Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Case of Mistaken Identity: Who's to Blame?

It can happen to anyone. You buy a plant, thinking you're getting one thing, only to find out later it wasn't what you thought it was.  Sometimes it's the bloom color that's a dead giveaway, and sometimes it's something else. I shop in all different places for my plants - Lowe's, Meijer, local and non-local IGCs, Walmart, and mail order nurseries. I've had this happen at least once with every one of them.

The latest incident happened just today. I stopped at Lowe's on my way home from babysitting for our adorable grandson, Anthony, to pick up a roll of landscape fabric.  We're redoing a stone path that has sunken down over the years and Romie wanted to put this under the gravel.

As I walked into the garden center, a red yarrow caught my eye.  I have been wanting a red one and I thought I'd get either 'Paprika' or 'Strawberry Seduction'.  I'd only seen 'Strawberry Seduction' in one place (a local IGC), but it was pretty small and I wanted a bigger pot. I'd had 'Paprika' several years ago and I liked it, but it somehow got destroyed by one project or another.

What I saw at Lowe's were two different yarrows:  Achillea millefolium 'New Vintage Red' and Achillea millefolium Song Siren 'Layla'.  The only difference I could see in the two was that 'Layla' was just a tad bit more true red and slightly shorter.  I doubt that most shoppers would even notice the difference as they were placed in the same location, mixed up together.

Does this look like violet to you?

'Layla' looked more like the shade of red I wanted, but the tag said its bloom was violet.  It sure didn't look violet to me, and when I asked the young man who checked me out what color he thought it was, he said, "Scarlet."  Precisely.  I bought three of them.

After I got home I planted them up and as I pushed them out of their black plastic nursery potS, I noticed the stickerS on each one said ACHILLEA SONG SIREN LAURA. 


Which is it?

I went ahead and planted them at the back of the fence, thinking these were going to be 20-22" tall at maturity.  After all, that's what the tag said they would be. I mulled around in my mind what might be the explanation for the discrepancy in the labeling - typo, wrong tag, wrong label on the pot itself...

When I got back in the house, I did a Google search to see if there was indeed an Achillea Song Siren 'Laura'.  Yup.  And guess what color 'Laura' is.  RED.  'Laura' also only has a height of 14-16".  So...good news on the color issue and bad news on the height.  I need to move it. I have a second spot where it will look nice, in front of the Sunjoy® Gold Pillar barberries, so tomorrow I'll put them there.

Now my questions are:

  • Who is responsible for the mislabeling? The grower? (In this case, Corso's.)  Lowe's?  
  • Who puts the removable tag into the pots before they're put on the retail benches for sale?  
  • Do I let Lowe's know that all their  Achillea millefolium Song Siren 'Layla' plants are actually 'Laura'?

So many questions...


Michael said...


I found this tag on a Passiflora vitifolia (red "vine leaf" passionflower) - the species listed as the scientific name is Passiflora caerulea (blue crown). I see a lot of these mis-labelings on passionflowers.

Kylee Baumle said...

Michael ~ Oh, that might even be worse! There's just no excuse for that one. Unfortunately, wrong tags happen with quite a few plants and bulbs. When buying amaryllis bulbs, for example, you'd better not be dead set on it being what it says it is. It can be very frustrating!

Beth at PlantPostings said...

Oh yeah, that's happened to me before, too. Or I plan a garden for someone and the store thinks it's OK to just swap out varieties of the same genus. But then my plans are all mixed up. Oh well, sounds like you have good plans for the ones you got.

Colleen said...

It has happened to me as well buying something and not ending up what I thought it was.
Places like Lowe's, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and some of them other places like that don't do the labeling. All the labeling is done from the places that they order their plants from.
If you mail order plants and you receive something that isn't what you ordered; 9 times out of 10 if you contact the company they will either refund your money or will send you; hopefully the correct plant.
Anymore when I buy plants and bring them home I immediately get on the computer and do some checking and get information about the plant that is listed on the tag. If it isn't what I want; I either return it or plant it in a container and decide later where I want to plant it in the ground.
I had bought a rose one time and the tag said that it would get 3-5 ft tall and it ended up being a climber.

Laura said...

I work at a local nursery. We grow all of our perennials from plugs. Mix ups can happen at many stages. The plug can come in marked wrong, sometimes customers remove tags while shopping and then change their mind and we play a guessing game also hoping we have figured out correctly what the plant is. But...if we are not very sure then we sell as a mystery plant. By the way...the nursery I work at has Strawberry Seduction..you should stop sometime..we are not that far from you! :)

Kylee Baumle said...

Beth ~ It's just part of the deal, I think, but yeah, it can be frustrating when it doesn't work out to your advantage.

Colleen ~ I love researching a new plant that I've bought if I'm not familiar with it. This time it worked out although I do need to move it since it won't get as tall as I expected.

Laura ~ What's the name of the garden center where you work? I know those plants go through many stages between the starting point and the ending point so it's bound to happen sometimes. I still wonder if I should let Lowe's know that they're mislabeled though. Of course, they don't know me and probably wouldn't think I knew what I was talking about and dismiss it. But someone is going to be disappointed when they buy that plant and it doesn't end up like they thought it would. There were about eight plants with those labels, because I looked at each plant to make sure I got the best ones. LOL.

Unknown said...

That is so frustrating, especially if the colour and size of plant are not what you had intended.

Casa Mariposa said...

I bought a purple daylily that turned out to be brick red. Oh well, no worries! It's a beauty so it's a keeper but I was surprised, for sure. Until your yarrow begins to grow, it will be a mystery as to which variety it is. :o)

RobinL said...

I always assume that Buyer Beware is the way to go. I always compare the tag to the pot, because I know consumers mix them up. I highly doubt that Lowe's is responsible, and you'd have to go far up the chain to fix it. And looking forward to meeting you at the MG State conference this fall! I signed up for your Social Media 101 so that I'd have that chance!

Kylee Baumle said...

Jane ~ It IS frustrating and guess what? I returned to that same Lowe's and that time there was an entire section of lavenders that were labeled as salvias! I'm talking over a dozen mislabeled plants. I did point it out to them and when I went back a few days later, there they were, still labeled salvias. *sigh*

Casa Mariposa ~ For a plant collector like I am, it's not as big of a deal if I end up liking the plant, but when you wanted something specific and it's labeled as something similar (but not quite right), it can be a problem. The average backyard gardener wouldn't know the difference and I supposed that wouldn't matter either, in some cases. This won't be the last time it happens, in fact, read my comment to Jane above.

RobinL ~ No, I'm pretty sure Lowe's isn't responsible and I told them that when I talked about it to them later. And YAY! I'm so glad I'll get to meet you!!! See you in October!! :-)

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