Plain as Dirt: A chance to get what you want |

Plain as Dirt: A chance to get what you want

Tom Glass

The following is a public-service announcement benefiting property managers, landscapers, homeowners and the horticulturally inclined.

Right about now is your last chance to have custom-planted and -grown baskets, window boxes and pots properly planted. That’s not to say you can’t order custom-grown later this year. However, we’re coming up on 10 weeks from June 15, our fictitious last frost date. It takes about 10 weeks to finish a container grown from what is commonly the most affordable size of starter plants ” aka liners or plugs.

To get the most out of our abbreviated spring and summer, many people want “spectacular” from the moment they set a pot by their door. In order to achieve a container of that magnitude, you’ll have to work with the growers who, naturally, are working on a timetable dictated by the plants.

In other words, if bigger is better, then sooner rather than later is a best practice when custom-ordering a pot full of plants. This concept seems lost on the general plant-buying public.

I don’t know why. Every June, grandiose is scarce off-the-rack. If the definition of crazy is for one to persist in attempting the same fruitless action while expecting a different outcome with each attempt, then in June, this valley is full of crazy people.

Every year, property managers show up at local garden centers, expecting parked on a shelf, matching multiples of baskets, boxes and pots planted with just the right shades of flowers that trail down 3 feet. That’s not going to happen without proper prior planning. In nature, there is no substitute for time.

I can understand the summer folks arriving from Houston, Chicago, New York, or L.A. naively anticipating broad selections befitting cities dotted with garden markets served by massive, wholesale greenhouses. Yet, it remains inexplicable to me why, each spring, even some hardcore locals expect more than what our rarefied market can deliver on a moment’s notice.

Once again, complicating reality is our alpine-ity. By the time spring arrives here, the vast majority of splendid, off-the-rack planters were sold on Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekends to people living at more conventional elevations, leaving us mountaineers with reduced opportunities to pick up the incomparable on a whim.

Plants are not widgets stamped out. They are perishables that are grown. In June, there is no manufacturing plant grinding out astonishing combinations of full-blown plants in pots to be inventoried, retail-ready, in warehouses somewhere. In early April, however, you might be just in time. There may still remain some unused production capacity.

Each season, growers get two, maybe three shots at meeting the market, and then it’s over. At the prices of our real estate, garden centers here can inventory in season only a portion of their demand. But, they can ship it in and then immediately ship it out ” most particularly if it is ordered well in advance. Think of ordering a custom-grown pot like you would order a fresh turkey at Thanksgiving. Be really cool. Next year, order your pots at Thanksgiving.

Short of that, pick up the phone. Call your clients, property managers, landscapers or garden centers. Plan ahead. Place an order. You might even save a few dollars by ordering early. One local garden center has been offering a true local deal through radio station KZYR. It’s a significant deal.

Really, though, this goes beyond the potential for savings. By ordering now, it’s highly likely you’ll simply get what you want. If you can’t get what you want, send me an e-mail. We’ll figure something out.

Tom Glass writes a weekly gardening column for the Vail Daily. Copyright 2009 by Tom Glass. E-mail comments or questions to

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