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THE FARTHERMOST VIEW

Selected Podpieces

CATALOG SUCKER

I pretend to be a skeptic, but in fact I’m a sucker for some kinds of propaganda. Seed catalogs, for example. Every year I tell my Companion I’m going to resist ordering anything this time; but when the new year starts and the mailbox starts filling up, I start foldingdown corners on pages of tree peonies and giant daffodil collections, and before I know it I’ve earmarked hundreds of dollars’ worth of flora.
Plant sellers employ some of the country’s most brilliant creative writers. They can describe a daisy in such glowing terms that you start to drool with the desire to own it. Even if you don’t particularly like hellebores you might find it hard to resist the first delicate sign of spring peeping out from beneath a frosting of snow. Or a description of the gorgeous creamy-white native foxglove that stopped us in our tracks! might seduce you into ordering one even though your garden is in hot full sun from dawn to dusk, April Fool’s Day through Halloween.
One problem with ordering plants from distant nurseries, rather than waiting till Mother’s Day to pick them out locally, is that the plants you receive are weensy. A four-inch pot for a tomato seedling is one thing, but a tiny viburnum will take years to grow into the plant in the catalog’s illustration.
Of course, this can be a good thing if you tend to have a peripatetic garden like mine.
More than one of my plants has moved with me from one garden to the next, from Maine to Utah to Oregon to Virginia. Even within the confines of one garden, a fair percentage of my plants seems to try several locations – back yard, front yard; next to the house, beside the sidewalk, over by the woods – before settling into a final site.
Nevertheless, the poor things can’t help but grow. Eventually they get too big to move, and they heave a plantly sigh of relief and start sending out roots and shoots like there’s no tomorrow. Parts of my latest yard are starting to get a touch crowded now. I’m not a good planner, and though I read the descriptions of mature plants, I find it hard to internalize the fact that a foot-high naked twig will eventually be twenty feet high and just as wide.
There are a couple of solutions. One is to move – yet again – to a new house and a new yard. But it’s cheaper to resist the siren song of the catalogs.


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