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Monday, April 07, 2008

Are you a One by One?

When you purchase plants for your garden, how many do you buy? Do you buy one of any given variety? Do you buy them in odd numbered lots ? Or do you fill your wagon with only one type of plant?

Up until the last year or two I was a one by one. I'd only buy one of any given variety and grow it on in hopes that I could increase it and divide it in future years. Looking at the plants in my wagon last year I can see that I only bought one of these unusual Polygonatum (can't find the name of the variety right now).

Sometimes it's the price that keeps me from buying more than one of any variety. Other times it's knowing that while I could squeeze one more plant into my straining borders, three would be too many.

Some plants seem to require more than one pot planted in a single site. I've been buying different varieties of Astrantia each year for 5 years now and still can't say I have a single area where they call out and say "look at me". As much as I love the individual bloom, I rarely find myself looking at them in the garden.

Going through my photos I could only find two examples of Astrantia even though I know for sure I have white and pale pink varieties. As you can see in this photo (besides the weeds there) when you step back only a foot or two, the Astrantia really doesn't "pop" into view at all. This would be the ideal example of the need for 3 or 5 pots of the same variety to be planted in the same location.

Tradescantia 'White Doll' is a favorite of mine. I wish I had a better photo of it, the incredible whiteness of the blooms seem to blur on my camera. 'White Doll' is a wonderfully behaved plant, it's never sent out seedlings nor underground runners into the neighboring plants. It clumps up instantly, enough that I've been able to divide it every few years to share with other people.

The best thing I ever did with 'White Doll' was the first time I divided it I planted all five divisions in the same area. Now when I dig a piece and divide it I always put one division back so there's still five plants forming a group.

Of course when it comes to Sedums and Sempervivum I only need one variety. They are so easy to propagate that I consider it a waste of my money to buy multiple varieties.

On one of the gardening lists I belong to there is a witty writer from the Netherlands named Gerrit. Just this weekend Gerrit posted about PPD (Plant Purchasing Disease) aka PAS (Plant Aquiring Syndrome). It's good to see that I'm not alone in the world but that others also share in this raging sickness.

Unfortunately, Gerrit has found that the only medicine that keeps this monster under control is Mucho Dinero and like the pharmacies in the Netherlands, the pharmacies on Long Island have not yet received any shipments of this product.

Tonight I'm giving a lecture out in the Hamptons. While I will see many other gardeners who have found the miracle drug Mucho Dinero, I'm afraid my paycheck will only be enough for a quick fix.

So tell me, when you buy plants do you buy them one by one?


tina said...

I usually by one by one plant unless they are on sale and can't be easily divided. Gardeners tend to learn-buy more and plant en masse! I have learned this the hard way, but finally learned and I guess that is what counts!

Gail said...

Very good question! I often buy 3 of a plant, somewhere is this tape in my head that says: "3, 5 or 7"! But the pharmacy down the street does not carry the meds for my PPD.

Last fall when we added the hardscape for the first time ever I bought more than 3 of several plants! It felt so decadent!

Loved the post.


Janice said...

I loved this post. I'm almost always a one by one although I do think planting in threes looks beautiful. My wallet usually disagrees.

I also suffer from PPD and cannot seem to find that drug you spoke of "Mucho Dinero".

Brenda Kula said...

I'm like you with the sedums. Typically buy one. But other stuff that looks better clumped together, I normally will purchase three of each plant. Depends on where I'm going to put it. If it's in the ground: three. But in containers I mix things up, so one of each.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Unfortunately, and I know better, I usually just buy one. I don't seem to be able to break the plant collector habit and really work on design in my own yard.

Dave said...

I might buy just one, but might buy three. It depends on what they are for. I usually just propagate any extras! It's the most economical plan. :)

Marie said...

Great post!

Somtimes i buy one by one and somtimes I buy several. It depends on where I am going to plant it or how much money I've got. Sometimes I want to see if the plant like it in my garden and if they do, I buy some more.

GardenJoy4Me said...

I think we should all get together and build our own plant that makes that medicine .. we could buy even more plants selling it to addicted gardeners .. wait a minute .. if we create a support group too would that increase our revenue ? To buy even more plants while we are weaning our clients off that spinning wheel ?
Ok .. I usually buy them one by one because I have a "specimen" garden .. do you "buy" that theory ? .. yes, alright .. I go back and get more if I am SMITTEN by such a plant that multiples are needed .. or go the other way .. how many cultivars of one particular plant ?? hum ??
I'm silly .. I was actually out in the garden working very hard .. the shock has scrambled my brain !
All that waiting and now bang ! haha ..
Good post Melanie !

Cinj said...

I usually just buy one of each when I buy too. Always an odd number! I used to be much worse at over spending than I am now. I guess being in this housing predicament has helped me learn to control my shopping impulses better. Not a fix I would prescribe to others though!

Lin in zone 9a said...

I tend to buy in "odds", usually in 5s or 7s and up. Generally try to plant for a somewhat "natural" look that multiples can give and works for my garden. Seldom come home from the nursery without a truck full (when we lived on a city lot one truck-load was plenty), but we now have a larger, fully landscaped property, no lawn at all, so it takes quite a few of whatever to make any impact.

Shall we start a PPD support group? I'll be happy to organize it, whenever I'm not out buying more plants. ;-)

Lola said...

I buy one by one. My garden is small so I'm limited. I like to try different plants.
In the sedum picture the plant that is on the lower left hand side. I would like to know the name of that plant.

Nichole said...

I Like buying in multiples but usually end up finding so many plants that I HAVE TO HAVE that I buy one of each. I bring them home, they get planted, and my addiction gets the better of me and I go back to the nursery to get "multiples"

Bek said...

And I thought I am the only one buying plants one by one. I realized last year that for the garden to actually look like a garden I need more of the same together;) Right now I have some here, some here, but no nice composition.

Anna-Flowergardengirl said...

I'm guilty of doing both and for not particular reason. Right now, I'm overwhelmed with with so much new garden territory and very little of it prepared. I did just purchase $60 worth of seed which is quite a bit of plants. I got some really cool stuff. I'm hoping to find my camera tomorrow so I can show ya'll what I got.

I'm going to try and take a break from unpacking tomorrow and get some stuff in the ground. I'm so excited. It's going to be very cottagey!

2greenthumbsup said...


Loved these photos from your garden. It seems we share an appreciation for many of the same plants: hosta, spiderwort, masterwort, foxglove.

If money allows, I like to buy three or more of the same plant. As Gail commented, it's the 3, 5 or 7 rule. On the other hand, if it's something new that I haven't tried yet, I'll start with one, then if it's successful, will add more of it the next year.


rees cowden said...

Mark my words.....succulents are the "next big thing". Very nice photo. They are also being used quite alot for green roof plants.To answer your question, I usually plant in odd numbers and prefer to mass plants together rather than uses what I call the "colage" technique where a garden has one of this one of that.
Rees Cowden

Connie said...

I usually buy just one, but this year I ordered from Bluestone Perennials and they sell many of their varieties only in groups of 3 plants each. It is my first time ordering from them...but saw they have an excellent rating on some of the garden sites.

LisaBee said...

I tend to be one at a time-- mostly because space is limited, and i want to have everythins. Thankfully, there are the re-seeders and spreaders that hel to provide the illusion of some continuity!

By the way, I've recently discovered your blog, (via blotanical), and have really been enjoying reading it. I appreciate all the thought and effort that goes into your posts. And they've got me thinking, on a couple of topics... (sedums & invasives come to mind).

Thanks, and have a wonderful spring!

sisah said...

Great posting :-)..especially as I had similar thoughts lately: If it wasn´t better if I started planning and designing my garden in a less eclectic manner.But as I try to live drug-free I have to stick to my method of cobbling my garden together..piece by piece. Even though I´d prefer to plan my garden considering colour schemes,using plants like colours in a painter´s palette or planning a mixed border and being able to find and buy plants that horticulturally belong together.
It is definitly the price and also the offer "that keeps me from buying more than one of any variety! " But this way my garden is always changing,will be never completed, will be a life task and makes me gaining experience in how to propagate plants, to find out what kind of species will grow in my garden and which one won´t.