Plants don’t bring out the five-year-old in me any more. I
was looking at the newest and hottest offerings of 2010, according to the
Garden Center Magazine, and the first thing I saw was an image of “Hot Lava” echinacea.
Then there was the “Jersey
Earlybird Cardinal” hemerocallis, and then the heuchera “Berry Smoothie” caught
my eye. (Some of the new heuchera foliage is brighter than most flowers.)
I don’t mean to pick on these plants in particular—a lot of them are really cool—but every
year I seem more able to resist them. Once I yearned for these delightful rarities; now I tend to pass them by.
There seem to be five or more stages of plant geekdom. They
vary from gardener to gardener, but here were mine, as a partial to full shade
Stage one: All
I wanted was huge swathes of constantly blooming flowers. Most of them were
pink. Or blue. Or one of the latest, greatest, new introductions.
Stage two: Those flowers, most of which required the exact
opposite conditions of what exists on my property, died. I wised up, just a bit, and looked for
plants that would survive in my conditions, but still with flowers the primary
Stage three: I began to focus on groundcovers and bulbs,
which seemed to provide as close to a win/win as I would get. I entered bulb
geekdom, learning about the species and the ephemerals.
Stage four: Finally I begin to collect more interesting shade perennials
that flower in spring. I had ignored these in the past because spring here
barely exists—we move right into summer. Nonetheless, I got into hellebores,
Stage five: I have now “collected” as many interesting
plants as I can, and can barely shoehorn in one more hellebore or epimedium—not
even a tiny erythronium tuber. I am seriously considering pulling out a couple
beds and doing the whole thing over again, resisting the urge to collect, using
more of the same plants, and thinking more astutely about design issues.
There is probably a full-sun version of this. I’m guessing many of you have your own versions. Is there a lesson to be learned from it all?