Check out the attractive centerfold in the garden catalog

Bessera elegans by Sericea

It is that time of year again when glossy seed and plant catalogs are arriving in the mail box. So dreams begin. What is new that one’s garden must include? Which plant have I wanted for years that I will finally buy? These seed and plant catalogs are for me now what the old Sears catalog used to be when I was a child. How many of you recall the old Sears Christmas Wish Book catalog.  We kept one in our outhouse.

So now with seed and plant catalogs we have visions of flowers, vegetables and other plants, shrubs or trees dancing in our heads. One friend calls the seed catalog, Flower Porn because every flower is so lusciously, even lasciviously (I will let my dear reader look at the meaning of this word, if you do not know it.) photographed. Looking at some catalog photos, one cannot tell whether the flower is miniscule or gigantic- they all look gigantic. Some catalogs only have photos of the flowers, so one doesn’t know whether the plant is an unattractive one with a pretty flower or if the entire plant looks attractive. I know that photography is an art but when it comes to selling plants there should be truth in advertising. Let the buyers know what they are really getting, not buyer beware.

And when it comes to the buyer beware category, TheGardenLady readers know by now that this Garden Lady trusts Latin names when buying plants. If any business should include the Latin name of a plant with the common name, it should be plant catalogs.

I got the Michigan Bulb catalog and saw a pretty flower labeled Coral Drops. What flower is a Coral Drop? It could be any flower that is coral and hangs. The photo shows a red flower, not even a coral one.  If you don’t know the Latin name, Bessera elegans, it is more difficult to know what plant this is or anything about the plant. (see here) And looking at the photo in the catalog the flowers seem large and sturdy. In fact, the photo is next to a photo of Hardy Perennial Lilies and the Coral Drop flower looks larger than the lily flower. How deceiving.

In researching Coral Drop flowers, one learns they are dainty, showy plants, because there are about 10 flowers on each plant, that grow in Mexico and are therefore hardy in zones 8-10.  If you plant them in colder zones, you have to dig them up and store in the winter.

Another thing the Michigan Bulb catalog does that this Garden Lady finds sneaky is tell you in bold letters the zones plants can be grown. And then with plants that are not hardy, in lower case letters, they tell you that these plants have to be dug and stored over winter in most of the Temperature Zones. So if you are not a careful reader, you are in for a surprise. It is important to know the zones a plant will grow in if it is a perennial plant or a tuber, bulb or corm and after the writers tell you the temperature hardiness zone a plant will grow in easily should follow the information telling where the plant will grow; this way you will decide if you are willing to dig and store the plant.

There are great gardeners out there who are willing to dig bulbs and plants in the fall and overwinter them somewhere protected. Even this Garden Lady is willing to do it with certain bulbs and plants, like my Brugmansia and my dahlia and caladium bulbs. But it is extra work that is hard work and storage in my house is limited so I doubt that I would ever dig and store dainty plants no matter how pretty a flower it has. There are enough hardy plants for my temperature zones with showy big flowers that I will go the extra mile for and dig and store indoors. So catalog writers, be straightforward in what you tell a reader!

Now that TheGardenLady got that rant off her chest, let me tell my readers that I still enjoy reading catalogs that come in the mail. Though I go on line to check out the photos and get more information about plants, especially when the Latin names are given, I love having paper catalogs, especially free catalogs that come in the mail. I like to sit in any room to read and dog ear the pages with plants I want. For a list of 48 free catalogs check this out.  And for a more complete list of catalogs, including catalogs with specialized seeds, both through the mail and on line go to this complete list of catalogs at this site.

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