At The Garden Gate, everywhere you look you’ll find something special. “I like being the little urban garden center that offers a little bit of everything,” says Donna Torrey, who has owned the store at Pompano Citi Center since 1997.
As you wander you’ll find racks of Florida-friendly rose bushes ($12.99); metal shelves of ground covers; a red worm composting farm complete with worms ($139; worm castings and tea are also available); the varied lavender flowers of a yesterday, today and tomorrow ($14.99); a nice variety of garden flags including one with a margarita-sipping flamingo on it ($11.99); wooden bat houses and orchard mason bee houses for these blue solitary native bees ($19.99); and colorful plastic hummingbirds with wings that bobble in the wind ($5.99 and $7.99).
Although the shop is attached to the north side of Sears in Pompano Beach, it’s not affiliated with it. Instead Torrey uses her personal touch to display an eclectic mix of merchandise that changes frequently.
“People who come here think they are in a garden,” says Torrey, a master gardener.
She sells only plants that do well in South Florida. For example, in winter she stocks annuals such as geraniums and lobelia that will grow for six months; up north annuals last only about three months.
You’ll also find purple and pink water lilies ($29.99) as well as bacopa ($3.99) and fairy moss ($3.99) that will attract butterflies and bees to your water garden. “A lot of people come here for aquatic plants. It’s a niche market,” Torrey says.
Elsewhere her native options include coral honeysuckle ($4.99) that attracts hummingbirds; milkweed ($4.99) that brings in the monarchs; and then there is fire bush. “If you plant it, they will come,” says Torrey, who also carries packets of native wildflower seeds ($3.49).
For the cook, there are plenty of herbs ($2.99) as well as moringa ($9.99 or 50 cents a seed) the nutritious leaves of which Torrey uses to flavor chicken soup.
Fruit trees including mango, pomegranate, macadamia nut, mulberry and hog plum get their own little area. Although the trees cost $19.99 to $49.99 depending on the size of the pot, most people don’t realize that the smaller specimens tend to adapt to the native soil and grow faster than the larger ones, says Torrey.
If you have a question about a purchase don’t hesitate to ask the staff. And if you have a gardening problem, Torrey is happy to have an e-mail conversation. Send her pictures and she’ll try to find a solution.
“I like to help people learn to garden. It’s trial and error, but I try to make it a little easier by letting you avoid the mistakes I’ve already made,” she says. “It’s really not that hard.”
Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley is a master gardener who can be reached at email@example.com.