Hardy ?

Its quite common these days for a customer to go around my nursery phone in hand and google the plants they’re interested in. I find google useful for correct spelling of botanic names but with regards to cultivation, height, spread etc its hit and miss.

Hardy is such a subjective term. If the post you’re reading originated in Greenland hardy is going to have very different connotations than a post from Mali. In Australia hardy usually refers to dry tolerance but in the UK or North America where so many posts originate it refers to frost or cold tolerance. So unless the post you’re reading is locally produced its most likely worse than useless re cultivation. Similarly with plant labels. Its always a good idea to check where the label is printed, many of them are imported and the information they provide irrelevant to Australian conditions.

The word forced is often used with regards to plants. A plant that has been forced is often not hardy. Forced means the plant is grown under optimum conditions with its every need provided. These conditions are climatic and have very little to do with fertilisers. A plant thats been grown outdoors and well fed is healthy not forced. A forced plant has been grown in a temperature and light controlled green house and is hopelessly unprepared for life in the garden.

Helianthemum or rock roses always look awful in pots but are in fact very hardy as garden plants.

I find many customers expect perfection when buying plants. So a plant thats had a leaf chewed, has some deteriorating old foliage or a little hail damage is rejected on the grounds that its not healthy. I would suggest that that the opposite is true. A plant thats picture perfect from top to bottom and displays a lustre not often seen in garden plants is the one to be rejected on the grounds it has potentially been forced and is not hardy. There are of course many exceptions to this theory but by and large its correct.

Plants that present as scruffy in pots but are very good performers in the garden have largely disappeared from nurseries. These are very often the hardy plants that should be prevalent in Australian gardens. Halimium lasianthum, the woolly rock rose would be an excellent example. Here is a plant which is almost always leggy in pots its foliage looks sparse and scruffy. Transfer the Halimium to the garden and it undergoes a dramatic change.

Syringa meyeri pablin is not happy potted. It dies back on the tips and has a tendency to become leggy. As a garden plant its superb.

I like to grow my plants a little tough. Its good to let them dry out a little from time to time and to subject them to all manner of weather events. From a gardeners point of view plants grown this way are going to settle in much more quickly than those with a pampered past.

So don’t reject the scruffs. Their appearance at point of sale is no reflection on how they will perform in the garden and there’s every chance that they are the hardy plants. Be wary of the perfect example its often too good to be true.

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