In the Garden: Confessions of a reformed plant porn addict
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I have a stack of garden catalogs about a foot high, and by the time spring arrives there will likely be another stack growing ever higher.
From my 20 years of experience — both gardening in Wenatchee and mail ordering — I’d like to give you a few pointers so that you might avoid some of the same mistakes I have made.
As I was thinking about this column, I looked up the dictionary definition of “porn.” The dictionary included the following: “television shows, articles, photographs, etc., thought to create or satisfy an excessive desire for something, especially something luxurious.”
Now that rang a bell with me. I can’t think how many times my catalog orders were the result of an irresistible desire for some plant or other … at least my husband said so. You need to read between the lines of catalogs that make fantastic claims for their plants.
I don’t know where they get these copywriters, but they can rhapsodize about plants with such delicious prose that you haven’t a chance to resist! “A kaleidoscope of brilliant color!” “A taste of the tropics!” “This sweet temptation is the frosting on the cake for your cutting garden!” Need I go on?
Be careful to look for code words that disguise the real nature of the plants on offer, especially evergreen shrubs. “Fast-growing and long-lived” and “forms a dense screen in a hurry” can mean it will fill your entire border in two years and grow to 50 feet tall, causing you to spend all your gardening time pruning from a stepladder.
Then there are plants like the silver lace vine. “Adapts to less-than-ideal conditions — tolerates drought and pollution, resists pests and disease.” What this really means is: once planted you will never be without it. Even if you never water it, spray it with herbicide and rototill it, you can’t get rid of it.
Also beware of companies with excessive claims like: “WE GUARANTEE YOUR SUCCESS!” “HURRY! OFFER EXPIRES THIS WEEK!” “FREE! BEAUTIFUL GENUINE BLUE TOPAZ HERRINGBONE BRACELET ABSOLUTELY FREE! WITH YOUR ORDER OF $50 OR MORE!”
Just keep in mind that no one can guarantee your success in the world of gardening. There will be another offer next week. You are shopping for plants, not bracelets, clothing, cheap garden ornaments or food items — nor do you want to get on their list of suckers who enter their sweepstakes weekly. It can take years to get off these lists, so beware.
If you discover, in looking through your daily mail, several catalogs with different names but with pictures and descriptions that look suspiciously similar, check out their company address. They are all from the same source, just disguised so you think you are getting a different catalog every week, thus increasing your exposure to temptation.
The good news is that you can check out these retailers at davesgarden.com. At this site, you will find a link that says “Garden Watchdog.” Click on this and you can find a free directory of 7,364 mail order gardening companies. They post customer reviews both positive and negative, which can really be useful in deciding who to trust. Resist companies with the lowest prices. Here are some comments from customers. “I just paid $12.99 for a 3-inch cherry tree. I don’t think it will be producing anytime soon. Maybe they could offer a real bargain of 5 cherry pits for $15.99?”
So take my advice, enjoy your mail-order shopping with a sense of humor and read between the lines.
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears regularly in the Home, Garden section. Gloria Kupferman is one of five columnists featured.
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