SHOW YOUR GARDEN
There’s as much art as science to buying plants that will do well in your garden. If you’ve admired a friend’s or neighbour’s garden, chances are good that the first thing they did right was buy good plants and plant them well.
Before you plunder the plant tables, rake over and weed your garden beds. Have a mental (or written) shopping list. It doesn’t have to be for specific plants, but in the line of “something low for the front of the main bed” or “something tall and colourful for the bed by the pool.”
Buy your plants from someone who knows what they’re talking about. That can be from a plant sale or from a garden centre. You will benefit from knowledgeable people, and plants that have been looked after and watered regularly.
Area horticultural societies (a.k.a. garden clubs) almost all have plant sales this month. They’re a great place to get good, hardy plants from members’ garden at good prices and with solid advice. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of two area hort societies and will be at their sales — helping and buying.)
There are hundreds of thousands of annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables out there
waiting to be purchased. Be picky.
Garden writer Barbara Damrosch, author of “The Garden Primer,” has a solid checklist:
• Do not buy plants with yellowed leaves. Nothing you want
in your garden causes yellow leaves. (Except plants that are MEANT to have yellow-green foliage. That’s where good advice pays off.)
• Do not buy wilted plants. Re-
peated wilting permanently sets back plants.
• Do not buy tall, spindly plants. They have been deprived of light, room or have been in their pots too long. Look for plants that are compact and bushy, with several stems.
• No matter how much you like a plant, do not buy anything that has insect bodies, chewed leaves or blackened or mushy areas. Assume any disease is contagious and incurable and that insect infestation is still there.
• If you find weeds in the pots, consider it a sign of neglect by the garden centre.
• Take plants (some of them, anyway) out of the pot. Look for vigorous, healthy roots.
Make sure the plants are recently watered and take them straight home. If, when you get home, you must set plants aside for a while, make sure they go in the shade and near a water supply.
Ready to plant? Water all plants thoroughly (again) so they come out of the pot easily. Remove as much of the peat pot as you can, especially the top lip, without the soil ball falling apart.
For annuals, dig a hole a little deeper than the pot is high. Fill it with water, let it drain, set the plant in the ground and firm the soil around it.
As for perennials take the plant out of the pot and, to encourage root growth, tease the roots apart with your finger or slice the root mass vertically every few inches with a knife. Plant so that the crown is just at soil level (any deeper may cause rot), spread the roots out in the hole, fill part way with soil (add a few handfuls of compost if you have some) and top up with water. When the water has sunk away, fill up with soil (and some more compost) and firm it well so there are no air pockets.
Water regularly for the first two weeks and then, depending on the weather, water as needed.
Majorie Cooke has grown more than 200 plants for the Hamilton Horticultural Society’s Annual Plant Sale, which will take place on May 19 at 9 a.m. at Chedoke Presbyterian Church, 865 Mohawk Rd. W.
These hostas are among the more than 200 plants that Majorie Cooke has been growing.
Majorie Cooke’s leopard’s bane, left, and grape hyacinth.