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Plant Catalogues

Plant Catalogues have started arriving through the post, trying to encourage me to splash out on plants and bulbs to plant this autumn. The photographs in the brochures are always alluring, and the prices often very attractive, but as always there is a catch.

I got caught out this spring, when I fell for an advert in the back of my Sunday paper for 9 fuchsias and I think 48 or possibly 72 perennials for a very good price. When they arrived I realised that the reason the price was so cheap was that I’d have to do almost all the work myself. The plants were tiny – to call them seedlings would be an exaggeration. They were barely a centimetre high and had no root system to speak of. They clearly had to be potted out and grown on (or whatever it is that gardeners do!) before they could be planted in the garden. That wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the original ad!

I have the very opposite of green fingers, don’t have a greenhouse, and my approach to gardening is thoroughly Darwinian – once in my garden, it’s the Survival of the Fittest. But it would have been a complete waste either to throw away all those young plants, or indeed to plant them out in my garden where they would be doomed to fail, without even a slight chance of survival. So I reluctantly bought a bag of potting compost, raided my garage for my stock of old plant pots, and turned my front porch into an impromptu greenhouse. I then promptly went on holiday to France and had to rope in a friend to keep the damn plants watered in my absence!

By the time I got back they were big enough to plant out, but one batch (I think salvias, but I’m not sure) didn’t even last 24 hours in the garden. Something – I’m not sure whether slugs or a rabbit – clearly found them absolutely delicious, and ate every single one. To be fair, the fuchsias seem to be doing ok in the bed underneath my apple trees. They have at least got some flowers on them and look moderately healthy. None of the other so-called bedding plants have flowered at all. Not one.

So when the plant catalogues arrived this week, I looked through them, admired the photos of big, thriving plants in full bloom, then put them straight in the recycling bin. I’m not falling for that again in a hurry!