* Prices may differ from that shown
Gardens4you is a family run business based in the Netherlands which sells their products via a very colourful and extensive website (www.gardens4you.co.uk). The Jansen family has been in the horticulture business since 1895, according to their website, and sell everything for the garden, from tiny seedling plants to full trees; garden tools, pots, hedging, houseplants, seeds and vegetables.
The special offers immediately attract as they are prominent on the home page. The first thing I noticed was the discounted products which were very tempting. These included a £5 discount on a large conical topiary boxwood as well as smaller discounts on individual plants such as Magnolia and Viola.
Searching for specific plants is easy via the search box - in which you can input either name, position, colour, height or position. I searched for Wisteria, and immediately the site came up with a choice of 7 wisteria plants, ranging in price from £5.95 to £48. Each plant has a full colour photograph and a full description next to it to guide the buyer.
If you do not have a specific plant in mind, there are a multitude of ways to browse the site, ranging from the special offers which include bundles of plants for a particular season, top sellers to let you know what other people have been buying, or a number of search terms for specific areas such as patios.
More usual buttons offer collections grouped under Roses, Shrubs, Bonsai etc - but there are also buttons which offer advice and guidance for the less experienced gardener. I particularly liked the Garden Solutions section, which offered plants that solve specific problems in your garden. These include animal proof plants, drought resistant plants, wall covering, and plants for sandy soil.
The Complete Garden section gives a variety of plants to give your garden a complete makeover and a new theme. Choices range from colour themed gardens, to shrub gardens, to bulb gardens. The packages on offer here are all fairly reasonable in price, the most expensive option appearing to be the shrub garden package which came to just under £30
The Pots and Planters section contains a small range of what I feel to be rather twee and tasteless pots. I would not buy from this section at all.
Signing up to gardens4you was very simple; an easy online registration process with an emailed password.
Once I had logged in I was able to browse the plants on offer, adding items to my basket with one click. I ordered a pack of 3 small lavender plugs for £4.95 and a wisteria Blue Rain which had been reduced from £6.95 to £5.95. Buying 2 saved me £2.50, so I ordered two wisteria plants for £9.40. I felt these prices were excellent. I like to buy younger plants rather than fully grown varieties, and these prices were way below anything I could get at the local garden centre.
The checkout took me to a secure payment site. Shipping was £4.95. I ordered on the 11th April and the items arrived on the 19th April
Two days before the items arrived, I received a shipping confirmation from a Gerard Hoek to let me know that my items had been sent by first class post.
The items arrived as promised, left in my porch in a tall and sturdy cardboard box which I initially mistook for boxed cut flowers which had been sent by post.
The two Wisteria plants had a well established root system, and consisted of one long stem with buds. They arrived in a small plastic black pot, wrapped in plastic bag tightly tied around the stem so no compost could escape. An instructions label was embedded in the soil, as you would expect of any bought plant from a garden center. The plants both looked healthy, but one of them had slight damage to the end, where it had been broken off in transit.
The three small lavender plugs arrived in one large green plastic box, unsecured and not in pots. They had obviously been shaken around a bit but were undamaged. They all looked very healthy with succulent green leaves and an upright stance but they were incredibly tiny. The label on the bottom said 3x 5cm. Lavender Stoecha, and contained some basic height guidance and growing instructions.
The packaging in general was adequate and did the job, but I feel that it could have been a bit more secure. All the plants were protected in the larger box by air-filled packaging strips, which held the smaller boxes in place but did not protect the plants within those smaller boxes.
There is a 100% guarantee on everything sold, with a promise of a free replacement or money back if not happy with the product. Testimonials from happy customers in the UK have a special page and full customer names are given to every review.
I was a bit unhappy with the size of my lavender plants, but as this was the first time I had used Gardens4you I did not bother to use the guaranteed money back offer, deciding that I would not use the company again.
After a couple of weeks I received an unsolicited email, telling me that I was being sent replacement lavander plants. When I enquired, I was told that there had been so many complaints about the size of the plants that they were sending out replacements to all customers.
Unfortunately when the replacents arrived they were little better than the originals! I was sent 6 much larger, but very unhealthy plants - yellowing and clumpy. Six weeks later, the original lavenders are almost dead, and the replacement lavenders are the same size and still very yellow.
I am not happy with gardens4you and I don't think I will use them again. Apart from the quality of the plants sent, I think they are a little expensive. In total, my bill worked out at just over £19 - for 3 very tiny lavenders and 2 small wisteria twigs. I am lucky enough to have a twice weekly market locally, and I know that I can get more mature plants at a bargain price. Compared with garden centres these plants are probably a bargain - but all in all I don't think I will be using gardens4you again unless I plan to place a very large order that will make the £5 postage worthwhile.