doodle by andre: the plant wars


T HE BIG CHARITY PLANT SALE NEARBY, “the” event of the season, was last Saturday, and I admit it: I fell off the wagon a time or two. Nobody I adopted cost $50 or $200, hallelujah, but there were two $35 babies in the back seat on the ride home, rare gold-leaf forms of an Aralia I can’t live without and nobody sells but this one guy….oh, you know the story (read: excuse). But generally speaking, I think all plants are priceless (to use Mastercard’s phrase): mere marigolds or a never-before-recorded thing found on an exploration slightly below the top of Yu Shan, the highest peak in Taiwan. They all fascinate me, some so much that I occasionally lose all sense and self control. Anyone want to confess to me and doodler Andre Jordan their teeny little binges? Anybody in a she’s-gotta-have-it race to the death with a garden “friend,” perhaps? Do tell.

  1. chigal says:

    I had to have a dwarf meyer lemon tree. In Chicago. I used to keep it outside in the summer, but now I need that room for tomatoes so I keep it in a sunny window year round. It almost died after giving two fruits, this winter. Confession time: I pruned it hard at the end of winter and moved it into a better spot in the bedroom. But I didn’t exactly spring into action when the cat started using it as a digging bed (he digs, then rolls around in the dirt, and wisely doesn’t pollute his playground). It hung in there, so I bought some lemon thyme and repotted the tree with the thyme underneath, along with some seashells and bark. The cat has behaved, pretty much, and the lemon tree has sprouted new leaves all over, along with a cluster of blossoms. I think we’ve made it, for now.

  2. Sylvia (England) says:

    Margaret, most gardeners I know, including garden bloggers, would want the cheapest one! We will pay more but there are so many plants to buy… I am waiting to find a Trillium at a reasonable price.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  3. Keith Alexander says:

    I find no satisfaction in admitting price on some of the plants that came into my hands this year. Collecting rare Japanese ain’t cheap, so let’s just say they are worth it.

  4. Janice says:

    Everything new I’ve bought recently with the exception of a few hostas and berry plants has been in seed form, as I’ve been concentrating on vegetables and fruit this growing season. We have. however, been looking to put a Japanese maple in the front yard — something larger with brilliant green leaves. As a result, we have been looking at a few specific varieties and found one at the local nursery had one here for a mere $299! Needless to say, we started to do a more comprehensive nursery crawl about town, and sourced on for half of that (and in better shape) at a nursery just outside town. I’ve been trying to justify by telling myself “its not a plant, its a tree!”

  5. Donalyn says:

    I spent $20 on a miscanthis I’ve been craving. Not a huge amount, but I could have gotten a smaller one and just waited a few years for it to get this big. That’s what I usually do, but I was feeling impatient that day.

    And while one of my favorite ways to spend a day with a friend, is to go plant shopping, it is always a sure way to spend more than I had planned. Not only do I find things on my own that I just can’t live without, but so do they. The plants are always greener in my friend’s [or daughter’s or sister’s] wagon.

  6. Deirdre says:

    I spent $25 on a Begonia Fuchsioides at a plant sale this spring. It was huge, and glorious, and they only had one (I was there at the beginning of the sale). I work at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Washington state. We carry all sorts of rare plants, including some our curator brings back from his trips to China and the Himalayas, and you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a good thing I get an employee discount, or I’d be in the poor house. It’s probably a good thing that ours is the only plant sale I can get to because I work week ends in the spring.
    I’ve been suckered in by the allure of the word rare a few times. I still have to remind myself that rare doesn’t necessarily mean attractive or worth growing.

  7. Rosella says:

    I’ve been really really good this spring — very few plants have put themselves in my basket, although there is an acacia mimosa on order from an online source. My extravagances are kept somewhat in check by the amount of cash in my purse at any one time. If it doesn’t appear on the credit card bill (checked by my spouse) then I don’t have to confess to my folly.

  8. Lolo says:

    Well, what with cutting corners this past couple of years, I’ve severely curtailed my shoe and purse habits. So I feel entirely justified in spending hundreds of dollars per year on plants. Logical? To me it is. I went to Fairweather Gardens this spring and felt very righteous about keeping my purchases under $200. So righteous that I rewarded my restraint with a followup mail order for another $100 or so. Then, there was that recent little incident with my clicking that link to Brushwood ….

    The most expensive items I’ve purchased this year were two different magnolias. One was 60 and one was 80 but they were both bargains, as far as I’m concerned. I always take a peek at the orphan rack when I’m at the garden center and usually come home with one or two rescues. Since I manage to propagate or divide most of my plants I just tell myself it’s like getting a twofer and that always satisfies my slightly guilty conscience.

  9. Fred from Loudonville, NY says:

    I take the cartoon differently than the other commentators. To me, the expensive ($200. plant) is like the yellow Clivia, a “SOCIETY PLANT” that says I am rich, and have money, and a space to have one. Other “society plants” to me are like the Blackmore & Langdon begonia. (some valued to $100. each). I have on occasion wondered, do some of the rich buy expensive plants, because they really like them , or are the plants just another way to say they are well off???

  10. Kellye says:

    I have always had a very green thumb, which after becoming an adult and having access to my own nickels and dimes, can sometimes make me go a bit crazy in the spring and summer. I always have to have glorious amounts of just a few favorite annuals, which in my warm weather, almost frost-free and rain-filled climate usually come back the next year with just as much fury as the first.

    Then come the perinnials…oh they are all so pretty and I have to have new ones, bunches of them every year. I’m big on propagation.

    The masses of succulents, citrus trees grown in containers (which is what I grow most everything in, until this year when we finally rented a house that has flower beds and such), blueberry bushes, strawberry shoots, vegetables, herbs, and the list goes on and on.

    I don’t really buy the expensive plants that often though, I guess if $75 is expensive, that is. My problem is more the amount of money I spend every time I enter a garden center, or the $100-200 orders online. They add up to a lot, especially when you add in all the other things you need that go along with gardening and don’t even get me started on that list…except for the cool knee pad I got the other day, the new containers, the worms, the solar lights…. =) As one person above stated, that she is limited by the cash in her purse so the spouse isn’t aware of the cost of the goodies, I too will sometimes pay for my goodies with our joint debit card and my debit card, putting some of the purchases on each one to ease the bite. Then I don’t have to confess so much of my goodies.

    Deirdre, I got a Begonia Fuchsioides last year from my vietnemese next door neighbor who had a pot of them on his porch. He saw me spying it and told me hahaha, he told me it was an orchid!!, I knew it wasn’t but looked amazed anyway and he told me he could get me a pot of them for $15. I said ok and a few hours later he was at my door with a pot that had about 7 canes and a new one peeking through the soil. I was elated! It grows about 2-3 new canes a year with bright red flowers with yellow centers when the flower finally opens fully. I will cherish it for years I hope and one day I will probably give a few canes to another person who shows a keen interest in them.

    Margaret above, I love you! =) Let’s be friends. *laugh*

    Sorry this was so long, I just enjoyed all of your post so much.
    Kellye…(about to place her most current order…)

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Kellye, and WELL! I’d say you are in a serious and advanced stage of this illness called gardening. As you confess in another comment, you are in the Bay Area of California, meaning perfect gardening environs. I think you can blame the location and climate for your condition. :) I gardened in Northern California for a couple of years *many* years ago and was completely blown away by having a lemon tree outside my window and the fact that “perennials” like many salvias became shrubs there and so on. So I hear you. See you soon again we hope.

  11. boodely says:

    2 Ballerina Magnolias (for which I would blame you but I’m trying to keep the focus on my side of the street.)

  12. Elizabeth says:

    My indulgence became an obession. Tall Bearded Iris. I have always loved them and in my last house had some in a garden that had started in my grandfather’s Michigan garden. My father had brought them to Indiana and then NJ when he and my mother retired there. Some made their way to me in the Hudson Valley. But, I had to leave them behind when I moved to current home. So, the first spring here I went to a local garden center and bought 3 potted ones and found a place for them.

    Later that summer I discovered an Oregon iris grower on ebay. $80+ later I owned the most beautiful rizomes and found space for them in the rock garden near the driveway. The next spring it was so beautiful. But, I couldn’t stop there. In looking through a White Flower Farm catalog I saw an old-fashioned variety with the name of my father’s college, Wabash. Had to have that and and some rebloomers so I could have iris to end the season as well as start it. But, there was no place to put them. So, I had to have a garden dug and planted.

    Not content with the 10 or so varieties I then had, a couple of years later I got an email from the ebay Oregon grower that he had returned from serving a stint in Afganistan and would be back on ebay again. So, another 10 varieties and another garden plot.

    Now I am in the over-crowding and dividing stage and am realizing how iris growers become iris growers. But, this is what I look forward to all year, and having the rebloomers is the best way to end the season I can imagine. But, this is it. No more!!

  13. Jeff says:

    I bought a crabapple – but only because it was the last one some poor vender had at the flea market and he really wanted to go home and only because it fit in my Element with the seats folded down and the tree top bowed to one side. I also relieved him of three magnolia bushes – but only because they filled in the space behind the driver’s seat.

    In fact, this was environmental – I had all this room in the car because I was hauling 225 pounds of Mexican river rock for an aunt (that’s only three bags).

    Anyway, she threatened to give me some of her wisteria in return for my help, but I distracted her by taking a few weird copper speckled iris that remind me of daylily.

  14. catjane says:

    Janice, re: “its not a plant, its a tree!”

    In the case of Jap. maples, it’s also a property value booster! My husband and I bought a very small, weeping ,red Jap. maple many years ago. We planted it on our front lawn. It grew very well for 5-6 years. When we got ready to move, we decided to take it with us. We told the real estate agent about the 2 trees we were going to dig up, but he never told the buyers. I guess he didn’t think it was important. When the new owners were closing on the property, they had a fit and wanted the purchase price of the house reduced by the current value of the tree!

    P.S. The tree has been thriving in its new home for 11 years. I hate to think what it’s worth now.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Catjane. I love Japanese maples (I grow them in big pots that I take into the barn each winter, as they can really get zapped by late frost here). Glad you got to take your babies with you when you moved.

  15. Amanda Lewis says:

    Wow I feel rich after reading that Betsy paid $150 for her eastern redbud. My dad has given me about 10 small sapling from his tree and a million seeds to boot. My big expense this year (or my husbands’ expense for my birthday) was on 3 david austin roses. One of which is Jude the obscure, from which I have heard rave reviews about it’s intoxicating fragrance on this sight. I’m a bit spoiled too, as my mom is always buying rare perennials the way some women collect bags and shoes, and she is always willing to divide them for me when they gain in size. I TRY to never buy unless I can’t think of anyone who has the plant I want and is willing to trade. I think this site should have a trade section:)

  16. becky nielsen says:

    We haven’t bought many plants. Our day lilly collection came from a retired psychiatrist we met on an island in Maine. He had the most incredible garden of daylillies – used to develop and sell them but had stopped doing that by the time we met him. Each year when we visited, I’d spend a few mornings helping him deadhead – obviously an impossible task to keep up with with day lillies. When we got hom the first year we got a lovely package in the mail with some plants and then a few months later some seeds with specific instructions on how to winter them and get them going in the spring.

    When we toured his garden, he would tell me the names and special characteristics of each of his hundreds of types. He would point out which he had spent a lot of money on – “I can’t give you some of those – that cost me xxx; but you can have one of these that is somewhat similar – but not as new so now less expensive.” We would laugh about this. Clearly, I didn’t know the difference – only that some I loved, even if they weren’t “precious”.

    The last summer we visited, the gardens were running themselves – he wasn’t able to do much and he didn’t remember who we were, or the names of any of the flowers.

    He got his money’s worth out of his gardens. He loved them, they brought him his only joy, besides his beloved little dog, Maxie.

    I wonder if whoever took over his house ever had an inkling about how much those flowers were worth. I hope they didn’t dig them under and plant grass.

    1. Margaret says:

      @Becky: Great story, thank you; how wonderful that you have been able to share in this man’s legacy. I hope they didn’t dig it under, too. Oh my!

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