Friday, November 8, 2013

I bought a plant at Walmart, do you still respect me?

I live a charmed gardening life. Within easy driving distance of my home are a multitude of exceptional independent nurseries and garden centers. I support them with my blog and (god knows) my money. Not everyone is so lucky.

Take Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, population 6,411. As a previous blog post has shown the town isn’t exactly overflowing with gardeners, but for those that do want to buy a few plants, where do they go? The obvious choice would be Buffalo Bill's Exotic Cactus Ranch (I visit every time I'm in T or C), but beyond that what is there? Drive 2 hrs north to Albuquerque? A little over an hour south to Las Cruces? Yes, both of those are options but there’s another…Walmart. I know, I can’t believe I just typed that and no, I'm not endorsing the biggest box store of them all. I'm just saying that in a small town you take what you can get.

When we were in T or C at the beginning of October for my father-in-laws funeral I made repeated runs to Walmart to get things which were needed for a house full of people. Truth be told I also found a little bit of peace among the plants. I didn’t expect for them to have such a great selection, but they did. Euphorbia ammak variegata...

The label caught my attention, it's a shrub! Of course it is in its native area, I just don't think of it that way.

Euphorbia abyssinica

Euphorbia trigona rubra

Plain old Aloe vera, and a lot of them!

Opuntia 'Baby Rita' is the plant I broke down and bought, so cute and colorful. Plus it's theoretically hardy here in zone 8...

It was nice to see a few things being sold which should/could withstand the winter temps in T or C. After all their average low in December and January is 28 F, with records in the single digits and under.

There was even a palm being marketed for its cold hardiness.

Mammillaria gracilis var. fragilis

Echinocactus grusonii

Aloe brevifolia

Tropical!

And a few plants I would expect to see being sold at every Walmart across the country.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima bloom (Mexican Bird of Paradise), you do see these around town where there's been an attempt at gardening.

Not so much for the tropical looking cordylines.

This one I almost tried to haul home.

The flowers started out pink but the older ones faded to orange. Not at all hardy so I decided to wait until spring to try and find one.

One other image from my visit(s) to Walmart, found in the produce department...

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

57 comments:

  1. I've bought a few plants at Wal-Mart over the years. I find the garden section to be the most tolerable part of the store. Needless to say the Wal-Mart in T or C has a a much better selection of desert-appropriate plants than the Wal-Marts around here!

    I have an Opuntia 'Baby Rita' and am still waiting for mine to turn purple.

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    1. I always assumed it was the cold that made them "purple-up" but I can't see these would have been exposed to any cold since the temperatures in T or C were still plenty warm when we were there and the grower is in California.

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    2. I saw specimens to purple I wanted to weep in Palm Springs where it's much warmer than here. I just don't know what it is. Everybody says it's "stress" that causes them to become purple but what kind of stress?

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    3. Maybe you should start talking to them. Tell them "you either turn purple or I'm throwing you out into the street" or "give me color or else I'm shipping you to Oregon where the slugs will eat you!!!" Try it. Take out all your job aggression on them. Maybe you'll both benefit from it! Stress those plants!!!

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  2. ROFL at the last image of the nopales. Those Bougainvilleas look a lot like the one I brought home from WeHoP. I hope you can find one next spring. Those Crotons are huge, and so colorful, and the red Euphorbia is wonderful! I've never seen Euphorbias like that, even at our local nurseries in the houseplant section.

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    1. I thought it's bloom colors were similar to yours from WeHoP and yes, I would have loved to bring home a couple of those euphorbia...

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  3. Why don't the Wallmarts here get cool stuff like that? I havn't lost any respect for you. (You know respect among plant sluts and all.)

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    1. Here I am getting back on my principled high-horse and admitting I've never been to a Walmart here...so I have no idea what they do carry. Probably similar to Home Depot and Lowes?

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    2. My limited experience with the new Walmart not far from me is that they get some rather common but well grown plants, put them out and don't really care for them very well. Last year they had several flats of cute little potted (like 2" pots) succulents. The trays had cardboard covers so that they could be stacked for transportation. Since plants are merchandise and not living things that need light, these were left stacked with one open on the top. I went back to visit them a week later out of curiosity and found them still covered up like that so I rearranged a display a little so that there was space for all of the flats to be open. Anyway the Depot and Lowes (at least the ones in my area) have better plant selection than Walmart.

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    3. Bless you succulent care taker! Seriously. I've seen displays at Home Depot where the succulents are so etiolated I wanted to scream. Good for you.

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  4. I live on an island of 15,000 so I can certainly relate. Though actually I think as a result I have a much more creative and interesting garden and landscape than if I lived in a place with tons of material available. That Walmart certainly has quite a selection. That Euphorbia is the most dangerous thing ever, I planted mine at the far most corner of the fence , where neither man nor beast dare to venture.

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    1. No doubt you do, what's the saying? Necessity is the mother of invention?

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  5. I bought five E. grunsonii at Walmart so of course I respect you. Not sure why Alison finds Nopales in the produce section so funny, where else would they be? Oh, of course, you can also find them in jars near the pickles.

    Bougainvillea allowed to go dormant can survive winter in an unheated garage. Established in-ground they can survive snow as one in my mom's yard did a few years ago.

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    1. Jars near the pickles??? That means they'd already be de-spiked and de-glochidized right? How exciting I didn't know such a thing existed but now I'll be on the hunt.

      The min temp this bougainvillea was claiming to be hardy to was 25F - it just seemed risky for me...but next year look out!

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    2. If your grocery has a Hispanic food section you might find it there. Here's a photo of the jar.

      http://www.mexgrocer.com/1200.html

      They are not as fresh but certainly easier.

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    3. Thank you so much! I will look for it.

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  6. Nope, can't do it. When five or six members of a family can buy off the US Congress in order to change the inheritance tax to benefit themselves, when the company provides the phone numbers to their employees for Medicaid and SNAP benefits so they don't have to pay a living wage, when they privatize the profits and foist the costs onto the taxpayer--what is left of our democracy is at stake. Sorry, but f*&k Wal-Mart.

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    1. I agree with you Hoover Boo - well said. Loree, I do not lose any respect for you at all, but me personally, I can never set foot in a Wal-Mart, period. Personal choice, that's all.

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    2. I guess I asked :)

      Seriously though I appreciate both of your thoughts on this subject and tend to agree, in fact I never shop at Walmart anywhere else. Heck I don't even know if there is one nearby if I wanted to, Portland has done a great job of keeping them from the city core.

      When the one in T or C was being built I made a couple of disparaging remarks and quickly learned just how much the community needed it, and was looking forward to it. Having to drive an hour+ to buy underwear, appliances, etc, not fun. Although yes, they knew what they were getting into when they decided to settle in a small town.

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    3. Let's give credit where credit is due. Wal-Mart gave us People of Wal-Mart . What's funnier--or more heart-breaking--than that?

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  7. I still respect you, especially with those fine choices! Needle Palm is tough, and I wish more were sold in Abq-EP...and the name, well, it might be more dangerous to get near than pruning bougainvilleas from blind prickly pear.

    I wonder how many in their "native area" will be used by newcomers, but die by New Years'? Seems with all those good choices, they only need an informed consultant for each area, to split up indoor from outdoor spikiness.

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    1. Yes! Exactly the displays could have been much better at letting the newbie gardeners know what has a fighting chance at living there and what will be toast, as you say, by the New Year. Of course that's one of the problems with Big Box nurseries everywhere. I doubt the employees even know (or care).

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  8. I too must confess to grabbing Box Store specials ... but when gallon Yucca marginatas are a buck each and looking brand new off the truck, can you blame me?

    I also occasionally rescue cactus, but not before picking off the fake flowers and leaving them conspicuously on top of the garbage can. One lady actually thought I was picking off the real deal until I explained it to her, then she looked at the rest of the starts and said "Well that's crap"

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    1. A buck? I love that you were educating the other shoppers...such an excellent story.

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  9. If we were all honest, I suspect most gardeners would admit buying from a big box store on occasion. When I trail into Lowes or Home Depot behind my husband when he's looking for a whatzit or a whatnut to repair/build whatever, I inevitably end up in the garden section. They don't have many unusual plants but they're okay for "staples."

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    1. We have a locally owned small hardware store nearby that we shop at whenever possible, they have a big cart out front with some plants - a selection at least as good as HD or L (although much smaller). I do fantasize about them letting me fill the cart with really cool plants. Ones that would make people stop and stare.

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  10. I will buy a cool plant from almost anybody, and I'd certainly visit my local Walmart's garden center more than once a year if I knew they carried anything cool like the T or C store did. So you haven't lost any respect or street cred with me. :)

    The most interesting thing about this post though: I had no idea needle palm was so cold-hardy! I'm going to have to find one for my garden I think... there, I've added it to my plant wish list for next year. Thanks!

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    1. Yay! Glad to help...you really probably need three though.

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  11. I had never been in a Wal-Mart until earlier this year. I looked around the plant area of the Grants Pass Wal-Mart when I was waiting for a prescription for my FIL. I was pretty surprised to see what a good selection of perennials and trees they had. They also had some marginally hardy tropicals that tempted me. But I couldn't quite break my vow not to shop (for myself) in Wal-Mart, so I left empty-handed. Is that principled - or just stupid?

    And about the nopales: we get the best nopales tamales from a family that sells them door-to-door in our neighborhood. Delicious!

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    1. Principled Jane. I did find it interesting the supplier of the small succulents at Walmart was the same as at the (locally owned) Cactus Ranch. The prices were similar too, which surprised me.

      I finally had nopales last summer as part of my birthday dinner at Authentica, it was served sauteed in strips. I would LOVE to try them in tamales, I bet that's amazing.

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    2. Whoo! Another S. Oregon local!

      I lived in GP up until last year, then moved to Ashland to go back to school. At least then, our Wal-Mart didn't look as great as this one, but then again, any Wal-Mart full of succulents is going to get my preferential and highly biased vote. The Fred Meyers isn't too bad either, but I try not to make a habit of going to either garden center on purpose.

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  12. Believe it or not, I've over-wintered Opuntia 'baby rita' for the past three years here in zone 6a next to a rock with my other hardy cacti. it seems to never come out of the purple stage! Granted, it also never gets taller than two pads high because it dies back halfway in the winter (probably to below the "snow line" which is usually around 2inches) but it sure is a novelty. I will be taking it with me when i move south so the poor thing can actually grow to a respectable size! - Branden.

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    1. Good for you! I love to hear of plants making it despite their hardiness rating. I've planted this one in the denial garden (stock tanks in the driveway)...we shall see.

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  13. Crikey, opuntia pads on the produce section, something new to me. Their selection is surprisingly impressive. In such a small town, strange as this may sound at least they have Walmart. One of the big chain supermarkets here were bought by them years ago and is called ASDA-Walmart.

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    1. I thought about buying a couple just to be able to say (as I point to them in the garden), I bought these in the produce section. Then again I have no idea if they'd prove hardy here so I didn't.

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    2. Our Safeway carried nopales almost year round. I bought some in the summer to throw on the BBQ but nobody was thrilled. It's definitely an acquired taste.I like them in scrambled eggs. Think huevos rancheros, with extra phyto power!

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    3. Are they already cleaned up and ready to be eaten or did you do all the hard work?

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    4. They're cleaned and ready to use. I love buying unsual produce and seeing the cashiers fumble trying to figure out what it is that I'm buying, LOL.

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  14. Hey I have that orange bougenvilla about 5 pot and they just need full sun and hate too much water & moisture. They are survivor plant, I left them outside my house just to make sure nature give them some water and boom they bloom till now..I wonder when they will stop blooming and start producing leaf (It only has spike and flower).

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    1. What zone are you in? How cold does it get? I'd love to know...

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  15. Say, Dorothy, I don't think we are in Kansas (Walmart) anymore. Impressive plants. I've been in a Walmart here and wouldn't want any of their plants. I know Walmart exploits their employees, etc. but the employees would probably rather work there than be out on the street, many don't look like they could find a job easily. I enjoy seeing your cactus and Bouganvilla photos, since they are not plants that tempt me to try them again.

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    1. You've had bad experiences with cactus and bouganvilla?

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  16. I haven't entered the Walmart in my town for several years--I find it crushingly depressing-but I admit I am elitist and snobby , even though I have no business being so. My other feelings, having to do with perceived value, with locally or US made products , with people being manipulated into buying cheap-ass crap they don't need...oh man don't get me started. I understand the the dilemma of places like T or C, and apparently so does WalMart.However, I will buy any plant any place if I want it. I am a horti-hooker.

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    1. "horti-hooker"...haha.

      As for the cheap-ass crap I wonder if thrift stores see an increase in donations in towns like T or C, after the Walmart opens?

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  17. Yes I buy at big box but usually not Walmart. I did however score on 3 Agave parrayi 'truncata' 1 gallon for 9.00 at a home depot in Edmond, Okalhoma. And the same day at an independent nursery I scored on Yucca rostrada sapphire skys for 12.99. Overall however spikey love was pretty slim.

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  18. If only we could get Needle palms here I'd even consider buying them from Walmart.

    When there is not a lot of choice one buys plants where one can. Mind you I enjoy cuttings and divisions from friends and family too.

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    1. I forgot to mention mail order as a possibility. Of course that's really only for the seriously addicted.

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  19. No no no no: you have broken my heart! I have sworn to never enter the gates of there, where one abandons hope, worker's rights and scruples! Can't you get Costco to stock them instead?

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    1. Costco, in T or C? Not likely. I think El Paso might be the nearest, or of course Albuquerque.

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  20. If you can catch the truck driving in on Thursdays nights, it's the best time to buy their plants before they are killed by neglect. I buy plants there on occasion, but find myself pouring the water out of the 'no holes in the bottom' pots to save the drowning plants....especially the succulents. Futile gesture, but I do make sure the manager is watching me do it. Sometimes I'll lift one up and cry 'cheers!' before pouring the water out.
    I feel sad just writing about it. That's why I LOVE small mom and pop nurseries. They care about their plants because it's the only thing they do. I once asked a big store why they even bothered to have a plant department. They couldn't tell me. Their usual business is lumber.
    David/:0)

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    1. You pour the extra water out, Peter rearranges displays. It's a good thing someone is taking care of the plants at these stores!

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  21. I wandered through a Walmart in Portland once purely out of curiosity and left seriously depressed. I don't think that one had any plants, but why would they in a place with so many choices (they are nothing if not opportunistic). Interesting conundrum where they are the only show in town. Sounds like a place ripe for entrepreneurship.

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    1. So there is a Walmart in Portland? Very interesting.

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  22. I love your baby rita and still respect you!! They do really well here from what I've been told provided good drainage. I was oogling over that one in the monrovia catalogues at work.

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    1. We shall see. Mine (there were several in that small container) are in the stock tanks for winter, which get better drainage than in the ground.

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