Gardening Annoyances: "Virtual" Nurseries

Nurseries: Include your postal mailing address on every page of your Web site. At the worst, provide the link to a "Contact Us" page that has this information on every page of your Web site.

I value local sources of plants for several reasons:
  • Reduced shipping costs: It costs less to ship something to me from New England than California or Oregon, so it costs less for me to get a plant from local sources. Fuel and transportation costs will continue to increase, so this will become increasingly important.
  • Greater viability: It takes less time to ship something locally than across country, so the plants I receive from local sources are in better condition.
  • Suitability: Plants propagated and grown out locally are more likely to already be accustomed to my climate.
  • Selections: Small, local nurseries are more likely to have small quantities of specialty plants unavailable elsewhere.
  • Economics: It's more sustainable economically and culturally to support local business when and where I can.
Finding out where you are located should not become a treasure hunt. Case in point: Perennial Express, located (I eventually discovered) on Long Island.

Their home page contains no contact information. There's also no obvious link to such information, such as the usual ""Contact Us" or equivalent. It now becomes a "treasure hunt": keep clicking on every available link until you happen to stumble across one that looks like it might lead you to the information you want.

Neither of the links at the bottom of the page - Terms & Conditions, and Shipping Information - provide any information.

Their Catalog page (referred to elsewhere on their site as their "Online Store" - two different ideas, in my mind) tantalizingly, teasingly, provides a "Contact Us" link. However, that link leads to an online form which you can fill out to send a site-generated email. Again, no information about where they might be located.

In fact, nowhere on this site is there any information about how to contact them or where they might be located. Not even the state or area of the country is given anywhere. The only way to find out where they are is to leave their site.

Turns out they have a wholesale operation called The Plantage. There is one link to that buried at the end of their home page. Again, however, there is no obvious link to their contact information, even on their wholesale site.

There are five "fake" links across the top of the home page: Home, Sales, Information, Links, Gardening. "Fake" because they don't link to anything. They're just anchors for drop-down menus of links which only appear when you move your mouse over them.

Through this kind of "out of frustration I wave my mouse around the screen just to see what happens" exploration, I eventually discovered that there is a "Contact Us" link hidden beneath the "Information" anchor. There I found just what I was looking for: mailing addresses, with zip codes and everything.

For anyone who cares at this point, they're located in Mattituck and Cutchogue in far Eastern Long Island, near Orient Point, about 85 miles from where I live. That qualifies as a local source for me. But based on my frustrating experience trying to figure that out, I'm not going turn to them unless and until they can straighten our their retail end of things.


Digital Flower Pictures said...

I agree with all your points re;Local sources. I would have to add I like to see what I am getting as plant sizes can be variable. There is a big wholesale perennial place I visit in Cutchogue and it is a lovely area with literally dozens of nurseries and farm stands. I have found getting out there early is key to having a good traffic experience.

All that being said I like mail order nurseries for two things, no sales tax and the ability to get rare plants.

firefly said...

It's a continual source of frustration for me that good small nurseries often have lousy Web pages. I ordered from a place in Massachusetts twice in 2007 whose Web site was set up as a Java application that the browser said was not secure but they swore was (I e-mailed them about it). It also failed to send e-mail confirmations so I was left wondering if they'd even gotten the order.

Everything about them and their plants turned out to be sterling, but I haven't ordered from them again mainly because of the site issues.

nycgarden said...

I've been quite familiar with the plantage providing decent perennial plants to long island nurseries for some time, but their foray into internet sales is new to me-and how does one find out about these things? Mostly by accident or your email is sold to a list. I prefer to only buy locally, just because it makes sense to have plants raised in a similar environment to the one they will reside in the future. Throw in shipping, carbon this and that, and local makes sense. But either way, the plantage is shipping plants to the neighborhood. By carrier to the local nursery or by ups to me. But I like going to the nursery more than worrying about missing the ups guy.
Its an interesting development to see wholesale nurseries going retail via the internet. Will their internet site offer competitive prices for the same plantage materials offered at local nurseries? Does this undercut plantage supplied local nuseries?

Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

dgp: I prefer to shop in person whenever I can. For me, that usually means what I can get to on the subway or bus! I never forget that Brooklyn is on Long Island, though. I'd love to get back "out East" some day to see what possibilities that opens up.

firefly: I'm a Web developer professionally, so I'm particularly sensitive to sloppy implementation when I come across it. This really isn't rocket science. Usability is a well-understood aspect of design that is continually disregarded in favor of the latest "bling." Smaller nurseries will be more price-conscious, and more vulnerable to being swayed by the preferences of who they can afford, rather than what's best for them.

nycgarden: I've written before that I get better value when I can buy plants locally, in person. Because I'm not (yet) a professional gardener, I don't have knowledge of or access to wholesale sources. It's interesting to get a glimpse of those systems. I think shipping costs, which will continue to increase, will help keep local sources competitive.