This year’s fall gardening catalogs began arriving at the end of July. How can a person not be tempted by the lush fields of daffodils, tulips, and lilies? Check out this photo, taken with my camera of a catalog offering.
I think catalogs should provide disclaimers. Here are four:
Image appears larger than it will be in real life.
That humungous grape hyacinth? It’s only about six inches tall. At best. Will that climbing rose reach the top of the trellis? Uh – that’s a firm maybe!
It takes at least three years to achieve the lushness of the catalog photo.
Master gardeners know that in year one, a plant sleeps. In year two, it creeps. And finally, if you haven’t torn it out before now, in year three, it leaps. Ideally.
I have a gorgeous clematis (Rebecca) that never bloomed for the first five years. Now, it’s a wild and crazy bloomer. But getting there required more patience than I normally have. I needed blinders so as not to see that plant for 1,825 days, including winters.
You can’t afford the number of plants in the catalog depiction.
Well, maybe someone can. I can’t. Check the price. Instead of the massive field of glorious yellow daffodils bobbing in a gentle spring breeze, the winds of reality hit hard. Five bulbs, $14.95.
Speaking of fields of daffodils, I once bought one hundred bulbs of crocus, thinking that in late February or early March I’d have a swath of blue and yellow beautifulness under my still bare deciduous shrubs. The reality? Only about half of those bulbs germinated. Instead of being this gorgeous field of flowers, it just looked sad.
Flowers in your garden are never perfect.
Catalogs show flowers ironically untouched by nature. I’ve never seen a brown or yellow iris leaf in a catalog. Peonies are never flat on the ground after a rain. No dogs made a hole in that yew bush for a cool place to sleep. And where are the photos of spent daylilies or chrysanthemums in need of deadheading?
Now I’m not naïve! Perfect photos sell flowers. But last year, my cynical-self resolved to not buy from catalogs. In fact, I threw the catalogs away without so much as leafing through them.
This year, I need plants that I can only get in catalogs. I aim to keep expectations low. I’ve resolved to not look at the new plants with a jaundiced eye until 2019 or 2020. I’m living a new mantra.
Perfection takes time.