Growing Green Thumbs: Navigate a Nursery

Plant shopping tips to make your next trip to the nursery easy.

In an ideal world, the few months leading up to spring are spent meticulously researching plants and tirelessly planning your garden. By the time shopping season comes around, you would already have a full shopping list and can pop in and out of the nursery in a snap. No overspending; no forgotten purchases. You’re good to go. But, unfortunately, that often isn’t the case. So here are some tops tips for navigating a nursery like a green-thumbed pro!

Have a list

So you may not have gone full out with planning, but having a vision of your future garden will surely be helpful. Include any plants that you enjoyed from previous seasons, plants that you wish to try, and all the gardening supplies that you are missing/need to replace.

Be familiar with your garden

It is okay to not have a fully fleshed out idea for your garden before shopping. If that is the case, be sure you know everything you can about your garden before heading to the nursery. Know the type of soil you are working with and the light exposure each part of your garden gets. These will be important when it comes to choosing suitable plants. It is also useful to bring pictures of the garden beds and containers that you have as well as know their dimensions. If you ever have to ask nursery staff for advice, these will give them a better idea of what you are working with.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

In most cases, staff at local nurseries and garden centres are much more knowledgeable than those at big-box stores. They will be more than willing to help you with any questions you might have with respect to soil or plant choices.

Take your time and walk around

Don't rush your plant shopping trip. Nurseries and garden centres offer a lot of great resources and inspiration.

Don’t rush your plant shopping trip. Nurseries and garden centres offer a lot of great resources and inspiration.

Nurseries and garden centres can be a source of inspiration for your own garden. Many create garden vignettes that you can easily replicate at your own home. Also, you can discover new plants and innovative products that can help make your gardening tasks easier.

Read the labels

Discovering new plants is always exciting but it gets a little disheartening when you bring them home to find that they aren’t suitable for your garden conditions. Plant labels provide lots of information about the plant’s habits, light and water requirements, and preferred soil conditions.

Get enough of each plant

Bringing home only one or two pots of a single variety will result in a mishmash garden that lacks impact and oomph. Oftentimes, garden designers plant a mass of single varieties to get the show factor.

Choose healthy plants

Carefully inspect the plants you are going to buy for insect/insect damage.

Carefully inspect the plants you are going to buy for insect/insect damage.

Being in the nursery can make anyone overzealous and just grab any pretty plant on the shelves. Although most nurseries and garden centres will have quick turn around on plants, you still have to be vigilant in choosing healthy ones. It may be appealing to choose plants that already have an abundance of flowers so you can plop them in and instantly have a pretty garden. But don’t! These may be old and tired plants that are on their last leg of blooming. Instead, look for plants with some flowers and a lot of buds. Leaves can also tell a lot about a plants health. Avoid plants with brown, yellow or wilting leaves. Instead, opt for lush and vibrant foliage. When examining the plants, also look for foliage damage from insects. If you purchase infested plants, the insects will spread through your home garden and cause so much frustration.

Bring a tarp

Some garden centers provide free trunk liners, but it’s better be safe than sorry. Soil gets into every nook and cranny of your trunk, even in places you didn’t know existed. Laying tarp down in your trunk will allow for quick and easy cleanup giving you more time to enjoy your new plant babies.

Check out the information seminars or workshops offered at the garden centres

Most garden centres and nurseries have informative seminars on various subjects ranging from container growing to creating your very own fairy garden. Many are inexpensive or even free.  Some are information based and some are hands-on workshops where you create and take home.


You’re good to go!

With these tips you are ready to get your plant shopping on!

Looking for awesome garden centres and nurseries near you? Check out our favourites on our retailers pages:

British Columbia



Garden Trends 2016

Garden Trends 2016

It’s mid March and people definitely have the gardening itch. So what are the garden trends for this year? Trends come and go, while some remain and become lifestyle choices. Here’s the low-down on what’s shaping the garden industry.

1. Foodscaping


Growing food at home is a continuing trend with more people growing their own due to food security, locavore movement and rising food prices. Fresh herbs, veggies and fruits are being planted not only in traditional garden beds, but in containers, balconies and even rooftops. Urban gardeners are looking for compact edibles that will produce good yields and taste delicious. Heirloom, organic and interesting varieties are piquing the novice and seasoned gardener as well as the food connoisseur. What will be the next new palate pleasing edible to capture the hearts of restaurant chefs and home cooks alike?

2. Native and eco-friendly gardens

Busy homeowners want beautiful, low maintenance and environmentally conscious landscapes. With the plight of butterflies and bees, people are being more ecologically mindful by choosing and planting trees and native plants to attract pollinators, birds and other wildlife. One of the most vital resources needed for gardening is water. Homeowners are finding creative ways to help safeguard like planting drought tolerant plants, replacing lawns with water-wise landscapes, and rainwater/gray water harvesting using “laundry to landscape” method.

3. Connecting to nature

Connecting With Nature

Studies show the Generation Z, those born between 1995 to 2009, are going to be the most sedentary generation in human history. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “The average North American child spends less than 30 minutes playing outside each day, and more than seven hours in front of a screen.” Scary thought! It’s so important to get children to put down their electronics and connect with Mother Nature with their parents. Join the “Suzuki Superhero Challenge” and let’s get our kids back outside.

4. The Crafters’ movement

There’s a shift in the DIY movement…crafters and naturalists unite! People are participating in nature driven home projects like making their own cleaners, Eco-Friendly DIY Insect Spray, natural plant dyes, painted stone garden markers or growing hops for your own craft brew.

5. Petscaping


Homeowners are making their outdoor spaces pet-friendly and pet-safe. Petscaping encourages healthy interaction between you, your pet and your natural surroundings. Remember to limit access to rhubarb, grapes, currants, onions, garlic, raw and green potatoes and tomato plants, all of which are poisonous to dogs.

Still stuck for ideas? Just take a stroll around your neighbourhood and see what inspires you. As long as you’re gardening and connecting with nature…you’re on trend!

Plant Something BC

Plant Something BC

A new initiative is growing in BC that any gardener – aspiring or seasoned –  can dig: PlantSomethingBC. While only recently brought to British Columbia by the BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA), the Plant Something program was started in Arizona several years ago and has since spread to many communities across North America. Collectively, all these communities promote one simple message: “Don’t Just Stand There… Plant Something.”

Green Thumb Hard Work

Whether you have years of experience or you have never planted anything in your life, anyone can benefit from gardening.


  • Gardening is considered a moderate-to high-intensity activity. According to the CDC, one hour of light gardening and yard work can burn up to 330 calories
  • Gardening has been shown to lower stress
  • Spending time planting outside can boost self-esteem and mood
  • Microbes found in soil has been shown to improve symptoms of depression
  • Being outside in the sun boost vitamin D levels which help the body absorb calcium. This keeps your bones and immune system strong
  • People, both young and old, who grow vegetables are more likely to eat those vegetables and have healthier eating habits


  • Gardens, no matter what size, are essentially a microcosm of our environment around us. With a little help from all of us, we can greatly improve the health of our environment
  • Plants help reduce storm water runoff while decreasing the amount of pollutants that make it into our streams and lakes
  • Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. The high levels are contributing to global warming. But growing trees and plants is one way we can combat climate change since they take carbon dioxide out of the air to produce energy for themselves
  • In addition to using up carbon dioxide, plants also release oxygen and freshen the air
  • Growing plants will help to support local wildlife, like hummingbirds and bees


  • Having a nice garden landscape boosts curb appeal which, in turn, can increase your home’s resale value
  • Carefully positioned plants and trees can reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling by acting as natural heat buffers
  • Growing your own produce is much cheaper and more bountiful than trips to the grocery store

So if you’re a beginner, start small – a herb planter or mixed container. Grow a richer lifestyle by putting down some roots. And what’s better than local roots. PlantSomethingBC is also a BC Buy Local initiative that promotes buying locally grown plants. We’re proud to be part of this program because we believe in it. And we hope you will support it too.

A BC Buy Local and BC Landscape and Nursery Association initiative promoting gardening and BC-grown plants

Look for the PlantSomethingBC designated BC-grown plants at your local garden centres and nurseries. Don’t Just Stand There… Plant Something BC!

March in the Garden

Garden tasks that you should be doing this March.

We certainly are flying through this year! Feels like just yesterday that I was writing about February’s garden tasks, and here we are talking about March’s. What the what?! March is a bit of a funny month for gardeners. As spring pushes forward, winter fights back. One day we will get warmth and blue skies; the next day brings a raging windstorm. It is probably the last easy-going month for a bit, so enjoy it? We’ll be busy bees in no time.

Alright, let’s get down to it.

1. Garden Tasks

Basically a reiteration of last month’s tasks, garden prep in March is clearing out any debris, soil testing, soil amending, and pulling any weeds. Once finished cleaning up, add a layer of mulch over your bare soil.

If a new garden bed/border is in the works, remember to remove the grass layer and set it aside for future compost. Or, if you are incorporating it into the planting area, make sure you chop it up really well. Really well. Buried grass will regrow.

While outside, take the time to care for your trees, shrubs and perennials. Prune overgrown shrubs and damaged/dead tree branches. You should also add support for taller perennials and peonies.

2. Pest Control

Now that it is starting to warm up, all the dormant buggers will start popping up. Finding and dealing with the eggs and larvae now will mean there is (hopefully) less annoyance to deal with during the spring and summer.

Be sure to keep an eye out for slugs! Those slippery little nuisances will devour any new spring shoots that crop up.Beeris great for natural slug control. And, since sharing is caring, a little beer for the slugs and a little for you. Win win!

3. Seeds

If you are planning on starting your garden with seeds, March is when the preparation begins. While it is still a bit cold outside for direct sowing, seeds of heat-loving crops can be started in greenhouses/indoors. Be sure to read your seed packages for proper timing. (Unsure about the differences between starting with seeds and starting with transplants, we’ve written a little something to help you decide.)

4. Planting

Some things, like new trees and summer flowering bulbs, can be planted this month. However, the mild weather can be misleading and can get many eager gardeners doing things that would be better left until later in the season. Planting annuals is best done when the soil has dried out and warmed up. Some supermarkets and big box stores like to sell bedding plants, vegetables, and herbs early in the season. Don’t get tempted. More than likely, these plants will end up struggling in the cold, wet soil. There is a high chance these plants won’t survive. Wait until April when these plants are properly hardened off and the nights are warmer.

Bury Your Stress in the Garden

If the stresses of daily life are getting overwhelming, go out and garden.

At some point in everybody’s lives, they will feel overwhelmed by stress. It could be stress from upcoming exams, from work projects, or from life in general. No one is immune to stress. And different people deal with it in different ways. For example, I am someone so grossly unequipped to deal with even the smallest iota of stress that I could become a hot mess at any moment. I have so much stress that this is a common thought in my head:

If stress burned calories, i'd be a supermodel.

*sigh* if only…

But since we can’t be stress-powered supermodels (c’mon science, let’s get on this!), we need a better way to handle it. One fantastic way to deal with the pressures of life is gardening.

From a purely anecdotal perspective, I find gardening a very meditative activity. The only thing on my brain when I’m in the garden is being in the garden. Whether I’m pulling weeds or turning soil, all my focus is directed towards the current task. The argument I had at the grocery store earlier, or the upcoming work deadlines don’t seem all that important. Gardening gives me the opportunity to practice mindfulness and, in turn, clears my mind of whatever stress I’m feeling.

From a physiological perspective, gardening can be a pretty physical activity. And all that exercise is going to improve your mood and relieve some stress. While working up a sweat and loosening tense muscles, the physical exertion also causes the brain to release powerful chemicals called endorphins which are responsible for our feelings of pleasure. Like a gardening high!

Sun exposure and fresh air have been shown to boost mood and relieve stress

Sun exposure and fresh air have been shown to boost mood and relieve stress

Gardening also provides a reason to be out in nature which has been linked to many positive health benefits, such as reducing mental fatigue. Sunlight and fresh air play a large part in the mood boosting effect of nature. Sun exposure increases the brain’s release of the serotonin, a molecule that helps relay messages from one area of the brain to another. Serotonin levels are also affected by the amount of oxygen you inhale. It is commonly believed that serotonin contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.

If none of that convinces you, then maybe this will:

So, while we wait for science to figure out a way to make stress burn calories and make us all supermodels, get out there and garden!

T&T HQ: What’s Happening February

T&T HQ February

It’s really starting to ramp up here at T&T headquarters. With the season very quickly approaching, it is all hands on deck making sure all of our tiny plants are doing well and will be ready for the season.

At this stage, most of our plants still look like this:

Baby Petunia Plugs

Baby Petunia Raspberry Ripple

And like this:

Baby Aptenia Plugs

Baby Aptenia Arrow

But these babies are coming along nicely. And then, before you know it, your little baby will be going through all that teenage angst and that rebellious phase. Telling you that they don’t want to go to college, they want to move to Costa Rica and adopt a set of creepy adult twins from Romania. Wait… no, that’s not right.

Soon, these baby plants will have grown enough to get bumped up into more spacious pots. Like this:

After a quick trip to a garden centre/nursery, they’ll be adopted by a nice family and will be taken to their new forever home. Happy ending (with no creepy Romanian adult twins)!

Growing Green Thumbs: The Dirt on Dirt

The Dirt on Dirt: A Basic Guide to Soil

Soil provides the foundation for a plant’s vitality. Even if you provide your plants with the best of the best, like planting it in diamond encrusted containers or watering with bottles of Fengari Platinum, without good soil your plants will never reach their full potential. Kind of like the 40 year-old Harvard-educated, unemployed bachelor living in his parents’ basement.

Ultimately, it all starts with the good soil.

Good Soil

Do you have good soil? Well, the easiest (and possibly best) way to answer that is to have an expert take a look. You can bring a jar of soil (or several from different parts of your garden) into your local garden centre/nursery to see what you’re working with. The knowledgeable staff will lead you in the right direction with regards to improvements you can make too!

Alternatively, if you are feeling like an unstoppable force that won’t let anything stand in your way (aka Leslie Knope), you can examine your own soil. Full disclosure, I am not an expert when it comes down to the nitty gritty, science-ness of soil. So if you need to know that kind of stuff, you’ll have to do your own digging elsewhere. Let’s just go with the basics.

Types of Soil

Soil type mostly refers to the texture and physical properties of the soil, like nutrient retention and water drainage. There are three main types:

  1. Clay: heavy and sticky type of soil. Tends to hold nutrients well but is slow draining. This may cause problems with root rot. — Not Ideal
  2. Sandy: very light and porous type of soil. Very quick to drain but has difficulty holding onto water and nutrients. — Not Ideal
  3. Loam: the ideal type of soil. It retains nutrients and moisture well but also drains well. Most plants favour this type of soil.

To test your soil type:

  1. Squeeze Test: helps to determine the type of soil you have
  • Take a handful of moist soil and firmly squeeze. When you open your hand, the soil will either
    1. Hold its shape and crumble after being lightly poked à Loam
    2. Hold its shape but does not crumble after being poked à Clay
    3. Falls apart faster than you can say Jack Robinson à Sand
  1. Percolation Test: helps to determine the draining capabilities of the soil
  • Dig a hole roughly 1 inch deep and 6 inches wide
  • Fill the hole with water then allow it to drain completely
  • Fill the hole again with water
  • Monitor the time it takes for the water to completely drain
  • If it takes longer than 4 hours to drain, you have poor drainage

Soil Acidity

Okay, I know I said that I wouldn’t get into the science –y stuff but this is important. If you remember from high school chemistry class, pH is the measure of acidity/alkalinity. In the most basic explanation I can think of, soil pH relates to the amount of key nutrients that are available for your growing plants. Or something along those lines. Like I said, I’m not great with the science. Acidic soil has a pH between 1.0 and 6.9; basic soil has a pH between 7.1 and 14. Most plants prefer nearly neutral soils with pH between 6.2 and 7.2.

Testing kits are available at any garden centre or nursery and will produce pretty reliable results. Or, if you’re really hardcore, you can send it to special soil labs for extensive testing. Acidic soil is corrected by adding lime or ground limestone to the soil at planting time. Lowering the pH of alkaline soil is not practical, but knowing that the soil is alkaline may mean that you need to apply more fertilizer.

The Magic Fix

Compost Bin

Whether you want to improve your soil structure (i.e. change your soil type) or lower pH, the key ingredient is compost. Some suggestions for organic matter for your compost:

  • Shredded leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Dead garden plants
  • Remains of vegetable plants after harvest
  • Pulled weeds (not gone to seed)
  • Vegetable trimmings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea leaves
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Newspaper
  • Chopped straw or hay

Do NOT compost the following:

  • Weeds with roots
  • Weeds that have flowered or set seed
  • Cooked food, bread, meat or food with oil-based dressing
  • Pet waste
  • Diseased or insect-infested plant materials

Well, that’s it. That’s the super basic dirt on dirt.

Luck, Wealth & Health

Auspicious Flowers for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. While it is a time to honour deities and family ancestors, it is also a time to celebrate new beginnings. Flowers carry special significance during this time of year. Their growth after the long winter signifies life and good fortune. Decorating your house with flowers during Chinese New Year is a must; otherwise the upcoming year will not be auspicious. There are many flowers connected to this celebration, each with their own meaning. Here are just a few:

Plum Blossom

Plum blossoms are often the first to bloom after the long and harsh winter. They represent the renewal of life, perseverance, purity, hope, and luck.


Narcissus, also known as daffodils, symbolize good fortune, prosperity and good luck. It is believed that if it blooms on Chinese New Year day, the entire year will be prosperous and filled with good fortune.


Bamboo is a lucky plant that is a magnet for positive Chi energy. It symbolizes prosperity, fortune, and happiness.


Chrysanthemums symbolize longevity, joy and happiness.

Pussy Willow

Pussy Willows represent abundant luck and prosperity.


Orchids symbolize good family luck, fertility and abundance. It is believed that violet coloured orchids are the most auspicious.

February in the Garden

Garden tasks that you should be doing this February.

Now that January is all but done, we are one month closer to spring!! But that also means that we have a few more things to add to our gardening to-do list.

1. Garden Planning

Yes, technically this was last month’s job. But does garden planning ever really end? Haha. Once you’ve decided on what you want to plant, you have to decide where you want to plant it. Sketching out an actual blueprint of your garden beds is a must! Both because it makes spring plantings a lot easier and because it’s fun! This is a great indoor job for when it is gross outside.

2. Garden Tool Maintenance

Go through your tools to make sure everything is in good condition. Nothing sucks more than being ready to plant only to discover that the head of your trowel has been taken and used to make body armour for some silly… nevermind. Just check your tools. Sharpen whatever needs sharpening, oil whatever needs oiling, replace whatever needs replacing.

3. Garden Bed Prep

When the weather is nice, you can get out and play in the dirt. That is, as long as the soil isn’t still frozen solid or drenched. Clear out any garden debris then turn the soil and amend with compost/fertilizer. You can also dig up some new garden beds now so that the frost can help break down any large dirt clods.

Those are the big tasks. Easy peasy, right?!

Growing Green Thumbs: Sow vs Transplant

The age old question: is it better to direct sow seeds or transplant plant starts?

One question we often get is “Sow or transplant, which one is better?” Most seasoned gardeners will do a combination of the two but, ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. The best we can do is help you break it down.


  • Seeds are cheap… for the most part. When comparing a packet of seeds to a single transplant, it is easy say that the packet of seeds is measurably cheaper. And when you are growing a large number of a certain crop, it is certainly the more cost effective option. However, if you are only planting small quantities, transplants can be cost effective and provides a great way to support local farmers, nurseries and garden centers. While you can save seeds for subsequent years, the viability of seeds can diminish if not stored properly and if kept for a long period of time.


  • The variety selection of transplants can be limited whereas there is a wider range of seeds available. But in recent years, the selection of transplants has increased because of consumer demand. Sometimes certain varieties only come in seed form. So it is much easier to just get seeds.


  • It is super quick and easy to sow a bunch of seeds at one time. However, once established, time must be taken to thin out the seedlings in order to allow room from proper growth, improve air circulation, and reduce competition for water and nutrients.
  • Transplanting plants will require a bit more time initially to plant each one but once in the ground, they don’t require much more work and you get immediate satisfaction. Who doesn’t love seeing a neat and tidy, colourful bed of baby plants?


  • Growing from seeds can be riskier than growing from transplants. They are less resilient to diseases, pests and weather conditions. Germinating seeds will also have to compete with germinating weeds for nutrients and water in the soil. The germination rate may be only mediocre as the less robust seeds may not survive. Transplants, on the other hand, are much more resilient to diseases, pests, the weather, and weeds since they are already established plants with strong roots and good size. Here’s a good tip, make sure to harden off your transplants, which means exposing them to slightly cooler temperatures and some dryer conditions before putting them out into your garden. Hardening off helps lessen transplant shock, which is stress on the plant due to fluctuation in temperatures and conditions.

Time to Harvest

  • Since transplants are basically just small plants the time between planting and harvesting will be much less than with seeds. If you are in an area with a shorter growing season and you want to grow something with a longer time to maturity, transplants will be a better choice over seeds.

Type of Plants

  • Plants have their preferences. Often, root crops such as carrots dislike being transplanted because it causes root disturbances. This is why you won’t find certain plants in transplant form. If your local garden centre or nursery has transplants, those plants will likely transplant well.

Generally, if you are deciding between sowing and transplanting, consider these questions:

  1. Does the plant transplant well?
  2. Is your growing season long enough for the plant to fully mature from seed? Can you wait for the plant to fully mature from seed?
  3. How many plants do you want to grow?
  4. Can you justify the cost of buying transplants vs seeds?