Lancaster Farms goes direct

Published 8:45 pm Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cheryl Lajoie and Toree Hamilton stand amid the lush foliage at The Plant Outlet @ Lancaster Farms, the wholesale nursery’s recent venture to sell directly to the public.

Cheryl Lajoie and Toree Hamilton stand amid the lush foliage at The Plant Outlet @ Lancaster Farms, the wholesale nursery’s recent venture to sell directly to the public.

Lancaster Farms in North Suffolk has delivered some good news for everyday gardeners — it now sells direct to the public.

The Plant Outlet @ Lancaster Farms opened last fall and will continue to operate on a seasonal basis, according to Christina Keeling, who does marketing for the wholesale nursery.

“We take a summer break, and we take a winter break,” Keeling said, adding that the outlet will operate March through July and then September through November.

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The nursery’s leaders thought that opening to the public, after more than 40 years in operation, would “fill a niche in the area,” said Cheryl Lajoie, manager of The Plant Outlet.

“So many nurseries and garden centers are gone because of the economy,” she said.

“We do a really good job growing plants, and sometimes we grow more than we can sell. We thought it would be a win-win.”

The sectioned-off outlet was opened in the front portion of the nursery, at the corner of Bridge and Knotts Neck roads, so as not to disrupt landscaper and contractor customers, according to Lajoie.

Landscapers and contractors can send their clients to The Plant Outlet to pick out what they’d like and then have them report back with their wish lists, Lajoie said.

While nurseries and big-box stores may sell plants unsuited to the area’s conditions, everything for sale at The Plant Outlet has been grown on the farm and is proven to thrive here, she said.

“We know it will grow here; it wasn’t brought from Florida on a truck,” she said.

Lajoie also said that the plants for sale are tagged with detailed information, such as the plant name and cultivar, mature size, growing requirements and appropriate growing container size.

Lajoie described herself as a “plant geek” who has been on the landscaping side of the business for the past 12 years.

“I see what landscapers are asking for and what people are asking for, and I try to bring things in that are most beneficial for customers,” she said.

“They can come and buy anything, and it will do well.”

Prices at The Plant Outlet are comparable with the big-box stores, Keeling said. “You are probably getting a much better quality product,” she added. “It’s got to get through lot of hoops to get here.”

Because the plants are grown on the farm, they are not damaged from over-handling, Lajoie said.

“We have a little tractor that runs around (picking up the plants) and we load (them) right onto the table,” she said.

Plants include perennials, annuals, trees and deciduous and evergreen shrubs, she said.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.