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Garden Tours Are Important

by Jane Bath

Garden tours and other outings to see various gardens are immeasurably important. If you love gardening and love to try new and even lots of old selections, there is no better way to see how different plants fare in a real garden.  Remember, owners of gardens on garden tours are ALWAYS trying new plants and love their old favorites.


A plant in the nursery is at peak performance and the tag says very little except sun/shade, moist/dry, how big ? and maybe the correct zone for growing. BUT, it cannot tell you the whole story, which is huge!!


For instance, many plants sucker which means they will send out little new plants reaching outward underground. You might like that, but maybe you were not expecting that and the space is just not there. My bottle brush buckeye is now over 30 feet wide and still going. But the painted buckeye, Aesculus sylvatica, just stays put but does not have that spectacular bloom.  A third buckeye, Aesculus pavia grows into a tall spectacular tree, and when I saw a mature specimen in a garden, I had to have it!


Someone might share boltonia, some chrysanthemums, even black eyed susans and away they go! Filling up spaces you never intended.  Some sages have different histories so-- does it come back? Or spread? Or is it just an annual to be planted each year.


Some daylilies bloom for weeks with big fat flowers; others are out for the year after a few days with nondescript color. See them in a garden and one has a better idea of what to buy. Our own local daylily grower gives you that opportunity.


So when visiting gardens or just seeing plants in landscapes as one drives around, one can see how some get burned with an early freeze, another blooms but only for 3 – 4 days, or the plant has little to offer except just when it blooms but would take up a lot of space in the garden. Even noticing some of the hollies and conifers and just how big they grow and which ones seem to be doing so well and others having problems can help one make a better choice.


The point is: one is looking for all around beauty throughout the year, hardiness, and low maintenance. One is seeing the real thing and not just a picture or a 3 gallon specimen grown for maximum selling, but does not give you what you thought would be a winner in your garden.


So when visiting gardens, ask questions, be specific. Take a camera, take notes, especially of plants that are well established, and they are beautiful now, in the fall, and in the winter.

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