The situation may have been morphing into place for some time, but this spring when I went to a local garden center to buy my yearly complement of container annuals, I felt as though I was in Macy’s, and it wasn’t just all the ceramic tchochkies, birdbaths, and florescent garden gloves.
Overpowering the usual rows of six-packs, four-packs, or various square and round plastic containers, green or black, huge central displays dominated, organized by brand. Proven Winners, Stepables, Star, Monrovia, Gardener’s Own … Sure, a lot of these were always there, but it’s never seemed as prevalent before. And it goes without saying that the designer flowers are more expensive than the humble little black six-packs.
Well, no one is forcing me to buy the pricy flowers, but I do hanker for certain plants that now seem only to be available in the patented varieties. I feel certain someone else beside Proven Winners must grow diascia, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. The prevalence of patented, “special” plants now means that I’m paying around $4-5 for each little pot, and don’t even mention the big ones. It’s one thing to pay more for a Ralph Lauren top—but at least I’ll still be wearing it next year and probably the year after that. Most of these annuals will end up in the compost bin once frost hits.Can I take cuttings to try to keep some of these going? Not that I would, but it’s an interesting question. As far as I know, it’s fine if I’m using them in my garden, but I can’t sell them or bring them to a plant exchange. I don’t think I can give them to a friend either.
In some ways the trademarked plants are more annoying than the patented plants. Other breeders can’t use the name given by original breeders, so you wind up with a bunch of the same plants called by different names. It’s confusing, when trying to match what you already have or you need a certain variety.
Far be it from me to stand in the way of horticultural progress, but in the short ten years that I have been a serious gardener, there have been many changes along these lines, and it all seems to cost me more money. Spending money on plants is always a pleasurable experience, mind you, so consider this a mild rant—soon to be alleviated by the sight of clouds of diascia, mounds of fragrant violet petunias, and the prettiest white and pale yellow lantana I’ve seen in some time. See how they get you?