/ Home & Energy, Shopping

Buying plants online – it’s not all rosy

Green computer mouse in grass

If our experiences are anything to go by, buying plants online can be a lottery. Our Gardening team used several well-known suppliers and got a mixed bag of deliveries. Some plants were damaged, others diseased.

Four members of the Which? Gardening team ordered an assortment of young plants for trials this summer, from well-known online suppliers and one smaller specialist website.

While many of the plants arrived on time and in perfect condition, we had quite a few letdowns. They included:

  • Small plants that were little more than cuttings
  • Damaged plants
  • Plants with dried-out roots
  • Diseased plants
  • Plants that were the wrong colour
  • Plants that were incorrectly labelled

Plants that are incorrectly labelled can especially wreak havoc with our testing, since if we can’t be sure that a plant is what it claims to be, we can’t include it in our trials.

We’ve also had problems with the delivery of the plants themselves. Many deliveries were held up in the post, came late, and in one case, not at all! Again, this makes co-ordinating our trials a bit tricky.

Your rights when buying plants online

Of course, when ordering a product by post or online, you have some legal protection from the Sale of Goods Act, meaning most companies will offer to refund or replace an item.

But it’s not so straightforward with plants. It’s not always obvious that something is amiss straight away – it may be several weeks or months before they flower, for example. By the time you’ve noticed the flowers are the wrong colour, it may be too late to organise a replacement in time for the growing season.

Have you been satisfied with the plants you’ve received after ordering them online, or have you had some disappointments? If so, what were they?

Comments
Van Meuwen says:
19 January 2015

Hi June

Thank you for your message.

In order for me to help with your enquiry please send me your full address details, including postcode and your order number.

Once I have received this information I will be able to assist further with your query.

Kind regards

Natalie

Sue says:
29 April 2015

I received 2 Hibiscus Std Bare Root Plants (order number V10151578) from Van Meuwen in December. I planted according to instructions, but both plants appear to be dead. I have written to Van Meumen twice to complain and would like new plants or a refund. I have received no reply. In the past I have had excellent service from this company. Very disappointed.

Van Meuwen says:
1 May 2015

Hi Sue

Thank you for your review, please accept my apologies that you have not received a reply from our Customer Care team.

I am sorry to learn of your disappointment with your Hibiscus. Whilst various factors can affect the results of any living item, our customers are usually delighted with the quality of their product and the resulting display. I appreciate that this has not been the case in this instance.

Accordingly, I have replaced the Hibiscus collection for delivery when our next stock arrives. This is currently scheduled to be by the end of this month.

Thank you for bringing the matter to our attention.

If there is anything further I can be of assistance with, please get in touch. I’ll be happy to help.

Kind regards

Natalie.

christine says:
5 May 2015

purchased 3 buddlia from van muewan, one arrived dead and another has since died. customer service is a joke, no one replys to emails. eventually got to speak to someone, who promised to replace the order, guess what,I am still waiting.
order ref. V10389386

Nikki says:
28 May 2015

Hi Christine,

Thank you for your post with regards to your replacement Buddleja collection. Please accept my apologies for the length of time it has taken us to respond to this review.

I have checked the status of your order and can see that your replacment was sent out on 06/05. I understand that we have been in touch with reference to your letter and that you have confirmed that they arrived safe and well.

I do hope that they are performing as expected, however if this is the case, please do get in touch and we will look into this for you.

Kind regards,

Nikki.

Caroline Martin says:
8 May 2015

I ordered plants through Groupon last month. I was informed they were dispatched on the 18th April and I am still waiting. I have contact Van Mewen via email twice but have not heard anything if they were received now I would have thought they would be in pretty bad condition. The reference number given by Van Mewen is TM1332815X. I note that you are still selling the product on Groupon.

I would appreciate either my plants sending or a full refund.

Regards Caroline Martin

Van Meuwen says:
28 May 2015

Hi Caroline,

Thank you for your review. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I am sorry to learn that you have not received your order and that you have not received a response from our Customer Care Team. I appreciate the frustration you have encountered.

I have now located and replied to your email.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Caroline says:
14 June 2015

Thank you for my email Mark. I immediately responded by providing my name and address. I still have heard nothing infact I had an email from yourselves suggesting that this matter had been resolved? Please can you elaborate?

purna gedela says:
21 May 2015

Absolutely disgusting online garden center. There is never anybody at bthe other end of the telephone line. No one ecer looks at your email. So they never respond. Such companies should be abolished from trhe face of thew earth. Why should we innicent custoimers suffer in thge hands of trhese money grabbing tradesmen. I never got my plants by post which I have been waiting for an year. Like I said I spent hours on phone and there was never never any body to talk to. I sent many emails and waiting for ever for a non existent reply. I lost my money and I dont know what to do about it. Van Mewen is at the bottom of the pit as far as customer care. There is no care. I remove them from my garden requirement and I advise to do so.

Van Meuwen says:
28 May 2015

Hi Purna,

Thank you for your review. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I am very sorry to learn of the disappointing experience you have had with Van Meuwen and that you have had extreme difficulty getting in touch with our Customer Care Team. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to queries. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

If you could please provide me with your order number and the email reference from your reply from our Customer Care Team (this should look like this TM123465X), I will be happy to investigate this matter further for you.

Kind regards,

Mark

Mrs Valerie Strong says:
24 May 2015

I recently purchased from an advertisement in paper a magnolia tree for the patio. This arrived in a flat brown paper parcel and on opening it discovered a thin llong twig with a few branches at right angles (this was how it managed to get into a flat parcel) not at all like the advertisement. I immediately rang them to complain and was told I could return the magnolia at my expense and they would send a refund. I informed them I was 74 years old and had two buses to get to post office and as the magnolia was nowhere like their advertisement they should collect the same. Was told this was not their policy I have purchased frequently plants on line and have never received a plant in such a condition and as I am on a pension cannot afford to buy plants that I cannot use..there was no sign of life in the plant and was told to scratch the twig o see if it was
green and that the magnolia would be better by next year. The fact remains that all Ihave got is a long twig with a few branches and as there are only a few twigs at right angles this plant is not going to look any better next year. Also this plant is a grafted plant and this was not told in the advertisement. The picture in the paper show a full bush with flowers. I did not expect to get this but did expect to get a bush not a twig and at least see some green at this time of the year. I certainly will not buy from the again9 and will tell my friends not to use this company.again.

When first stocking our new garden we had one or two similar experiences when buying shrubs by mail order or on-line so we stopped doing so. There might be no alternative for many people such as yourself if there is no convenient garden centre so it would be helpful to know which suppliers to trust and which to avoid. You might not wish to give the name of the firm you bought your pathetic magnolia from but there is no legal reason why you should not name them on this site. Given that people choose magnolias for their beautiful blossom and foliage and attractive form or shape, whether as a bush or a tree, I would say the supplier has let you down quite badly. Magnolias do take some time to develop and your specimen will not get off to a good start even after the plant has become established. This year seems to be starting well for shrubs and our magnolias and ceanothuses are looking magnificent at the moment; our neighbour’s cherry was spectacular when it blossomed in an absolute explosion of colour. These are the effects people want and pay for and growers should recognise that and supply pleasing plants. Unfortunately commercial horticulture has become an industrialised operation where palming off the sub-standard stock through distance selling is one of the less reputable aspects of the trade. I feel so sorry that you have been disappointed in this way.

Van Meuwen says:
28 May 2015

Hi Valerie,

Thank you for your review. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I am sorry to learn of your disappointment with your recent order. The picture of the Magnolia in the advertisement is a representation of when the tree has reached maturity, I am sorry if this was not clear prior to your purchase. We do try to provide as much information for our customers regarding the Magnolias by advising they will be despatched as bareroots, which is an ideal condition for these to be in transit. If you are unhappy with your order and would like further action to be taken, please provide me with your order number and I will be happy to look into this further for you.

Kind regards,

Mark.

David McLaughlin says:
27 May 2015

On 10/04/2015 I purchased from Van Meuwen 2 magnolia trees. After I took delivery several weeks ago I planted the trees. Since then they have stood lifeless in my garden. My complaints to trhe seller have been ignored. Life is too short to wait for attention on the phone. How may I take forward my complaint and seek redress for these useless items?

Van Meuwen says:
28 May 2015

Hi David,

Thank you for your review.

I am sorry to learn that your Magnolias have not performed as expected and that you have had extreme difficulty getting in touch with our Customer Care Team.

Magnolias supplied in bareroot form will be dormant on despatch and can take a while to produce any top growth. Rest assured that this is perfectly normal as your Magnolias are likely to be focusing their energy on establishing a strong root system.

If you are still concerned, I would advise gently scraping the bark at the base of the stem to check for green flesh just under the bark. If this test reveals no signs of life, then please get in touch with your order number and I will happily take action from then.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Val Edge says:
27 May 2015

I also purchased 4 Magnolia standards from Van Meuwen which arrived in a brown paper bag looking quite dead. Weeks later after planting and taking great care of then the only thing showing any life is a tiny shoot growing from the root stock which is not where I want growth. I emailed company and sent photos of the plants and all I’ve had from them is an automated response telling me I don’t need to send more emails as they will get around to dealing it but are very busy. I am also a pensioner who cannot afford to loose money or waste time trying to grow things that look like dead twigs.

Van Meuwen says:
28 May 2015

Hi Val,

Thank you for your review.

I am sorry to learn of your disappointment with your recent order and that you have not received a response from our Customer Care Team. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to queries. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

If you could please provide me with your order number and the email reference from your reply from our Customer Care Team (this should look like this TM123465X), I will be happy to investigate this matter further for you.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Val Edge says:
28 May 2015

Hi Mark, ref no: TM1353895, Order no: VMEW2122065, 4 Standard Magnolia Trees,
I’ve included a copy of email sent which included photo’s of the dead trees. I am requesting a full refund as dead trees are no good to me and as I’m a pensioner in my 70s I can’t afford to be on the losing end of this transaction.

Dear Van Meuwen, after seeing your add in the Sunday Express dated March 1 2015 I ordered V56538 Magnolia-4 shrubs £24.96 +P&P £3.95 total £28.91 from your website. I received the shrubs before the end of March and took great care in planting and protecting them, but now we are near to the end of May and the only signs of life these shrubs have is shoots starting to grow from the root stock of one of them which is where I don’t want them. Your add stated that there is a 5 Star Guarantee so could you look into this matter please. Mrs V Edge

Van Meuwen says:
29 May 2015

Hi Val,

Thank you for your response and providing your email reference number, I have now located and replied to your email.

Kind Regards,

Mark

Val Edge says:
4 June 2015

Hi Mark, thank you very much for getting me a full refund for the Magnolia trees that didn’t perform very well. Val

Ann Fry says:
27 May 2015

ordered shrub online 28th April 2015 reviewed 9th May
Planted as per instruction but the shrub is dead
Tried phoning order line referred to customer service who do not answer, wasted an hour trying to contact them. Very disappointed hope to recover cost from Mail on Sunday.

Van Meuwen says:
28 May 2015

Hi Ann,

Thank you for your review.

I am very sorry that your Shrub has not performed as expected and that you have had difficulty getting in touch with our Customer Care Team.

Whilst various factors can affect the results of any living item, our customers are usually delighted with the quality of their product and the resulting display. I appreciate that this has not been the case in this instance.

If you could please provide me with your order number, I will be happy to investigate this matter further for you.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Malcolm says:
28 May 2015

I bought some fairly large dwarf magnolia bushes from Van Meuwen. Both have died. I have emailed them several times asking what they are prepared to do about the poor quality of plants. ABSOLUTELY NO RESPONSE OR REPLY.
Finally, I gave them a two week deadline otherwise I said I would report their failure to act upon their supposed ‘5 STAR GUARANTEE’.
The date (22nd. May 2015) has been and gone and still no reply. Poor service.
Poor accountability. A problem does not go away if you ignore it.
I am now telling everyone I know NOT to shop at Van Meuwens.

Van Meuwen says:
28 May 2015

Hi Malcolm,

Thank you for your review.

I am very sorry to learn that your Magnolias have not performed as expected and that you have not received a response from our Customer Care Team. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to emails. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

If you can kindly provide me with your email reference code (which should look like this TM12465X) I will be happy to look into this further for you.

Kind regards,

Mark.

As a more optimistic comment, about 3 years ago I bought a number of shrubs from Buckingham Nurseries at Tingewick. A number of them failed to develop. I had planted them carefully but we do not have the best soil around and I’m always prepared for some failures. Anyway I took photos and emailed them with an explanation asking for their thoughts, but did not complain. I immediately had a most helpful response explaining that some plants they had bought in from Belgium had been subjected to cold and that might be the problem. They offered to replace all the plants and refunded any they no longer stocked. Needless to say I’ve used them again!

Ref code: TM1342038X ; Order no: V10400712 Citrus tree complete collection

I made my first Van Meuwen order in mid-April, and was delighted to receive the items a few days later. I took great care in re-potting the trees and watering according to the instructions, confident of the 5 star guarantee offered by the company. However, a few weeks later, I noticed that despite my best efforts, the lemon tree looked distinctly unhealthy, with brown spotted and yellow leaves. I emailed the company on 9th May 2015 to ask for advice, and sent a photograph along with my query. However, to date I have received only an automated response, and a further follow-up email sent 26th May 2015 has yielded no response. What is worse is that the lemon tree is still in decline.

I would be grateful if this matter could be looked into, as this is turning out to be a less than satisfactory customer experience overall, and as such I would avoid buying from Van Meuwen again in the future.

Van Meuwen says:
29 May 2015

Hi,

Thank you for your review.

I am sorry to learn that your Lemon tree is not performing as expecting and that you have not received a response from our Customer Care Team. I appreciate the frustration you have encountered.

I have now located and replied to your email.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Barry fry says:
29 May 2015

I received a token reply from Van muewen by e mail stating they have been too busy to answer the phone,I am thinking this is a an Internet con I hope other people will take notice and not deal with this ridiculous company.

Van Meuwen says:
29 May 2015

Hi Barry,

Thank you for your review.

I am sorry to learn that you have had extreme difficulty getting in touch with our Customer Care Team. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to queries. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

If you have emailed our Customer Care Team and can provide me with the email reference code from the automated reply (which should look like this TM12465X) I will be happy to look into this further for you.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Noelle says:
30 May 2015

Order number v10390819 Fuchsia Fairy Plugs – advised dispatched 28 April 2015

I would be very grateful if you could find out what happened to my order. As per above, emails do not get dealt with and telephone complaints go unheeded.
I have never known such a difficult company to deal with and it is such a pity because your plants have been lovely but the frustration to go through to finally get the orders delivered, I am thinking is it worth it.
Can you please just do this one little thing for me. I have written, emailed, telephoned. Now I have found this forum perhaps this might work. Thanks in anticipation.

Noelle

Van Meuwen says:
4 June 2015

Hi Noelle,

Thank you for your review. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I am very sorry to learn of the disappointing experience you have had with Van Meuwen and that you have had extreme difficulty getting in touch with our Customer Care Team. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to queries. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

I have now replied to you by email in regards to your order for the Fuchsia ‘Fairy Blue’ plugs.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Fiona says:
1 June 2015

My issues with Van Meuwen have been going on since Early April, not once have I received a reply to my emails. Over 40 of the plants were dead, and I get sent 24 as a replacement.

Important Order Despatch Confirmation
Your order summary
Customer Number: 13406870
Order Number: V10302270/1
Order Date: 09/05/2015
Billing Information
Name:
The following items have been sent today to the delivery address detailed below.
Product Qty
New Guinea Busy Lizzie Divine 72 1
Delivery Address:
THIS NOW COMPLETES YOUR ORDER NUMBER V10302270/1

So I would like to know why I have received only 24 plants, incidentally one of those is already dead. I awaite your response.

Regards
Fiona Gray

From:
Date: Tue, 5 May 2015 14:44:20 +0100
Subject: Busy Lizzie divine
To: care@vmplants.com

Dear Customer Services

Your order summary
Customer Number: 13406870
Order Number: V10304578
Order Date: 01/02/2015

It is now a week since I sent this e-mail with no response. I appreciate you are busy,but a reply is required.

The Busy Lizzie Devine arrived well packaged but very dried out. I have potted then into cellular trays with clear propagation lids, and they are in an insulated frost protected greenhouse.

It started with one plug plant developing a brown spot on the leaf which led to the whole plant turning brown and crisp before complete collapse. 48 plants are now either dead or showing the same signs. I have been growing bedding plants for 30 odd years so I know what I’m doing.

What can you do to help me? My Summer hanging baskets and floral tubs are planned and designed with these plants making maximum impact. I don’t grow Wallerina Busy Lizzie due to powdery mildew.

Van Meuwen says:
4 June 2015

Hi Fiona,

Thank you for your review. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to queries. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

I have now located and replied to your email.

Kind regards,

Mark.

Andy says:
3 June 2015

Order ref VMEW2226129
Ordered 12/04/15
Despatch due by end of April
Despatched 1st May
2 internet enquiries, and 2 chase emails sent – unable to get through on your phone line
Customer Care Team automated response code – TM1355906X

STILL NO DELIVERY, STILL NO HUMAN RESPONSE

UNACCEPTABLE

Van Meuwen says:
4 June 2015

Hi Andy,

Thank you for your review.

I am sorry to learn that you have had extreme difficulty getting in touch with our Customer Care Team. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to queries. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

I have now replied to your email.

Kind regards,

Mark.

mrs m farnell says:
5 June 2015

cheque for£15 cashed but 200 freesia bulbs ordered 3 june 2015, advertised arrival within 14 days, not here 30 days after. have phoned twice, tried to e mail 3 times and havenow written to hayloft plants pershore who advertised in the telegraph

John says:
7 June 2015

TM1362954X Re: replacement Top to bottom Lavender Blue
I ordered a clematis top to bottom Lavender blue from yourselves via the mirror offer for £14.99.

When the clematis arrived in the green plastic packaging and box the leaves on the plant looked half dead, but I thought I’d put it in a pot filled with compost. adequate water and see how it got on following the instructions provided by Van Meuwen.Since then I have been daily putting the plant out for a few hours each day provided it has not been a cold or wet day etc in a sheltered spot that is warm bringing it in afterwards but to no avail. Each day it has looked more dead. The leaves are now withered and fallen off.
I’m not sure exactly what day the plant arrived but the payment was taken for this plant and shows on my credit card statement for the 19th May .

I do have 4 other clematis plants which I have bought from garden centres and have successfully grown them in my greenhouse and they bloom every year in my garden and I’ve not had any problems with them taking so I was surprised that this one I bought which has cost me nearly 3 times as much hasn’t.

I can not lay my hands on the invoice from you only the planting instructions ref 59643 but I probably thought at the time that I wouldn’t have any problems buying quality plants form Van Meuwen.

I can supply you with my name and address of where the plant was delivered to and it would have been round about 19th May 2015.

I do hope you can help resolve this for me.

Disappointed customer

Van Meuwen says:
9 June 2015

Hi John,

Thank you for your review.

Please accept our apologies that you have not received a reponse to your email. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to emails. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

I have now located and replied to your email.

Kind regards,

Mark.

John says:
9 June 2015

Hi Mark,

Thank for your getting back to me on this forum and also by email. I will await a replacement in Sept

Hopefully the next set will take as I was so looking forward to planting the clematis out in the garden over the coming months.
Will let you know in Sept how I get on.
Regards

Alan Holmes says:
9 June 2015

Van Meuwen order no.V10335225~ I ordered 2 magnolia at the beginning of March,did not arrive until 29th.April although I was promised delivery originally at the end of March. One shrub was OK but the other one very dry and looked dead. Giving Van Meuwen the benefit of the doubt I cared for it as required until it was obvious by 22nd.May that it was no good.I then emailed Van Meuwen also sending photos. Apart from an automated response I have had no other response. I emailed again on 3rd.June again no response at all. I phoned today 8th.June and have been promised a £10. voucher.
I am sorry that a company with apparently a good reputation does not care for its existing customers to the standard I would expect, if it is so busy that it cannot deal with calls or emails it needs to employ more staff to deal with customer care. More to the point why is Customer Care so busy? Is it all complaints?. Alan Holmes

Van Meuwen says:
9 June 2015

Hi Alan,

Thank you for your review.

I am sorry to learn that one of your Magnolias did not perform as expected and that you have not received a reponse to your emails. We have recently received an unexpected increased volume of queries into our customer care department and this has unfortunately caused a delay in responding to emails. I appreciate this is frustrating and I hope that you will accept our apologies for this.

I have now located and replied to your email.

Kind regards,

Mark.

My reason for posting here is that I am very frustrated with Customer care at Thompson &Morgan ,why you may ask, well I sent a large order over £60.00,for garden ready plants, and part of my order T11363666 (Web Ref W5768323 ) 30 garden ready Busy Lizzie Divine mixed, on opening the box, I found one had all the leaves dry and brown , they fell off when touched, they had to be potted on too small, not garden ready plants, days later more fatalities, plants shrivelled and died, eventually more than 20 had died, so I took photo’s and sent an E/mail with the photo’s to customer care, asking what they are going to do about these plants, got an Auto e/mail reply sorry very busy , will reply soonest/ next day E/mailed again as I had not had any reply from them, on the 09/06/15I again sent an E/mail stating their Customer care terms i.e. I sent you a E/mail of complaint on the 04/06/2015, that the Busy Lizzie Devine plants you sent me have all but died, that was 5 days ago, and not a word from you, the Terms of Business for your Company states. Customer Care, we strive to provide the best possible products and level of service we can. Where we do not, our experienced Customer Care Staff are there to assist you, their aim is to Respond Promptly and Efficiently to all comments to ensure you receive 100% Satisfaction. It is now 5 days since my original E/mail and still not a word from Customer Care. Your Ref No TM1363917X / My Customer No 11020683 /Order No T11363666 / Web Ref W5768323, today still no reply, can anyone tell me how I can proceed against this shoddy Company to get my money returned forthwith. ( now all my Busy Lizzie Divine Plants are dead ) Under no circumstances will I ever buy from this company again.

Thompson and Morgan says:
11 June 2015

Hi Jakie,

Thank you for your review.

I’m sorry to learn of the condition in which you received your Busy Lizzie plants and the length of time you have been awaiting a response to your email.

I have now replied to your email.

Kind regards,

Thompson and Morgan
Customer Care Team