. What I saw was almost worse than the feeling I get when I think about Steve the homeless guy. I didn’t have my fancy camera, but my little Coolpix worked ok. (The pictures were largely disappointing, as I was in a hurry not to get shots without being noticed.)

Before I show you the horrifying photos, here’s what I would like to say to the CEO (or anyone) of Home Depot²:

Dear sir, ma’am, anyone, anyone at all at Home Depot,

I hope today finds you well. I am writing to tell you of a way that you can save your organization millions of dollars each year.  I know an organization as huge as Home Depot has many leaders, many departments, many “chefs” as it were. When I refer to “you,”  I mean the organization. No offense, but I didn’t even research a specific person to address. This is not a personal attack on any one person – my goal here is to point out a solution to some organizational problems.

Hi! My name is Liza and I’m trying to help local Albuquerque companies thrive, mine included. I have a small plant care business in the Duke City. I frequently look at the plants at Home Depot in hopes of finding ones worthy of purchasing. I can’t remember the last time I found one that wasn’t infected with bugs, or half dead. To me, that’s like plant murder. Your employees have no idea what they are doing. I have never said – or would say –  anything antagonistic to anyone working for Home Depot, because I think they are trying, but they are not properly trained. (Not that many people strive to do a crappy job.) I actually make lots of purchases at your stores. But not plants. And definitely not potting soil. You guys (Again, I mean, your employees – as CEO, I’m sure you don’t drive the forklift to put the potting soil three stories up), leave those thin plastic bags, which always get holes, out in the elements, which invites *&^%# fungus gnats, which is my worst nightmare, as a person who puts potting soil in people’s offices. “I had clients in today, and we all kept swatting at gnats.” Super.

So what can I tell Home Depot that will save you millions? It’s this: Stop. Just stop. Cut out your houseplant department if you’re only going to do it half-assed. I sorta kinda like the attention you pay to your outdoor plant selections – you do offer some things that grow well in this climate, but you’re not great at it. Your indoor houseplant department is a mess. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you used your giant resources and big trucks to send those tall houseplants that need special attention to our dying mom-n-pops, who can generate the resources to employ people to care for those fragile plants (can you imagine, from a plant’s perspective, how terrifying a drive would be from Florida to New Mexico? “Aaaaahhhhhh,” they would scream if they could talk!) and offer people like me affordable plants?

What, you ask? Who are you to tell me how to run my company? I apologize, I’m not here to upset anyone. I only want to do good and stop the murder of living, breathing plants. I’m no one special, just a small business owner, a plant lover and a self-appointed Ambassador to Nature. That’s why it makes me so sad to post this proof that you’re squandering money.

Sincerely, and most respectfully, Liza

p.s. If you make changes and would like to thank me, I’ll take my thanks as a percentage of your profits – thanks!

Ah, if only I had their ear! And now, the parade of almost dead plants. This is my evidence that big box stores need to engage the local community. And hire professionals.

Here’s a Corn plant that suffers greatly – the brown crunchy lower leaves indicate underwatering (it’s natural on my plants for the lower leaves to become crunchy and fall off, but it’s also a sign that the plant is thirsty), and the brown tips on the other leaves indicated too much water. Whoever has been “caring” for these plants since they arrived at Home Depot is doing a crappy job.

I was so astonished – there wasn’t one single plant that I would’ve bought from this store. They were ALL in the throes of death. Plant murder, grrrr!

What a waste of money! And who would buy this? I was very proud of myself – there were several other shoppers who were checking out plants. I successfully avoided shouting things like, “Run now,” or “Don’t buy any of these plants!”

Even the new stuff on the carts are dying. Wasteful, shameful!

See all the brown crunchy leaves that have fallen off? These Crotons were starved for water. I can tell just by a glance. You would think the employees in charge of these precious fellows would’ve been able to tell as well.

I have more, mostly blurry, photos of all the dead plants, but I think we’ve all had enough. And hopefully someone from Home Depot has everything they need to make changes in his company. I think it’s probably pretty damn idealistic for me to think that someone might listen to me, but I have to hope, right? RIGHT? Seriously, it’s all we have as humans.

Ok, dandelions, that does it for this Wednesday edition of the Good to Grow blog. Thank you again for being here. I apologize if you’re now depressed over the plant genocide. I’ll be back tomorrow with something more cheerful. Until then, happy gardening everyone!

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¹ This is my blog – I can write about anything I damn well please. While I like showing you my Duke city, I don’t need to be wailing about the sadness of it all. If I want to show you a cool plant nursery in Albuquerque, or interview Albuquerque farmers, so be it. But you’ll be spared from the social services part of my personality from now on. Mostly anyway. Some of it just oozes out of my pores, so you’ll just have to deal.

² Thanks Justin, for the reminder and the focus!

³ I’m not referring to Target stores when I reference big box stores. I love Target, for many reasons. I know they sell plants in some stores, but not the ones in Albuquerque – the garden centers here are pretty much a few pretty pots and some herbs you can start in a container. Great, but not what I mean when I’m comparing stores for buying plants specifically.

4 Huh, this is supposed to be my fourth footnote, but it looks to me like WordPress only allows you three. So I started over again at 1. I feel like there should be at least a small “a” or “b” option like in an outline. But that’s just me. Oh gosh, I almost forgot what the footnote was for – I just want to clarify, there are two community stations in ‘burque – KUNM.org and KANW.org. I like to leave one or the other on for the plants to listen to.

5 I didn’t research who runs Home Depot. I lost interest after I didn’t get to see Tony Stewart as much. But I am hoping to catch the eye of some member of the marketing department, and will definitely research that sometime when I’m not, well, you know, working.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.

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