Catalogs promise a Garden of Eden
Tips for getting the most out of mail-order shopping for seeds and plants.
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Vigor is also affected by microclimates, areas where the soil may be wetter, drier, warmer, or cooler than the surrounding garden because of wind protection or sunlight reflecting off of a structure. Some of Mr. Riddle's AARS plants, for example, may fare better than those grown a few miles away in the Columbus Park of Roses, one of the nation's largest public rose gardens.Skip to next paragraph
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Giving new plants a couple of years to become established can improve a so-so performer. "The second year it might knock your socks off," says Tom Wood, also a Columbus-area rosarian.
Such was his experience with Veteran's Honor, a recent AARS winner. "The first year I grew it, I was ready to give it away," Mr. Wood says. That's why he's waiting another season before passing judgment on the 2007 AARS winners: Rainbow Knock Out, Moondance, and Strike It Rich, which didn't greatly impress him last summer.
Hydrangeas: acid-alkaline sensitive
Few plants react as dramatically to microclimate as hydrangeas, which have blue flowers in acidic soil and pink in alkaline ones. That's assuming they bloom at all due to the likelihood of buds being killed by winter cold or late frost.
Newcomers, such as Endless Summer and similar ever-blooming, mop-head type hydrangeas, produce flowers on new growth throughout the season, even in places too chilly for other varieties. But these tougher plants don't make a spectacular show everywhere.
Yet farther north in the Twin Cities, where Endless Summer was developed, snow cover seems to give an added edge, helping the plants perform better there.
For best chances of success, give these new hydrangeas light shade and well-drained, moisture-retentive soil, Mr. Gates says.
More helpful tips can be found online at: www.americanhydrangeasociety.org.
Daylilies: thousands of possibilities
On the opposite end of the fussiness scale are daylilies, which generally need only a sunny location, regular watering, and reasonably decent soil to flower.
Yet with 58,643 registered cultivars, how does one choose?
Riding to the rescue are the judges of the American Hemerocallis Society ( www.daylilies.org) who annually give the Stout Medal to the best-performing new plant. The society also honors one variety with the Lenington All American Award, again for stellar qualities in a range of areas, says Kevin Walek, society president, in Fairfax Station, Va.
While some of the newest and best plants can be costly, daylilies are easily propagated and prices fall in a few years for those willing to wait.
Tomatoes: Watch for what's missing