FLOWER CARE

Some flowering plants are virtually trouble-free and can be left to look after themselves, blooming quite merrily year after year. Such types are in the minority and even they require care at buying and planting time. For the rest there is a collection of straightforward tasks to carry out – hoeing, watering, feeding, spraying, staking and the rest. None is particularly onerous or back-breaking, but if you ignore an essential task then there can be a great deal of extra work to do at a later stage.

BUYING FLOWERS

As a general rule, you get what you pay for. It is not an absolute rule – there are times when you can be sold rubbish by a reputable garden centre and many gardeners have obtained an excellent group of plants as a bargain offer from a newspaper advertisement. But the general rule still applies – you get what you pay for.

SOURCES OF SUPPLY

GARDEN CENTRE

The great advantage is that you can see exactly what you are buying. As plants are usually sold in containers you can buy perennials at almost any time of the year for planting out. The stock is large and varied, and if the garden centre is a reputable one you can be sure that half hardy annuals will have been properly hardened off. Against all the obvious advantages you must recognise that container-grown plants are more expensive than lifted onesand that you generally need acar to get there.

If something goes wrong, take the plant back to the garden centre and explain the situation. Always keep your receipt as proof of purchase. If it is not your fault then the garden centre will usually replace the item.

HIGH STREET SHOP

In hardware stores, garden shops, department stores, green grocers and supermarkets you will find a selection of favourite varieties when the planting season arrives. The popular bulbs will be available in spring and perennials will be on offer in autumn and spring, sometimes packed in polythene bags for easy transport. Bedding plants will be there, but don t expect to find unusual varieties. There are advantages – you can pick up a few items when doing the shopping and the prices tend to be inexpensive, but the warm conditions can lead to drying out and premature growth.

If something goes wrong and it is not your fault then you can try taking the plant back to the shop. The response, however, will depend on the store and there is no guarantee of replacement.

MARKET STALL

Bedding plants and bulbsare bought from market stalls throughout the country. They tend to be the cheapest source of supply, and the plants are not kept in overheated conditions. But do take care. A great deal of inferior planting material is sold in this way-and you will only have yourself to blame. Feel the bulbs to make sure that they are firm and do not buy boxes of bedding plants if they are in full flower. The golden rule is to buy from a market stall at the beginning of the planting season.

If something goes wrong, there is usually very littlechanceofredress.lt would besurprising indeed if the stallholder admitted that his bulbs were diseased or that his plants had not been hardened off properly.

MAIL ORDER NURSERY

Despite the advantages of the garden centre, there is still a place for the reputable mail order nursery. You ca nmake your choice at leisure-checking the plant’s requirements before filling out your order. In the specialist catalogues you will find varieties unobtainable from your garden centre – but for ordinary gardeners there is the distinct drawback of not being able to inspect before purchase. Also, the stock may arrive when the weather is unsuitable for planting. Of course, these drawbacks do not apply if you are buying seeds.

If something goes wrong, write to the company and explain what has happened. Many nurseries will return your money or send you a credit note if they feel that your complaint is a genuine one.

BARGAIN OFFER NURSERY

National newspapers and gardening magazines often have advertisements for ‘bargain’ offers. Good value offers do sometimes occur but such advertisements must be viewed with caution. Above all, avoid taking all the glowing descriptions too literally. If money is short and you have a large space to fill, the ‘bargain’ collection is a money-saving way of stocking up with popular varieties.

If the stock is dead or badly diseased write to the company and also to the newspaper or journal where the advertisement appeared. If on the other hand the plants aresmall and there arejustafew spindly stems compared to the robust plants offered for sale at your local garden centre, then you have no grounds for complaint. It was a ‘bargain’ offer and you have no right to expect top-grade plants.

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