Catalogs help gardeners discover new plants.

Photo by Lise Jenkins

Gardening in January is filled with delirium in my household. With the advent of cold temperatures in the fall, I’m more than ready to stash my gardening tools and retreat inside. I’m as tired of my garden as my garden is tired of me. Come January, things have changed and I’m itching to get outside and to dig in the soil.

However, I must wait a couple of months so my gardening time is spent pouring over the many catalogues that flood my mailbox after the holidays. I’ve already looked up to see what “hot” new plants nursery centers will offer in the spring, but the real treasures are found in catalogues. This is where you’ll discover plants that you didn’t even know existed.

At this time of year, my garden looks pretty empty, leading me on to chase down more plants. In reality, I have very little room to accommodate new perennials, but I always go on the theory that I surely have room for just one more rose, one more Spigelia, one more dahlia.

I have tried to tame this thirst for the quest of new plants by writing down the names of those plants that have attracted me throughout last year’s growing season. For instance I wrote down Jibiscus ‘Fantasia’ — and I don’t have the slightest idea what a Jibiscus is. After much searching, I discover that the typo is mine: Hibiscus ‘Fantasia’ has nine-inch flowers and only grows to a height of three feet. No wonder I marked it down as a plant I must have.

Likewise I had written down “gladiolus” as a bulb I must plant. Last summer a gladiolus appeared that I had planted years ago and had all but forgotten. It was charming and lasted for a good five to six weeks, so now I have the delightful job of searching through Brent and Becky’s Bulbs catalogue to determine which gladiolus suits me. I know it cannot be too tall, as then it will need staking, but it needs to be tall enough to make a rather gaudy statement — at my age I find I’m inclined toward the gaudy.

The month of January is spent daydreaming about plants I might want to acquire. Plant Delights has a beautiful hosta, H. ‘Branching Out’ that I’m itching to have. This latest addition to Tony Avent’s hosta collection has an incredible maze of flowers. Although I typically pay little attention to hosta flowers, Tony’s picture in the catalogue is awesome — and surely pictures don’t lie, do they?

There’s a relatively new gaura in town that surely I have to try: Gaura lindheimeri ‘Pink Cloud’ that should look glorious accompanying the roses. The new Lilium Oriental Trumpet ‘Altari’ is also new. Why, I wonder, did I put it on my list? And then I read the description with its short, sturdy stalk and giant flowers — and it’s quite apparent why I wanted this flamboyant addition.

At this point price is no problem — remember, I’m daydreaming while I compile my lists. It is only after landing again on earth that I confront two ever-present problems: (1) price; and (2) available room in the garden.

I will sit on my list, brooding and pondering. I can’t afford 20 fancy lilies nor do I have the room. The hosta is a splurge but it’s only a single splurge. The gladioli are relatively cheap so I will keep those, as I can always slip them in somewhere. Some of the dahlias on the list will have to go, primarily because I have an aversion to staking and, with the exception of the gallery series of dahlias, almost all dahlias require staking.

I realize that I need room for new roses. The David Austin rose ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ looks too promising not to have. Gradually by paring down my list, it becomes reasonable, obtainable and plantable.

Now I have to wait for three long months before my orders begin trickling in. And I can hardly wait.

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