We've all heard the money-saving tip: Don't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Here's another: Don't go garden shopping when your yard is starving.
Everything at the nursery looks good when your yard looks like a giant salmon patty. When I walked into the blooming center, I felt as if I'd been eating broth from October through April, then awakened at an all-you-can-devour buffet. I wanted to sample everything, even the turnips.
I roamed the rows of rosy azaleas, Japanese maples, pink dogwoods, and royal-purple pansies. The high concentration of color was so overwhelming, I had to steady myself on a Burpee seed rack. Heavenly Blue morning glories stared at me. Heavenly days! I grabbed three packets.
"Whoa! You need a trellis for those vines," my husband said.
"They can trail on the ground," I told him. "I'll hold them up while you mow." Pink-champagne clematis and golden sunflowers beckoned. I snatched more packets and wandered over to the feast of ground covers. I fingered a flat of emerald-blue phlox. "Imagine phlox on our rocks," I said. "Our emaciated yard needs it all. I don't know where to start."
"With dirt," he said matter-of-factly. "We don't have any, remember?"
It's true that we need to improve our "soil structure." Translation: We have better topsoil under our refrigerator than in our yard. We're composting, but it's such a slow process, despite my egging on the worms: "Faster, faster!" At this rate, it'll be 2050 before we have enough rich dirt to grow one forsythia bush. I headed for the 40-pound bags of peat and pricey dirt.
"And before you go hog wild," my husband said, "it wouldn't hurt to do some comparison shopping."
Comparison? Every day, I compare our mangy yard to the neighbors'. One neighbor finally gave up and bought himself a new lush lawn. It arrived on a flatbed truck, rolled up like carpet remnants. I prayed the lawn layers would get the wrong address and unroll it on our rocks and drainage ditch.
I compare constantly. "Did you get a gander at that sea of red and yellow tulips up at the Walters'?" I asked. "It looks like a little Netherlands up there."
In periwinkle paradise, I saw other shoppers ignoring the "don't garden shop while your yard is starvin' " rule. One boy begged his dad for king pumpkin seeds.
"Son, some of these pumpkins grow to be 400 pounds," the dad said.
"I know," the boy shouted. "You can carve it with a chain saw, Dad. Please?"
He fell for it. "Our yard is a little bare," he said. "This should fill it up fast."
One woman loaded a wheelbarrow with trumpet vines. "What I really want is bougainvillaea, but you can't get it around here," she told her mate.
He shook his head. "You're still in zone denial, aren't you?" he said. "You're always wanting to grow a Zone 10 in a Zone 6." She happily ignored him and tossed in a couple of snowball hydrangeas.
I didn't notice a single garden shopper with a list in hand. That's another basic shopping rule. Don't shop without a list.
Don't garden shop without a list and a plan. Come July, you may end up with snapdragons and tiger lilies in your zucchini and other strange flower bedfellows.
I can't wait.