My climate, my choice


The ample rain two weeks ago was enough to green up the buffalo grass and provide some much needed relief to the perennials here in Kansas.  It also brought some relief to area gardeners, not from the sweltering heat, which continues to stress my garden and its gardener daily, but it did provide a respite from daily watering chores.  This was enough to entice Professor Roush to order some rose bands for fall planting.  I like to plant own-root roses, even young bands, in the fall in Kansas as the cooler weather and higher rainfall gives them a better start next year before the heat hits.

I had a great afternoon in the air-conditioned indoors, choosing rose varieties online and planning the layout of a new bed.  Imagine my surprise, however, two days after placing an online order with Rose Paradise (not its real name), when I received a return email thanking me for my order and informing me that it would be held until next spring because Rose Paradise had ceased shipping to my area for the fall.   When I contacted the nursery directly, they explained that it was getting too cold to ship to my area and the roses wouldn’t have time to become established before winter.

I suppose it is a positive development that mail-order nurseries have fully taken notice of the USDA Hardiness Zones and are trying to keep horticultural idiots from planting palm trees in USDA Zone 2 in September, but it is past time for these nurseries to also begin taking note of the AHS Heat-Zone map.  On it, one would find that my portion of Kansas is currently listed as AHS Zone 7, meaning that it has 61-90 days annually where the temperature is above 86˚F.   And the current AHS Zone Map was based on data from 1974 through 1995 and has not been updated.  Given the changes of the 2012 revision of the USDA zones, I’m probably now in AHS Zone 8 or 9, with somewhere (I’m guessing) around 120-150 annual days of >86˚F highs.  Believe me, please, when I tell you that I’ve got plenty of time left before Christmas to get new roses established.

Recently, at Walmart, I tried to purchase a fan and had a store employee tell me (on a 102˚F day) that they were no longer selling fans because it was getting too cold.  I gave the customer service representative at Rose Paradise the same response I gave that misguided Walmart employee—I pointed out that (after a moment of silence during which I labored mightily to calm myself) it was still plenty warm here and would likely remain so for some time.  Fortunately, in terms of my future purchases from it, the Rose Paradise employee cheerfully informed me that they would be glad to go ahead and ship my order; however, the roses would not carry their normal guarantee.  Jumping ahead to the end of this story, in my garden on this day there are 9 new roses trying to survive the predicted 99˚F high.

My point here is a plea to all mail-order nurseries to give consumers the benefit of the doubt, as long as we don’t giggle fiendishly or otherwise exhibit latent plant-icidal tendencies, and let us decide when we want plants delivered.  It would also be nice if the AHS would update their Heat Zone map, and if all nurseries would take a closer look at it, but that is probably too much to expect.  Gardeners know our climates best and, in fact, I have similar issues trying to get nurseries to send me plants in the spring before my climate gets too hot for planting.  I don’t need any extensive guarantee because as long as I receive the plant in good condition, I’m never going to claim a death was the nursery’s fault three months later after I’ve forgotten to water the little seeding.  I know full well who deserves the blame for dead plants in my garden.


  1. There are two mail order nurseries that I stopped ordering from a few years ago when they shipped perennials I had ordered in March. I live in SE Michigan; we don’t plant anything outdoors in March! Happily most good mail order nurseries seem to have gotten the idea about when to send.

  2. I agree. I was trying to get some sunchokes for Phoeniz, AZ and the shipping dates were so out of whack with the local reality that I gave up.

    Bought them from eBay instead.

  3. As for local roses, if you’re a real rosarian, local nurseries are never going to cut it. There are so many varieties of roses aside from the few HTs and Knock-Outs you’ll find at a general nursery. Oh, they may a have a few other types, but if you’re really into roses, or you want non-mainstream stuff, you must mail order. Bulbs are like that too.

  4. Preach it! Here in the hot zone of central Texas, we plant fall, winter, and early spring, and I try (TRY, mind you) to quit planting by late April before the heat arrives in earnest. But it can be hard to get nurseries to mail plants as early as you want them when you garden under the Death Star.

  5. I tried to buy some patio furniture in early July and was told that ‘summer was over’. I noticed they were stocking back-to-school supplies — this in a state where school doesn’t start until the week after Labor Day. You’d think people involved with plants and growing things would be more in step with the reality of the weather and seasons. Sheesh.

  6. Guess it depends how badly you want the plant in question. One of my clients wanted to order plants from an out of state grower and was told they’re not shipping here till spring. She asked if they’d sell to her if she showed up at their yard and they (very confused) said they would. “See you tomorrow, then,” said my client, and started packing.

  7. We are beginning to incorporate the drought severity ratings developed by Henri Gaussen and spelled out (and used) in the Dry Gardening Handbook by Olivier Filippi. Of course, there are a number of plants out there that can handle drought and not heat, or vice versa, so no system is perfect.
    Ian Barclay
    The Desert Northwest

  8. Most good rose nurseries advocate fall planting. I’m not sure what kind of autumns and winters you get in Kansas, but I’m pretty sure you get some snow.. Pickering Nurseries in Ontario will ship to the US and they may have the old roses you want listed in their online catalogue.

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