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ing might simply indicate crowding – garden centres and growers need to make maximum use of their space— and the plant will improve with more breathing room in your garden. Don’t purchase a plant if the base is mushy or moldy or if the foliage is spotty; these are signs of poor culture and disease.

7. Bugs. Even if you see no evidence of insect

damage to a plant, examine it really closely for possible infestation. Pay particular attention to the undersides of the leaves, which is where many pests hang out. A couple of sow bugs won’t hurt your plants, but any sign of aphids, spider mites, thrips or — heaven forbid — lily leaf beetles indi- cates you should drop that plant like a hot potato. If you see such things in a garden centre you trust, point out the issue to a staff person so that the affected plants can be isolated. In a garden centre you aren’t familiar with, examine any prospective purchases very closely or take your business else- where.

8. Plant labels. Plant labels are a good guide (well,

those that say more than “Assorted Annuals”!), but don’t discount your own knowledge if you think you might know better. Often the plants have been trialled and even grown in areas with slightly different climates than yours. Any good garden centre won’t sell perennials too tender to survive in your area, at least not with-

out warning you they’re marginal, so if you’re shopping locally you should be good.

9. Timing. Buy your plants the day you are

going to plant them. They can survive in their pots and cell packs for weeks at the garden centre because they get the right amount of shaded sun and mois- ture to thrive. Left ignored in your back yard, they will soon perish. That said, if you simply must keep plants in their pots for more than a couple of days, keep them in a place with dappled shade and set them on the lawn or on a bare patch in the garden rather than on concrete or a table (they won’t dry out as quickly) and water them often, possibly every day.

10. Warranties. Many excellent garden centres offer

one- or two-year warranties on their perennials as a gesture of goodwill. Before you seek a refund on a failed plant though, if you want to be truly scrupulous, ask yourself: did you situ- ate the plant according to its light, soil and moisture requirements? Did you take good care of it before you planted it and take the time to plant it proper- ly? Did an animal dig it up? Odds are, it isn’t the fault of your friendly neigh- bourhood garden centre that the plant died, but if it is, hold them account- able whether they offer a warranty or not. A good garden centre will want to know of a problem so they can prevent it happening in the future.

Spring 2015 • 31

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