3 Feb 2012

A Few Of My Favourite Things: A Gentle Rant!


A ‘typical’ February finds me hunkered down against the deeply frozen, drifting snow that covers my ‘children’ for the winter, my mind turning instead to the pages of my favourite magazines and catalogues.

So, while this definitely hasn’t been a ‘typical’ winter for anyone - not just those of us in the ‘great white north’ – it thankfully hasn’t totally distracted me from my ‘essential’ winter reading!

I was commiserating with a wonderful gardening friend Pat today about the lack of quality garden based reading materials, and we both agreed that Gardens Illustrated far outshines the competition. It’s coffee-table sized format, filled with interesting monthly features such as ‘Nurseryman’s Favourites’, ‘Plant Profile’ ‘Horticultural Who’s Who’, ‘The Writer’s Plot’ and a monthly ‘Nursery Profile’ ensure that it remains a most anticipated arrival every month! If you’ve not experienced GI, be sure to treat yourself to something that is delightfully refreshing!

I’ve pontificated before on both Lost Horizons and Fraser’s Thimble Farms as representing the very best of woodland garden nurseries here in Canada, and their eponymous catalogues rank number one in my eyes! I have always lived in a world of botanical Latin and think of it as the highest compliment to my intelligence when catalogues make use of it as opposed to resorting to the ‘watered down’ use of ‘common names’ so prevalent in today’s horticultural publications. Nor am I a fan of glossy pages filled with page after page of colour intensified [read:photo shopped to death!] photographs! I want to know about the plant: it’s growing habit; the opportune placement; nutrient requirements; hardiness [although more than not I am likely to ignore it if it warns me against growing it here in Zone 5! I am not one easily told what to do in case you haven’t noticed!]

Most importantly, I prefer to visualize within my mind, and while they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I reserve my utmost respect for the plantsmen/women who choose to weave together words of delicate praise and beauty to describe the plants they so lovingly cultivate for gardeners such as myself. If a catalogue is to contain photographs [which Thimble Farms does, in the form of eight pages that act as a sleeve to the actual catalogue itself.] I appreciate them to be of a quality that bespeaks of the fact that they are actual photographs of the very plants that are for sale, and not web produced ‘stock’ photos that are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Sadly, I find myself in the minority when it comes to catalogues as well. I like to qualify my somewhat biased preference with the simple question: ‘What other catalogues do you know that offer between 2-3000 plants year after year. There are a handful available, but there should be more!

I am so glad to get that off my chest! Where do you stand in this great debate?


Barbarapc said...

I haven't had a GI in my hands in years, and Barry you've got me convinced that it's time. Up to the Cs in the Terra Nova catalogue, hmmmmm. It really is fantastical. The photos show little relationship to what you'd get here as far as performance. Like p#75 H. 'Paprika', the leaves are pictured at the size of the palm of my hand, the colour is beyond Bollywood....can almost imagine the leaves bouncing up and down while the gorgeous extras dance between the stems. I'm with you on the botanical names - folks like Mark Cullen and even Sheridan Nurseries keeping to common names aren't helping anyone out in my opinion.

cheryl said...

I use to know botanical names and thoroughly enjoyed using them. Heck I could even spell them correctly which is no small feat considering me fave one to pronounce was Chamesyprus nootkatensis and I've probably mispelt it, dang. But I will say while I sit here looking outside at the vacant white the garden now is I crave colour, need a visual. In fact I'm perusing a page of Arisaema's in a catalogue I just received and pondering could I, will they, I shall!
You've convinced me to find the wee guide I have buried somewhere in a bookcase on botanical names and their meanings. Thanks!