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Plants for Sale?


When I open my garden, I always have a plant stall – in fact, there are two here, because our nearest Nursery brings some of their plants to sell, and they donate a percentage of the sales to the NGS. To help me to make more money for the NGS charities, I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts.

I work very hard throughout the preceding months growing and propagating as many plants as I can for ‘the days’.

This year, I filled two long tables and overflowed onto the ground, too. I was pleased that I made more than I did last year. I had three price bands – 50p, £1, and £2.

However, it appears that people don’t want to buy seedlings, they go for fully grown plants. I was left with a lot of ‘babies’ this year, even though I priced them very low – two or three for 50p.

Then, last weekend, we went to visit another NGS garden, and I was quite shocked at the prices charged on their plant stall. I started to wonder if it was me – had I under-charged on my stall, or was this garden owner being a bit over-optimistic at what visitors would pay?

I sold a pot of this Geranium for £1.

And pots of Erigeron karvinskianus (my little white daisies) for 50p each.

Here’s where I’d like some ideas and opinions, please.

What do you think? Did I set the prices too low?

Should I stop trying to sell seedlings, and grow them on into plants instead?

Do you prefer to buy plants in flower – that would limit what I could sell, of course, and might well depend on the weather in the months or weeks before.

Would you be happy to buy a plant with no flowers if it had a photo or picture of the flower with it?

I had a thought – I could grow lilies in pots and get them into bud or even into flower – would they be something you’d buy?

What if the plants were unfamiliar to you? Do you like to buy something unusual, or ones that you know already?

I know there are lots of questions – sorry. If you remember that the NGS charities are all well worth supporting, you’ll understand why I want to get it right next year.

Geranium himaleyense ‘Gravetye’

Why is this photo here? Well, I’m busy snipping off every Geranium seedhead possible to collect all the seeds, so there should be some Geranium plants to buy next year! (I do hope that idea is on the right track!)

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wow at those prices I would have bought tonnes, its good to set the price low but maybe they are a little low, perhaps start at £1 and go up to £3? I love places that sell plants, its a bonus that puts the shine on a visit.
I would buy seedlings personally but appreciate pictures of what the plant should look like.

15 Jun, 2011


I am surprised you had anything left at those prices but you are right people do seem to want instant sucess in the garden and buy mature plants.
Looking at prices in GCs I think you could push your prices up a little, but still offer great value for money.

I would of thought people would want to take away a little of the garden they had seen. I would buy your babies, most definately and be happy to grow them on.

15 Jun, 2011


What interesting questions you pose Spritz.

When I saw your prices I was surprised - I expected them to be higher; the gardens around here charge more than that - I think £2 may be an average?

However, although the big bright flowers draw the attention, I like to have some smaller plants that I can grow on and enjoy watching their growth.

The big specialist fuchsia nursery round here do something interesting - for every plant they sell there is a large flowering version for us to see (you can't buy the big plant) then right next to the large specimen are the much smaller ones (not yet in flower) that are available for sale. I hope that helps?

15 Jun, 2011


Most sellers report that plants sell better if they are in flower. I dont think increasing your prices will necessarily sell the small ones? But I agree with a range of £1-£3.
I wonder if the nursery selling their plants limits the sale of yours? I would suggest a different sites for both stalls perhaps if yours were in another part of the garden they may attract more interest? I tend to buy plants on garden visits if its something I have just seen growing and its unusual, so yours would appeal to me, I do find if the plant is too young I dont get it home safely so tend not to buy. Today I have been to Bateman's (Rudyard Kipling) and there was nothing in their plant sale I could not get in a GC very disappointing.

15 Jun, 2011


i wud buy if it was in your garden and i loved it.......... like your e.daiseys love those ....... prices are really gud but as the others say maybe from a £1 .
i do like larger plants , but not with flowers on as i then find they neecd to settle in ,then i get more flowers and they last longer..............., and yes maybe site urs away from .... g.c ones , as a matter of intrest , does all the money go to charity or do you take out cost of materials !!, just wondered after all its not cheap doing all these things , and no ones made of money !!

15 Jun, 2011


I dont understand why they didnt sell Spritz....I love seedlings, to me its like i have grown the plant myself....i wouldnt care if there were no flowers or if the plant was small...but i would like the seller to be able to answer any questions posed and i know you would have done that....Oh.... wish i had been there...

15 Jun, 2011


I would buy the smaller one's as they have all the rest of the summer to grow on, that would give me time to find the right place's for them.
If the plant is a familiar one then 50p to £1 would be fine, but Geranium's etc could be from £2, still a very good price.
How would plant's in flower be when I got home? I would rather have plant's that look healthy and maybe some bud's.
As for information I would ask or maybe a few photo's of the plant's would help.
I wished I lived nearer so I buy your lovely plant's Spritzhenry, :-)

15 Jun, 2011


I think people today are used to garden centres when the plants are in full flower and at their best so “impulse buy” I would love some of your small plants but if I arrived with no knowledge of the plant I would like to see a “mother plant” by them or a picture of what they will look like when fully in flower. Or perhaps a note on a cane by a plant in the garden to say seedling for sale on stall.
Is your garden open again this year? Or is it next year now please.

16 Jun, 2011


Lets be honest Barbara, garden centres are generally overpriced and usually offer 'bog standard' plants that you could buy anywhere else. (Alchemilla mollis for £6 for heavens sake!).
If you visit a ('gardeners') garden like yours, you are going to see exciting, unusual plants and you will be taking notes or photos and making a list. If you can then buy plants from the owner and ask questions about same plants, then that's a bonus and if you are pricing them at £1, £2 or £3, I'd be as happy as Larry!
I think my only request would be a name label in every pot. A potted plant that's not in flower or has no flower buds on it would not stop me buying it.
We're gardeners - we love to see plants, talk plants, share plants and buy a bargain!
If only I lived closer!! :-))

16 Jun, 2011


That's all helpful and interesting. I'll be making notes of what you've all said. Thank you! I'll answer everyone later, as it's dog-walking time, and the clouds are looming. :-0)

16 Jun, 2011


You are definitely on the right track, Spritz! You had a seedling of Geranium 'Summer Skies' for sale, and when I was told it was only 50p I bought three! I would still have bought three for £1 each. So low prices just might encourage extra sales, but I knew what I was getting. I agree with Jen h's excellent suggestions above - yes, I would buy an unusual, unfamiliar plant if there was a picture of it in flower (We are so used to seeing illustrated labels in GCs).

I didn't realise at first that the other stall was manned by a visiting nursery - or that they gave a percentage of their takings - maybe flag this?

All very interesting . . . just hoping our suggestions aren't going to give you too much extra work.

16 Jun, 2011


My problem is that I'll run out of space in the greenhouse, I think. If I start sowing seeds for next year to get decent sized plants, they'll still have to have winter protection. I certainly will grow the left-over seedlings on, so they should be ready to sell next time.

I had a word with the Nursery - told them they needed to advertise more, so they should have a sign up next year.
OH and I both agree that their presence makes the whole thing look a lot nicer and more 'tempting', plus of course the percentage they give us is a help. I don't think there's anywhere else suitable in the garden to have my own plant stall.

I'll be collecting pictures from catalogues from now on, as printing out my photos is so expensive, although I will do a few, obviously. I do already label every pot! I also have a list of plants on the front of the stall with descriptions and their 'needs'.

Jen, I might be able to put a few plants in flower with babies in front of them, I'll see what I can do. :-)

I only have a 'by appointment' group coming now, in early July, then that's it until next year. I'll put the plants out for them, just in case anyone wants to buy any. You never know, do you.

Just to clarify - you are supposed to post a notice to say what percentage goes to the NGS (or to other charities). I donate at least 50%, but the expensive stall in that other garden only gave 10% - which I thought was a bit mean. I can't afford to donate all of the money, there are of course costs involved.

16 Jun, 2011


I am surprised how cheap your prices are I agree that maybe the prices should rise £1-£3 I prefer slightly mature plants but looking at your responses it's a mixed bag really. Think you do a wonderful job for this cause and I think your garden is a delight:)

16 Jun, 2011


As an NGS Garden Owner, I'll add my experience on plant sales.
We price nearly everything at £1 to £2; only small 'common' stuff at 50p and choice things (such as daphne bholua) at £3 and maybe other shrubs at £2.50. We label everything and top dress each pot with grit (which makes it look smart and fresh).
Beside the sales table, I have a folder wth a small photo (Google'd off the internet) with a couple of sentences describing the size and growing conditions each plant requires. No need to have flashy pictures - a small one of the plant in flower is all that's needed. Failing that, a copy of a Dr Hessayon book does the same job - it's usually pictures that sell plants.
You'll never be able to compete with the quality of the professional nursery plants but a sign at each stall, highlighting the %age of the cost going to charity might just redirect the visitors over to your plants more often.
Hope this helps - Andrewr

16 Jun, 2011


That's basically what I do, Andrew. Instead of a folder, I had a list of plants plus their descriptions and requirements on the edge of the table. I also had a 50% sign. I think the larger plants and shrubs were underpriced, so I'll rethink that. I like the idea of grit on the pots - thanks for that.

I'm definitely going to display either a stock plant in flower if possible, or pictures of the flowers if the plants aren't in flower. I could put a book there too. Why not? Good idea. :-)

Thank you, Nana d. That was kind.

16 Jun, 2011


I used to open my garden (not for the yellow book) but to raise money for projects for the local school and the pensioners group. Maybe knowing exactly where the money was going helped our sales. I also ran a plant stall at the church flower festival and fete. They used to make about £30. When the treasurer and an elder came to collect the money the first day they asked how much we had. We had been so busy we did not have a clue so I said about £60. When they counted it up there was £120 and that was from a 10am opening time to 2pm. We still had another 2 hours and a second day. We sold plants which were similar in size and maturity to yours but we had big notices up saying what they were and how much they cost. I find people hate asking about prices. We also had bedding plants for sale. Where possible I had the seed packets on show.
I did not find the guest nursery in any way detracted from your sales table. The stuff they had was quite different. All their stuff was priced so no problems there. I agree over wintering in a greenhouse to get plants ready for open days is a nightmare which is why I did not do it after the first time. You will get people who are not hobby gardeners like yourself but just want their patch to look nice. These will be the people who asked for lupins and bedding plants. I found by selling them a lupin and saying plant X goes with that very well I doubled the sales. People who knew their plants asked for specific things and if we did not have it that year if i knew of someone who had it in their garden I would try and have it the following year. I also sold cut herbs in sealed plastic bags ready for the freezer. They went down a bomb. In fact a chap from Dalkeith who won the masterchef title one year bought them and was delighted with them. Once they are frozen they crush beautifully so no chopping. All of our plants were donated by locals and we would get boxes of stuff delivered to the house which a friend and I potted up and made sales ready. One year I was in a DIY store and spotted a trolley full of what looked like very neglected lupins. I asked what was happening to them and was told they were being scrapped because they were dead. I asked and the manager agreed i could have as many as I wanted free if I thought i could save them. We had 40 plants for sale at £2.99 each. They were in 3L pots. All they needed was some TLC. They sold like hot cakes because everybody knew what they were. Primroses and primulas also sold very well. None of these in flower. Perennial pansies sold very well because people knew what they would look like and the perennial part appealed to them.
I am sorry I was so harrassed the day I came but 2 very active children could have ruined your day as well as mine if I had not kept a close eye on them. They had a great time and want to come again so I am going to have to be sneaky next year. I did not realise your prices were so cheap but as everyone else says if you know what you want and know what to expect it is in order for plants to range in price according to what one might expect to pay in a GC. Younger plants establish better in my opinion and the prices would reflect that they still have some growing to do. I am shocked really that your daisies were only 50p I would have been happy to pay a £1.00. Perennials should not be less than £1 and bedding no more than 3 for a £1. Hope this helps.

4 Jul, 2011


It does - thanks for bothering to write all that!

I've got lots of ideas, and the general concensus seems to be that I did undercharge for the smaller perennials, but that annuals were fine at low prices.

I'll be collecting pictures and photos over the next 12 months, and we're going to buy a laminator as they're very affordable now.

I've got to get busy propagating Erigerons, I think! lol. They won't be 50p next year, either. ;-O

5 Jul, 2011


If you have things like geraniums in pots which you want to overwinter plunge the pot in the border somewhere and dig it up next year or put lots of pots on top of your compost heap and cover them over with soil then unearth them in the spring. A Laminator is an excellent idea. I made laminated labels for my potatoes this year. I used spare slats from wooden venetian blinds and plastic plant labels as stakes and just stapled them on with an ordinary stapler. I found I could use the laminating sheets A4 size with several descriptions or pictures inside as long as I left enough room to cut them up so that each pic was laminated all round.Although the price of laminators is falling the price of laminating sheets seems to be growing especially for the smaller sizes. 50p is ridiculous when a garden centre would charge many times that.
I think you made a very valid point about advertising. When you have your laminator make some ads and get shops to put them up for you. There is a Morrisons on the main road on the way to you and that has a customer base well suited to your target market. Up here they are sympathetic to allowing free ads for Open Gardens etc. as are the other supermarkets except ASDA. I have not seen any ads in there. Once you have laminated your pics you can put the price on using a felt pen or a paper label, then you can change the price in an instant, and reuse the same pic the following year. No need to have laminated labels on each pot.

6 Jul, 2011


We take posters to the local Garden Centres as well as supermarkets. The library also displays one for us, a Drop-In Centre for over 50's in the town centre plus my dentist in the waiting room.

Another idea we use for plant sales at Red Cross Plant Sales - £1:20 each or 3 for £3:50, £1:70 each or 3 for £5. Customers only save 10p but they always buy in threes!

7 Jul, 2011


Yes, we take posters around too - we advertise in the local paper and on the net too - there's an on-line local news site. Our 'local' library and the horticultural college display one, as well as the two shops in the village up the hill - plus the Nursery nearest to us.

The nearest supermarkets are over 9 miles away, and aren't too happy about posters.

Good idea about the 'buy three'! :-))

7 Jul, 2011


Sorry Spritz have only just found this one.......have visited several NGS gardens and not one was selling plants for 50pence, most started at £2.00 and went up to £4.50.+ but they were large plants and well established for that price.we gave all of our plant money to the NGS....but, we had not intended to sell plants as we sell tea and cakes, so it was a small collection, and nothing out of the ordinary, like yours would have been, and certainly not the amount of plants......
One other NGS has a lovely Heuchera nursery, alongside his plant table, which was very popular, the Heucheras sold at £6.00 and that was last year!!
It would not bother me if it was in flower, I like to buy something that I would not have grown myself,but, it all depends on where you live as to what sells.....lots of flat dwellers came to us, so did not want plants, just to sit for an hour or two with tea and cake in a pretty garden.

8 Jul, 2011


That's one difficulty in being rural - most people have gardens, most grow veggies, and it's difficult to know what people will want. <sigh>

10 Jul, 2011


It's a case of 'know your audience'. If it's plantspeople who are visiting, they are on the look-out for something unusual. If it's veg growers, then they're probably looking for an unusual veg or two. If it's local friends and/or ordinary garden visitors, they'd like something easy-to-grow and preferably with a flower on so they can see what they're getting. Anything making a good show when the garden is open would also be a good move

11 Jul, 2011


Dobbies garden centres in Scotland put up posters for NGS gardens who open during the year. There is one in Radstock. That one and the one in Cirencester both get visitors from much further afield because I have spoken to them in the shops. I know it is a long way from you but both Tetra and I travelled from way beyond Radstock to get to you. Sheilabub even further. For the cost of a postage stamp in sending the ad to them I think you might be surprised at how far people are prepared to travel. I know you go to rare plant fairs is there a chance one of the stalls there would carry an advert for you.

11 Jul, 2011


I do agree that we should advertise more widely. OH has said that, too. The rare plants Nurseries might possibly help - not too sure about that, as some of them also have gardens and open them.

11 Jul, 2011


I remember being asked if I was upset by all the commercialisation of Christmas and my reply "Any advertising is good advertising". Unless your Open Day clashes with theirs I think it is a case of spreading the word about how good those rare plants are and how well they suit gardens in this country. You could offer to hand out their leaflets at your Open Day.

12 Jul, 2011


Yes, I could. :-)

13 Jul, 2011


Sadly, we live in a somewhat suspicious age: if something is "too cheap" the tendency is to think that there must be something wrong with it.

Perhaps, rather than selling seelings individually, mark them as 3 for £1 or 5 for £2?

It sounds like an awful lot of work on your part and those of others who open their gardens for charity; you should all get medals!

25 Jul, 2011


Thank you - that's kind. I did that with seedlings this year - it wasn't very successful, really. I think 'most' people don't want the bother of growing plants on - they want mature specimens they can plant out straight away.

25 Jul, 2011


*s* I prefer small and cheap - more fun to watch them grow and less loss if they don't.

25 Jul, 2011


I wish more people were like you!

25 Jul, 2011


From experience with both Yellow Book and Red Cross Gardens, I'd say go for decent size plants. The vast majority are not as keen as you or me spritz and just want something they can put in the ground, water a couple of times and then ignore.

25 Jul, 2011


Yes, exactly, Andrew.

25 Jul, 2011


How can I get in touch with sprizhenry and what part of the county is his stall selling plants

4 Aug, 2011


leaving a message here should reach them! we get notified of messages on threads that we're conributing to.

4 Aug, 2011


Hallo 1duckwoman - welcome to GoY! I only have a plant stall when my garden is open for the NGS, which is normally 2 or 3 times in June. I live in West Somerset - and by the way, I'm a 'she' not a 'he'. lol.

4 Aug, 2011

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