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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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What's New: Hunting for New Perennials

Scientific folklore tells us that in pre-historic times we were hunters and that the instinct to hunt is still embedded in our DNA. We satisfy that urge by shopping for items that are hard to find and by searching out and collecting rare objects. Speak to hobbyists and invariably they will point to empty spaces in their collections waiting to be filled.

Gardeners of perennial plants are also collectors. No sooner do we complete a garden, when we discover a plant that was overlooked or that is newly introduced. The temptation to add it to our collection is strong especially when it offers a color, texture or height that will enhance our design or simply make us feel better by owning it.

Some collectors of perennials fall into the trap of gardening-one-upmanship. This is understandable because competitiveness is another trait imbedded in our DNA, or so they say. This game requires due diligence prior to acquiring or boasting about a new flower. Each season, too many plants marketed as “new” by mail order companies are not really new to gardening but new to a particular merchant. Or it may be a variety that is new to a generation of gardeners too young to know that it has already been around for years. I am always amused when I read about a plant that is “new for 2009”, when I have been growing it in my garden for over 20 years.

New cultivars are marketed with a story indicating why they are new. There is a reasonable expectation that acquiring such a plant will be a satisfying experience. However, if it is simply new to a nursery’s assortment, there’s a risk that adding that plant to one’s garden will go unnoticed. To avoid being duped or disappointed, buy from reliable nurseries that restrict sales hype to new cultivars only.

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