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A look at gardening catalog terms

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This time of year, gardening catalogs are a regular item in the mailbox. Many catalogs sell quality plants that are often affordable. However, it is important to weed out many of the superlatives and catch phrases used in the catalogs. Consider this lighter look at gardening descriptions, and their meaning for Utah gardeners.

Color all year. This is merely referring to the colors you will turn throughout the year as you recall what you paid for the plant. May need protection. This suggests that a thug from the company will be sent to your home to jerk out the plant unless you order more plants from the catalog. On the brighter side, occasionally thugs only rough up the plant, which actually may stimulate new growth. A must-have for every garden. Just another way of saying, “This plant will throw down enough seed the first 24 hours after it is planted to cover Nebraska.” Your neighbors will soon appreciate the term “must have,” because they will have no choice in the matter. Attracts wildlife. Any plant with this label should be given as a gift to the neighbor, because the best way to enjoy wildlife is from a distance. Who wants a raccoon, deer, starling or your Uncle Harold flitting through your flowers or tromping through your vegetable garden?

Old favorite. In other words, “We produced too much seed and need to get rid of it.” The fact that it was the only plant the first immigrants to America could get to survive does not make it a favorite today. World-record size. Remember it is quality, not size, that counts when it comes to most vegetables. The largest kohlrabi in the world may look good in a picture, but have you ever tried to eat one? Save yourself the money and go taste your favorite maple tree — the flavor and texture will be about the same. Blooms all season. What they don’t tell you in the fine print is that the season they are referring to is in some remote village in northern Yukon where the summer is measured in hours, not days. Our choice. Let them keep it.

Improves in beauty each year. This means that for the first couple of years, the plant will look like it was dragged through a fire and then stomped on to extinguish the flames. By the third or fourth year, any growth at all will be appreciated, and by the time you leave this life yourself, it may actually start to bloom. Free with every order. It didn’t sell last year, so we’ll get rid of it somehow.

In reality, many of the plants received from a reputable catalog are of good quality — you just need to be cautious. It is a good idea to consult first with others who have ordered from a specific company. However, the best policy is to first check with your local nursery or garden center to see if they have the plant you are looking for.

Posted on 11 Mar 2005

Jerry Goodspeed
County Director, Horticulture Agent, Weber County

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