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Real Estate

How to order ordering plants by mail without regret

| Sunday, April 26, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

You can buy trees, shrubs, and flower plants through the mail that are as high-quality as those you can get locally, and often in greater variety.

Problem is: Not all mail-order nurseries are equally reputable. And you can't just drive your sickly plant back to the store to show it and complain.

The lesson: Investigate before you purchase. A website such as davesgarden.com or magazine articles are ways to sleuth out a nursery's track record.

Winnowing through the wording of plant descriptions can help you avoid disappointment. Too many superlatives, for example, makes them suspect, such as when every item promises to be “carefree,” “easy” and “blooming year after year.”

• If prices seem too cheap, the plants being sold are likely low-quality. Ten gladiolus bulbs might seem like a bargain at $4.99 — until you read the fine print stating their size. Any good nursery should specify the size of their bulbs. High-quality gladiolus bulbs are large, which means more and better blooms.

• The nursery claims an ironclad guarantee, which is generally a reliable indicator of nursery quality, however. But a nursery may bank on the fact that many people won't bother to contact it to make good on a guarantee, especially if the plants were inexpensive in the first place.

• A guarantee for a free replacement just brings you another plant more worthy of your compost pile than your garden.

• Consult books and reliable websites for information about the plants you're seeking.

• When a mail-order plant arrives, inspect it. If the plant seems OK, plant and care for it. If problems arise, don't be too quick to blame yourself.

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