Where to get the best plants this spring

Garden Supply Hot Spots

by Laura Everard

Whenever you talk to gardeners, regardless of who they are, where they live and what kind of garden they have, they always have the garden center that they swear by, and they tend to get very “Sharks and Jets” about the whole situation. I don’t claim to have the perfect inventory, but here is my own brief list of plant sources for the home gardener. All of them are within a brief walking or driving distance from Center City, are locally owned and offer a wide variety of plants and products that are bound to please a gardener of any experience level.

Primex Garden Center
435 W. Glenside Ave., Glenside, Pa. 

This fantastic, family run garden center is just a short drive from the city, and it is certainly worth the trip. The friendly staff is knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions you might have about your garden, and they sell everything you may need to get started from ground up: high quality tools, soil, mulch, fertilizers and pots in every shape, size and color. Primex also stocks hard-to-find items that will excite even the most modest plant geek. Whenever I go to this garden center, I am also pleased to see that they carry local products such as Organic Mechanics soil and mulch. Primex prides itself in having the largest range of organic products in the region, and it always has a wide variety of plant material. A huge advantage that Primex has over many of its competitors is that it is open year-round, and although its plant material is limited in the winter, you can still find many items to help you plan for the next growing season.

Greensgrow Farms & Greensgrow West
2501 E. Cumberland St. & 5123 Baltimore Ave. 

Greensgrow, which just turned 20, is arguably one of the best options for the urban gardener in Philadelphia. The original farm is in Fishtown, and there is a smaller satellite garden center in West Philadelphia. Both locations have a refined, high-quality range of plant material that is well taken care of by their passionate staff, and they’re open year-round. As soon as you walk in, you’ll see repurposed objects, such as rain barrels, being used to grow arrangements that range from ornamental to edible. The aesthetic walks hand-in-hand with their admirable push toward sustainability and eco-friendly practices. The staff is knowledgeable of practices ranging from small-scale, urban landscaping to hoop houses and farming, so any gardening questions you may have are likely to be answered. You can find organic potting medium, organic fertilizers and basic tools, and you won’t want to miss all the interesting containers that are often tailored for an urban lifestyle, such as pots that can hang on banisters. They also offer a CSA program and participate in the SNAP program; they are committed to providing local, healthy foods to the community, regardless of income.

Secret Garden
7631 Ridge Ave.

As the name suggests, this clandestine garden center is tucked away in the Roxborough/Manayunk area and is frequently overlooked by many residents. Despite being a little farther outside of Center City, this fantastic place should not be missed. Upon entering, you are surrounded by beautiful plants and trees that are sure to inspire. The knowledgeable staff and high-quality plants are just a couple of reasons why this place truly stands out. The very reasonable prices can even compete with box stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, so this is a fantastic choice if you are just starting out and are scared of blowing your budget while experimenting in your garden. Despite the fact that it doesn’t have a website (although it does have a Facebook page), you can find glowing reviews all over the internet, and the locals swear by it. Like other garden centers, it also sells a selection of tools, soil and other gardening supplies. The friendly owners and staff make you feel welcome and are happy to advise you on any gardening plans. Unlike many such centers, Secret Garden is open seven days a week, which is a huge bonus for the weekend gardening warrior.

Urban Jungle
1526 E. Passyunk Ave. 

Tucked away on bustling Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, this funky warehouse holds tons of surprises. Urban Jungle prides itself in being an urban gardening specialist, so if you’re in a row home, it will probably have what you are looking for, including hangable planters. The constantly rotating variety of plants, containers and knickknacks helps set this garden center apart from many others—this shop aims to please, and you’re sure to find something a little different that will make your garden (or your living room) unique: Don’t miss the terrariums, figurines, water features and air plants. Another thing Urban Jungle is known for is vertical gardening, so if you are considering a green wall for your space, this place should be one of your first stops for a consultation, and the staff will take you through design, installation and maintenance.  They also offer consulting and landscaping services for standard gardens, just in case you need a little extra help with your project.