You have probably noticed that the invasion has already begun. Creeping into your mailbox and ending up in the overfull magazine basket, the plant catalogs for spring 2010 are coming.
Full of eye-candy that seems especially delicious to the color-starved eyes of northern gardeners (maybe not so much to the southern folks), the parade of plants tempts the gardener to pull out the pocketbook.
Do you really have space in your garden for that fabulous new plant? Maybe not, but let's order it anyway and figure out a spot later. Or maybe even order a whole packet of seeds since they're so inexpensive . . . of course I speak from experience here. I didn't really have space for all the baby delphiniums I grew from seed last year, let alone the Double Click Rose Bonbon Cosmos. But I threw them all in anyway.
I should remind us all not to trust the catalog photos and descriptions to be completely accurate. The printing process can't do justice to all the different shades a flower displays at morning, noon and sunset. Each garden's conditions determine the actual size and show of flowers. A careful shot can blur the mildewed leaves in the background so you can't see the white powder covering them. Ahem.
At high noon, almost any sweet subtle shade looks drab and washed out. Most pictures show the vivid color that you'd only see at the perfect moment during the perfect sunset when the light is just so. And of course you'll never find photos of the plant after a torrential rainstorm has left it drooping or when a hungry pest has had its way.
And sometimes, the photo may actually be ALTERED from its original form - gasp! To all of that I respond, so what? The cost of failures is part of my tuition at the school of gardening. A friend will benefit when a plant doesn't quite work in my garden and needs a new home. My plant bill is a lot less expensive than medication and counseling for seasonal depression. So to the plant catalog companies: please add me to your mailing list.