Somebody Stop Me: The Frenzy of Plant Buying

It would take a stronger woman than I to walk away.

It would take a stronger woman than I to walk away.

We’re acquiring right now.

Oh come on, don’t pretend that you’re the only one abstaining.  Seventy-five degrees with a light easterly breeze and low humidity works on gardeners the way a little Cole Porter and the smell of fresh roasted coffee works on bookstore browsers. We are lambs to the slaughter.  Cha-ching.

Spring creates the worst kind of hypocrite in me. Six months ago I was writing virtuous columns about planting what you have and avoiding temptation, and this month I cannot pull off a grocery store run without coming home with a fabulous find.

A grocery store run.

Nevermind the fact that we haven’t had rain and that I’m hand watering all new additions with water schlepped up from a steadily dwindling creek. Nevermind the fact that the IRS decided that the upkeep on my seventeen year-old fridge-decimating, insurance-ballooning, prom-attending son no longer qualifies for a tax credit and that they would therefore like a check this month instead of vice-versa. These and other issues are but trifles to a woman who witnesses the delicate blooming of a Viola dissecta one sweet spring morning and instantly decides that she needs more. Now.

Even the label is getting me all flustered.

Even the label is getting me all flustered.

Just yesterday I saw Euphorbia martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ for sale for $6.57 at the garden center of a Big Box that I had, only two days before, rubbished on Facebook for horrendously mislabeling their plants.  Now they were undercutting the very Independent Garden Centers (IGCs) I had encouraged readers to visit.

Did I turn on my heel and walk virtuously away?  Oh hell no, I bought three.  I love that plant. I encouraged a friend to buy some as well.

The hypocrisy!  The shame! And I only went into the store in the first place to get some shampoo and a pair of shoelaces. I suppose my penance is admitting it all in print so I can be alternately jeered at and castigated. We both know I’m not returning them.

And if that’s the typical shoelace run, you can imagine what a full-fledged nursery run looks like.  I admit there have been a few wallet-benders thus far.

Perhaps – just perhaps – the last may have redeemed me.

Just before my husband took my car keys, I drove a friend to a nursery to ostensibly “help her color plan her containers” but in actuality to see what I might be missing from that particular nursery this season.  I don’t eat much candy, but if I did, I imagine that walking into a candy store at Christmas would be much like walking into a nursery gearing up for the spring rush.  It’s intoxicating.

Nothing says spring like a winter-forced gerbera.

Nothing says spring like a winter-forced gerbera.

There is so much photosynthesis going on in the growing houses that the senses begin to expand with the extra oxygen and one loses one’s firm grip on one’s wallet.  It’s a brilliant strategy which I respect. However, this particular spending spree was cut short by two back-to-reality moments with which you can perhaps commiserate.

First: I sniffed the dill.

I always do – I happen to love dill.  However this time I was taken aback by the absence of anything approximating a dill-like scent.  Crushing of the leaves yielded nothing further than a slight ‘hint o’dill’ and a realization that the chemically boosted leaf growth wasn’t going to yield any more dill fragrance than the liriope on steroids sitting next to it.

Reality vs. Fantasy wrestled desperately in my oxygen-addled brain for a moment, and reality thankfully won.  With difficulty I forced myself to recognize that none of these plants would look the same struggling in my sandy, nutrient–poor soil without a PICC line connected to a solution of Espoma Plant-Tone.

I set the pot down and bought a packet of dill seeds instead.  When it comes to herbs, it’s better to get them used to deprivation from the beginning.  Bit like teenagers in that respect.

Repeat after me: I've got four seedlings at home. I've got four seedlings at home.  I've got four seedlings at home.

Repeat after me: I’ve got four seedlings at home. I’ve got four seedlings at home. I’ve got four seedlings at home.

Second: I had the terrible feeling of déjà vu wash over me as I scanned the plants looking for garden fodder and my eyes came to rest on Kunth’s maiden fern (Thelypteris kunthii).

‘Déjà vu’ because I bought some last year.

‘Terrible’ because I have absolutely no idea where it is.

Suitably chastened, I left this particular nursery empty handed and contrite…and about $94 dollars richer.  I’ve just got to keep my strength up for the next temptation.

Ah Spring!  What a jumbled mess of emotions you can orchestrate within this poor gardener.


Reprinted with permission from The Frederick News Post

2018-02-20T20:41:06+00:00 By |

About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.

6 Comments

  1. Anne Kelly April 29, 2016 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Marianne, I just love reading your columns! Of course your expertise in the garden and with plants is of great help. Equally valuable to me though as a long time Gardner is permission to have fun with this! To give myself a break for being like a little kid at Christmas with the hobby I enjoy the most! Thank you!

    • Marianne Willburn April 29, 2016 at 1:55 pm - Reply

      It’s a terrific hobby/profession/obsession. It’s soul-filling. There are moments of real introspection (usually in February), but at the end of the day, I do think that human beings are always in need of taking ourselves a little less seriously. Thanks Anne for your comments and lovely words!

  2. rusty duck April 29, 2016 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    I’m a lost cause. All sense of control disappears in the plant nursery. But there are worse vices!

    • Marianne Willburn May 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      For instance – drinking while planting. Not that that ever happens around here. 🙂

  3. Amanda May 25, 2016 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    It got so bad last year, that my husband asked me to cut back buying flowers. My neighbor started leaving plants on my front steps in protest for me! hahaa

    • Marianne Willburn May 26, 2016 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      This is where I admit that I do all the bill paying…. 🙂

Leave a Reply