Tammy SchmittAmazingly underwhelming

I’ve decided to start a revolution. Nothing too big, mind you, just a small take over of the plant labeling industry. I’m tired of plants labeled “partial shade” and “moist, well drained soil”. I need absolute, bare bones honesty. They won’t always be fun to read and could send smaller nurseries into financial collapse, but at least I’ll always know what I’m getting myself into.

truth-2 Pic MonkeyAll orchids will be labeled:

“Don’t buy this plant. It will die”

while my trumpet vine should have been marked with a bold WD:

“This plant strives for world domination while refusing to bloom.”

As for my ‘River Mist’ sea oats a simple

“This plant hates you. Walk away”

would have sufficed. Instead, I fell for its variegated charms and promised it the moist, well drained soil it so coyly asked for.

photo (28)The ‘River Mist’ sea oats are growing between the spigelia and the fence full of thornless blackberries next to the crepe myrtle. They are due north of the iris. Finding Waldo would be easier than finding them in this picture.

Despite being redesigned last year, this shady corner suffers a severe case of BGB – Big Green Blobness. When the spigelia are in bloom, its spectacular. But the rest of the summer it’s about as interesting as watching paint dry. The ‘River Mist’ sea oats were supposed to add height, light, and interest to a spot next to the crepe myrtle. Aren’t they fabulous?

photo (16)This damn plant is the same size it was three years ago. It stubbornly, steadfastly, absolutely refuses to grow. As a matter of fact, it may even be smaller than it was when I bought it. It has been watered, fertilized with worm poo, bat crap, and composted leaves. It has been ignored and then pampered in a futile attempt to unlock its secrets to growth.

stubborn menIt just will NOT grow. Had I known this when I bought it, I would have left it behind.

photo (17)I had to stand in the garden and look down to take this picture. It was supposed to be three feet tall. Instead, it tops out at about 12 inches.

photo (18)Pathetic!

Unless you’re able to impart the secret to growing these to the three foot height promised on the label, they’re headed for my fall plant swap. But what should I replace them with? This spot is too shady for variegated phlox or joe pye weed and too dry for many other shade loving perennials.

As for the trumpet vine, it finally decided to bloom.

photo (22)

** I’m having camera issues, so all pix were taken with my cell phone.

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Tammy Schmitt

About Tammy Schmitt

I am a passionate middle school teacher and gardener. I've gardened in South Dakota, South Carolina, and in upstate New York near the Canadian border. My current garden, in an overdeveloped suburb near Washington DC, has been my most challenging. My desire to create a true refuge for our native birds and butterflies has helped me battle unpredictable weather and compacted clay soil. My garden isn't perfect, but it's always a beautiful escape. Read my full blog at Casa Mariposa.

12 thoughts on “Amazingly underwhelming

  1. helen mckerral on said:

    Haha, Tammy, I hear you – I’ve nearly finished a blog titled “Plant Label Lies!” With specific references to our Aussie Natives! As I wrote in that blog, is that plant label writers could teach real estate agents a thing or two!

    • Plant labels make me crazy! I often find the real growing conditions are contradictory to what the labels advertise. They’re like little plastic con men.

  2. chris tonitto on said:

    The one I hate most is Full Sun …who writes these labels ?
    Whoever they are, they don’t have the same Sun I do.
    Your article made me laugh Tammy. So true !

    • I think the ones that say Full Sun were all written by Canadians vacationing in Nova Scotia. Not the same sun! One is gentle and kind while yours is a brain frying demon bent on garden destruction.

  3. I feel sorry for the plants that have a label which effectively says ‘amazingly underwhelming’. I saw one the other day called ‘Chocolate Blob’. Who’s going to buy that? Or does it get a sympathy purchase??

    • I would buy it out of pity and respect for its honesty. Every garden needs a Chocolate Blob. ;o)

  4. Chantelle Leenstra on said:

    Very funny writing, thanks Tammy.

  5. angus stewart on said:

    In defence of plant label authors. Please have a little bit of empathy for those trying to write useful labels. Yes there are some dodgy operators out there but most of us want to help gardeners make the best choice possible. The modern distribution system demands absolute specifications of height and width which is not compatible with nature’s reality. Please tell the plants concerned that they have to conform to human demands and should not under any circumstances adapt to the infinite array of environmental conditions they find themselves in. ……..

    • It’s not the height and width that bother me but the soil conditions. It seems that every plant is described as needing “moist well drained soil” which means they all need to be wet and dry at the same time, even if what they really want is to be planted in the middle of a river or in the Sahara. Because the tags are written to meet the middle of all the possible conditions in which they might grow, they’re often wrong. It’s like describing a teenager as ” sweet but challenging” when what should really be said is “chronically hungry and often surly with glimpses of tenderness, mostly towards people delivering pizza or parents offering money”. One is significantly more accurate than the other. ;o)

  6. Hahaha …fabulous and funny, Tammy. I am so thankful to learn it’s not me; it’s them ( the labels) But would we sign up for anything if we read the truth beforehand? Life is a gamble. Spin the wheel!

  7. Prickles on said:

    I have an iris with green and white striped leaves. I think it has white or pale lilac flowers – been a while since it flowered. It’s growing in shade under a tree, and has to deal with very dry conditions, which is probably why it doesn’t flower. But the leaves are the perfect foil to its dark green neighbours.

    • Good old Iris pallida! It’s such a tough and dependable plant. Like yours, mine grew in the shade but didn’t flower – not that it mattered as its foliage lights up a dark area so well. Although once you’ve got it established, I’ve found it’s very difficult to get rid of if you change your mind.

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