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Over the past few years I've become quite a keen gardener, experimenting with different plants and flowers as well as trying my hand at fruit and vegetable growing. It's been a very rewarding hobby and I always get a real buzz when I get to serve my own tomatoes with a salad for lunch or receive a compliment on my front garden displays. I stumbled upon Crocus.co.uk pretty much by accident, you see I'm a member of Lightspeed Research which is a survey website where you build up points and exchange them for vouchers etc… I'd built up a nice little amount of points and decided to see what rewards were in my points bracket, one of the sites listed was Crocus.co.uk and after briefly visiting the site to see what plants they had available I traded in some of my points for a £10 E-voucher to spend on the site.
Crocus.co.uk- The site itself has a wide range of plants, flowers and gardening equipment available, the home page is nicely laid out showcasing some of the weeks chosen products as well as what's new "in-store" it even features a small weather forecast panel, which is handy in helping you plan out when will be best to fit some gardening in, and a column leading to different articles offering hints and advice for all our gardening needs from tips on organic garending to hints on handling pests and weeds. It's full of beautiful images of the plants and other garden equipment available, features clear easy to read text and is very easy to navigate via the numerous links to product pages and categories.
There are 6 main categories to browse which are divided into Plants, Tools & equipment, Outdoor living, Bouquets, Home & gifts and Offers. Naturally Plants features all manner of plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables which you can find by either selecting a letter from the A-Z and seeing what's available under your chosen letter, this is handy if for example you want to look for a Geranium but are unsure of what particular variety, all you need to do is select G, scroll down to Geraniums on the list and click on the individual names to bring up an image and description of the plant. You can also browse more general categories by narrowing down the category into more specific sections like Ferns, Fruit, Annuals, Bamboo, Pond plants, Roses…………….this allows you to save time by specifically choosing your required section of planting and allowing you to browse, handy if you aren't sure what specific species of plant you want but know for example you'd like to purchase a shrub.
Tools & Equipment obviously features a range of tools and features items as simple as brackets for hanging baskets, to garden screening, pest control and building and storage solutions, there is even a range of clothing available and solutions for all your composting and water collecting requirements. Outdoor living is more about enjoying the results of your garden and features such things as barbeques, garden furniture, games, heating, ornaments and even pools. Bouquets speaks for itself and showcases a range of stunning floral arrangements available to order from the site while Gifts features an eclectic collection of gift ideas for the garden and in the home. Offers is another category that speaks for itself and features a range of products that have been reduced in price or are part of a special deal, generally these are plants that will be going out of season, so to speak, meaning they really should have been bought and planted by now but are still of a good enough quality to be able to purchase and grow with success.
As I mentioned before if you choose to shop via the A-Z method
Pictures of Crocus.co.uk
A month on, it's trebled in size.
you are presented with a list of the products available, this can be a little mind boggling in the plants and flowers section particularly because unless you're very green fingered and know specific plant species Latin names you could be left wondering what all strange words mean, however if you choose to browse in specific categories you are shown pages that not only feature the items name but also it's image and a little information including how long it will take for delivery and a brief product description, I prefer to browse this way as you get an idea of not only what your product will look like but also the size you will receive and how quick it will reach you, after all there's no point ordering a plant that will arrive in 3 weeks if at that time you're away on holiday. By clicking on a specific product on display you are taken to a more detailed page of the product, this features loads of handy information on the product including where it will grow best (in the case of a plant) what type of sun and soil it requires, size, the care that will be required as well as price details and any special offer that applies to your choice, you also see an image of what the plant/item will look like at it's best, this of course can be a little misleading when it comes to plants as you will see an image of a fully fledged plant when you'll receive something very different, it's important to keep that in mind when ordering.When you've decided on the products you want you have 2 choices, either add them to a "Wish list" which will save the details for later when you return to the site or add them to your "Basket" in order to purchase straight away. By filling in a few details you can access your wish list every time you return to the site, this is handy if an item you like is sold out or not in season, you can simply add it to your list and then wait until it is back in stock before you place and order. On adding an item to your basket you have the option to continue shopping if there's more you were looking for or continue to the checkout, this page allows you to select the amount of the item you require, it also displays the price including delivery, how long it will take to arrive and gives the option to gift wrap your item. If you've never ordered from the site before you'll be asked to fill in a short form detailing your name, address, phone number and choose a password, once all that is filled in you can access the site at anytime using your email address and password which will bring up your personal account, saving you the time of adding your address details etc all over again.
Once you've got to this point you'll need your card details handy, or in my case your voucher code, if you've got a voucher you type it into the relevant box and it will deduct the amount from the total of your order, any balance then has to be paid via card, they accept Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, Solo, Switch and Delta, it's a simple matter of filling in your details via their secure server and confirming your delivery address then all you need do is confirm your order, you do have the option of leaving specific delivery instructions so for example if they deliver the item when you aren't in they can leave it in a requested place or with a neighbour. Within a few hours you will receive a confirmation e-mail with the details of your purchase which acts as a receipt for the purchase. Payment generally clears within a few days then all you have to do is wait for your purchase to arrive.
My Experience- After having received my voucher code I popped onto the site to have a browse and see what I wanted to treat myself to, I wasn't really interested in the equipment and home sections although I did have a quick look and was very impressed with the wide range available and the varied price ranges, admittedly you could find many of the items, or similar choices, in shops and garden centres for cheaper but this site provides the convenience of shopping from home and not having to transport heavy or bulky purchases. I spent quite a while browsing all the different plant and flower categories, checking out different types of strawberry plant, rhubarb, fruit trees……….all sorts of beautiful flowers and finally decided upon a Geranium, I'd been looking for a nice white one for a while and I found one which looked perfect, described as coming in a 2 litre pot, priced at £5.95 and arriving within 7 days it was the plant for me.
Having added the plant to my basket and filling in my details for delivery I decided to checkout, while I technically hadn't spent all my available £10 I had noticed that the postage cost was £5.95, I hadn't really planned on a large order and didn't want to spend much more than my £10 so I used the rest of my £10 voucher on the p&p and paid the remaining balance on my card. It did seem a shame to spend so much on one plant and I wouldn't use the site again in future for such a small order but I only had to pay about £1.00 on top of the voucher so didn't really mind, the plant I had chosen was one I'd not seen in my local garden centres and I was quite looking forward to receiving it, I'm very fond of Geraniums and adore white flowers so it seemed a good choice for me. Like I said though I wouldn't use the site for another small order however it's great for buying in bulk or placing large orders as the postage cost stays at £5.95 no matter how big your order is.
Within an hour my confirmation email had arrived and 3 days later the payment had gone through so I sat back and waited counting down the days until my plant arrived, I had been promised delivery within 7 days and the site claims to never exceed a delivery time so I was getting a bit worried on day 7 when my plant had not turned up, still later that day after I'd returned from the school run I found a white box sat in my side garden and guessed it was my plant. It was well packed and in great condition, I'd been slightly worried about ordering a live object online but from the looks of the packaging it had been well taken care of. On opening the box I found my 2 litre pot nice and secure within the box, the pot and plant itself within a polythene bag and a set of care instructions as well as an invoice.
While the plant looked healthy I was slightly surprised by it's appearance, I had selected a plant in the 2 litre size as I had expected it to be a fully established plant that I could transfer directly to my garden, instead I had a pot of several small shoots that was going to need a lot of indoor care before it would be safe to plant outside, I was a bit disappointed by this as I have no greenhouse in which to grow plants on and have had to keep the pot in my kitchen until it grows to a size where I'm confident it will survive outside, if I'd known I would receive such a young plant I would have purchased a very different item instead, maybe some bulbs which can be planted straight out for next spring, maybe I would even have saved my Lightspeed points and spent them somewhere else altogether………still it's too late now and I didn't really want to complain to the site about a plant I basically got for free, so I set about taking care of the Geranium in my kitchen, while it's still young and just shooting at the moment I'm confident that I will end up with a beautiful plant that I can be proud of, being a perennial I know with love and care it should return to flower next year at the beginning of the gardening season so my money will be well spent as it returns bigger and better every season.
Overall- The site itself is very well put together, it's easy to navigate and find what you're looking for but also enjoyable if you simply want to have a bit of a browse. The pages are well laid out and it is as attractive as a gardening website can be with nice pictures of the products and clear, bold writing. The site speed is good and there never seems to be problems loading the chosen pages, even retrieving personal information is done quickly and easily. Each of the sections is both relevant in regards to the products fitting the titles and contains lots of helpful information about the items, and gardening advice in general which is great for not only new gardeners but also more experienced ones who just can't get beyond a certain problem. It provides inspiration for planting a new garden and even suggests partner plants that will enhance the look of your plant choice and make your garden that bit more balanced.
Ordering is simple and with the option of keeping a wish list it provides the perfect opportunity to plan out your seasons gardening purchases and simply return to the site when the time is right. The pricing varies and while some items are very reasonable and many on special offer it really only does pay if you're buying a large amount of items or a particularly large item, like a storage shed for example, I think it would be better if there were a more staggered price range for postage so that smaller orders cost less to deliver otherwise it is simply not cost effective, and while we're talking about prices I must say that the bouquets are a little on the expensive side and you would be far better off buying from a local store or ordering from a more mainstream online florist.
The overall product quality is good and while the plant I received wasn't quite what I'd expected I cannot complain that it is anything but healthy and thriving. Of course the after care of plants is totally down to the individual and no longer the responsibility of the site however you do need it to arrive in a good enough condition to survive, which the product I received was. I would say that the site would benefit from including images of not only the end result of a plant but also an image of what the item you'll receive will look like, that way there will be no confusion or disappointment when the plants are received. My items did arrive in the promised time but only just, yes my delivery instructions were followed but you do always hope that when you're quoted 5-7 days that it will arrive at the beginning rather than the end of that time.
My only other complaint is that while planting instructions were included with the plant they weren't specific to the particular species and contained very general information covering all sorts of different plants from bulbs to fully fledged trees, the information was only vaguely relevant to the plant I had chosen and contained no information or help on planting up such a young plant, what time of the season would be most suitable and how to properly care for it to ensure it thrived.
I would recommend the site, it's a great source of information and ideas, there is a good range of products and they are good quality, however I wouldn't suggest using it for one item, you'd be better off searching your garden centre then paying over the odds for the postage.