Imagining a Real Garden

“The bumblebee consults his blossoms and the gardener his catalogs. … Catalogs lie at the center of our garden.”
- from Second Nature by Michael Pollan
What can be more comforting to a gardener than the extravagance of garden catalogs? Print or electronic, these pages are limitless promise. And, what fabulous sources of information they are. The newest varieties and most colorful annuals and perennials glow on every four-color page. Cornucopias of vegetables and fruits spill over the margins in such abundance to be the envy of the neighborhood.

Indeed, catalogs lie at the center of our garden dreams, but your local garden center is at the heart of realizing those dreams.
And that is just where plant and seed catalogs best serve: as fireside wish-books for the garden of imagination. The real garden of soil and water and flower and fruit will be found, not in print pages (or on the internet), but at your local independent garden center.
The weakness of the garden catalog is one we’ve come to suspect in our food and other fresh products: the catalog is not local. It does not know your soil or your hardiness zone or your frost-free date or your local insects. It does not know if you are a Latin-speaking horticulturist or just want to enjoy a fresh tomato. It does not know if you have been a gardener for decades or for the few minutes it took to walk to the mailbox or go on line.
A good local independent garden center, the ones who sell ferti-lome, Hi-Yield and Natural Guard products, will know all that and more. And, what they don’t know about you they’ll take the time to ask and to remember. So, while you’re enjoying all those imaginary gardens, here are a few hints to prepare for a successful real garden:
1. Jot down varieties you especially like and consult you local independent garden center to determine if those varieties or a better alternative will work in your area.
2. Observe the garden space you plan to plant. Will it be mostly sunny or shady in summer? What colors do you prefer? Your local garden center staff already knows best plants for sun and shade and can even offer planting ideas organized by color.

3. Check out early season gardening events. Many garden stores offer programs to help you get ready for spring. Attend early season home and garden shows where you can smell the good earth and meet representatives from local independent garden centers.

4. Check out products from ferti-lome, Hi-Yield and Natural Guard recommended for early season gardening. Read, take notes and dream. Spring is coming to a garden center near you. Be ready to meet it there!
Here are a few tools to help plan: