Buying Plants for Your Garden
Buying plants is an art in itself. The plants you see for sale have all been raised in the optimum conditions for fast, healthy growth. But a lot depends on what has happened to them between the time of leaving the nursery where they were raised and the time you buy them. Have a good look at the plants in centre with a critical eye to ensure that you are buying a healthy specimen.
To extend the season of the bedding-plant business you will often see petunias, begonias and busy lizzies (Impatiens) shivering outside a shop far too early in spring — they will take some time to recover from such a check to growth. Likewise, at the end of the season there will be plants that have been far too long in their trays, easily recognized by their spindly stems and yellowing leaves. Half-hardydeserve a good start to their short summer lives, so the discerning shopper will insist on bushy plants, with healthy green leaves, and will wait until the weather has warmed up before buying them.
With all container-grown plants, you have to ask yourself how long the plant has been in its pot. Lift up the pot to see whether the plant has rooted through thehole. A few roots poking through show the plant is well established in its pot. A large mat of roots indicates that the plant has been there too long and its roots have become pot-bound; in this case there will be signs of starvation, with stunted growth and yellowish leaves. There may be weeds such as annuals, and hairy bittercress growing on the surface. If a tree or shrub has got to this stage, it may never grow properly.
Quite the reverse is the case of a small plant in a large pot, which may well have only been there for a week or so. The whole idea of containers is that plants are so well-established (without being potbound) they hardly notice the move to your garden. But as soon as you take such a plant out of its container, the potting medium will fall away, leaving you with a small plant that will be slow to settle.
With trees and shrubs, shape is important. Make sure the plant is well-balanced, with plenty of healthy shoots and no snags or dead wood or signs of chafing on the stem. Evergreens should have glossy, healthy foliage, with no shrivelled edges to the leaves, which may indicate that the plant has been sitting about in an icy spring wind. There should be no sign of the ticket-collector: a neat little U-shaped notch in the leaf, about 6mm (1/4in) wide, a typical bite of the adult vine weevil.
Some, pinks ( ) and violas for example, are better bought as young non-flowering plants, in small pots. If the plant is sprawling over the sides of a large pot, and has clearly been flowering for some time, especially if it has started to form seedheads, it is over the top.
When buying Clematis or other soft-stemmed climbers, make sure that the supporting cane has not been dislodged, damaging the stems at the base.