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

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Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Big Box Garden Centers

This variegated plant is Lavender x intermedia "Goldberg". Because my clients expect me to plant top quality perennials, I avoid shopping at big box stores as the inventory of living matter there is often abused. Sometimes it’s the staff that neglects to water the plants or drowns them in too much water. Other times it’s the wild swings in spring temperatures that top-freezes the unprotected stock or broils it in the sun.

I am happiest dealing with growers and upscale nurseries that coddle their perennials up to the point of purchase. And yet, from time to time, because I am a hunter at heart, I will stroll through the garden centre of a big box store just to see if they are offering anything unusual. Generally, the assortment of perennials they offer tends to be safe and boring, containing a lot of plants that will grow in spite of neglect. And yet, it was at such a retailer that I first saw Salvia nemerosa Plumosa and Penstemon Mexicali Red Rocks, two of the most vividly colored plants in my perennial collection.

Yesterday, I found myself at one of these stores and discovered a Lavender plant with a variegated leaf, a Gaillardia with a peach colored flower and an Armeria, whose very tall red flower balls will bloom from May to September. None of these plants are destined for my clients. I must grow them first in my garden to determine if they will be suitable for strategically composed flower beds.

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Reader Comments (1)

I bought a similar plant last year before I realized that it is a French lavander that is not hardy here. It didn't come back this spring. However, the plant is so ornamental that if I can get hold of another one, I would want to get it again and perhaps try to over winter it in a protected environment.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChen

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