Garden Catalogues

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    gardencatalogThis column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

    What surrounds me right now when outside the weather is frightening is garden catalogues; they come in the mail every day with their aspirational enticements of an English cottage garden in the spring, complete with rambling roses ’round the thatch eaves. I walk Valley View Farms (which just won Today’s Garden Center Magazine’s “Revolutionary 100 Garden Centers of 2015”) and the Perennial Farm in Glen Arm, MD (retail to the public on Saturdays) in a trance state, getting all inappropriately handsy with the terra-cotta pots.

    I’m a kid at the Central Park carousel in front of the seed packet kiosk that rotates beets-early spinach-dill. I’m dreaming, I could so have a vegetable garden.

    What’s not to love about garden catalogues? Their centerfolds are overflowing with flowers and plump eggplants!  Husb. caught me slack-jawed over some new variety of Japanese painted ferns, and kidded, “Sure, you only read it for the articles.” But I do. I want to know about the upkeep of shade-tolerant toad lilies. My first encounter with toad lilies was at the Maryland Zoo (there’s a bank of them at the front entrance) and much to the chagrin of my kids I bounded up to a zoo employee and grabbed them by the hand all breathless with enthusiasm like an older woman in a Merchant Ivory film, “What, Sir, are those beautiful flowers?” while my kids pretended to not know me.

    I have become my grandmother. She had a friend with whom she exclusively talked geraniums and about PBS landscape artist P. Allen Smith.  I used to think that was so weird, and now I get it. As important as having a fitness friend, and a TMI friend, and a friend-who-gets-you-to-do-outrageous-things-like-buy-rhinestone-heeled-shoes and take up salsa in your 40s, it is critical to my experience of middle age womanhood to have a gardening friend, to swap dog-eared garden catalogues. Check out page 54 for sun-loving, drought-tolerant annuals! Wowza!

    “Please Mom,” my kids beg, when they go on a playdate and I’m eyeing up the landscaping and about to open my mouth and ask the father if his soil is loamy, “don’t ask any of our friends’  parents about flowers. You seem weird when you do that.”

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