Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Shrubmaster


Every January I post a list of all the new plants I added to the garden the previous fall during my annual transplant-a-thons followed by an embarrassingly honest account a year later of the outcome. While I inevitably add more plants to the garden in the spring that never make it on the list, my list this year should be complete. Unless a plant keels over dead in the middle of winter, my garden is full. At least for now.

*Because I added over 17 different types of perennials as well as a few shrubs, I'm breaking this down into two posts to keep it short.

Shrubs

Adding more shrubs to my garden is never simple. Lacking space for anything larger than 4 feet tall, love at first sight purchases are never an option. I analyze, research, and then head to the garden center to torture the horticulturalist with a million questions.


Logic - even if it doesn't make sense to anyone but me - over lust rules in my garden. Usually.





I wanted this shrub the first time I saw it. A cultivar of the native diervilla that thrives in dry shade, it requires more moisture and grows to about 3 feet tall. But despite how much I loved this shrub, the horticulturalist didn't seem to be as convinced as I was that we were a good match. Perhaps all my moaning about dry shade had made him a bit protective. He was quiet as we walked towards the small row of diervilla and eyed me suspiciously as I explained the intended site. He stroked his beard as I babbled about filtered shade and soaker hoses before stepping aside to help me grab the pot. If I kill this plant, I'll have an "I told you so" coming. This plant cannot die. 




I hadn't expected to buy a plant the day I met the snowberry. My goal was to leave the garden center without purchasing anything, a rare and unusual feat. But when the horticulturalist described the charms of this little gem and then looked me directly in the eye, I was a goner. A super dwarf shrub with purple berries, white flowers, and bright green foliage that thrives in bone dry shade? Oh sweet Mother of God, be still my heart. I was in love. I wanted that shrub and I wanted it immediately. He could have let me off the hook easy, but the Shrubmaster wasn't done. He leaned back on his heels before softly bringing me to my knees. "This is the toughest shrub I have ever met." I grabbed the pot and ran.


They forgot the part about tough shrubs.

Dwarf abelia 'Rose Creek'


I have a soft spot for abelia. Dwarf variegated 'Mardi Gras' abelia grow in my front garden and are one of my favorite plants. I should have never told the horticulturalist this. It is not always a good thing to wander the shrub section with someone who knows your weaknesses. Regardless of my attempts to ignore the clusters of dwarf abelias scattered around the garden center, our path had become circuitous and we kept coming back to them. "I love how fluffy abelia flowers are." I offered wistfully. "I wish I had room for them." But of course I had room, he countered. Couldn't I squeeze in a two foot tall shrub covered with fluffy flowers? No, I assured him. I cannot. I just don't have room. I should have said goodbye and walked away. But I didn't. I paused and he grinned. "These are some of the toughest shrubs I know".

* For more information about each shrub, I've linked their names to other websites with more technical information.

72 comments:

  1. Your goal was to leave the garden centre without buying anything - come on, who are you kidding! The only way to not buy anything from a garden centre is to not go there. If there were a Plant Buyers Anonymous I think that I would need to go to weekly meetings.
    I tend to buy whatever I fall in love with in spite of sound advice. Sometimes the inappropriate plant is so grateful that it behaves well wherever I put it. Of course, other times it does not! Slugs are my main enemy, they adore the flowers that I adore, I've almost given up on delphiniums and lupins. Just at the moment, in rain-sodden England, dry shade sounds good! (The slugs are happy.)

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    1. The next time I wander the shrub section, I will be the epitome of steely resolve and will not fall for the charms of the Shrubmaster's leafy minions. I will resist!

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  2. That Diervilla does have beautiful leaves, I would be hard pressed to resist it. I hope they all grow spectacularly for you, and that you end up with no dead plants to chronicle.

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    1. Me, too! It's in a dark shady spot that desperately needs something to brighten it up. I think they'll make it through.

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  3. Lol.... Non-gardeners have no idea how 'difficult' garden centre visits can be. It's almost as stressful as a visit to the dentist. But bravo to you.... looking forward to your end of year review. I'm sure you'll have huge success.
    PS Have been talking to Beth at Daylily Soup, she lives in Alabama & seems to know where to get greenhouses if you're interested x

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    1. As much as I'd love a greenhouse, I think I'm going to have to settle for shelves with grow lights on them. But that's ok, too. :o) Some plants I find very easy to leave behind. But others inspire a mad case of plant lust. I definitely need a cheaper hobby!

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  4. The Diervilla does look attractive. I thought - yet an other warm-climate shrub but then I see that it is hardy all the ways down to zone 4!! I should certainly try it (if I can find it) as there are some wild Divervilla (Diervilla lonicera) growing around here which suggests this one might adapt to local conditions.

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    1. If the d. lonicera is growing well for you, 'Cool Splash' should do well, too, if you can keep it moist enough. The foliage is really stunning.

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  5. I had a wondeful man of the soil in my old locale but haven't found anyone capable of making me swoon here. In a horticultural way I mean-but you knew that-right?

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    1. It's rare to find garden center staff who are truly knowledgeable. I've gone to many nurseries where I knew significantly more than the people who were supposed to be 'helping' me. But there's a big nursery just a few miles from my house staffed by smarty pants horticulturalists who have taught me a lot.

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    2. You've hit a nerve there Tammy. I get so irritated in both garden and book stores at the complete lack of knowledge in the staff. Not so long ago I was looking for a book which had just won a well known award. The staffer obviously hadn't a clue about the title or award. The title had the word Bed in it. I heard the little nit wit tell his co worker I was looking for an accommodation guide to prize winning bed and breakfasts.

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  6. Hi Tammy, dry shade is always such a challenge to find plants for, but you have been pretty successful! I love especially the last one, the abelia 'Mardi Gras'. You are lucky that you can ask horticulturist at your nursery. Here very often the staff at the nurseries is so ignorant, that I don't even bother asking anymore. I am better of if I do an internet research myself! Wishing you a nice week!
    Christina

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    1. I completely understand! I spend a lot of time researching plants so that when I head to the nursery I already know what I want. The Shrubmaster has an encyclopedic knowledge of woody plants so even though I do some research before I head to the garden center, I know he'll be able to give me the complete picture on whether the plant and I are a perfect match or not.

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  7. I can't decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing that your local horticulturist knows you so well!

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    1. It's probably both! He's a wonderful friend who understands how passionate I am about gardening and for quite a while was one of the few gardeners I knew so the poor man has had to endure a mountain of garden related babble and blather from me. Plus, the nursery is only about 3 miles from my house so I'm there a lot.

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  8. It has been too long since I have been in my favorite nursery, at least three weeks! Those people know me way too well. I was an easy victim to coralberry, a cousin of your snowberry. And I have fallen in love with your Diervilla!

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    1. 'Cool Splash' would be incredible in your woodland garden! It has soft yellow flowers that look like honeysuckle. I just love it. I think the longest I've ever gone without going to my favorite nursery was a month. It was a long, painful month.

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  9. Oh my gosh, I'm quivering with anticipation, snow berry is hardy in my area, and did you read the description...adapts well to dry, shady, INHOSPITABLE locations. Well baby, pleased to meet you, have I got a spot for you.

    Ahem...got a little excited there but you know how that feels now don't you?

    I love shrubs...now all I need is a limitless plant budget.

    Jen

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    1. Oh yes! I know how that feels! Snowberry thrives in wretched spots. When I read the plant description, I was sooo happy! Plus, it's a really attractive plant. It held the berries until almost Christmas here. I ended up going back to buy another after falling in love with the first one. I wish I'd known about this plant years ago.

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  10. Logic over lust? Hmmm. I have a garden full of ill thought out love children. I wish I had your self discipline! You chose some great shrubs!

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    1. All my lustful purchases ended up as quick flings, unfortunately. None of them were keepers, although they were fun while they lasted. I have expensive taste so I have to be disciplined or I'd be living in a van down by the river.

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  11. I love your last shrub Abelia. Dwarf , although I'm sure it won't grow here. It has pretty berries, small leaves like impatiens has. If you have no place for it so re-plant some of old shrubs!

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    1. I don't have any shrubs I want to get rid of and not enough space to add more so I just tuck the dwarf ones into my garden where ever I can. With more coming out every year, they are just so tempting!

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  12. My goal this year to not buy anything every single time I visit the plant nursery has already been broken....I bought a green carex grass over the weekend (see my blog)....We're now halfway into January and my resolve has already been broken....shame on me.
    Love all your new plant choices...I hope they all do well for you and you'll get a chance to yell to the ShrubMaster "I TOLD YOU THEY WOULD DO WELL IN MY GARDEN!!!!

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    1. Let me tell ya, Virginia, I value his opinion but since I do know a few things about plants, the "I told you so" will be all mine!

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  13. Fun--ny....wherever did you find that brain? Tammy, I have a question about the variegated shrub you have at the end. It looks exactly like what I know as Wiegela. Are they first cousins? I have long row of them in the back in filtered shade under a Pin Oak and they have that exact frilly bunchy pink display. Oh, and please check out my site by tomorrow (or Wednesday) at the latest. I have linked back to your site as a thanks for all your help on my own shady bed. (Mine is not dry though.....darn the luck.)

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    1. All the graphics I use are from Google Images. I had to include this brain just for fun. Weigela is very similar to abelia but mine died of some weird fungal disease a few years ago so I stick with the abelia, which are really tough. I will absolutely check your site! Dry shade can be a challenge. I think dealing with moist shade is much easier.

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  14. Dwarf abelias seem to be making a stealth invasion in my garden. I started with one, now have three varieties and another on my list for spring. Now you show me Mardi Gras, so I need that. I don't want to tell anyone they are becoming one of my weaknesses, but it's obvious. Love the manly brain, so accurate!

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    1. 'Mardi Gras' has incredible pinkish, white and green variegated leaves. They are really stunning. 'Rose Creek' is a bit smaller but has solid green foliage and masses of flowers. I love any mounding shrub with arching branches. When I saw the brain graphic and read the line "Hot blondes on a bed of nachos" I burst out laughing and knew I had to include it.

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  15. I am familiar with a Snowberry, but not the other two. Trust me, you aren't the only one who kills things.I squeezed a Snowberry in under a spindly white lilac. The lilac finally started to prosper and of course the Snowberry began to fade. I meant to move it, but got busy, and before I knew it the Snowberry was a goner! It was a nice shrub too.
    P.S. It doesn't surprise me that (according to your diagram) there is a part of a man's brain dedicated to chainsaws. Hubby has been dying to get one ever since the big ice storm we had just before Xmas sent big branches to the ground.

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    1. Chainsaws terrify me but most men do seem quite enthralled by them. My son dropped everything to help a neighbor clear away his jungle-like growth when he was told he could use a small chainsaw. It was like he had just won the lottery. Have you ever grown deutzia 'Nikko'? I think ti would do well in your climate and would be gorgeous in your lush garden. It's another dwarf shrub.

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  16. Lol....lovin' the graphics, especially that brain!!! Lovin' the shrubmaster too actually! Some lovely shrubs there.....xxx

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    1. The brain is so funny. Kudos to whatever clever mind came up with it! The Shrubmaster is a great guy who knows I can't resist a tough, dwarf shrub. :o)

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  17. Oh those are some good shrubs lady! I am telling you they would make me weak as well! I was cracking up at that first cartoon! Ha! That Dwarf variegated 'Mardi Gras' abelia is phenomenal and would make me a happy lady! One of my goals for the garden this year is to get some more shrubs in the garden for extra color and interest when the flowers flop. Thanks for the inspiration! Nicole xo

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    1. Mixing small shrubs with perennials is a great way to fill out a garden bed and give it more interest and structure. I love the top cartoon, too. It's so politically correct, it's absurd, which makes it killer funny.

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  18. Excellent choices and they all sound solo well behaved ! Time will tell and I await your updates!

    PS Scarily accurate man brain I would surmise !

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    1. I'm really excited about them, especially the diervilla and snowberry. I'm hoping they end up being the problem solvers they were purchased to be.

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  19. Great minds think alike - I planted some diervella and snowberries this past fall. Fingers crossed for both of us.

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    1. Did you plant the native diervilla? I have quite a few patches of that. It loves dry shade and is so easy to grow.

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    2. Yes, I planted 3 diervella lonicera and 1 diervella sessifolia. The sessifolia is not native to my area but what a pretty bush!

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  20. Ha, ha, I think the shrubmaster knew just the words you wanted to hear:) I know what you mean about your garden being full--I keep squeezing in one or two or three more plants--no wonder my garden is a jungle! I'm so glad you highlighted the snowberry. I'm not sure if the other shrubs are hardy in my zone 5b garden; I'll have to check them out. But we do have a snowberry in the nursing home garden where I volunteer, and every year I tell myself I'm going to get one for my garden. I love those sweet little berries.

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    1. I think it's time to start avoiding the shrub section or I may need to annex my garden into my neighbor's yard. :o) But I had no idea dwarf snowberries even existed until he pointed them out to me. I just love tough, easy shrubs that become great problem solvers. When they're attractive, too, they're hard to resist. If he were less knowledgeable, it would be easier to ignore his suggestions. But he's a smartypants.

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  21. Wonderful choices especially the Snowberry...I have a relative Coralberry and it just keeps growing in part shade and wet conditions which works great in my garden. Love the berries!!

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    1. I'd been wanting to add more berry producing shrubs to my garden and I love purple, so buying the snowberry was a no-brainer. Coral berry is such a great shrub, too. :o)

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  22. Oh my gosh, I chuckled out loud so many times while reading this post. I was forced to read it aloud to my hubby, and he laughed, too. Where do you get those comics? They are so dang funny! Oh, and it looks like you made some great choices with the shrubs--by following your heart. :)

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    1. Yay! All the graphics come from Google Images. Sometimes when I stumble across one I think is cool, I just tuck it away to use later. I have some pretty good ones lined up for future posts. I'm a big believer that somewhere between the analytical logic of our brains and the heart pounding desires of our emotions, lies the best choice. :o)

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  23. I have the plain species Snowberry, but now that I see your 'Blade of Sun', I'm having buyer's remorse. The Snowberry berries are quite dull by comparison. It is a really tough shrub, though.

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    1. 'Blades of Sun' only reach about 18" high. I bet you could tuck them into one of your perennial beds. :o)

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  24. Hope this does well for you over this winter. It's so nice when we find what we want and they do well for us.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. It's exciting to have a new plant waiting for you in the garden come spring. I'm always on the lookout for tough plants. There are very few divas in my garden!

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  25. How are they doing now? I can understand your feeling as I am like that also. The only thing that stops me from buying any plants is money :-P.

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    1. The price of shrubs stops me, too. I have to plan out my purchases. They're all dormant but still very alive. I think they're going to be success stories. :o)

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  26. A wonderful post, Tammy and some lovely shrubs. The only shopping I get excited over is buying plants in garden centres and nurseries and it takes huge discipline not to leave these places without having bought something. I love the brain!

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    1. I"m a kamikaze shopper - I go in, find what I need, and leave. But when I'm at a nursery, I love to just poke around and look at everything. I love the brain, too!

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  27. Oh Tammy you got yourself in a very vulnerable position, didn't you? Reminds me of a time while visiting Dancing Oaks. The owner, a manly man as well, was touting the virtues of a new Prunella cultivar. While my friend mumbled "It looks like a weed" under her breath, I was salivating over its pretty (to me) flowers. It came home with me and promptly died. We have to be careful of these manly-men-horticulturist-salespeople! They will look for and exploit our plant-lust weaknesses. But would we have it any other way? ... Thank you for the heads up about Susie's blog. I went there, spent a good 20 minutes providing ideas, clicked "Publish", clicked "Publish" again because wordpress is too dang slow about things. Then was told I was posting a duplicate. I refreshed but my post isn't there. So maybe Susie is holding them for approval? If not I wasted 20 minutes. Oh well. Can't wait for your next installment. I'm scared to count how many plants I bought last year.

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    1. You've read me like a book, Grace. If he'd been less manly, smart, and confident, I'd have less shrubs. But then I'd also be irritated that all the horticulturalists were dumb, boring turds. Luckily, there are several other smart, competent staff members there who have helped me and taught me a great deal in the process. I'm a lucky gal!

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  28. I manage to sell myself a lot of shrubs at the wholesale nursery while walking the houses alone. In fact I have killed five Cool Splash, probably by planting them at the base of a black walnut. The silver lining is that there is more room for more plants.

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    1. Ack! The tree of death! A friend has a black walnut tree that has killed almost everything in her backyard. Because it's not on her property, there's nothing she can do. I think the diervilla will be happy and I can hardly wait to see all that variegation brightening up a funky shady spot.

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  29. You have given me some good ideas. I especially like the snow berry. Leave a garden center without buying anything? Really? Thanks for you comments on my rose food. I asked my horticulturist daughter about it, and she gave me a very good answer. In fact, based on your comment and her in put, I think I have a blog idea. Go Broncos!

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    1. My roses were plagued with blackspot last year and in my determination not to use use any chemical problems to solve the problem, I discovered a host of organic alternatives as well as the dark side of the Bayer and Bonide products. Looking forward to your post. :o)

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  30. I've never seen this Abelia before. It is lovely I'm going to look out for it. Finding room for everything is a problem. The awful guilt when you've thrown caution to the wind and overspent yet again is another problem. Finding another hobby is not the answer. For most of us it is not a hobby, it's an obsession.
    Chloris

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    1. Watch out, Chloris! You may want to bring one home. It's small, full, flowy and covered with flowers. Very hard to resist! Gardening was a hobby when I started 20 years ago. Now it's such a massive part of my life, I can't imagine living without it. :o)

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  31. You made some very good purchases! I envy you: I am long past the stage where I can fit a shrub (however dwarf) anywhere...

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    1. I'm at capacity! I'll just have to wander the shrub section dreaming about future purchases from now on. :o)

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  32. I laughed a lot at this post, mainly because I saw myself in it. The garden is full, but what has that got to do with anything??

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    1. But every year I say it's full only to redesign another part of it or rip up more grass. :o)

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  33. Oh Tammy, this was so funny it almost made winter go away! Our nurseries here just have a few of the winter-bloomers in stock right now. So I'm super jealous you can choose from so many plants. And Abelias--particularly when they're blooming--are hard to resist. I think I have 4 right now. Didn't know about the dwarfs, so I think a few more are in order. And "Meat Thoughts"? TOO funny!

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    1. The dwarf abelias are fabulous! I need to go to the nursery with blinders on so I can just focus on what I came for and then leave. :o)

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  34. ‘My goal was to leave the garden center without purchasing anything’…..I would never, ever set myself a goal like that – I would be bound to fail!! Or, as in these days, whenever I go online to the many nurseries I have saved in my favourites, I always end up buying something – so I try not to open those websites too often!

    I had to look up the Snowberry plants, haven’t seen it before I think, but yet again it seems like I can’t get hold of the same named varieties as you have in US. The only Symphoricarpos chenaultii I seem to be able to find here is a variety called ‘Hancock’ and it grows to 6-10’ in height and width when mature. Not really the dwarf for my garden I was hoping for!

    Thanks for yet another funny and interesting post, I always enjoy reading about your garden and getting introduced to your favourite horticulturalist was a treat :-)
    I actually dated a horticulturalist for 2 years, he was a deputy manager at a garden centre and his job was to get his brain picked by customers all day, five days a week. It was amazing what they sometimes could ask about. And sometimes I asked him questions too, I learned a lot about gardening those 2 years we were together, it is many years now since we broke up and my current garden was in its infancy back then.

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    1. My husband is a devout non-gardener who understands how to keep this passionate woman happy by supporting my love of gardening. He's learned more about plants than he'll ever admit. He suggested I pursue a degree in horticulture but I would miss teaching so much.

      That's too bad 'Blade of Sun' isn't available for you. It would fit right into your garden.

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