by Kate McIntyre
Old House Web Columnist
Greenhouses offer you hundreds of tree, shrub, and plant varieties--almost too many choices. And once you have decided what type of plant you want for your landscape, you must pick the healthiest, most robust specimens. With a bit of planning and a basic knowledge of what makes a healthy plant, you'll soon be making smart plant shopping decisions.
Take a walk around your garden before you head to the greenhouse. Note any holes in your landscaping, or any places that displease you. If you start your shopping with a clear idea of what plants you need, you won't find yourself buying low-growing annuals when what your space really requires are taller, woody perennials.
Picking the Best Specimens
Once you know that you need 10 pansy plants, for example, it is time to get down and dirty, making sure that each one passes muster. Avoid purchasing plants with roots that have coiled around the bottom and sides of their containers. These plants' roots have a hard time growing normally once they are planted in the ground. Look at the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot. A dense mass of roots indicates that the plant is root-bound.
The Lure of Blooms
It might seem like a good idea to buy the plant with the most flowers on it, but these plants usually have more trouble adapting to your garden. Their energy is going toward flowering rather than developing strong roots. A better choice is a sturdy plant with many buds. You will enjoy a longer blooming time if you choose a plant that has not yet flowered, or is just beginning to flower.
If you are ever in doubt about a plant's growing habits in your area, or what to look for when selecting a particular type of plant, don't hesitate to ask the greenhouse staff for advice. They spend every day among the plants, and they know them better than anyone else.
About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a BA from Harvard University and an MFA in fiction writing from Oregon State University.