17 June 2010

Buyer Beware: When a Perennial isn't, and other warnings

It all began with 'Limerock Ruby' coreopsis. Remember when we saw that little charmer, with its reddish-rose flowers, and read it was hardy to zone 5, and we all rushed out and got it, only to have it die?

Now it's listed as zone 8, or a tender perennial. Funny about that. Unfortunately, I still see nurseries around here selling it as a perennial--and charging top price for it.

Plenty of us sent up a cheer when we first saw Lysimachia 'Beaujolais' because it's so gorgeous a goosenecked loosestrife, with its deep wine flowers and blue-green foliage. Only one problem...it's not reliably hardy in Nova Scotia. Yet it's being sold here as a perennial, despite the fact that the most reliable sites I could find have it hardy to USDA zone 6, AND I've had friends in zone 6 have it die on them, too. We don't have to worry about it being a rampant spreader--death over winter takes care of that.

Let me tell you a bit about hardiness zones throughout Atlantic Canada. Most of us are in zone 5a or b; some are even cooler, zone 4 or even zone 3; a few localized areas such as the south shore of Nova Scotia (the banana belt, as it's fondly referred) or some microclimates are zone 6, and even fewer microclimates (as in someone's sheltered back yard) MIGHT stretch to zone 7. Might. Most of us think we're pushing it if we try to grow something labeled as zone 6. I'm zone 5b , with erratic, annoying winters, freeze-thaw cycles, usually-late springs and awesome autumns.

So seeing this euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' and a similar striking one, 'Tasmanian Tiger', sold in Nova Scotia when they are zone 7 plants didn't make me very happy.

Likewise, this 'Sea Star' stonecrop is given a variety of ratings; MOBOT says it's hardy to zone 5, which would be delightful, but other sites rate it as frost-tender as zone 8.

And what about Sedum 'Salsa Verde'? It's rated as hardy to 6-7 depending on where you read about it, so it might come through a winter here with protection. However, I like it and 'Sea Star' so I've put them both in a trough planter, which I'll bring into the greenhouse for the winter.

Now, let's be clear: I BOUGHT both sedums and both euphorbias at a couple of garden centres, but with the knowledge that they wouldn't be hardy in my garden. Because I had read about them in various sites, and because they were on sale so they actually cost less than a patented annual like the Proven Winners plants. I don't mind paying 3 bucks for a plant and having it not overwinter.

What irritated me, however, was that these plants were not even labeled as to their hardiness.
The little plastic tags that came with them gave no sign of hardiness at the places I bought them (although I did see Ascot Rainbow at another nursery, with its label showing its hardiness zone, and significantly higher priced to boot).

For inexperienced gardeners who either don't recognize that the plant isn't hardy, or can't read a zone rating, they're getting fleeced. Some of these places ought to know better, while others, I put it down to a lack of caring/knowledge. But there can also be legitimate mistakes. Like when I saw some aeoniums and echevarias being displayed in the perennial section of one place, next to the sedums and sempervivums, I quietly told the staff that the plants weren't hardy, and they were moved accordingly. At another nursery, one I know well, they had similar succulents BUT also had signs beside them stressing that they are not hardy in our area.

Then there was a salvia similar to this one, being sold at this one place that isn't exactly reputable--not a bigbox store, I hasten to add, but a 'chain' of related garden centres that uses a relative's name in its different incarnations. Well, I don't care if you're uncle, farmer, or cousin, a zone 8 salvia isn't going to flourish in Nova Scotia and shouldn't be sold as a perennial.

This same place had 3-gallon, overgrown (looking hydroponically force-fed) hostas with enormous leaves. I mean enormous. 'Cathedral Windows' is a nice hosta, with good sized leaves (10 inch long, 9 inch wide) but these were much bigger than that. And the price was equally inflated. Who is going to pay 49 bucks for a force-fed, probably grown-in-the-southern-US hosta they can get elsewhere for at most $20? I took this photo in late May, and one of my hort-spies, who was in that place late last week, reports that the plants are sitting unsold, their leaves turning brown and crispy. They also had heucheras that were equally overpriced and overgrown-looking; granted, one of them was Southern Comfort, which does boast large leaves, but there were also 'Palace Purple' plants with leaves the size of a big maple leaf. These plants, too, were dying. Big surprise, that.

Let me also stress, none of these were being sold at bigbox stores, which I don't frequent except to buy plant containers or occasionally annuals--from the Canadian owned stores, not from WallyWorld or HomeDespot. These plants were all being sold at farm markets, garden centres, and other such places around Nova Scotia, and at more than one of them I have brought the questionable hardiness to the attention of staff, some who have been good about correcting the situation, others of whom apparently don't care.

The thing is, if people like me want to buy plants like these and try to push the zone, that's fine--it is a game for some of us, after all, and some of us are very good at it. And sometimes a plant is rated for zone 5 but it can't deal with our particular winters with our freeze/thaw cycles, and that's fair enough too. We've learned that the 'Meadowbright' coneflowers don't thrive here, despite being bred in Chicago, but the 'Big Sky' series do just fine. I buy lithodora every spring because I can't resist its cobalt blue flowers, treat it like an annual because it's marginal with my zone and winter, and that's also fine. I mostly know what I'm doing, and it's also my job to test out plants and let others know what my experience is.

But if someone who is just starting out buys a few of these either unhardy or overgrown plants, paying high prices for them, and then have them die--that's discouraging for the new gardener. And to my mind, it doesn't build a business's reputation, but gives them a bad one.



In a recent article about garden pests, I suggested that people ought to boycott nurseries that sell goutweed/bishopsweed, knowing full well that it is an invasive, noxious plant but not warning customers of this trait. The particular publication edited out that sentence, probably afraid they might lose advertising dollars even though I didn't name names. But this being my blog, I will still suggest that if you see it offered for sale, you ask the nursery operator to remove it or else you won't buy plants there. I do know that several good nurseries have stopped selling it (and others never did have it) but it's still around.

What about you? Have you encountered much of this sort of thing where you live?

42 comments:

  1. Dear Jodi, It will come as no surprise to you to know that generally in the British Isles there is very little understanding of the zones by which the United States, and clearly Canada too, are divided. Most nurseries here [like you, I avoid garden centres or large chain stores when buying plants] are prepared to do little more than either label, or verbally pronounce, a plant as 'hardy' or 'on the borderlines' or 'not hardy', which, in most cases, seems to be completely accepted by the majority of the buying public.

    The result is, as for you, that many plants are purchased on the assumption that they will come through the winter wherever they are planted, in this case from Lands End in Cornwall to John O'Groats in Scotland. This is especially so of new cultivars, such as you illustrate in this posting. The outcome is that nurseries receive a bad name, the public is dissatisfied but the 'ECONOMY', by which we all must live and die, or so it seems, continues on its roller coaster. A little honesty and fair pricing is all that is called for.

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  2. Jodi, I have certainly had the experience of buying plants that are labeled as hardy for my garden, but are not. I think that if breeders have one plant that survived in a warm microclimate in that zone, they label the plant as hardy in that zone. I remember the year I excitedly bought Alstroemeria 'Laura,' which was labeled as hardy to zone 4. It was a lovely presence in my garden that year, but never returned. The University of Minnesota has a great program where they test grow plants in five different test gardens in different parts of the state, ranging from Zone 2 to Zone 5 conditions. For perennials, they grow them for 3 years and then publish the results, dividing plants into those that had superior performance, sub-optimal performance, borderline hardy (fewer than half survived), and not hardy (none survived - Coreopsis 'Limerock Ruby' was in this category). Here is the url for their Floridata website: http://www.florifacts.umn.edu/. -Jean

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  3. Hi Jodi - Very informative post. This is probably why many of us have "killed" so many plants thoughout the seasons.

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  4. Jodi, thanks for the informative post. Having just moved to the maritimes I have been operating on the incorrect notion that if the nursery is selling it then you must be able to grow it here. I'll inspect the plants a little closer next time I visit a nursery.
    Thanks, Marguerite

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  5. Gulf Coast MS, the most frustrating thing I encounter is not being able to find the plants recommended for my zone. As a novice gardener I went to the trouble of buying a gardening book specifically for my area. The book is great as it gives detailed instructions on how to care for the plants and what to expect from them. But if I can't find the plants it doesn't do much good.

    The local nurseries like to carry the latest fad plants which are usually annuals.

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  6. I think it not only can give a nursery a bad rep, but worse. It can discourage a new gardener. A new gardener doesn't know that it's the store's fault for mislabeling or rather a lack of educating it's customers. All they know is they killed another pretty plant. That does one of two things, drives them to find out why and fix the problem, or stops them from trying again. It's unfortunate for the store, as either way they deny themselves a repeat customer.

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  7. I see this all the time Jodi, and it's one of my biggest pet peeves. There are nurseries I no longer frequent because it's obvious they're selling plants that aren't suited to our climate just to make a buck, or because they refuse to stop selling some of our most invasive plants on the basis that people ask for them. I'm sorry, but big-box stores aside, community garden nurseries have a moral and ethical responsibility not to do that. They also have an excellent opportunity to teach their customers. That money they make selling Vinca minor here, maybe they'd make more if they taught a $10 class on the weekend at the nursery about choosing alternative non-invasive plants, or selecting plants appropriate to your climate. They'd probably up their sales as a result, and drastically improve their reputations!

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  8. Oh no, Jodi I just planted Coreopsis Limerock Ruby this spring. It did say good in zone 5 or I would not have bought it. Now I am really bummed out. Grrr.

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  9. Thanks for your post about being misled about which plants are hardy in which zones. That is most frustrating.
    Where I live there are some garden centers that sell lots of native plants, bless their hearts. Also some post signs saying "we don't sell pampas grass [or whatever], it is invasive", which is very educational to gardeners.

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  10. I think I bought that horrid goutweed at a nursery but I don't recall seeing it again. I have had trouble with that coreopsis that you tried. I couldn't get it to grow here in zone 6. I do wonder sometimes about the ranking of some plants. I have caught the wrong tag on certain plants in stores and have told them they were misrepresenting plants. They changed the tags.

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  11. I bought the Limerock Ruby coreopsis a few years ago as a new "perennial introduction" only to have it disappear over winter . Most nurseries around here don't carry it now. I have seen it sold at one place with the annuals.

    Even if there is a guarantee on a perennial purchase, there is usually no evidence of the plant to produce to act on that guarantee. At least with a shrub, there is a dead branch skeleton to return to get a refund.

    I saw goutweed for sale at Loblaws and was tempted to add my own handwritten sign, "Buyer Beware!".
    Jennifer

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  12. Great post, Jodi. I tend to shop at three independent nurseries that label well, and also occasionally at the big-box stores where I feel it's buyer-beware. You are right that experienced gardeners don't mind taking calculated risks on marginally hardy plants. But new gardeners shouldn't have to guess whether a plant is hardy or not. It should always be clearly spelled out if a plant is not. Of course that assumes that the nursery staff is knowledgeable enough to know---not always the case, sadly.

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  13. Even independent nurseries mislabel perennials. Perhaps they are only following the guidelines of their suppliers.

    I suspect that the problem starts with the breeders who introduce new varieties. Their claims about hardiness zones are exaggerated in the year or two of initial introduction. By then, most of us have purchased, planted and mourned such plants.

    Furthermore, there is a trend at independent nurseries to sell tender perennials as annuals. More and more gardeners, who desire beautiful, instant flower gardens at any price, are selecting non-hardy perennials as one-season plants. The problem for the rest of us is that these plants are displayed in areas that are usually reserved for hardy perennials.

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  14. I agree with the previous commenter about the nurseries following the guidelines of thier suppliers. I don't think there's a deliberate intent to mislead by breeders, but rather it's the result of inadequate testing. I'm thinking about a garden center around here that was selling 'Sunshine Superman' Coreopsis a few years ago, shortly after it was introduced. This garden center no longer sells it, as it has proved not fully hardy here in Chicagoland. It's a balancing act the garden centers must perform - they want to get the newest plants out there to sell, but they don't want customers to have failures because plants aren't fully hardy.

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  15. Word to this post. Boston may be quite a bit south of you, but it has tough winters. As a pretty new gardener, I've definitely struggled with stores marketing perennials that are way off for our zone 6 environment.

    Classic example:Gaura lindheimeri, which I tried twice, entranced with those lovely nodding stems. Now that I read it's native to Texas and Lousiana, makes sense that it can't work here as a perennial. But it's sold as such!

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  16. Jodi, thank you for a wonderful post and a heads up that the plants that we buy aren't always what we think or expect. Especially when buying something "New" I try to prepare myself not to be disappointed if it doesn't perform.
    Lene

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  17. Good post, Jodi. Unfortunately most of the sellers don't really care - and it happens all the time. Oh well, I just think it wasn't ment to be if it doesn't make it in my garden.

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  18. It happens all the time (sigh), I understand somewhat with borderline hardy plants (none of my zone 4 shrubs came back well this year :( ), but I've seen much higher zone plants sold here (6 & up). It's infuriating. Fortunately for me I research EVERY variety before planting, so I have a better idea of what to expect, but as you said, most people don't do this.

    The only non-perennial perennial I've added this year is Meconopsis, but not due to zone but finickiness, but you know that already.

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  19. Thank you all for your comments. I see I've struck a nerve with this discussion.

    What I wonder, sometimes, is if breeders aren't going a little TOO overboard with introducing new cultivars, be they annuals or perennials. Regular readers know that I'm a huge fan of echinaceas, but just how many coneflowers do we need? I have somewhere around 15-18 different types, but really, how much difference is there between Summer Sky, Sundown, Sunset, Summer Sun...? And there are many I don't have yet...Ditto with hostas, heucheras, hemerocallis, and many other perennials. Same thing in the shrub world, and way, WAY bad in the annual world. I mean, I adore annuals and am so glad to see people finally planting something else besides petunias, marigolds, and geraniums.

    Jean, thanks for the information on the Floridata site. There's also one from Alberta; they have a website at http://albertaperennialtrials.wordpress.com that is worth checking out, too.

    AFSS, that's exasperating when you know WHAT to plant, but can't find it. Sometimes getting to know people via a garden club/horticultural society helps because you can do plant swaps, go to plant sales, and so on. But yes, a lot of places are so into annuals, which are nice but they get very expensive when you have to buy them year after year. I do some containers, and it gets pricy filling them with pretty things.

    Laura, you're right--I hate to see new gardeners discouraged because they've bought something that won't work for their conditions. Some nurseries make legitimate mistakes, for sure--others just don't care.

    Lona, I've had several other coreopsis experiences since Limerock Ruby, and now I refuse to plant ANY of them except Moonbeam and C. rosea.

    Allen, you're so right--I too suspect that it's a case of the breeders exaggerating the claims of their plants hardiness. I think it's fine to sell tender perennials as annuals so long as they are labeled as such, but as you know sometimes they aren't, whether accidentally or on purpose.

    Thinking about coneflowers again: The Meadowbright series were bred at the Chicago Botanic Garden, so in theory they should do fine here in our province. BUT my theory (and I could be talking out my hat) is that in Chicago, you have a cold winter, maybe one thaw through that winter, adequate snow cover and then spring. Here, we have such odd winters, with sometimes a number of mild cycles, a lot of winter rain sometimes, and then late spring, and I think the Chicago bred cones just can't deal with that. The Georgia (Big Sky) series just sleep in later and miss all that weather.

    Lizkdc, I so hear you on Gaura. I tried it twice, thinking it was something I did wrong, then I got to reading about it. It's sold here as a tender perennial or as an annual, especially recommended for containers, but I just walk by it with my nose in the air.

    Oh, and Rebecca? Several of my meconopsis decided to die over winter this year, so yeah, I know well about their brattiness. But I do still love them.

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  20. This was the first year here in Edmonton at a reputable garden centre that I saw plenty of plants in the perennial section with no zone mention on the tags at all! (not tags from the garden centre - but from the breeder) Most disheartening.

    Also, goutweed - my nemesis from under the fence - is still available in many places and is taking over our back lane and getting down into the ravine. It drives me nuts! (Not that far a drive some might say...) ;-)

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  21. A really good post. I wondered why one of my new hybridized coneflowers didn't come back - I figured it was me. After all, I have all these other coneflowers that are happy in my yard. I'll be more skeptical from now on.

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  22. I always take zone recommendations with a grain of salt. As the late Christopher Lloyd once said, I don't count a plant not hardy until I've killed it myself. I garden in zone 6b, but we have plants here that are rated for zones 7 and 8 and they do well. And some plants that are rated zones 4 & 5 don't last long enough to get them out of the pots and into the ground! Part of this is the heat rating, also have to take into account altitude and rainfall. A lot of factors go into plant hardiness besides cold winters. (cold and wet, cold and dry, intermitant cold, snow cover). I have finally learned that if I like a plant, and it doesn't make it through the winter, I just treat it as an annual and plant it again. After all, a $7 perennial isn't that much different than paying $12 for a basket of petunias that you KNOW will die. It is just the idea of the thing, a perennial isn't supposed to die after one season. It's all in the terminology. Consider this for example: a periwinkle is a perennial. Just not in most of our gardens!

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  23. Our problems are slightly different, with cold-hardiness not an issue but heat- and humidity-tolerance the biggie. I lost a 'Lochinch' buddleia a few years ago after a hot dry period ended with a couple of weeks of rain -- I think the plant died of shock!

    My prize for least-useful labelling goes to a nursery aisle full of azaleas, helpfully labelled "tall", or "medium-height" etc....

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  24. Asking your garden center for advice on hardiness is just like asking your banker advice on how to invest your money. You may get good advice but they are also sellers and won't advice you to buy something they haven't got in stock :) I definitely feel your sentiment - luckily we have the internet :)

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  25. I've encountered the same problem here, and I am a zone 8. It is unbelievable the number of tropical plants that are passed off as hardy in our area. Another problem I have noticed here is the selling of cool season annuals too late in the season. I see inexperienced gardeners buying them (or being advised to buy them by nursery personnel), and I know when those plants die in just a few weeks those poor people will blame themselves. Merchants should be helping develop gardeners which would be good for business.

    Jan
    Always Growing

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  26. Great post! I am also in zone 5b and had the another Limerock Ruby experience with Coreopsis 'Sienna Sunset'. Loved the orange color and not a single one of my 5 plants came back after this mild winter.

    I also picked up about 10 Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'. I read somewhere that it was surprisingly hardy in my zone, and they weren't lying this time! Every single plant came back and look great!

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  27. All the time. Funny thing is that when I called the nursery seller on selling gardenias listed as hardy for my zone she replied, "Well it is hardy here-in a greenhouse." How's that for misleading the public? I agree with your on the bishops weed and all the other invasives. They at least should come with a warning.

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  28. Hi, Jodi!
    Love this. It's particularly bad in my little town because we're stuck with Homer Depot and Walmart (2 of only 3 local places to buy perennials.) They pay no attention to our true growing zone, stocking the flowers that grow well in the valley and will not survive in our mountain terrain. It makes gardeners up here feel like total failures when they die....

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  29. This is such a wonderfully helpful post, Jodi, especially as we're in the same zone. :) I've heard you speak of goutweed so many times and admittedly, never actually knew what it looked like until today. After reading your post, I googled it and the first link that came up (HowStuffWorks) stated this:

    How to grow goutweed: Goutweed adapts to just about any garden soil...

    Propagating goutweed: By division in spring or fall...

    Uses for goutweed: This plant makes a fine ground cover or planting for a slope that is too steep either for grass or for a regular garden.


    As if anyone would *want* to propagate it -- I read the article and smiled. :-)

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  30. The trouble is that students are hired for the summer at these nursery places and they do not know the plants or their growing habits or the zones they belong in. Many are a tender perennial. I was at a big nursery once as a Master Gardener. A woman came by me with a cart filled with aegopodium. I stopped her before she got to the cash and asked her if she really knew the plant she was buying. After I explained its growing habits she returned it to where she found it and came an asked us to find her something that would be better suited.

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  31. You've made some good points here. Really there should be a much better system or at least perhaps a bit more integrity. Here in Victoria we can go for years keeping plants for our climate zone and then bam! we get a nasty winter with many days of -10C degrees and suddenly lose all sorts of things. I'm reconsidering quite a few plants now.

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  32. Hi Jodi. My friends who are successful in the world of gardening shelter their plants from my presence and refer to me as the kevorkian of the plant world. That said, we recently moved to a new location and I want to try and create a wee mental oasis in the back yard with shrubs, plants and fixtures that shelter me from the world at large. I also want a place where I can write and make photographs.

    As a new (and to date unsuccessful) gardener, I would have relied on garden shop personnel for advice but you have opened my eyes to the need to educate myself further when planning my 'retreat'. Wish you lived in New Brunswick :)

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  33. So many tags give very little info, and as MMD says, it's a balancing act that nurseries must perform. It's such a work-intensive business and hard to concentrate on all the little details...as important as they should be.
    I'll let you know if Coreopsis "Ruby Frost" survives our upstate NY winter.
    Gaura is definitely an annual here but I grow it because those little upside down butterfly blooms delight me :)
    What frustrates me is the no-tag plants. Tags are a big expense and time consuming for a small nursery, but a must for inexperienced gardeners, especially, if they're going to try something new.
    I didn't realize goutweed and bishop's weed are one and the same! Now I understand all too well why you hate it so much. I wage war on it annually as well. Horrible stuff!
    I hope you're finding time to enjoy your garden, Jodi. Wishing you sunny days :)

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  34. oh Jodi, I have been away from this blog for too long! I enjoyed this post even though I have absolutely no idea what the difference may be between Zones Five and Eight. Every time I read about them I thank my lucky stars that I garden in a country small enough to remain untroubled by such distractions.
    Even though we cannot grow water melons nor do we have the excitements of neck high snow drifts.
    One universal truth is, however, that fancy-dancy coreopsis are never hardy.

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  35. "I love your article Bloomingwriter, Gardening in N.S. We too on the West coast of Canada have this problem of purchasing things that are supposed to do well here, but, they aren't hardy to our zone. I purchased three "Hot Lips" Salvia, year before last, first year planted, fine, second year, I thought, what's going on here?? One died, third year winter finished them off. So maddening, with only a one year guarantee from that nursery. Also, like you said, things sold here that go rampant, and then we see them in the nursery, I could scream. e.g.purple loosestrife, english ivy (any variety will take over your yard and the forest here.) People forget when they get a basket with it in, they stick it in the compost, and heh, it has an attitude and survives the heating!!! Voila, english ivy garden in about three years. It's like your goutweed. morning glory is the same here. I don't even trust the one's they say won't spread, cause a few do in spite of what the breeders say."

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  36. Oh, Honey! Did you ever open a string of passion! I think EVERY gardener has been dupped by irresponsible nurseries that have sold them non-hardy plants or invasives. I used to design BIG gardens and I bought a lot of plants. One nurseryman talked me into buying a plant that he swore was fully hardy. Sucker that I was, I bought quite a bit of it and lost every one during the winter. When you've put in 30-50 plants and they all die, it's a big chunk of change!
    I called that nurseryman and told him he had lost my business because I couldn't believe him anymore.
    Cenya

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  37. I am one of those who is willing to push the zones, but I agree that beginning gardeners, or even experienced gardeners, can get despondent when a so-called hardy plant dies. Here in North Florida, I usually have the opposite problem - will it withstand the heat? Many so called "full sun" plants have to be grown in afternoon shade here. Some plants literally melt in our heat - Moonbeam coreopsis is one that comes to mind. I am not sure why they even sell pansies and snapdragons here - by time they get them, it is too hot for them. The humidity will kill certain plants too, such as the lavender plants my husband insisted I buy, although I told him they wouldn't survive. They look so miserable, I can't wait for them to die so I can yank them out.

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  38. Yes...erm...reading Ediths comment about the British Isles, I am thinking about this, and it has never crossed my mind that we shouldn't be selling things as this or that perennial in this or that zone, hardy* ** *** (star rates as we do in the UK.
    The garden centres get a little of what you fancy, its I s'pose up to 'us' the consumer to seek advice ask a person or know before we set out to purchase what it is we are going for. Looking for?
    Or may be I am living on a different planet!!!
    Yes people waste money and yes they don't help us, but its the same when buying some household goods, no this toaster is not going to last twenty years, but I know one that will!
    I personally love to see all kinds of plants in garden centres, those that will, those that won't, those that can try if they think they are hard enough!!! Oooh and garden centres make money....as they should! Nuff said!
    The gardener

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  39. Another great post Jodi! Bishopsweed, crocosmia, vinka... - I have them and oh, how sorry I am...

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  40. Great post, I also bought all the plants you mentioned when they were introduced & they did not overwinter for me either (z5 PNW). Tried Tasmanian a couple of times I so wanted it to be hardy here & thought I'd planted it in the wrong spot, but alas... Disappointing to say the least!

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  41. I planted coreopsis 'Limerock Ruby' and the salvia shown in your photo--just this summer. I'm in zone 7-A and won't be 'surprised' if neither of them return, but I'll sure be delighted if they do. I'm always a sucker for a pretty plant, and usually willing to take a risk.

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  42. What a great article, I couldn't wait to comment. I haven't read the other replys yet, so forgive me if i reitterate (and misspell alot of words). I agree with most of what you have said here. I must point out that it is not always the intention of the garden center manager to mislabel plants as hardy. With the constant birrage of new plants, and with different zone ratings on the same plant from various suppliers, not to mention, that the genetic-climatic interactions are very unpredictable and change over time, it can (as I say all the time) all trial and error. I have had gladiolus bulbs overwinter, and hardy roses perish in our winter. I have always sided with the new gardener, when it comes to labeling, but perennial and hardy in our area are not the same thing. I hate to label tender perennials as annuals, and think that short lived perennials and biennials should be seperated from average and long lived perennials. To avoid confusion, we simplify, and simplicity is not always accurate nor precise. I never would want to lead a customer to believe that a petunia will overwinter in their NS garden, but then there are the borderline hardy and zone 2 plants. it's not an exact science, as you know. Despite my boss's warnings, I brought in some hybrid tea and florabunda roses this (2010) spring. We have only ever carried the hardy shrub roses since I have been manager. I thought the customers would like the change of color and form. I posted bold signs near these borderline roses explaining their requirements and warning of the issues with growing them. They sold out in the first month, while recently (August) we sold 75% of our explorer and shrub roses off at $2 each, because we were tired of watering them. I never once had a customer ask about hybrid tea care, even though the sign erad "ask our staff for information" I think the picture and the health of the plants sold them (they were never on the same display as the explorers - we kept them in the greenhouse). I hope that those that bought them noticed the signs, but there's only so much you can do.
    I would like to mention also, regarding the goatweed issue. I had some regular customers come into my garden center, somewhat intermediate-newer, but knowledgeable gardeners come in this spring. They wanted goatweed (which I have growing here and there - not by choice) I refused to sell it to them. They argued and said they had a rough area they needed to cover, but i pleaded with them never ever to plant it. After 30 minutes of debate, I think (I hope) I convinced them.
    Well thats my 2 cents for today, thanks for the oppertunity to discuss this topic, and remember that we are doing our best, but occasionally a tender offender might slip by us.
    Charles, hyperstonehome@yahoo.com

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