That's Just About the Size of It
Austin C. Kennell
What do a lot of nurseries have in common? It sure ain't size!
Not the size of their nurseries but the size of their plants. Well, not really the size of their plants but the size of their plant sizes. No, that's not it either. It's more like that sizes of their plants sizes are different sizes.
Now, I'm not concerned about the sizes of the plants I see in nurseries. Even I have no trouble with the sizes of these. It's the sizes of the ones I can't see in the catalogs. I can see sizes of plants a lot better than I can visualize plant sizes.
Some nurseries show sizes in inch ranges, such as 3-6 inches, 6-10 inches, 10-15 inches, etc., measured across the width of the plant. These one-dimensional figures are probably helpful, but, unfortunately, plants are not one-dimensional although some of mine look like it.
Some nurseries look at plants differently as they use inch breakdowns, but measured by height rather than width. It is some consolation that a vertical inch is just about the same as a horizontal inch as long as you know what's up.
Not only is there a difference in how inches are measured, but also in how many inches to measure. A plant may be 8-12 inches, 10-12 inches, 9-12 inches, etc., depending upon which nursery does the measuring. Another problem for measurers is that the measurees insist on growing so size is a transient thing.
Now, non-inch sizes are used by some and are quite varied. These are those who, while they don't reveal plant dimensions, do let you in on the plant's container size as one quart, one gallon, two gallon, etc. Since I don't like containers, this valuable information doesn't do much for me. Some nurseries use age rather than dimension, i.e., 1-year, 2-year, 3-year old plants. As a senior citizen, I don't consider age a very good measure of anything.
Some nurseries, for some obscure reason, eschew anything that could even remotely be mistaken for a size. In this group are designations such as No. 1 or No. 2 sizes, First Grade, Premium, Nice Bushy Plant.
Then there are plantlet, rooted cutting, yearling, transplant, liner sizes.
Since I don't feel size is very good measurement of a plant (or person either) I rely on something I learned long ago about nurserymen - or anybody who grows rhododendrons. And that is they will always pick out the best plant available if you just ask them to use their judgment. Now, that's about as close as you can come to a sure thing in getting just the right size.
Austin Kennell is Past President of the ARS.