When it comes to shopping online, most of us have got that down. We do our grocery shopping online and moan about the poor substitutions. We buy two pairs of shoes in different sizes, knowing there's a return policy good enough to let us have a try-on session at home. We're careful with passwords and only buy from sites we trust. It's the 21st century- who's not comfortable buying online?
When it comes to buying plants online, it's a little less certain. It's not like you can buy a few bare roots and choose which one looks best in your garden. If you're buying young plants, there's always going to be a leap of faith involved. You're buying potential, not the end result. While you might have grounds for complaint if nothing takes, the seller is always going to be able to argue it's your poor care that caused it.
It's important to make the right choice, though the options are endless. Bearing in mind a few essential dos and don'ts can make the whole process much less of a risk, giving you more time to dedicate to your gardening.
Do: Start Small
If you have never used a retailer before, start with a small order. This might mean paying more in postage for a single item, but it is a necessary precaution.
Order a single item from a retailer and try it out. It might be tempting to take advantage of offers or splurge on multiple purchases, but try and resist. Bear in mind if your first experience is good, you can always go back for more.
Don't: Try Something You've Never Grown Before
Let's say you have always fancied growing blueberries. You never have before, but this year is the one for it. You find a new-to-you retailer and buy a few blueberry plants. You receive them, happy enough, but when they get into your garden, they fail to thrive.
There are two reasons that's happened. The problem is the retailer, and you should avoid them at all costs. Or - and this might be tough to hear - it's about you. If you've never grown something successfully before, how do you know it's not your care that has lead to a plant's sad demise? Go with something simple and familiar. Blaming a retailer for your green-thumb failure could deny a relationship with a store that has done nothing wrong.
Do: Go With Reputable Online Stores
Use the same judgment that you do for any website. Check the quality of the pictures, the written text, security certificates, and review sites. Swing by their social media; is it flooded with thousands of complaints? Or worse yet, do they not seem to have much of a social media following?
Ask around online forums for retailers with a good reputation. Growers such as www.chrisbowers.co.uk are well-established, and word of mouth is powerful. If you do decide to risk on an unknown quantity, don't spend a fortune.
Don't: Pay By Debit Card
This applies in general to shopping online, but it's worth a reminder. Debit cards offer no buyer protection. Credit cards and PayPal can step in if something goes wrong and refund you. Always try and use these options when purchasing for the first time.