Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A growing addiction

My close friends know that I am a plant-aholic. Their responses to my gardening addiction are varied -- from unsuccessful intervention to unquestioning acceptance to enabler. I’ve also been a pusher. By age 3, my daughter already knew the difference between lemon balm and lemon verbena and was helping shoppers ID herb varieties when we visited nurseries.

I’ve done crazy things like grow (from seed) 15 varieties of hot pepper with purple, white and green variegated leaves -- just to see if they really are different botanically or are, in fact, the same plants with different names created by marketers. (That's a photo of one, the Jigsaw hot pepper, that I grew a few years ago.) Dragged friends out to my garden to tour the 30+ kinds of heirloom tomatoes I’d started from the seeds swapped with other plant-aholics across the country. Forced chef friends to accept gifts of French sorrel, edible calendula flowers and lemon- and lime-mint -- bags and bags of it. (At least it wasn’t zucchini!) Carried a caper bush, delicate white Alpine strawberry plants, and grape-scented iris plants on my lap all the way from Lincoln, Nebraska to Rhinecliff – by train. (And yes, the purpose of the trip to Nebraska was to visit some of my plant-aholic friends!)

It helped that I had worked as a garden writer and columnist for several publications, so I could excuse my habit as “research.” But the behind-the-scenes tours of famous gardens just fueled my need for more and more plants.

This is the time of year when it’s hardest to keep my impulses under control. I go to New Jersey to visit Well-Sweep Herb Farm, and over to Litchfield in Connecticut to White Flower Farm, and know many little nurseries right in the valley that sometimes have botanical treasures for sale. In the next week I’ll share the names of some great places that sell or swap plants this time of year. I know I’m not alone in my addiction. Do you have favorite places in the area to buy plants?

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