The Hamilton Spectator - - Go - ROB HOWARD

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.

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