Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Didn't It?

Daylily "Chicago Apache"

Plants are like children, even though we know the parents and what they look like, they may have a child that looks or behaves nothing like them.

Sometimes we buy a plant advertised and recommended for a certain situation. It may not live up to our expectations, may overdo our expectations, or may be totally different than we expected. The reasons may be:


  • People have different ideas as to what constitutes a certain color. What may be pink to me, you may consider peach.
  • Some species, for example, may have a flower described as “white.“ When in reality, there is no totally white at this time; it will be almost white or shades. I call that the wishful thinking color wheel.
  • Some varieties depend on climate to determine the exact color. What may be bright orange in the garden of the Kentucky breeder, may only be light melon in an Illinois garden.
  • Another example is plants that gain their specific color from the soil. One of the best examples is the pink vs. blue hydrangea flowers.

  • The length of time a plant has been in the ground may determine size.
  • The nutrients in your soil may inhibit growth or throw it into exceptional growth.
  • The amount of shade or sun a plant receives will help determine growth.
  • The environmental factors such as pets, traffic, pollution, and moisture.
  • The plant may require pruning, staking, or other manipulation.

  • People have different ideas as to what category fits a certain plant smell.
  • The time of day often affects the intensity of the fragrance.
  • Many fragrant plants situated close to each other may nullify the effect of all or at least the subtle.
  • Understand what part of the plant has the fragrance. Some plants may have to have their leaves, stems, or seeds crushed to release the fragrance.

  • Hybrid plants may revert back to a recessive gene or to one parent.
  • Grafted plants may revert back to the host plant.
  • The plant may not be a true or good specimen of what it was labeled.
  • The plant may be very small or immature and will improve over time.
  • You may have the perfect conditions that allows your plant to be more than expected.
  • Most descriptions are “averages”.

A picture is worth a thousand words but it can also be deceiving. It may be enhanced, magnified, cropped or be just a beautiful picture. Not necessarily how it will look in a real garden setting.
Plants described with the following may work out great, but, unless you understand this plant and know the dealer, I would beware of buying anything that uses the terms:

  • Can be invasive (Probably won’t be able to contain it with a flame thrower)
  • Prone to wander (See invasive)
  • Slow to start (You will be dead forty years before it starts to grow)
  • Subtle (Never to be seen again)
  • Exotic (A houseplant for Zone 5)
  • Self seeds (A little or a lot)
  • Never before sold (Maybe for good reason) 
  • Unbelievable (Run the other way)
  • Lowest price anywhere (Probably lowest quality or size or not true to description)
  • Claims to have several types of plants in one (It may go back to just one the 2nd year)
  • Wildflowers gathered from the wild (Illegal)
  • This tree will be 50 feet in ten years (Fast growing trees are usually weak)

The best way to understand what you buy is to buy from reputable dealers and understand everything about the plant prior to buying. Check out the dealer’s guarantee before buying. If you did get a problem or defective plant, talk it over with your nursery. If it is their problem, they will want to work with you towards a solution. If it is your problem, they may be able to help you understand what went wrong.

“There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.” Alfred Austin, British poet laureate.

No comments:

Post a Comment