Plant Buyers: Beware Of Disappointment

Posted on: 04 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Wonder plants don't live up to garden mail order and online catalogues' extravagant claims.

Claims about plants in mail order catalogues or online that seem too good to be true probably are, according to a new report from Which? Gardening.

A study of 25 varieties of plants found that only six lived up to the bold claims made about them. Five were nothing like their descriptions in the adverts or catalogues. Half were found to do what could be reasonably expected of them, but weren't anywhere near as exceptional as their descriptions.

Which Gardening Everlasting CauliflowerThe Everlasting Cauliflower from Plantworld - Gifted Gardener claimed to produce "10 or more sweet and succulent curds", but the Which? Gardening trial failed to produce a single curd.

The Hibiscus tricolour from Bakker failed to live up to its claims about three simultaneously flowering varieties growing on entwined stems. The most Which? Gardening got was two stems flowering at the same time.

The Brugmansia 'Flamenco' from Bakker produced just five flowers, nothing like the 'huge wealth of flowers' promised. They were also much paler than the brochure picture showed.

Which Gardening Brugmansia 'Flamenco'Some of the plants did live up to their bold claims, including the Red Cat's Tail from Bakker, the Lady Boothby fuchsia from Thompson & Morgan, the Rhapsody in Blue rose from Thompson & Morgan and the Moonshot strawberry from Plantworld - Gifted Gardener. All of these performed as described in the catalogues.

Plants are covered by the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which states that all items sold must be as described by the seller. People who find that the plants they have purchased do not live up to their description should contact the retailer for a refund or replacement.

"Even if we know what we are looking for when browsing through plant catalogues, it's easy to be side-tracked by stunning photographs and extraordinary claims," says Ceri Thomas, editor of Which? Gardening.

"However, you need to be aware that very rarely do plants live up to these bold claims and you could end up disappointed with the end results."

"If a claim or description of a plant seems to be too good to be true, it probably is."

Which Gardening Hibiscus tricolourWhich? Gardening ordered a selection of seeds and plants made up of items featured in magazine adverts and in widely available catalogues. All of the 25 varieties chosen had bold claims made about them, or had impressive photos of the plants.

The testers followed accompanying sowing or planting instructions or if none were provided, used good horticultural practice. Plants were assessed monthly from spring to autumn 2007 to see how they compared to claims made.

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