Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

SPRING PEEVES

At the top of my peeve list must be neighborhood stores, garden centers, and even the vaunted Greenmarket at Union Square where vendors sell tender crops like tomatoes and basil weeks before the last frost date.(double-click on any image to enlarge) What are they thinking? Where will these plants languish before they're planted by the gardener? Surely people aren't buying for their windowsill herb garden or their indoor hydroponic farm.
OK, I admit
that I planted
my pansies
March 15th this
year, but I
know that a
little frost,
even snow
won't hurt
them too
much. Plant
your sage,
chives and
thyme if you
want to, any-
thing peren-
nial, but the
vendors pictured top and below are complicit in garden failure. I can only think it's a way to get a second sale when the first plant fails in the cold weather. The Channel 1 meteorologist is predicting possible frost tonight. It's still March folks. Don't sell basil yet! (above right, ESP and her pansy 'hangover')2. For a consulting project, I've been thinking a lot about failure lately, and the roll it plays in the life of the novice gardener. I used to read some of those gorgeous gardening books by famous British writers, thinking I should be able to produce a similar garden. Well, the heat and humidity of a Philadelphia summer, not to mention the freezing winters, didn't exactly match a climate like Gloucestershire, England, and no publisher exactly made that clear. In fact the opposite. Gardeners from England and their publishers often imply that we could and should be doing what they do; another opportunity for failure, when a novice gardener doesn't know enough to even ask the climate questions.
3. A third opportunity for failure is offered by garden catalogs showing macro photos of tiny blossoms without showing the flower in a larger context. A buyer purchases a plant like the one above expecting it to be loaded with 6" blossoms, then must face the reality of 1/2" blossoms. It happened to with witch hazel. I read the description, saw the huge blossoms, and was later astounded by the discrepancies with what I got: small blossom on a shrub that held over its dead leaves from fall. (see above) Whose failure is that? Certainly not the novice gardener?

4. My fourth and last peeve (at least for now) are the plantings in the islands of upper Park Ave. I've heard that a special trust exists to support these plantings. Season after season there's a stage set of one type of flower, tulips in spring, begonias in summer for example. While I admit that the taxis and traffic lights make excellent foils for the color of the tulips, could we have some imagination please? An actual garden instead of floral theater?Now that I've confessed my current top four peeves, please write in your pet gardening peeves. You'll feel better for it.

Below, mid spring as I like it, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 4/19/09.

2 comments:

frank@new york city garden said...

No pet peeves as of yet- although maybe garden centers not having perennials early enough for our city heat island, and tomatoes before memorial day.

But I used to have to plant those begonias and tulips years back. The worst part- watering in! Method: go to apartment building and ask doorman if you can take a garbage pail with a plastic trash bag in it to a spigot so you can fill it to the top and drag it to the island (thru traffic!) to water in.

On failure: well I failed so much I can barely remember it. No matter which books I saw, I couldn't achieve anything I looked at. Still working on that!

Anonymous said...

Betsy W. writes: Basil plants are already selling briskly in grocery stores here on the MA/NH border. My rule for our frosty valley is:
all basils go outdoors when the tomatoes go in the ground, usually the 3rd or 4th week of May. I wish we could get plant retailers to post the best planting dates in their areas for various plants. It would lead to more successful gardeners and, ultimately, more sales.

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