By Mary-Kate Mackey
I find one of the best perks of being a professional garden communicator is receiving plants to trial and review. However, a downside to this process is that sometimes, it takes years before the review plants are able to show off their best qualities—think trees and large shrubs.
So, what can be done to strengthen the connections to magnanimous growers and marketers? I was pondering the reviewing drawback—time and seasons in the ground—while working in my garden the other day.
Above my head, the leaves of Acer x freemanii ‘Marmo’ were bright with fall color. I got this maple as a four-inch stick from the Morton Arboretum when the GWA Symposium was in Chicago in 2006. Colleague Kirk Brown teased me for taking home such a humble subject. “It’ll take years,” he said.
Yes, it did. Now, in 2018, the tree has grown twenty feet tall. With outstretched gangly adolescent arms, it’s giving promise of the mighty fifty- to seventy-footer it will become. No fuss, no diseases, just terrific. It’s one of the most satisfying plants in my garden.
I looked around the beds and borders for more review plants that were also spectacular latecomers. Do you remember what year we were given small starts of Sambucus ‘Black Lace’? That fifteen-by-ten-foot deciduous shrub—who knew it would grow so big?—reliably blooms, like floriferous pink and black wallpaper, on the best sunny days in June. I’ve received countless hydrangeas, including Incrediball®, which now has a seven-foot bulk, making the massive flower heads not appear outsized. My white reblooming Iris ‘Immortality’ glows again every fall. The thornless rose, Oso Happy Smoothie®, always showers blossoms until frost. I’ve got daylilies so vigorous they look like they’ll punch you in the nose as they burst open. And in the front of the border, hardy black sedums return each year along with the one-foot shrub, Weigela ‘My Monet’. I almost threw that one out because it didn’t grow or show much for two years. Now it reliably holds its own with both green-and-white variegated foliage and bright pink flowers.
And I thought—I bet a lot of members have success stories like these in their gardens.
What if? What if we shared those stories as short posts on, say, the GWA Facebook page? For clarity, we could do a single plant per post. Perhaps with a hashtag #GreatPlantReview? Or, are there better ones to add? #GardenCommGreatPlantReviews? #WhatWorks? We could include a photo of the plant in its glory, what year we got it, from whom we got it—with a link?—and a sentence about what makes it so terrific now. If we don’t know some of the information, other people who have also received that plant could comment, or add pics of their own plant’s same success on the string.
And if this crowd-sourcing/sharing idea took off, I would be happy to curate and organize the posts later so they would have a permanent place where the organization could point to these short reviews. Of course, it won’t tell growers and marketers the exact data on how efficacious their plant distributions are. But it would be a way to say thank you to those who have been so generous with us.
Which swag have succeeded in your garden?
Meet the Author
Freelance writer, author, and Region VI National Director, Mary-Kate Mackey is a five-time GWA Silver winner. Her latest book, Write Better Right Now (Career Press) is available at Amazon and independent US booksellers. Ideas? Suggestions? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.