Longtime nursery owner Steve Smith asked customers at his family’s business what keeps them coming to the garden center this time of year. (Getty Images)

Longtime nursery owner Steve Smith asked customers at his family’s business what keeps them coming to the garden center this time of year. (Getty Images)

Four great reasons to visit the garden center in August

If the dog days of summer are getting you down, hightail it down to your local nursery for some inspiration and therapy.

I was in the nursery the other weekend, looking for some ideas for my next column, when it occurred to me: “What is it that draws shoppers into the garden center this time of year?”

Considering that there is nary a shy bone in my body, I thought, why not ask a few customers why they were there? This is what I found out.

“I gotta keep the magic going.” Although August is a truly slow time of year in the garden center, for real gardeners, it’s just another month in the gardening year, which is reason enough to head down to the garden center to see what is new. There are always holes to plug where something just didn’t work out or a hanging basket that was missed in a watering cycle and is now beyond resurrection.

No matter how skilled of a garden designer you may be, there is always some tweaking and editing that needs to be done, and the good news is that nurseries have just what you need to do just that, even in August. In the annual department you will find gallon-size and larger specimens of dahlias, zinnias, cannas, celosia, coleus, begonias and sunflowers, to name just a few of the options. You can plug a hole pretty fast with these well-established plants.

If it’s a shrub you are looking for that has some visual interest this time of year, you can choose from several options including a whole host of hydrangeas for both sun or shade, a fragrant blooming ‘Ruby Spice’ or ‘Vanilla Spice’ Summersweet, or a Hypericum inodorum ‘Red Star’ which has yellow blossoms in early summer and red berries later on, or ‘Floralberry Sangria’ with the same yellow flowers and red berries but with dark green foliage accented with deep red undersides.

And of course, there is an endless list of perennials that are strutting their stuff in August and beyond. Two of my favorites are both perennial sunflowers, one called ‘Flore Pleno’ for its double golden flowers and the other ‘Lemon Queen’ for its clear yellow single flowers.

“I’m looking for the bargains.” It is true — like all retailers, there comes a point when we need to turn our inventory. While Nordstrom’s may call it their “rack,” in our case it’s our “Take Me Home Please” department. These are good plants that have just gone past their prime and need to get out of their pots and into the garden. You can usually save 50% on these treasures. It is always well stocked this time of year.

“I need some inspiration.” When it comes to surrounding yourself with the beauty of plants, nothing beats a trip to the garden center. I often find customers that had no intention of purchasing anything when they came in and simply needed to get out of the house. You can almost see their blood pressure drop as they move along the tables and displays of flowers and foliage combinations that are designed to inspire and uplift a customer’s spirits (OK, they are also designed to encourage impulse purchases, mea culpa).

“I’m looking for a sympathy gift.” One customer I talked to was looking for a plant to give to some friends that had just lost their dog. Whether it’s a celebration of a birthday or wedding anniversary or a celebration of life, nothing says “I care and love you” like a living plant. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

If the dog days of summer are getting you down, do what my customers do and hightail it down to the nursery for some inspiration and therapy. You’ll be glad you did!

Steve Smith represents Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

Free class

Sunnyside Nursery’s next free class will be “Fabulous Fall Grasses & Perennials,” 10 a.m. Aug. 27. For more information, go to www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.

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