Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Gardening Affliction

My husband thinks I'm a hypochondriac. He claims that when I read an article about a newly identified disease or condition, I think I have it. That's not true, although I have to admit after watching a TV commercial recently that showed a carload of gentlemen stopping every 15 minutes so that one of them could use the restroom, I exclaimed, "That's me! That's what I have!" The only problem was that it was an ad for a new drug to treat prostate problems. Well, maybe I don't have that, after all.

What I do have, though, is every disease identified by some very knowledgeable gardeners lately. Carol at May Dreams has written about GADS (for which she won a much deserved Mousie award, by the way); Jodi at Bloomingwriter has described UPSM; Gail at Clay and Limestone has MGP; and Beckie at Dragonflycorner has added DIPT. I have all of these conditions plus at least one more that no one has mentioned: EWS, otherwise known as Empty Wallet Syndrome. Before anyone accuses me of plagiarism (the evil deed I preached against for so many years) or taking advantage of the creativity of others, I need to explain that EWS is actually just the effect of a prolonged case of one or more of the other well-documented conditions, and so you will never find it in the Physicians Reference. The diagnosis is easily made, and its cure seems simple enough, but in order to alleviate the symptoms, one has to first determine the causes.

The causes may vary from one victim to another, but in my case I can easily identify four causes, the first being, of all things, blogging. Yes, you garden bloggers have contributed to my problem. Since I first became addicted to reading blogs a few months ago, my desire for this plant and that plant has increased at least tenfold. After two months of looking at countless photos of hellebores, I don't think I can live without having some next spring. Gail's perfectly pink phlox are next on my list, followed by more spring bulbs and poppies. I hate to think what my want list is going to look like by the end of the summer! But I don't want anyone to feel guilty for enabling me, because some good has certainly resulted from the enticing photos and helpful comments you've posted. For example, I've been looking for something to plant in my pet memorial, and thanks to Kylee's recommendation, I bought this lovely Rozanne geranium.

One reason I've spent so much this year is a logical one: I expanded two small flowerbeds last fall, so, of course, I had to buy more plants for these areas. I purchased another Walker's Low nepeta and some Oranges and Lemons gallardia for the roadside bed, and still need a few more plants to fill it in . But I have tried to be conservative here and in the shade garden expansion by sowing some seeds, ordering smaller plants from a mail order company, and dividing a few hostas. This means being more patient: the plants below are labelled "waterfall petunias." The label says they will grow to 5-7 feet, and in the catalog they were pictured as lush flowers cascading down a rock wall. Hmmm, we'll see in September if they are flowing over my porch planter.

I also ordered some coral bells and monarda from the same company. I had visions of a full border of coral bells around my shade garden this summer, but it may take a few years before these 3 inch plants develop into a "border." And the petite monarda were, well....petite.

My finances have also been stretched by a problem that most of us share, I would guess, and that is impulse buying. This is the first spring of my retirement, so I have had so much more time to dream and plan and go on plant shopping excursions with my friend Beckie (and even a few by myself). As Carol says, though, you have to leave a little room for impulse or spontaneity when buying plants. Otherwise, where's the fun? And I have been pretty good about this, though I couldn't pass up this heuchera, "Dolce Creme Brulee." I mean, with a name like that, how could you? I don't feel too bad about buying it, because it's going to do double-duty for me: filling in a container during the summer, then going into the shade garden for good this fall.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how this scabiosa got into my shopping cart. I don't know what I was thinking. Don't get me wrong; I love these pincushion flowers, but I've planted them before and they never come back the next year. So this one may be just an expensive annual.

Then there's what you might call the impulse caused by serendipity. I used to have cleome in my garden before we moved, and I tried to save some seed to plant here, but it never grew. After a couple years of looking for another plant, I found not one, but two different varieties last week, so, of course, I bought them both! I'm hoping they self-seed as my old ones did so that I can have a group of these eventually (away from the house--as bewitching as they are, they don't have a very pleasant fragrance).

And I just have to sneak in this photo--it's an impulse buy from two years ago. Last year this clematis (the tag is lost so I have no idea what its name is) surprised me with a few blooms on a single runner. This year, its third summer, it is covered with buds, one of which opened fully just this week. This is an impulse buy I will not regret.

But by far my biggest expense this spring has been annuals. I believe in the virtue of delayed gratification, but when I walk into a nursery filled with overflowing hanging baskets and blooming supertunias, super verbenas, million bells and all the other colorful annuals, I lose all self-control. I'm getting woozy just thinking about it now. Couple that desire for immediate color with all the containers I have, and you have a recipe for financial disaster. Container plantings are great for adding pizzazz to patios and spots where you can't plant, but I think I have gotten a little carried away. Every year I seem to add another pot or two to my collection, including a pink fiberglass one I showed in an earlier post that I just had to have. I spent a lot of time envisioning just the right combination of plants to fill this pot, but then I couldn't decide where to place it. Every day I would set it in another corner, trying to select the perfect spot. Toby was not so indecisive; he knew exactly what I should do with this planter.

Filling the containers can be an expensive proposition since I usually rely on annuals. I started out very organized, making a list of all the plants needed for each pot and carrying my notebook with me every time I went plant shopping. The problem, though, is that I couldn't always find every plant I wanted at the garden centers I visited, so I would come home with 3 plants for this pot and 3 for another, but never everything needed for each container, necessitating yet another shopping excursion (and then another and another...). And when the impulse shopping kicked in, I would buy something that didn't go with anything else. For example, these yellow fusion impatiens were so unusual I just had to buy a small pot. They were rather expensive so I only bought one. Now I need to buy more to fill in the container.

Like any addict, I have resorted to deception to hide my addiction from my family. Before setting off on another shopping spree, I try to plant as many of the flowers that I already have before bringing home another few flats, and I unload the minivan only when my husband isn't around. Amazingly, he doesn't seem to notice the proliferation of trays and pots on the front porch, but my daughter does. She caught me unloading the car one day last week and scolded me. "Oh, MY gosh! How MANY plants are you going to BUY? Can you AFFORD all of these?!" I just smiled and replied sweetly, "It's ok, honey. I'm just spending your inheritance." She was not amused.

I've even had to resort to some creative financing to support my addiction. I found some gift cards from Lowe's and Meijer's I'd never used, so I bought some basic annuals there (interestingly, that's where I found the two cleomes). But to show you how desperate I have become, last week I even agreed to substitute one afternoon for an English teacher, knowing full well that the job included teaching " the class from hell." During the hour I spent in this class filled with every troublemaker in the sophomore class, I kept my calm by inwardly repeating this mantra: "more flowers, more flowers..."

I'm afraid it's too late to try to cure me this year. I'll make it through the season somehow, even if I have to resort to serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner three nights a week. But next year things are going to have to change. As I said earlier, the cure is easy enough: stop buying plants. But the patient has to be ready for such a drastic cure, and I'm not. Before I seek debt counseling or my family checks me into plant rehab, I'm going to try some other less drastic measures.
First, I'm going to try to plant more seeds in early spring. My experiment with seedlings was less than successful this year, but I think I've learned from my mistakes. Secondly, I'm going to try saving some cuttings from this year's annuals. Several of you have already given me some tips on how to propagate plants I didn't know you could keep, and I am going to read every single tip on propagation in your posts this fall. And finally, I am going to welcome any and all passalong plants. I already have the hollyhocks my mother gave me, and Thursday Beckie and I swapped some extra plants we each had. A year ago last fall my aunt divided her irises and lilies and asked if I'd like some. This stand of irises is the result of that windfall. Maybe she'll do some more cleaning and thinning in her garden this fall.

Yes, I'll find a way to beat this affliction/addiction. But first Beckie and I are planning one final (?) plant shopping trip this week. But this time I am STICKING TO MY LIST!


  1. Welcome to the Plantaholics association Rose. I about cracked up when I was envisoning you sitting behind the desk chanting "more flowers..."

    I wish you and Beckie were closer I could add to your passalong menagerie.

  2. EWS - LOL! I have it, too!

    Thanks for this hilarious post, Rose. I do love flowers and such, but not as devoted as you and the rest of your disease inflicted friends ;o)

    The birds put me in the poor house. There is never enough feeders - never enough food. I stop at the grocery store for milk and come out with three pounds of grapes for the mockingbirds.

    Cute kitty!


  3. Rose, thanks for the comment on my sign.
    If you are willing to wait until the flower heads go to seed, I will be happy to mail you seeds for the cornflower plant. You have an abundance of plants the next year.:)

  4. Lisa, Yes, I have become a plantaholic! Your offer is tempting; maybe Beckie and I will have to schedule a day trip to Indiana :)

    Mary, Plants or birds...I don't think we should feel too guilty about spending money on either one. My sister-in-law collects ceramic cows. I don't collect anything, just plants.

    Jane Marie, Oooh, that sounds wonderful. Let me know when they go to seed, and I'll give you my e-mail to make connections.

  5. Rose .. it is so comforting to know there are others out there like ME !! .. I never have any money in my wallet .. and when that is gone the debit card is flashing like crazy (I fear it might melt some day while lusting after more plants) .. I'm patiently waiting for all those Moon flower vines to start up .. it is agonizing to watch what appears to be empty pots with bamboo hoops ready for action ..
    You are NOT alone ! LOL
    Toby is one handsome fellow by the way .. my girls would love seeing him !

  6. Poor Rose.....I think you may have caught it from me. Can you catch it via a lap top???
    I wish I lived next many of my divided plants go into the composter because the beds are full to overflowing.
    The scabious.....I find adding sand and grit to the soil where I plant they do come back. I didn't do this the first year and lost several of them. Its worth a try because they are really lovely.

    Heuchera....I have purple palace, which I love. The one you have bought is fairly new here, it really is unusual and has lovely tones.

    Just to finish Rose its not a bad addiction is it, it gives you a lot of pleasure and other people can enjoy your garden to.
    Remember any seeds you want from my plot, just let me know.....seeds are much cheaper!!

  7. Oh yes - EWS - it must be catching! Loved your "cat" plant. He (she?) looks very contented in that planter. LOL!
    Enjoyed your post - it made me chuckle.

  8. Empty Wallet Syndrome....hey I resemble that remark! So what if the car breaks down, if the cupboards are bare, if my kids don't get to go to least the garden looks nice, LOL

  9. Rose, your disease must be transmitted telepathically, because Saturday I just spent three tanks of gas on plants at the local nursery (luckily I drive a Honda Accord)! I may have to walk or thumb a ride once a twice a week for a while. I plan on telling my daughter that this week's groceries are going to have to last longer than a week this time...

  10. Gardenjoy, I think we have lots of company in our plant addiction.
    Toby appreciates the compliment, but he doesn't seem too interested in female companionship. I, on the other hand, always enjoy seeing your "girls."

    Cheryl, Apparently this disease can be caught just by looking at a computer screen!
    You put plants into the compost?? If I lived next door I would be "dumpster diving" to retrieve them:)
    Yes, the heuchera is a new variety. I already had some "Plum pudding," which sounds similar to yours.

  11. Thanks, Wendy,I'm glad you enjoyed this. I am serious, though, about finding more economical ways to start plants next year. But I DO enjoy shopping for plants, so I won't give it up entirely.

    Lisa, Thanks for stopping by. My husband doesn't like to spend money on "frivolous" things like furniture or new carpeting, so I do my "decorating" outside in the garden.

    Walk2, I don't know; I think this is what they call a pandemic! And yes, the gas I use to buy these plants...

  12. What a cute post...I am laughing over here at my house!! Your garden is going to be lovely....I am not much of gardener but I am husband is the gardener and I am the weeder....sort of bearded irises just came up...

  13. When reading this post I said "this is me!". I've been trying to hide my additions to the garden from hubby as well.. I plant when he's not around. LOL, but I think he has noticed :)

  14. Rose,

    Oh my, EWA, another disease I have! There is no cure! BUT, you bought some really nice plants and they will be with you longer than shoes!

    Glad you like PPPP and thank you for the link to my blog.


  15. Rose, you certainly described and named what many of us are suffering from! It just doesn't seem fair does it, that such a healthy hobby should be so expensive. We will do better next year...more sowing our own and more sharing of plants. Great post!

  16. Ahhh (said VP nodding knowingly), you seem to have the chronic version of the disease, not the acute one. Treatment will take several years and success isn't guaranteed.

    However, would you actually want it to? I'm also in my 1st year of (early) retirement and I've found the disease takes a greater hold now I have more time.

    I've just counted my pots - over 100 :o

    You can also propagate your Impatiens - I tried it for the first time last year :D

    Thanks for the comment over at my place - I've also written a piece especially for you and all my other blogging pals from across the pond.

  17. Rose, I have the same affliction. Working at a nursery with a discount only makes it worse.

    You're going to love Rozanne. That's got to be my favorite plant. They bloom all summer. They're really wonderful. I talked the owner of the nursery where I work into getting some. They've never had them before. I can sell the heck out that plant since I love it so much.

    Love that Creme Brulee' too. I have that one and Caramel - they both look the same to me, but that's ok, since they're so pretty.

    I think I'm more of a plant collector than a gardener! Loved this post! Very funny! And what a pretty kitty cat.

  18. Aren't the Walker's low great? I had them in a garden I made for cats at a cat retirement shelter. They bloomed and bloomed and bloomed all summer long, and of course the cats loved them!
    ~ Monica

  19. Neva, Thanks for stopping by. I'm not that great at gardening either, but I try.

    Karen, Sometimes a husband is better off not knowing everything!

    Gail, Yes, they will be with me longer than shoes, although I do have a couple pairs of really old shoes.

    Beckie, I'm giving you a job--when we are shopping, slap my hand before I take out the plastic!

    VP, I was afraid it was a chronic condition. You have 100 pots?? Now I don't feel so bad.
    And thanks for the post on the water butt; I really was curious about that:)

    Garden Girl, I'm not sure I could work at a nursery. I'd spend my paycheck before I ever got home with it!

    Garden Faerie, Thanks for visiting! And yes, I love the nepeta--the one I planted last year is already huge. Of course, some of the stems/fronds are flattened out where the cats like to nestle for a nap:)

  20. Rose, actually a photo of a newly planted container would be great because I want to get across that the plants will start smaller and grow over the season, if they make their own container. Thanks!
    ~ Monica
    P.S. Toby is cute. Fiona also likes bags and sometimes climbs under blankets as well, so long as I'm not under them as well!

  21. No, of course you couldn't resist Dolce Creme Brulee.

  22. Oh, I'm a hypochondriac too! I have to avoid anything in the least medical.

  23. Rose, this is a great post, and thanks for the nice compliment on my GADS post. "My name is Carol and it has been four days since I last bought a plant." I think it is time for me to visit my favorite greenhouse again, I'm starting to experience some plantaholic withdrawal symptoms!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  24. I justify the money I spend on plants by remembering that I'm not spending it on clothes or manicures. If you live on a busy street or on a corner, you could have an informal plant sale of divisions from your garden. Just pot up some, put up a sign & price the plants. All proceeds go to fund further plant purchases.
    BTW, if you want to ID that Clematis, check out Clematis on the Web.


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