Here’s my main tip for buying plants in spring — it’s really easy for new gardeners to get intoxicated and buy a ridiculous number of plants. And that’s fine, but YOU MUST ASSESS YOUR WATERING CAPABILITY ACCURATELY.
When my kids were little, I optimistically bought more plants than I had time / energy to water. I was very busy nurturing demanding creatures that moved around, and it turned out that I just didn’t have the attention to spare for any creatures that stayed in one place. Result: lots of dead plants and wasted money.
MARY ANNE’S RULE OF WATERING: If you buy more plants than you have time / energy to water, then you have spent all your money on dead plants. It just takes them a little while to get to completely perished.
At this point in my life, my kids are older, I’m working from home, the pandemic means I’m not traveling as much as I usually do, so I can spend a fair bit of time watering in new plantings (they need regular water for two solid weeks, at least, if it doesn’t rain, and you should keep an eye on them for the rest of the year, esp. in summer heat stress).
Yesterday was my annual spring pilgrimage to Gethsemane Gardens. It’s one of my favorite garden stores, but a good 45 minutes away now that we don’t live in the city anymore (and longer if I hit rush hour traffic coming back).
I usually try to take a day to go out there around this time of year, because they have terrific selections of plants (a dozen different hellebore varieties, for example), lots of shrubs and trees (including things like already espaliered pears), etc. It’s definitely pricier than big box stores, but I love seeing the special plants they carry.
They have four separate areas: trees and shrubs, perennials and pots / statuary, annuals, and Wild Pansy, their indoor plants + really lovely garden-themed gift shop; if you need birthday or Mother’s Day presents for a gardener, they have you covered with many fabulous choices.
They don’t deliver all the way out to us, unfortunately, so you have to bring your own truck for any big trees. You’d be surprised how much I can cram in my little car, though, once I fold a seat down. I ended up with three flats of annuals, three boxes of perennials, and a small tree — a dogwood “Rubra,” to replace the one that I lost last year. Not sure what happened to that poor baby, but we’ll try again. My parents have a gorgeous dogwood at their house, and I’d love one here.
I always combine a trip up there with a stop at Ethiopian Diamond (6120 N. Broadway) around the corner — if you go, I recommend the shiro and the asa wat — those are my favorites. There’s also a terrific candy & ice cream store right across the corner, Lickety Split, if you’d like to peruse a selection of old-timey and fun candy to bring back home, or treat yourself to some ice cream or chocolate truffles.
If you miss rush hour traffic, you can do the whole loop from Oak Park in about 4 hours, so I recommend aiming for 10 – 2, and bringing back Ethiopian food for dinner — it reheats beautifully. (I usually sit in the car and eat some before driving back.)