Sunday, February 1, 2015

Farewell to a Canadian Gardening Institution

Sometimes we take long standing institutions for granted until they are gone.

In need of a winter pick-me-up, I decided to pop into the Gardenimport's website to get a little spring preview. What a shock it was to find a brief letter from Dugald and Lynn Cameron saying that "it's been a good run, but after 32 years, we've reached the end of the road".

It seems that Gardenimport, a venerable Canadian garden mail-order company, is the latest casualty of these recessionary times.

As harbingers of spring and fall, Gardenimport's twice-a-year catalogues were always something to look forward to receiving in the mail. Yes, what they sold was pricy, but you could always count on finding a selection of rare and exotic perennials and bulbs that no one else offered.

In an interview on the CBC' radio's "Ontario Today", Dugald recounted that he started his company back in the 80's when gardening experienced a huge serge in popularity. At that time, it was hard to find a nursery that sold anything out of the ordinary. The arrival of big box stores with volume purchasing power and the growth of specialty nurseries however, made it increasing difficult for Gardenimport to compete on price. Despite heroic efforts and a new website, sales continued on a path of gradual decline.

Expressing her distress about the closing, Marjorie Harris praised Gardenimport for helping to create "the kind of taste we have in gardens today." She went on to lament consumers who were willing to put the bulk of their budgets into hardscaping and "ten cents on their plants."

But can we blame consumers caught in a recession for choosing price over quality?

Perhaps not, but putting price above other considerations has an unfortunate side effect of limiting our choices as consumers. The closing of Gardenimport is likely to be most keenly felt by Canadian gardeners who live outside urban centres with their arsenals of big box stores and garden centres at which to shop.  Even here in the Greater Toronto Area it will be challenging to find many of the more unusual plants and bulbs I purchased in the past from Gardenimport.

With the closing of Gardenimport, the selection of rare and unusual plants and bulbs available for sale in Canada just got that much smaller.

What feelings do you have on the closing of Gardenimport?


  1. I remember this company from back in the 80s! So sad to see it go.

  2. It will be much more difficult to find unusual plants. Pickering Nursery (the rose specialist) has also closed.

    1. Is Pickering closed? I hope not! My impression is they are not shipping roses in 2015. Their website seems to suggest that they may a "small core of rooted cuttings available in spring of 2016." I have gotten most of my roses from Pickering, so I'd be sorry to see them go altogether.


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