Lowe's Garden Center

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The garden center at the second largest home improvement chain is decently stocked and moderately priced, with friendly employees who are slightly less informed about plants and gardens than those at our first-place pick.

This North Carolina-based chain is the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world. Our Lowe's garden center review found prices on our virtual basket of foliage and supplies were pennies lower than those at Home Depot -- $172.16 versus $173.92. The low-price leader was too close to call accurately, however, because a different assortment of items might have yielded a different bottom line. Throw in the price-matching guarantees that each store advertises and the difference becomes negligible.

The reason for this vendor's second-place box in our garden center comparison reflects slightly inferior product selection and staff expertise. During our on-site Lowe's garden center review, employees were welcoming and willing to share their knowledge but we left the store feeling as though we had received conflicting advice. After asking about plants for a part-shade garden that gets afternoon sun, for example, the first person we spoke with advised part-shade perennials and shrubs while the second employee said full-sun plants would do well in our yard but didn't explain why. And a query about deer-resistant plants sent the staff scurrying for an answer in a reference book. While we appreciated the effort to provide accurate information, we recalled that the Home Depot employee had rattled off deer-resistant plant names from memory. That said, a review at Garden Web urges shoppers not to write off this retailer despite employees' relative inexperience because pricing is good and plants bought here generally thrive.

Lowe's, like Home Depot and Walmart, is often criticized by consumer reviewers for mistreating the plants it sells. Some Lowe's garden center reviews posted online claim that shade-loving flowers are left to swelter in the sun while full-sun perennials wither in the shadows of larger shrubs. Additionally, they say that plants are often labeled incorrectly. To avoid any design mishaps, declares a post at Garden Web, make sure you recognize the plant or wait until it blooms before buying.

Bottom line: Averaging together pricing strategy, plant and supplies selection, and employee preparedness nets the Lowe's garden center a respectable grade.

Gina Briles

Gina K. Briles writes family, household, and shopping-related product reviews. She is a displaced Jayhawk and a coffee addict living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two small children, and Vizsla dog.

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