Tino Carnevale:

TINO CARNEVALE shares his check­list for se­lect­ing the best plants to take home — and what to do once you’ve got them there

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - CONTENTS -

Shares his top tips for se­lect­ing the best plants to take home from nurs­eries

Ifind few things more ex­cit­ing than the an­tic­i­pa­tion of find­ing a new plant, scour­ing the lo­cal nurs­eries, gar­den cen­tres and mar­ket stalls to find the per­fect plant for that spot you have lov­ingly pre­pared in your gar­den.

Although it doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten, it sucks when you get a lemon. It is re­ally dis­heart­en­ing to get it home and take time to plant it and tend to its ev­ery need, only to watch its health slowly de­te­ri­o­rate for no clear rea­son and some­times even cark it.

Here’s a check­list to go over when se­lect­ing your plants which will hope­fully save you money and a lot of heartache down the track.

Get to know your lo­cal nurs­ery work­ers as they will be able to ad­vise you on any par­tic­u­lar needs of your plant. Find out what days of the week they get in their fresh stock and where it comes from, be­cause it may have come from a dif­fer­ent cli­matic zone and had to travel a long way. Har­den­ing off or ac­cli­ma­tis­ing your plants can be a great way to min­imise the stress that this can cause. Grad­u­ally ex­pose your plants to your lo­cal con­di­tions: tem­per­a­ture, light lev­els, wind and rain.

Con­sider the gen­eral ap­pear­ance of your prospec­tive plant. Ba­si­cally, does it look healthy or is it a bit tired? Ob­vi­ous things to look for are phys­i­cal dam­age such as bro­ken limbs, gouges or splits in the stems.

The only thing worse than watch­ing your new plant fail to thrive is in­tro­duc­ing a new weed, pest or dis­ease into your and your neigh­bour’s gar­dens. Steer clear of pots that show any in­di­ca­tions of these stow­aways. Check the un­der­sides of the leaves and stems, and the bases of the pots as large pop­u­la­tions are eas­ily seen but slight in­fes­ta­tions need a more thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion. Quar­an­tin­ing for a short pe­riod prior to plant­ing can pre­vent this.

A great deal can be learnt by the squeeze test which like many things in gar­den­ing, sounds cheeky but isn’t

A great deal can be learnt by the squeeze test which like many things in gar­den­ing, sounds cheeky but isn’t. Sim­ply give the pot a light squeeze and if there is very lit­tle re­sis­tance then the plant may be swim­ming in the pot. It may have only just been pot­ted up from a smaller one and in some cases barely pro­gressed be­yond a cut­ting so you could be pay­ing ex­tra money just for pot­ting mix.

Al­ter­na­tively if the pot is as tight as a drum you could prob­a­bly bet the farm on it be­ing root-bound. This can be a bonus with plants that are eas­ily di­vid­able like flaxes but usu­ally it’s a sign that the plant is strug­gling. The amount of roots the plant has should be roughly the same as the amount of shoots, what is above should be equal to that which is be­low.

The size of the plant in re­la­tion to the size of its pot and the height of the soil are good in­di­ca­tors of the amount of time it has spent in it. If the soil level is too high, wa­ter can run off the top and the plants re­main un­wa­tered. Plants in pots that have low soil lev­els usu­ally are wa­ter stressed and nu­tri­ent de­fi­cient. Cracked pots leach wa­ter and nu­tri­ents, leav­ing the plant hun­gry and thirsty.

Although plants in bloom look very at­trac­tive and give you a great in­stant dis­play, it is bet­ter to select a plant with strong, com­pact growth rather than large colour­ful flow­ers. If you are se­lect­ing a plant for its flo­ral dis­play, it’s best to choose one with loads of un­opened buds which will en­sure that you en­joy the flow­ers for longer. Steer clear of plants bear­ing fruit, es­pe­cially if they are young.

Watch out for plants with dis­coloured leaves, un­less of course they are var­ie­gated or de­cid­u­ous plants, as this can in­di­cate nu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies.

Res­cue mis­sions from the dis­count ta­ble can be a good source of cheap plants as well as giv­ing you a warm fuzzy feel­ing. If your plant is look­ing a lit­tle stressed, when you get home soak it in a bucket of wa­ter for about five min­utes then pull it out and let it drain. I like to add a splash of worm or sea­weed juice to the wa­ter. Your stressed plants should phys­i­cally pick up in front of your eyes.

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