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Shopping in your Independent Garden Centre, Greenbourne Nursery

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

✦ 2021 thoughts from Daniel “Chook” Fowler

I’ll be honest with you all, this would be about the 10th or 11th edit to this article. At the beginning I didn’t really know what to write, however I knew what I had to write about. I could have gone down the easy road and written about what’s good to buy for Christmas or something sheepish like that.

However, while I have calmed down by the 11th edit, I still felt compelled to share some advice when visiting these enchanted little centres of horticultural joy. The motive for the article arose over obviously a very stressful and unusual time in human history.

Just as the world changed so did our clientele at Greenbourne Nursery.

We went from servicing dominantly dedicated garden loving human beings to being inundated with panic stricken individuals who had all of a sudden discovered their gardens and hence the garden centres. Then, like birds following a flock, they seemly were lining up at our doors with random and sometimes demanding questions. We were, to a degree, caught a little off guard.

Not off guard to the extra work, but off guard to the new type of client. Which again brings me to the paradox of this article, you see most people that read gardening articles are the people that were there before all this craziness and will always be our core clientele. Yet you have to hear me rant about all this. Well up to edit 9 it was all rant, however in my ultimate wisdom I have concluded two things, potentially all of our core clientele will read this, have a laugh and might pass it onto the odd person who is in the early stages of becoming gardening obsessed like the rest of us.

The other conclusion is that the odd, random garden rookie (yes it might be you), will see the word ‘shopping’ in the title and engage in the article looking for some sort of half price special. They then will be totally enthralled by my enigmatic writing and get caught up in my dream to re-educate the world for the better. If you’ve read up to here thank you, read on and enjoy a bit of fun, it is dedicated to the hardworking nursery person.

Come with a plan

If you can, it is great. It seems at the moment we are getting a lot of people through the nursery who are a little ‘green’ when it comes to gardening. Which is great. Gardening is good for you.

So, when I talk about “come with a plan”, I’m not referring to the plants themselves as we can advise you on this, this is what we know. What we don’t know are the conditions of the areas you wish to plant out. This is the plan, the information we require. Let us know which way the garden bed faces, the soil type (bring in a sample), how much sun the spot gets, rainfall estimates etc. When you’re formulating your plan, give us the answers that we can not possibly know. We can assess the conditions you have and then come up with some fantastic planting ideas for your areas.

Beware of the google search

Haven’t internet search engines changed everything forever? We now have access to all the information in the world at the touch of a button. We can all diagnose our own worst case medical scenario when we get a rash, we can convert inches to centimetres in an instant when we go around to Nan’s place and she wants to know your height and of-course we can search for the most unique plants that may grace the wonderful earth that we live on.

Be it a rare South American carnivorous orchid that lives 300 feet up in the canopy or maybe a rainforest species that has only ever been found in the droppings of nomadic pygmy monkeys, it would be great to grow and own plants so unique, let alone have them for sale in the nursery.

Now don’t get me wrong, we are certainly able to sell you many, many unique horticultural treasures. We are constantly working with existing suppliers and sourcing new growers that produce plant lines that are something different and interesting for the person who has everything. However, we can’t sell and source every plant that exists. Believe me we would love to, as most of us desperately love plants of all forms.

We are, however, restricted by what the growers are producing, what quarantine restricts us to, what our climate zone can contain and by what actually exists! So please be patient with the nursery staff when they explain that there are certain plant species that we just can’t obtain in order to sell to you.

In the car parks

An increase in customer arrivals means that we have new and extra logistical challenges to deal with. Please when you are in our carparks, with a little bit of extra traffic at the moment, do use your care. Take your time and please look for in particular the elderly and young children who are most vulnerable in these situations.

Now, more sales obviously equates to more deliveries. Our domestic transport industry has been pushed to the absolute limit recently. They are an absolute credit to this great nation we live in and they have carried a lot of businesses on their backs to get them through such a period. Now, most independent garden centres are a little short for room when it comes to delivery docks. Most of our precious space is taken up with our amazing horticultural product.

So, a lot of these large trucks are forced to squeeze in and out of the small carparks that are attached to the nurseries. While the transport operators do their best to arrive outside of peak trading hours, there will always be occasions where they will turn up during busy periods. There will be occasions where a truck may have to block traffic in order to complete the delivery. Please find it in your hearts to show a little patience to both the driver and the nursery staff vigorously unloading the delivery.

I promise you will not be held up long. And if you see a truck slowly reversing in an attempt to finalise the delivery and resume their logistical voyage, please give way to them. I can only imagine how difficult a job it would be to operate a large semi-trailer, let alone going backwards in a small car park. I am certain that if you give way to them you will be greatly appreciated by both delivery driver and nursery folk and I can also promise you this, if you think you are in a rush, it is certainly nothing compared to the driver’s situation.

I’d actually like to take the opportunity here to thank all the freight operators for their patient and tireless work over the last period, it is greatly appreciated.

Introduce yourself or say hello

The nursery staff are of-course there to help you. It’s the main reason we work here. Our plant obsession is obvious. but the joy of helping friendly customers is truly rewarding.

More often than not, we are trained staff that have answers to questions that few would know. Problem solving is a major credential that a lot of nursery employees possess. So please come into the nursery and access this free advice from us.

Please come in and bask around the yard, if you have confusion about anything, politely get the attention of a staff member who will be more than keen to help out a friendly customer.

A phenomenon I have witnessed over many years of nursery is the friendly approach. A customer who introduces themselves to the staff member prior to asking the question will always spark the enthusiasm from within the staff member.

I have watched and experienced long days of intense horticultural questioning. Relentless questions one after the other isn’t a bad thing, however it can be the manner in which they are delivered can be morally deflated. Reaching a point where the staff member loses the desire to fully answer and commit to the question.

Most of the time the questions are politely delivered and come from quite seemingly nice people, however without that small bit of consideration it can unfortunately become almost machine like.

So, if you want to get the best answer to a problem you have, approach the staff member and introduce yourself. Make friendly human contact be the dominant reason for the interaction, then proceed with the questions you require the answers for. I will guarantee you now that these small little efforts will not only get you full attention but will inspire the nursery staffer to go that next level for you.

Remember the nursery worker is there to help you, there for you. It’s that subtle little word help that makes it important, never be too demanding on someone who is willing to help you. I think it is a good philosophy for most things in life.

Physical assistance is a luxury

The customer service that you get in your independent garden centre is truly second to none. The staff will always be able to offer you help to your car. It is as simple as that. All that I would like to mention in regards to this is, please be appreciative of this. There are not many places left that supply you such service.

The nursery worker may have loaded 80-90 bags of soil into car boots on that single day. However if you simply show your appreciation with a gracious "thank you" you will make the nursery worker feel like the bag you purchased was filled with helium.

Nobody knows everything

When I occasionally (very occasionally) get verbally abused by someone for not knowing the answer to their horticultural question, I sometimes reply, "Well good sir, if I did happen to know everything, then, with all respect to my current employer, I probably wouldn’t be working here as I would be required to give lectures at the University of Cambridge."

Even with all our passion towards all things horticulture we won't know everything. We learn every day and our knowledge grows. When new problems arise via customers' plants, we certainly do our best to assess and remedy and potentially research the problem for a later response.

Another analogy to consider is that of your local GP. Again, another profession working incredibly hard at the moment. Now you will visit your GP and you will have your list of ailments. The GP will assess these and provide you with either a verdict on the spot or they may not be completely sure and will enlist the services of various specialists.

Now consider the nursery worker. You will provide your plant’s list of ailments and they will then assess and provide an explanation, however the nursery worker doesn’t have a list of experts to direct you around town. We can’t send you to soil specialists or a fungal botanist.

There certainly isn’t regular access to an entomologist round the next corner or a botanical tissue specialist should you have a phytophthora outbreak. So, what do we do, we stack the nursery with different degrees of knowledge. All our staff have different botanical work histories, different interests and different specialities.

Nobody knows everything, but with a good nursery team and a bit of patience, we get pretty damn close.

So, if you made it this far through the article, I thank you.

As previously mentioned, it was mainly contrived out of respect to my fellow colleagues. I’ve seen tolerance levels pushed to the limit over the last little while and I just wanted to politely let everyone know what a fantastic, hardworking bunch they are.

We truly do love helping and assisting you when you come into the nursery and I want this to continue for as long as it can. I don’t want the young up and coming nursery workers disillusioned by a small percentage of the clientele (many of whom are just potentially frustrated with the world rather than the moment).

Nurseries are here to provide respite from the big wide world. We are small pleasant worlds within worlds where you can come in and get lost and dream for a little while. And if you please, take home some potted dreams with you.

Thank you.

Finally, can I please thank the team at Brilliant Online. Chrissy and the team have done amazing things this year, and here at Greenbourne Nursery we always appreciate their support.

Thank you to everyone through the year for reading and I look forward to more entertaining stories over next year as I begin to broaden my writing skills to encompass all things horticulture. So have a good break, see you round the yard for some good advice or just a friendly chat.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. From Daniel and the Greenbourne Nursery Team.


Greenbourne Nursery, Wauchope Plants and Landscape Supplies:

a/ 239 High St, Wauchope NSW 2446

p/ +612 6585 2117


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