Published on 06/03/02

In Love With Plants, Helping the Economy

I went there with my wife, and I can't say anything about her purchases, because I made many of my own. It wasn't as if we didn't have 20 or so plants in pots waiting to be planted. We just decided we needed a certain gardenia for a pot by the front door.

But our shopping trip made it crystal clear that we don't buy plants out of need. We buy them because they look good, the flower color is right, the shape and size fit the spot.

The Main Motivation

The main motivation is simple: "I don't have it and I've always wanted one." That was the reason for the 17 cultivars of hydrangeas I bought.

Now, this is not bad altogether. Buying plants keeps nurseries in business. You know -- that economy thing.

This obsession with plants is the same many women have with shoes, men have with "new toys" and teenagers have with CD's. Of course, you don't have to water, fertilize, prune and otherwise maintain the shoes, toys and CD's.

Plants become a part of the family. We had "Willie Begonia" (the children named him) for 13 years before he succumbed.

We Baby Plants

We baby plants, tend to them and even cover them with quilts and blankets on cold nights. I can't tell you how many times I've covered "the big bay" bush on cold nights. Sometimes after getting in bed I was reminded, and I put on my overcoat and trudged out to keep it one more season. It's still with us.

How many people have taken the rinse water from dishes out to water that certain plant during dry periods? If you perform this type of action, you have the plant disease.

Just because you really fall in love with plants doesn't mean you have to like all of them, though. Viburnums always look unhappy to me and are not among my favorites.

The Viburnum People

I'm sure the viburnum people wouldn't like the sweet potatoes I'm so fond of or the black bamboo in my yard. My wife isn't fond of that, either.

Still, whether they're green, purple, pink, brown, deciduous, evergreen, annual, perennial, vegetable, fruit, ornamental, large- or small-flowered, fragrant, tall, short, pruned or free-formed, they're all loved by someone. Each has its own passionate following, its own organization devoted to it.

Out of the diversity of the plant kingdom, please find one you like and become as attached to it as you wish.

You're just helping the economy.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.