Garden centres face new challenge from box stores

Wim Vander Zalm at Art Knapp Plantland store in Port Coquitlam. ARLEN REDEKOP / PNG

Wim Vanderzalm of Port Coquitlam’s Art Knapp Plantland Talks About Store Differences

From a recent Vancouver Sun Article

Wim Vander Zalm, owner of Art Knapp Plantland in Port Coquitlam, says he doesn’t think it’s common knowledge that garden centres only carry A-grade plant material.

“The involvement of box stores in the garden business has definitely grown over the years. It has been both a good and a bad thing,” he says. “It is tough to do an exact price comparison as size and quality do play a role. But generally, garden centres offer a more diverse range of plant material and we find customers want expert advice on how to care for the plants they are buying.”

Vander Zalm says what bothers him most about box stores is that they often sell plants that aren’t suitable for gardens in our climate zone.

“I once saw a very large $300 fan palm being sold for outdoors. Unfortunately, it was the kind that is not hardy here. Only the windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) is hardy enough to survive outdoors from one year to another.

“I warned the customer who was unaware and was grateful for the advice. It may have been an oversight on the store’s part, but I think all traditional garden centres do pay attention to this kind of detail because we want customers to go away and have success and come back again.”

Sometimes the way plants are dug in the fields and repotted also make a big difference to the way they will ultimately perform in the garden, says Vander Zalm.

“Most garden centres, for instance, won’t buy hedging cedars that have been machine-dug in rows,” he says. “A machine will run down a row of cedars and lop roots off wherever. We prefer to see cedars hand-dug. This is definitely a more costly way of doing it, but we end up avoiding the potential of cutting off important large roots to the detriment of the plant.”

At the end of the day, box stores are doing a good job at getting more people interested in gardening, he says.

“Box stores and garden centres are different animals. Both will succeed. Many people will shop based on price alone, whereas others will shop for quality, a bigger selection and expert advice.”


In the Garden: Garden centres face new challenge from box stores

Not long ago, there was really only one place to buy plants for your garden – the local garden centre. Today, a lot has changed. Garden centres in Metro Vancouver are being challenged on numerous fronts, especially by stores, such as Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Rona and Costco, but also by supermarkets, like Superstore and Save-On-Foods, and pretty much every corner grocery store, all of whom want a share of the gardening pie.