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Report From AN Opinionated Gardener – May 23

I’ve long despaired that many people aren’t willing to buy plants in a garden center unless they are in bloom. While I understand both the attraction to flowers and the desire to know what you’re buying, this “color sells” works against all gardeners.

First of all, there are many tall growing varieties that won’t ever be in flower in the garden centers: Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’, one of my favorite annuals, for example. Garden centers sell dozens of flats of dwarf Ageratum for every one flat of the taller growing, and to my mind better variety. All because the short one is in bloom while in six-packs and the tall variety isn’t.

Perennials, shrubs and trees suffer from the same bias for blooms. Yet there are hundreds of worthy, wonderful plants that take time to mature before they really strut their stuff.

So I was heartened today when a customer came in looking for Snow Princess Lobularia. This hybrid alyssum is a Proven Winners plant and never has an annual lived up to this brand name so well. Yet it can look thin and, yes, a bit undesirable when it’s young and in a pot. It’s only when you give this alyssum some root room and fertilizer that it quickly explodes into a carpet of fragrant, white flowers.

My customer tried this plant in 2010, no matter how it looked in the spring, and was back for many more this year. It gives me hope when I see people making leaps of faith and trying plants even when they don’t immediately show what they will do once they’re in a garden.

If we’re gardeners or not, we’re well served to approach life with faith, hope and the willingness to take chances.

This shot was taken in the fall and my Snow Princess was still thick, full and flowering. Message to those who are planning a wedding or party in their garden in August or September: buy this plant and put it in now. Good advice for everyone else too.

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