Joining a flood of failing dot-coms Texas-based Garden.com, an award-winning Web site and one of the first online retailers, has announced it's closing the garden gate.

In a statement the company said it "will begin a phased shutdown of the company's retail operations and the sale of its consumer business assets, including product inventory, Web addresses, content, photo library, its [online gardening tools], as well as other intellectual property."

The company promised to fulfil orders until the digital shop closes and suggested that there will be a sale to dispose of inventory. At the same time, staff layoffs began today, the announcement said.

Begun in December 1995 with heavy backing from venture capitalists, Garden.com was one of the first retailers to sell exclusively on the Internet.

Among its awards, Garden.com was given the highest rating, an "A," with a score of 91.5 out of 100 in a review by Evans and Co. in Toronto for Ryerson Polytechnic University in August. It was the only company to get a score of 90 or better in a review of 170 Web sites.