CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When you buy plants for your garden, do you buy them because they are a certain brand or because of the label on the pot?
Recently, independent garden centers are up in arms about a new deal between the large plant grower Monrovia and big-box chain Lowe's.
Monrovia formerly sold only to independents -- and they have now entered into an agreement with the big-box retailer Lowe's to sell their plants at the popular stores across the country.
Bill Mills, who ran the retail side of TerraSalis for years and who still continues to manage their landscape design business, told me they have not purchased from Monrovia in a decade.
"I would rather sell our name [TerraSalis] than theirs. Independents always need to be updating, securing the best of purveyors. We try to buy local as much as possible, and that can have us sourcing from West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio. We know these growers and their staff on a personal basis. They represent their product honestly with quick delivery and low minimums," Mills said.
He added that Monrovia is under severe pressure from their creditors because of their quantity of inventory.
"To stay solvent, they have no other choice than to sell volume, to Lowe's," Mills added.
Retailers and growers responded quickly to this former independent-exclusive brand being sold at a mass merchant. Opinions are on the strong side.
TodaysGardenCenter.com saw responses that were both angry and philosophical. Monrovia representatives James Szadek and Tim Barthel answered many of the questions posed by the retailers.
Here's a sampling of comments:
"The question here is whether Monrovia agreed to pay-by-scan. If so, then will that be my terms as well," asked David Jackson.
The scan-and-pay idea means the grower does not get paid until the plant is sold to the end customer by the big box. If the box store does not sell the plants, they are returned to the grower and not paid for, which often has been the death knell for many growers.
Szadek answered the question about scan-and-pay: