Gardening enthusiasts have different criteria for when they determine the beginning of spring. With some, it’s the actual vernal equinox. With others, it’s when nighttime temperatures go above a certain level. Here in the States, we tend to pay attention to February 2, when Sid Vicious rises from his grave, looks down at his shadow, and realizes that he has to wait six more weeks until spring. For me, spring always starts exactly 75 days after receiving the first R.H. Shumway Illustrated Garden Guide right around Christmas. That gives me about 70 days to stop drooling, contemplating buying 20 acres “just for experimentation, and making plans to become a gentleman farmer. Not that these are bad things (well, except for the drooling), but the Czarina might object.
Besides, R.H. Shumway is a perfectly reasonable and sane way to spend one’s income tax refund check, but you have to learn to pace yourself when buying new seeds and gear for the season. The trick is to buy enough, from enough varied sources, to keep the catalogs coming for the rest of the year. This way, you have extra reading material to drag to the Day Job, family gatherings, and oil changes. Dragging ordinary porn to these locales will usually get you fired, disowned, and beaten with tire irons. Drag out garden porn, though, and you’ll likely have fresh new gardening addicts at each one.
To start, we have the stalwarts, the heavy-hitters, the really dangerous catalogues. I’m talking, of course, about the Winter 2012 FarmTek catalog. This year’s catalog really illustrates the current resurgence in hydroponics, and I’m just idealistic enough to believe that the customers really are using it for tomatoes and lettuce. Me, I’m sorely tempted to pick up a few drip-line systems for Sarracenia propagation next season, and compare the growth of those plants to ones grown under standard methods.
I’m ridiculously loyal to FarmTek and its products, but I’m putting in an order with Gempler’s as well, because the Gempler’s crew carries a lot of items not carried by FarmTek. Between the two, the Triffid Ranch should be well-stocked.
On a more literary bent, my friend Joey Shea sent me a catalog for Woodburn Books in New Jersey, an antiquarian bookseller specializing in horticultural and gardening books. We’re talking classics from the Victorian period and before, kids. After realizing that I have a rather large list of obscure carnivorous plant references that need tracking, including lists and descriptions of some of the classic Nepenthes hybrids and cultivars that became extinct after World War I, I’ll return the favor, Joey. Oh, I will make you pay.
It’s not really the post-holiday catalog season without at least one new Fruiting, Rare and Tropical Plants Annual from Logee’s Plants, and this catalog makes me regret living in Texas from time to time. This is because Logee’s has a collection of exotic citrus that beggars the mind and lubricates the palate, and Texas is currently the one citrus-growing state in the US that’s free of the several particularly nasty citrus diseases rampaging elsewhere. No big deal, though, because the selection of Brugmansia, hibiscus, and orchid cactus dulls the grief a bit. I can’t get citrus that wasn’t already grown in the state and certified disease-free, but I can grow Maypop passion flower vines all year around, so that makes up for it.
In other sources, the British fantasy and science fiction digital art magazine ImagineFX might not be a regular gardener resource, but the January 2012 issue on art nouveau might catch a few. I say this because, as someone with very little formal art background, I had no idea how much influence the Czech artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) had on contemporary garden illustration and advertising. The name had never come up in my life before now, and apparently it came along at the perfect time for me to compare notes with artist friends about where to start with his voluminous collection.
Finally, one-half of the fun with playing with miniature gardens is being able to introduce gardening friends and modeling friends to a common ground, no pun intended. The other half is sharing common sources for building materials. Of all of the catalogues listed previously, the new Micro-Mark catalogue of modeling supplies and tools is potentially the most dangerous. It’s not that the prices are high, or the tools obscure. It’s that you find yourself mumbling “I’ve got that idea resting right in the back of my head,” and it’s suddenly reasonable to quit going to work and focus instead of making that idea happen. As I said, dangerous and just a little too tempting at times.
Well, that’s it for the catalogues: next Thursday, it’s time for interesting items gleaned from industry magazines. To quote one of the great philosophers of the Twentieth Century, you’ll boogie ’til you puke.