| October/November 2004


Andrew Van Hevelingen

I went out to the compost pile and rescued three, ratty looking ‘Ruben’ blueberry plants, repotting them into one-gallon containers hoping they’d revive.

NEWBERG, Oregon — I knew I had attended one too many plant sales this summer when a friend pinned a large badge on my chest with the word hortiholic written on it! I had suspected as much, but after this public display, I knew I needed help. My name is Andrew, and I have a plant problem. I can’t help it. I am weak-kneed in the presence of a well-turned leaf or a pretty flower. Though it doesn’t really matter if the plant is an herb or not, I secretly believe any plant I choose must be used as an herb somewhere in the world to justify my having it. Luckily, a vast array of plants qualify under this definition.

Well, this summer, my plant addiction finally spiraled out of control. My wife confronted me with the choice of her cleaning up the nursery (I think she really meant “out,” not “up”) or cleaning my cluttered garage. Since the latter is a security thing, I let her attack the nursery. But I couldn’t watch. As I worked in another part of the nursery, I secretly spied her merrily cart wheelbarrow loads of lost treasures to the compost pile. When she had finished, there were clean tables with only empty flats and scattered piles of plant tags. The nursery looked better, and we could start to put out new plants from the greenhouse that needed to be hardened off.

We barely had started filling the space with Thymus praecox articus ‘Magic Carpet,’ a new introduction of a very flat creeping lemon-scented thyme with rich carmine-pink flowers in mid-summer, when I had a relapse. There I was, admiring the mat of color, the stunning blooms, the orderliness. I just couldn’t take it. I went out to the compost pile and rescued three, ratty looking ‘Ruben’ blueberry plants, repotting them into one-gallon containers hoping they’d revive. I feel completely justified because this particular cultivar is purported to have even greater antioxidant properties than other blueberry cultivars. These plants were strictly medicinal. Honestly.

The next day, I was found out and soundly chastised. I now have promised to be a responsible plant collector. If I buy a plant, I will plant it in the garden in a reasonable amount of time. I will not let it sit in a forgotten corner for more than two years getting weedy, declining in health and losing its identity to a slowly fading tag. And I am improving: When I came home recently with 10 plants, I promptly planted two. The new Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium yezoense ‘Purple Rain’ is beautiful with its dark brownish-black ferny foliage and very large, fragrant blue flowers. I planted it next to the chartreuse foliaged Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ for color contrast. The other plant, a Chinese mayapple (Podophyllum ¥veitchii), with showy purple-red markings on a hexagonal leaf was situated near Podophyllum ‘Kaleidoscope’. With luck, a romantic interest may develop between the two mayapples and I may be blessed with even more splendid prodigy, which I will care for assiduously.

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