How To Visit A Nursery
George Clarke, Portland, Oregon
Reprinted from Portland Chapter Rhodo. News
Rule No. I Either leave the Cats, Dogs, and Kids at home or keep them under close supervision.
This is not a facetious or capricious as you may think. Most folks go to a nursery for cultural information, and help, as well as plant material. Nothing upsets the grower/nurseryman's train of thought while explaining a facet of cultivation, quite so much as the 4-year-old who runs up proudly displaying two hands full of plant labels gathered in a whirl-wind pass through the nursery beds. Conversely nothing will get his attention quicker than a half-grown Irish Setter bounding from an open car door and racing through carefully nurtured and tended rows of young plants. In the same no-no category must rest the person who walks up to the salesroom carrying an unlabeled plant selected by him while on an unescorted tour through the "Special" area. "I chose it for its shape," he proudly announces. The poor man of the soil wonders, 'Unique'? - 'Slocock'? -'Devonshire Cream'?, or what have you?"
There really is no Rule No. 2, but there are a couple of points to consider. The couple who have a new home or even an old one, and cannot come to an agreement as to how the house faces creates another problem. Their breathless announcement that they want a couple of rhododendrons for the front of their house brings from the nurseryman, in his absymal ignorance, the query, "Which way does your home face?" "East," says the man; "South", says the wife. They look at one another and begin the silent encounter that they alone understand. This leaves you-know-who to lamely offer, "I have never seen your house, you know, but exposure to the sun affects your choice in selecting of plant material." So, why not determine in advance which direction your house does face? At 12 noon, (Standard Time) the shadow cast by a perpendicular post points very closely to true North. At night, aligning a couple of sticks with Polaris will give the same results. If you need a bit of help in locating plants around the yard why not a rough draft of the plot plan and house. This is a big help in working with a plantsman. A sketch drawn in the dust of the salesroom floor is not readily understood.
The visitor who is eventually classed as "persona non grata" is he or she who drags the busy nurseryman from plant to plant asking about its habit, color, hardiness, and price, and then returns to his car with the remark, "Thanks, I was just looking." If you would just like to browse, say so. Most nurseries are open to this sort of looking, and welcome visitors, but don't steal his time, it's so limited.
Visiting nurseries in the Pacific Northwest is a pleasant pastime. The grower is accustomed to the weather and is usually dressed for it. You should do the same. Open toed sandals and a fresh hair-do are not suitable in the fall and spring.