I love Chicago’s garden centers as much as the next gardener, but they are too far away from where I live to make shopping there convenient. As nice as they are the prices n. As much as I would like to support these independent garden centers it really isn’t within my budget to do so all the time, especially in this economy. There is always mail order nurseries, but for residents of communities where check cashing places outnumber banks, and even grocery stores, that isn’t really an option, either.
The recent opposition to the proposed Wal-Mart in the 21st Ward has me
shaking my head for many reasons. Besides the jobs and opportunities
that this Wal-Mart can bring to a neighborhood that desperately needs
them I see the promise of many new gardens and gardeners. When I first
started my garden I didn’t have a lot of disposable income to use on
something that, at the time, didn’t seem so important. One of the
places that I looked for garden bargains in those early years was
I’d never set foot in a Wal-Mart before I became a gardener. I can’t even say I knew what a Wal-Mart
was before I was interested in gardening. A gardener can spot a sign
that reads “Garden Center” or “Nursery” from a mile away and the
temptation is hard to resist. It was the lure of the plant section at Wal-Mart that got me to enter a Wal
-Mart for the first time a few years back. Inside, I encountered three
seed displays; one for American Seeds, one for seeds packaged under the
Wal-Mart brand and one for Ferry Morse. The seed packets for American Seeds started at 10 cents a piece and went up to $1.00 The Wal-Mart brand seeds were only slightly more expensive but less expensive than the Ferry Morse brand who packaged the Wal-Mart
seeds. Then there was the selection of cacti & succulent plants and
the tender bulbs and houseplants, many of which I’d only seen in online
catalogs, books and gardening forums. I was in gardening geek heaven.
With an investment of a few dollars I had just expanded my garden and interest in plants and Wal-Mart
had made a customer out of me. Over the years I’ve been back many
times, to buy seeds, outdoor and indoor plants, pots and lots of
gardening ephemera. You can look through the archives of the MrBrownThumb blog and find many plants that I bought at Wal-Mart– if not for Wal-Mart I wouldn’t have been able to afford many of them. Shopping for plants at Wal
-Mart also gave me the opportunity to expand the diversity of plants in
my garden. I’ve requested many gardening catalogs that never came, I’m
going on four year wait for a Burpee seed catalog. Looking around the
gardens in my neighborhood there is a repetitive quality to them.
Everyone who gardens ends up with the same plants because our options
are very limited and in starting my garden I was able to incorporate
plants that many around here had never seen planted in Chicago.The
photo above is a flower of a Gloriosa superba from a tuber I bought at Wal
-Mart. It cost me $4.00. It doesn’t survive the winters in the ground
so I dig it up every year and divide the tuber and share it with
someone who admired it growing in the garden. Many of the tender bulbs
that I picked up at Wal-Mart I’ve gone on to introduce to and share with neighbors and friends who admired them.
becoming a garden blogger I’ve been fortunate to make friends with
gardeners who share or trade plants and seeds. I have less of a need to
shop at Wal -Mart since learning how to grow plants from seed or
propagating my own plants through cuttings, but at one time that wasn’t
the case. If people don’t like Wal-Mart they shouldn’t shop there. If people don’t like the labor practices at Wal-Mart, they shouldn’t work there. My only regret in shopping at Wal-Mart is that I had to shop at stores in
the suburbs and had to spend money outside of my community.
In opposing Wal-Mart
building in the 21st Ward not only is the Chatham neighborhood being deprived of
jobs and economic growth, but it is being denied the
possibilities that grow alongside a garden when this hobby is made
accessible to all and not just to those that can afford a trip to the
North Side to drop a couple of hundred bucks at a garden center. The
cost of gardening in Chicago needs a price rollback.