Before we get started, I just want to make the disclaimer that I am by no means a seasoned gardener. I mostly frequent local garden shops to buy indoor plants, and I don’t necessarily have a high success rate of keeping them alive. That said, as Helena, the owner of Indoor/Outdoor Gardener told me, “people aren’t perfect, and neither are plants.” And, consequently, neither is this list. While not exhaustive, this list’s intent is to give a basic intro to three local garden shops and centers in the neighborhood, for those of us who aren’t yet plant whisperers.
1) Imbriale Garden Center
Marked only by a worn-down, hand-painted sign on a rusty fence, Imbriale Garden Center (9215 Fort Hamilton Parkway) has been a corner staple in Bay Ridge for more than 50 years. It covers the spectrum, selling everything from small herbs to large trees, plus basically everything you’d need to plant anything, indoor or outdoor. This place is an oasis, and walking through its tree and shrubbery section feels like something straight out of The Secret Garden (Bay Ridge edition). I know I’m a New Yorker who’s starved for greenery, so it might be easy to impress me. But I kid you not—I saw a full-on citrus tree bearing fruit. It’s outrageous.
I spoke to Joseph, who has been working for Imbriale for 13 years, and who was watering the plants when I walked in. He was quick to tell me that his tenure there was nothing—there are workers who have been happily doing landscaping, watering, and maintenance for the shop for 25 years, and they stay busy year-round. Imbriale does landscaping for home and commercial gardens, so it gets serious business through both in-store purchases and contracting. Plus, in the winter, the place sells Christmas trees! Listen, there must be something in the fertilizer, because everyone there is kind and helpful, and it’s a joy just to walk around and check out everything they’ve got.
Come here for: Everything you need for outdoor planting! Plus, it’s got the best tree-selection in the neighborhood, hands down.
2) Brooklyn Wholesale Market
This place (641 Ovington Avenue) is a bit of a mystery. It takes up almost a whole block of Seventh Avenue, and even in the summer it can look a little barren. Here, you’ll find nothing close to Imbriale’s selection of trees or shrubbery, nor the same lush feeling once inside. That said, if you’re someone who is looking to buy whole flats of edible plants or small shrubs, this is your go-to. I saw rows of tomato and pepper plants that would be a beautiful addition to a small garden, plus herbs that were in excellent shape. They also have a few large trees, and a good selection of flowers as well.
I get the sense that most of Brooklyn Wholesale’s customers are farmers coming from outside the neighborhood (hence the shop’s location next to the highway). But, it also has fresh produce from local farms for those of us on foot. And, get this, it sells straight-from-the-farm pies! Pumpkin, apple, berry, the whole bit. But if it’s the pies you want, you’ll have to wait a week. A store attendant told me they don’t arrive until mid-August.
Come here for: Whole flats of edibles and herbs. And pie. All the pie.
3) Indoor Outdoor Gardener
If I could have a crush on a garden store, it would be on this one. Indoor-Outdoor Gardener (8223 Fifth Avenue) is a tiny store that’s so inviting and intriguing that you might as well just be at a plant-lover’s house. The cozy space is packed to the brim with hanging plants, gorgeous succulents, trees, equipment, pots, and even hydroponic equipment. Helena, the owner and a former NYC public school teacher, offers hands-on instructions and advice for every plant in the store, as if you’re in her classroom. A word to the wise: do not take these instructions lightly: Helena legitimately knows more than any website or handbook, and she’s the key to your plant’s survival. She won’t let you out the door without a mini tutorial on proper plant care or making you swear that you’ll come back if your purchase shows any signs of ailing health. She once told me that I was watering my plant too often, saying, “How would you like it if I forced water down your throat?!”
The store has a sunny, open space in the back where most of its edible and outdoor plants live. There’s a surprising selection of small trees that I’d recommend browsing through, and you’ll find flowers and shrubs here that you won’t find anywhere else. And all the while there will be jazz music playing as you browse through different herbs and flowers or choose from a wall of multicolored pots. Going once is all it takes to fall in love with this shop, and the next thing you know you’ll be drowning in Chinese Evergreen and wondering how you ever lived without it.
Come here for: Beautiful indoor or outdoor plants, adorable succulents, decorative pots fit for indoor plants, hydroponic equipment, and the advice of a plant wizard.