Monday, January 28, 2013

Eighteen Catalogs and Counting by Carol King

Rain and snow this evening. A few snow showers overnight. You might ask “ What to do I do on a day like this?” I think it is a grand day to look at seed and plant catalogs and dream about spring. I have received eighteen so far. That’s right eighteen: surely January is National Send Out Seed Catalogs month.

With the snow blowing all around, it is a wonderful time to look at pictures of children sitting on giant pumpkins, dahlias as big as a basketballs, roses with names like ”Summer of Love” and “Sweetness”, and all manner of vegetables and flowers promising a wonderful garden. However, one must certainly be careful when reading the text of these catalogs. Gardening in Colorado is not for the faint of heart and most of these catalogs are from companies in exotic places like Wisconsin, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; places that have actual rainfall and garden soil full of humus and natural compost. My experience tells me that certain words and phrases are to be watched out for. By paying attention to the descriptions, we can learn much about what truly is being said and whether a certain plant might have a chance here.

For instance, the phrase “plants are slow to emerge in spring” probably means you’ll forget you planted something in that spot and till it up. “Well draining soil is essential”; might not be a good choice for my clay garden. “Sends forth a heightened perfume; pungently scented”; better like the fragrance as this one will stink. “Patience is needed to germinate”, right; see the first phrase. Be very cautious when you see the word vigorous with any plant or seed as in “vigorous, self sows” or “spreads vigorously”, this will be all over the neighborhood within a couple of years. “Does best in acid soil”; means you’ll be making a weekly trip to Starbucks for coffee grounds if you are going to grow this one. “Best in moist conditions and humus rich soil”; yeah, right. “Can’t ship to: various states”; this one is on some state’s noxious weed list. “Prone to powdery mildew; water early in the day”; these will look horrible in August.

Read between the lines, dear gardener. Read between the lines!