Techno-teasing trauma


Here's another guest post from Friend of Rant, professor of veterinary medicine, and master gardener James K. Roush, who blogs at Garden Musings. Hark to his tale of frustration with QR codes and questionable, albeit tempting, spring bulbs.—Elizabeth


I was out running errands around town yesterday and, entering a large home improvement box store that will remain unnamed, I was captured, as usual, by the entry display of various bagged up bulbs and perennials. As a general rule, I try to avoid spending any time in front of those racks because I know that most of these plants and bulbs will be dehydrated with little chance of survival and also because they are very common perennials and thus below the standards held by a real gardener. Since I'm not a real gardener, however, I nearly always leave with a bag of something or other. Call them impulse purchases.

Qcodescan0002b+compAnyway, today, it was a bag of Tigridia that caught my eye. Having never seen them before, and seeing that they were promoted as "Sun Lovers" (see the package above), my first thoughts were a) "That would be good for a novelty," and b) "I wonder if they are hardy here?" The packaging didn't list a USDA hardiness zone, but it did have one of those wonders of modern convenience, a QR code, shown here. And I, being of an early technologic bent, have just such a code-reading app on my Smart Phone.  (Go ahead, try it out.  It works from the screen.) 

So there are the Tigridia, on sale at Home Depot, and here you are, the technically-proficient and thoroughly modern gardener.   The package QR Code links you to more information from the Longwood Gardens website. And what do you find? The message" spring bulbs coming soon." To quote Charlie Brown, "Aaarrrgggh!"

HELLO! STOP TEASING ME WITH YOUR PROMISES OF KNOWLEDGE!  It's already spring, almost past it in many parts of the country.  I'm a poor, uneducated common gardener just looking for help.  Don’t you think it is about time to post the necessary information?  Why put the QR code on the packaging if it is not active?

I've since found out that Tigridia pavonia is only hardy to Zone 8, and furthermore, is short-lived, each flower blooming only for a day.  Wonderful.  I just purchased an annual daylily. Of a magenta coloration I now find truly ugly.  

Well, so run the disappointments of our gardening lot.  Doomed forever to take a $6.98 chance on twenty dehydrated, decrepit bulbs that will not survive winter in my Zone 6 climate, and may not even come up for one season. Tigrigia  is noted on one website to grow in Olathe, Kansas and Lincoln, Nebraska, if, like dahlias, you are industrious enough to dig them up every fall and replant every spring.

I don't grow dahlias for just that reason.  As I've noted many times, digging and replanting bulbs in my stone ridden soil is a Sisyphean recipe for a broken back and a broken spirit.  But I will try to enjoy the Tigridia for this summer, fleeting as they may be.  Those few flowers, at least, whose bulbs survive their dessicated state in my drought-stricken Kansas soil long enough to grow and bloom.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. The big box stores have killed off so many independent garden centers with their low prices, a 2 decade process.

    Now their prices are high, selection poor, AND they waste your time with dead apps?

    What is the true cost of that damn bulb you mention? Add in your selection time, home delivery, labor, and a year to watch it die.

    They’re coasting on the fact most gardeners will think they killed it themselves.

    Love your writing style, you’re new to me.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    Back in the day, working at an independent garden center, customers would come to me with their questions then TELL me they were off to the big box to buy what I advised.

    Sadly, we see who is getting the last laugh.

    In a way it’s me. I was forced into my Landscape Design/Contracting career. With zero fallback if I failed. My business is thriving & the independent garden center I worked for went out of business…..

  2. Great post! Totally made me laugh and totally makes me suspicious of my recent big box store bulb purchase!

  3. I bought some lily bulbs at our local Garden Fair this spring. All independent shops. The lilies were all in big boxes full of wood shavings to keep them dry. I bought 5 different kinds, but now I don’t know which are which. It won’t really matter, because they will all be lovely, but with the prepackaged stock at least you would know what it was supposed to look like when it doesn’t come up, lol.

  4. I haven’t bothered yet to figure out how to use those little QR thingies, and probably won’t. Probably better to use ye olde smartypants phone to Google the plant in question, or go to the Sunset Plant Finder website. I planted tigridia once (in a container, knowing they were too tender for my Zone 5 climate) and they did indeed bloom — only a few — one at a time — for one day. Very cool, showy flower (in truth, much more spectacular than daylilies), but probably only worth it in their own proper zone, planted en masse.

    Or not.

    And recognize that buying a plant at BBSs is pretty much a gamble. Possibly they should install slot machines instead?

  5. Ah, tigridia.

    I narrowly missed getting in trouble with my grad school roommate when I picked the dead flowers off her tigridia. That night she left a nasty note to the neighbors for “stealing” her flowers. After that, I didn’t have the heart to explain to her that the blooms only lasted a day.

    She grew the tigridia in a pot as a house plant. Seemed to work just fine.

  6. Elizabeth; thanks for posting this rant. The broader the readership, the more I’m relieved from the induced trauma.

    Tara; Thank you for the kind comment on my writing. I try to not leave the rest of you with too many dangling participles, and yet still apologize frequently to my (former) high school English teachers.

    Li’l Ned; nice idea on the slot machines. That would be about as good a use of my money as buying the Tigridia.

  7. Last fall, every time I went to the big box store to buy some screws or some paint I was unable to pass the little bags of species crocus. Every time I went, I threw another little bag in my cart. I also bought some bulbs from a well-regarded supplier.
    Now here it is Spring and I only see about half of the early bulbs I planted. Which ones failed? I have no idea. I just stuck them all in the ground and promptly forgot what I planted where. I guess I’d really better start keeping a gardening diary.

  8. Can you do the Tigridia in a large pot? Then you can just drag it into the garage or something for winter, and not worry about the digging.

  9. Ah, UrsulaV, a large pot. Yes, I suppose that’s possible. I have a number of large pots at present and a moving dolly. But I left most of them outside, sometimes intentionally like now when I’m trying to kill the Drift rose that is in one of them. But alas, it survived and looks like it will thrive. I’ll decide if the Tigridia is worth keeping and maybe potting in the fall, or if, as Lil Ned stated above, they’re just unimpressive one-day bloomers.

    Greg, in my defense, I didn’t go to the big box hardware store to shop for plants, I went for hardware. The line-up as I entered just suckered me in.

  10. Tigridia is WELL worth keeping! So what if it’s a one day bloomer? It blooms and blooms and blooms… I’ve found it a great plant to mix in with other things. Try ’em, you’ll like ’em.

  11. Oh dear. I just got suckered in the same way and now I feel guilty. I’ve spent all my gardening money in local indies and a couple regional indies, but I couldn’t leave those damn siberian irises behind. I’ve always wanted some and none of my other suppliers had a color that would work for me. Maybe my soggy soil will overcome the dehydration factor…?

  12. Thank you for a great post! I do NOT have a smart phone and last summer, I found myself ranting to a big box nursery employee about the lack of information on a new variety of coneflower. When I asked him why I should spend my hard-earned dollars on this particular variety the answer was, “Ummm…because it’s a pretty color?”

  13. I research on Amazon, and then buy indie/small local chain.

    I prefer indie garden centers because they’re not all concrete, the people there know what they’re talking about–and usually more than you already do on a given topic–and are happy to chat about favorites.

    Mostly BBs do nothing for me, because their selection is so limited. When I can’t find a bulb or a plant locally, or in catalogs/websearches, I go to eBay. There are some amazing folks and products out there. I will admit I’m not impressed by Hirt’s Gardens’ shipping charges for small items, but various specialists have come up with interesting products for reasonable prices & shipping costs…when they can ship to CA.

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