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10 Neat Things about buying plants

It’s time to take the greenhouses by storm!

1. Potted plants in bloom. At the garden centre, should you

choose plants that are already blooming or not? The question has two answers: yes and no. On one hand, blooming takes plenty of energy from a plant and when you transplant, you need energy to be focused on root development. Plus, if it’s already blooming, what do you have to look forward to? There are many gardens that look fabulous on Victoria Day but have hardly any bloom the rest of the year because the gardener only buys plants on the May long weekend and only buys what’s blooming.

2. Potted plants in bloom. On the other hand, the only way you

can tell for sure that you have a plant that blooms in the colour you have your heart set on is to buy it in bloom. Seedling and tissue culture and plant tag mix-ups happen. As anyone who’s been in the retail business a long time can tell you, the mix-ups are most likely to happen to the most ornery custom-

30 • Spring 2015

ers. So unless you’re always very sweet to everyone you meet, don’t tempt fate: choose the plant in bloom.

3. Healthy-looking plants. Most of the time, if a plant looks fresh

and healthy up top it’s a good indica- tion that it’s healthy below the soil-line too. But if you have doubt, sneak a peek at the root system or, better yet, ask the nurseryman to show you the root ball. (This

is not always practical.) With

most nursery stock, the roots will come out of the pack in a moulded lump; they should look fresh and creamy.

4. Root-bound plants. Plants are “root bound” when the

roots have coiled round and round inside the pot, pretty much taking over all the space. This would be a problem if you were planning on keeping the plant in that pot, but since you’re buying the plant to put in the garden, it may be fine. Recognize that you will have to do a little extra work teasing the roots out of their spiralling growth habit before

you put them into the ground. Plants with brittle roots, like peonies or bleed- ing hearts, are more problematic; try to find specimens that are not root bound.

5. Moss. The presence of moss on the soil of

a potted plant should not be a deal- breaker in your assessment. Moss on the soil simply indicates that the soil in the pot gets no direct sunlight and is kept moist. In a garden centre, the soil surface of potted plants should be kept moist; pots hold a limited amount of moisture, so once the surface is dry, the rest of the soil cannot be far behind, and dried out soil can rapidly lead to root damage. Moss is not harmful to plants and it probably will not survive in your garden anyhow.

6. Yellowing leaves. Always examine a plant from the side

as well as from the top when you buy it. All other things being equal, opt for a plant without yellowing leaves at the base, but recognize that the yellow-

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