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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Houston, We have a problem...

Last night I was taking advantage of quiet time and computer access time (those of you with teenagers in the house will understand that part). I was going through my photos, making sure I had backed up all the files to our external hard drive. It was just a year ago we learned the hard way to make sure everything is backed up.

One file I really hadn't looked at in a long time was labeled "Plant Sale". Once a year I hold a plant sale with the extra plants in my garden. I have a thing for propagation, especially when it comes to perennials. I might not have even realized this was my "niche" until I read Dave's post at The Home Garden Apparently Dave too is a propagation nut although he's more into cuttings and I'm into division and seeds.

Anyway, back to the topic here. I was looking at these photos and noticed an alarming similarity with many of them. It looks like some of the plants have gotten a bit too pushy in the perennial beds. Right now the worst culprit is the deliciously purple Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker'.

My gardening buddy Chris had given me a piece of this plant and I loved the foliage so much that I begged for more pieces. I should have been worried when she looked at me with furrowed forehead and asked me if I was sure I wanted to put it in more places. Silly me, I now have purple foliage coming up in almost every garden here.

Do you ever have those moments where you think "what the heck was I doing"? It was bad enough that I had Sedum 'acre' in one location so "what the heck was I doing" when I actually put it in other places too? Now I have to admit that this one spot along the driveway is almost perfect for it. I say almost perfect because every year just before it blooms our lawn guys hit it with the weed-wacker.

As a confessed propagation nut, I love to let my perennials seed around. I laugh when I read something that tells you to deadhead your plants because the seedlings differ from the parent. Hello, that's how they find new cultivars!

Up until two years ago we were blessed to have a top notch mail order nursery just a few miles away from here. Roslyn Nursery had all kinds of unusual and hard to find plants. Since my other obsession is collectoritis I would find a plant I loved and keep buying every new one that came available. One of those plants was Tradescantia (spiderwort). Ok, I heard somebody out there groan. These hybrid Tradescantias are wondeful, many are well behaved and stay in a clump, I never had one of them seed around either. That was until 'Sweet Kate' came to my garden.

Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' has the most shocking chartreuse foliage. It's like a beacon and although it's 200 feet from my house it's one of the first things my eye travels to in early spring. After a year or two I noticed that 'Sweet Kate' liked to have babies, and those babies were popping up all over the place. Propagation me said "ooh, lets wait for those babies to bloom and see if something cool shows up". Well, nothing cool has shown up but I suddenly find myself with lots and lots of thug-like Tradescantia's all over the place and not one of them has chartreuse foliage.

Corydalis lutea is a perennial I adore. First of all, it was a pass-along-plant here. A gardening friend Judy Rocco gave it to me when I had first moved to this house. Actually, I had to twist Judy's arm a bit to get a piece, she told me I'd be sorry if this plant began to seed around. Since I planted my Corydalis in a dry rock wall, it took a few years before I had enough for myself. By then Judy had died of cancer and I thought of her every time my daughter and I waited for the school bus. You see, Emily loved the little yellow blooms of Corydalis and she'd tickle them because she thought she thought they looked like they were laughing.

Every year we potted up Corydalis for our sale and it always sold out early in the morning. Two years ago my mom went crazy potting it up and I was afraid there'd be none left. Sure enough last year the week before the sale I could hardly find any and I had none for sale. Several customers were specifically looking for it and I had to disappoint them. It turned out that there was actually as much Corydalis as ever, it just was a late spring and two weeks after the sale I had carpets of Corydalis in my shade gardens.

The biggest problem with perennials that spread by seed is that you can't always control where that seed will germinate. Who am I kidding, you have no control at all. The combination of Iris cristata 'Alba' and Corydalis lutea is one of my utmost favorites so I try to grow them close together. Aren't they pretty in this picture? Now scroll upwards to the photo above this one. See that Corydalis foliage? It's seeded itself right in the middle of my best clump of Iris cristata 'Alba' and guess who's winning the battle.

Looks like this year I'll be digging that clump up and replanting all the Iris cristata (hopefully it's still there). The Corydalis probably won't survive that process. I find them finicky to re-pot and when we pot them up for sale we take nice big chunks of soil so the roots aren't even disturbed.

Violets were only in one corner of my garden. I have these basic purple ones and some lovely pink ones. This year I'm also going to try to get a piece of 'Freckles' from my friend Gianna. The first year we had a sale here I was amazed at the customers who pointed to the violets in the garden and asked why I didn't have any for sale. At that time I dug willingly from the beds during the sale so I was popping violets out like crazy.

Still, I find it hard to believe that people want to buy many pots of violets and I always pot up too few. This year I'll try hard to pot up 15-20 pots. It's not like there won't still be violets in my garden next year.

This last photo is a picture of one of my sales beds as I was preparing for the sale. This was our "shade bed". This year I'm trying to get as much done in advance as possible. We try to have a few handouts to give away and every year I print up a few more color photos and laminate them. If you have a stunning color photo of a plant you are guaranteed to sell out of it. Better yet, have a stunning photo of a plant combination and all those plants will sell out.

That reminds me, we're out of colored ink. Since everything is covered with snow outside, maybe I'll head to Staples to get some ink and spend some time with my printer.

One question for all of you. If you have your blog listed with Blotanical, could you tell me how to find out what my feed URL is so I can have them include my posts in their "picks" area?



kate said...

This was an interesting post, Melanie. It's cool that you have plant sales ... that must be fun and gives you an opportunity to add a few more to your collection.

I like the Lysimachia 'Firecracker' and had to smile at the misbehaving Sweet Kate.

Your violets are really pretty and so it isn't any wonder that people would want them.

Melanie said...

Kate, I used to give away so many plants, sometimes people had no room left in their SUV's after visiting here. Four years ago we started with the plant sales. It's a one day sale and 100% of the profits go to our high school marching band. Everybody is happy, the kids spend the days outdoors, people get plants, my garden gets cleared out and so on.

I just wish I could grow more plants because we sell out every year.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I am the plant give away lady in our neighborhood. If you compliment something, I give it to you. If you stand near the fence too long you get a vegetable. I pretty much took over the neighbors front flower bed. She's been nice about it. I love your pictures.

heirloomgardener said...

What a great post. I've never had a plant sale, but have been thinking about having my kids run a one-day sale in the spring.

Dave said...

That's a great post Melanie and thanks for the link. I agree about letting things reseed. Let nature take its course. I dead head the plants some but I save it for planting later. It's great that you donate the proceeds from the plant sale, as a former band director I can tell you that they appreciate your support!

Melanie said...

For years, giving the plants away worked for me. I even would pot them up and leave them at the curb with a sign that said "please take". But, as my gardens got bigger, it got harder to get rid of that many plants.

One day I had sent my husband's boss home with an SUV loaded down with plants. My husband mentioned to me that this man lived in a multi-million dollar home and I was just giving stuff away that other people pay for. That got me to thinking.

The first year we sold plants I had my daughters do it like a lemonade stand. It was cute but frustrating as they stood out there all day and only made $80 when all was said and done. Now we do things differently.

We still don't advertise in the paper, we put signs up two weeks in advance with information about the sale. Last year I added my blog address to the sign and kept putting updates on the blog. We always sell the day before Mothers Day, this way repeat customers know when to come back (and they do, by the droves!)

Try a plant sale, it can be so much fun!

GardenJoy4Me said...

Melanie .. I am on the fly here and have to come back to drool over more of your pictures .. BUT ! it is amazing how many plants we share .. Firecracker ? YUP ! it snuck ? is that a proper word ? .. anyways it went under the neighbor's fence and had a BIG visit there .. hum .. I'm not sure they have controlled it yet .. another JEEZ moment in my life !
There are more but you know what happens when your fingers are racing here .. I have "Freckles" and it is really sweet !
I have to come back when I get my missions (of the non-gardening type )drats ! .. done .. and slowly cruise through all these great photos !

Anna--Flowergardengirl said...

I'm in a panic after reading your comments and ponderings. I realize how much I need to learn about the gift of writing for my new venture with Proven Winners. You know they ask me to write about plants--well, I can't do it as well as you can. I find that once I start reading your post, I finish. That is a lot for me. I am a skimmer. But every time, I read the entire post. I'm going to study your style cause I like it and hopefully, adopt some of your talent. It was so much fun reading this post. Just lovely!!