Chalet Landscape-Nursery-Garden Center in Wilmette could be dubbed a best-dressed garden center for its innovative displays. (847) 256-0561; chaletnursery.com 
City Escape in Chicago specializes in unusual plants and outdoor-living items, such as furniture and garden accessories. (773) 638-2000; cityescape.biz 
Gethsemane Garden Center is an oasis of plants on two Chicago city blocks. (773) 878-5915; gethsemanegardens.com 
Go to Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock for dwarf plants or unusual conifers. (815) 338-7442; richsfoxwillowpines.com 
French and American antiques mix with garden decor, salvaged architecture, plants and artwork in Scentimental Gardens, a 1905 Queen Anne home in Geneva. (630) 232-1303; scentimentalgardens.com 
The Fields on Caton Farm Inc. is a 150-acre Crest Hill nursery with a 5-acre display garden, specializing in shade trees, shrubs and more than 100 varieties of premium daylilies. (815) 744-7841; fieldsnursery.com 
The Growing Place's Aurora location has a country feel, with a farmhouse and red outbuildings, along with knowledgeable staff and large selection. (630) 820-8088; thegrowingplace.com  A second location is in Naperville. (630) 355-4000.
Avon Gardens, with five scenic acres of display beds, shows mature plants in every season. (317) 272-6264; avongardens.com 
Munchkin Nursery and Gardens in Depauw displays and sells rare and unusual shade plants and woodland plants. (812) 633-4858; munchkinnursery.com 
Ladies who lunch fill the tea room at Stream Cliff Herb Farm in Commiskey (20 miles northwest of Madison), then they buy plants, taste wines and browse the gift shop. (812) 346-5859; streamclifffarm.com 
K&K Gardens in Hawkeye has side-by-side, ultradeep city lots packed to the perimeter with cutting-edge plants, garden art and display beds. It's a real surprise in this tiny town with fewer than 500 residents. (563) 427-5373; kkgardens.com 
Prairie Pedlar includes display beds and shopping in a Sears and Roebuck barn and a country schoolhouse in Odebolt. (712) 668-4840; prairiepedlar.com 
Located in LeRoy, Arnold's Greenhouse sells 4,500 varieties of plants from 21 greenhouses, including one as big as a football field and with a retractable roof. (620) 964-2463; arnoldsgreenhouse.com 
Lee Creek Gardens' sales area and display beds lie under 100-year-old trees behind owner Ann Scott's house in Manhattan. (785) 537-8262
Clearfield Farms in Baldwin City brims with rural charm and unusual plants and urban accoutrements such as statuary. (785) 883-2078; clearfieldfarms.com 
In an intimate wooded setting of uburban Kansas City's Stilwell, Red Cedar Country Gardens carries unusual shrubs, perennials and annuals, plus garden art and the top 100 hostas. (913) 897-2286; redcedargardens.com 
In Fowlerville, Arrowhead Alpines draws business from around the world for its rare and unusual perennials, alpines, rock garden plants, dwarf conifers and wildflowers. (517) 223-3581; arrowhead-alpines.com 
Found in Stockbridge, Gee Farms' 300 acres of trees, shrubs and bushes and 23 greenhouses make it the largest retail nursery in Michigan. (517) 769-6772; geefarms.com 
Wavecrest Nursery specializes in hollies and conifers, plus perennials, in a stunning wooded setting in Fennville. (269) 543-4175; wavecrestnursery.com 
In Inver Grove Heights, Gertens' innovative displays group like-minded plants such as natives, shade-lovers or cottage garden favorites, making it easy to shop. (866) 437-8367; gertens.com 
Kelley and Kelley Nursery and Landscaping in Long Lake carries varieties you may not find elsewhere. (952) 473-7337; kelleyandkelleynursery.com 
Tangletown Gardens' blue-shingled former gas station sits amid a wide-ranging selection of plants in Minneapolis. It's a must-stop in an urban neighborhood. (612) 822-4769; tangletowngardens.com 
Bowood Farms in St. Louis is paradise-found both for skilled gardeners and those who aspire to be. Bowood prides itself on a staff trained to answer any question. Classes cover topics such as dragonfly gardening and heirloom seeds. Plus you can enjoy a good meal in a bucolic setting with the fresh food at Cafe Osage. (314) 454-6868; bowoodfarms.com 
Stark Bro's Garden Center's Louisiana, Missouri, location dates to the early 1880s. Visit the family's original log cabin across the street from display gardens and the greenhouse. (800) 325-4180; starkbros.com 
Bluebird Nursery's retail shop in Clarkson, Nebraska, includes plants specifically for the Great Plains. The entire community is designated as an arboretum. (800) 356-9164; bluebirdnursery.com 
Baker's Acres Greenhouse in Alexandria features display beds, unusual plants and owner Chris Baker's wacky sense of humor—check out the bathroom at the garden center and the "mission statement" online. (800) 934-6525; bakersacresgreenhouse.com 
Petitti's Garden Centers includes seven garden centers in the Cleveland area. Plants, trees, shrubs, outdoor-living products, and home and gift items abound. Visit petittigardencenter.com  for locations and phone numbers.
Wade and Gatton Nurseries is the place for hostas, daylilies and other plants. The grounds in Bellville include extensive display beds to show mature plants. (419) 883-3191; wadeandgattonnurseries.com 
The Flower Factory in Stoughton has more than 4,000 varieties of hardy perennials, one of the largest selections in the Midwest. (608) 873-8329; theflowerfactorynursery.com 
In Colgate, Monches Farm's grounds ooze charm, overflowing with classical sculptures, urns and terra-cotta pots. Brick-lined paths lead to fields of potted plants. (262) 966-2787; monchesfarm.com 
Schonheit Gardens, just east of Madison in Sun Prairie, has lovely display gardens and a wide selection of perennials, bedding plants and unusual garden accessories. (608) 441-9832; schonheitgardens.com 
Yerke Frog Alley Greenhouses devotes an entire greenhouse to organic vegetables. Browse among more than 1,500 varieties of annual and perennial flowers in Mukwonago. (262) 363-8911; yerkegreenhouses.com 
It takes a little planning to make a good garden center road trip. Here's what to bring to enjoy it even more.
Comfy shoes Whether you choose sneakers or sandals, go for endurance, not looks. Expect mud.
Picnic lunch When you're on the hunt for plants, sometimes you don't want to stop for lunch, or there might not be a good place at the right time of day. Carry food and beverages with ice in a cooler.
Money Gardening isn't cheap; then again, neither is therapy. Bring cash because not all places accept credit cards.
Gung-ho attitude Like antiquing, buy the plant when you see it. You'll have more regrets if you don't buy it than you will if you buy it but find it a few dollars cheaper elsewhere.
Plastic liner Line your vehicle's seats and trunk with plastic to prevent damage from soil.
Common sense Park your car in the shade so plants don't sunburn or wilt from heat. Bring a watering can if you're on the road for more than a day. The trunk may be hot, but it's shaded.
Hand sanitizer and toilet paper Some garden centers only provide portable toilets.
Sunscreen Wear it even on overcast days.
A plan Many garden centers are in the country. Use an online map or GPS to plot your route. Check hours carefully as they vary widely.
Click here  to see the Plant Encyclopedia from our sister publication Better Homes and Gardens if you want to do some research before your trip.