As plant catalogs clog the mailbox in mid winter, the gardener must be wary to resist temptation to foolishly purchase any shiny bauble that catches his eye. I suppose that resistance is greater when the gardener is entertained by hellebores, witch hazels, and winter jasmine flowering early in this mild winter, but on a chilly afternoon, with the garden under a melting, but still deep cover of snow, the gardener is anxious for spring that is still six weeks off.
Ordering just a few of the splendid new Pineapple lilies (Eucomis vandermerwei ‘Octopus’, above) and Red Hot pokers, a handful of Asiatic lilies (though I’m undecided on colors), and of course Cyclamen (to replace ones dug up by squirrels soon after they were planted a year ago) seems very conservative, and certainly is more restrained than a year ago when similar (or larger) purchases were made from five or six vendors. Purchases are facilitated by requiring only the pressing of a few buttons on a website, with address and credit card information magically appearing so that the years’ garden budget can be quickly spent with minimal effort.
Certainly, I am more hesitant filling a cart in the garden center, though plants there are larger and actual flowers more seductive than only a photograph. But, mail order vendors understand the restlessness of winter, and it is all that I can manage to toss catalogs into the recycling without making a purchase.
Yes, there is a question of where all this will go once it arrives after the threat of hard freeze is past in mid April. A year ago, I could find no record of purchases made in January even a few weeks later, so I was delighted when one package after another arrived on the first warm spring afternoons. Somehow, a place was found for everything, though some locations are questionable and only after the first winter does the gardener discover the error of his ways.
Perhaps other gardeners are more reasoned than I, but I suspect not. When the garden is most desolate, the gardener is most easily seduced, imagining sunny yellow dahlia blooms framed by dark foliage, and never mind that he is unlikely to dig and store them properly in autumn. He must have another of the giant Elephant ear that was inadvertently left outdoors too long a year ago, with no consideration where it will be overwintered, which was the problem and why the other was lost.
For better or worse, the gardeners’ decisions are too rarely dictated by logic, and willpower is too often lacking. But, as this garden becomes more cluttered, the thought occurs that more consideration is required. I will cancel the Pineapple lily order and wait for spring deliveries to the garden center. This will save considerable expense, and it is likely that more planning will assure that all plants will have a proper place.
However, there is advantage in purchasing a few bare root plants in dormancy, which must be done early from specialty growers. I’ve recently become enamored with club and spike mosses (Arborvitae fern, Selaginella baunii), and I’ve had marvelous success planting dormant ground orchids (Bletilla, above). These will work splendidly beneath Japanese maples, and unquestionably are wise purchases. No doubt, if snow lingers much longer, other purchases will seem equally well reasoned.