Quotes about choosing plants

enlarge this image

Fall clematis (C. terniflora, here on the ground and overgrowing blue-violet New England aster and perennial ageratum, Aster novae-angliae and Conoclinum caeruleum) is certainly charming for its scent, late bloom and willingness to grow. So don't be surprised and do watch for its seedlings to begin showing up in neighbor's yards, willing to grow in cracks in paving, up and over small trees... 

Return to Quotes directory

As a botanist who's a gardener, I think if a plant's interesting from a botanical point of view it doesn't matter how ugly it is.

- Tony Reznicek, in the talk Why I Grow the Plants I Do -
see What's Coming Up #123




Please don't ask for a groundcover suggestion now, then curse me later for recommending an invasive plant! As they say "You knew it was a snake..." 

- Janet Macunovich -
see What's Coming Up #37

Most of my garden contains ignorant plants. Fortunately since they cannot read the books, they do not know they shouldn't be able to exist in my garden."

- Dennis Groh -
see More new perennials

You don't know the plant until you've killed it. Then you've learned something.

- Janet Macunovich -
see What's Coming Up #37 and What's Coming Up #167   


I consider every plant hardy until I have killed it myself.

- J.C. Raulston, paraphrasing Sir Peter Smithers -
see What's Coming Up #71
Below: Foxtail lily, Eremerus 'Spring Valley',
hardy to zone 5 if the drainage is good.


We think we learn by growing a plant but we can't know if it's just surviving or truly living. We really don't know anything about a plant until we kill it.

- Janet Macunovich -  
see What's Coming Up #51   

I've killed quite a few of them now, some of them in some spectacular ways. ...The real trick with these tough plants is to get a picture of it before it dies.

- Tony Reznicek, in the talk Why I Grow the Plants I Do -
see What's Coming Up #110

Some people think that yuccas are wonderful, and others think they are aptly named.

- Steven Nikkila -
BedRed8941s.jpgsee What's Coming Up #112


   It's illegal, taboo and not nice to nip pieces from the
   plants we covet at botanical gardens, pocket them,
   then stick them in moist sand when we get home.
   Yet wonderfully funny stories are told about plant theft
   escapades of the world's first-tier gardeners.



   I have pinched cuttings to which
   I had no right myself, and I can
   remember most such occasions
   with more glee than shame.

- Christopher Lloyd, In My Garden, 1994 -


   While working among the little plants
   of the far places of the world we forget
   the narrowness of our own orbit.

- Louise Beebe Wilder,
Pleasures and Problems of a Rock Garden
see What's Coming Up #125 and What's Coming Up #153  




I cannot walk into our garden without constantly being reminded of the friends who have shared their plants.

- Allen Lacy, in The Inviting Garden -
: Flowers of purple locust, Robinia hispida.


There are some advantages to growing oddball plants. One is I can be much more cavalier about weeds -- because no one is going to be able to tell which are weeds. If I haven't weeded and people are coming I can just get out labels and label things...

- Tony Reznicek, in the talk Why I Grow the Plants I Do -
see What's Coming Up #80

 VariegHydra8990s.jpg VariegSambuc8517s.jpg

Beautiful weaklings: Variegated Hydrangea macrophylla and elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Madonna')

Whether the are splashed with gold or white, striped with chartreuse or cream, or margined in light tones, they are nature's weaklings, and nature is still a matter of survival of the fittest. The survival of variegated plants depends on human intervention.

- Allen Lacy, in The Inviting Garden -

For all its cussed energy, the white leaf Lamium maculatum would be bested by its all-green kin.


Interspersed in lawn and opening glades,

Thin trees arise that shun each others' shades.

- Alexander Pope  -
see What's Coming Up #79

When in doubt about a plant, move it.

- Helen Dillon -
see What's Coming Up #13  and What's Coming Up #166

 Gardeners fear to move precious plants, and so thereby that the poorly placed tree peony, bleeding heart or other "resents disturbance" plant they treasure will never grow well at  all. Too bad -- they could be moved!


It is far better to limit our choice to real permanencies, which do not require staking... and a general mixture throughout of dwarf shrubs, perennials and ground-covers, with bulbs... This has been called gardening in four layers, and I believe it to be the most satisfying form of gardening.

- Graham Stuart Thomas, in Perennial Garden Plants -
see What's Coming Up #60


Happiness comes from growing what thrives, not merely survives.

- Janet Macunovich -
see What's Coming Up #51

The essence of the enjoyment of a garden is that things should look as though they like to grow in it.

- Beatrix Farrand -


 Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) can be so beautiful, but rarely looks happy in the hot summer, dry air winter and alkaline soil of the Midwest. So, why bother?!


When I need to be precise about a plant, I use its Latin name, even if my nongardening friends sometimes look at me a little funny for using big words in a dead language -- or in the kind of horticultural Esperanto that botanical names make up.

- Allen Lacy, in The Gardener's Eye and Other Essays -
see What's Coming Up #120


If you do not know the names of things, the knowledge of them is lost, too.

- Carl Linnaeus -
 see What's Coming Up #111

Anyone starting to garden... would be wise to look around carefully and see what grows well in other people's yards.

- Thalasso Cruso, in Making Things Grow Outdoors -
see What's Coming Up #156


Some of these odd, ugly plants are long lived. Which is good - it adjusts your sense of beauty.

- Tony Reznicek, in the talk Why I Grow the Plants I Do -


Once you start thinking "oddball" plants are worth growing, the doors just open... the list of 'must haves' keeps getting bigger.

- Tony Reznicek, in the talk Why I Grow the Plants I Do -
see What's Coming Up #152


As a collector, I want one of everything. I say, grow things in drifts of one.

- Tony Avent, Plant Delights Nursery -


And the best-laid plans are often confounded by plants imbued with such uncontrollable wanderlust that they have no intention of staying where you put them...

- Helen Dillon, in Garden Artistry -
see What's Coming Up #74

 Right: Bell balm, Monarda didyma, queen of wanderlust.

Take care with manufactured chemicals, certainly. Your safety and long term health are more important than anything. Yet don't forget that if you grow even a dozen different plants, you are surrounded by chemistry. Inside their cells even the most ordinary plants creates potent fungicides, insecticides, irritants, balms, hallucinogens, sedatives, nerve toxins, cell repair stimulants, lures, repellents... you name it. Treat all plants with respect!

- Janet Macunovich -

Snowdrops: Theirs is a fragile but hardy celebration... in the very teeth of winter.

- Louise Beebe Wilder -
see What's Coming Up #139

Take the Gesneriads. So far I've figured out how to kill substantial numbers of them. But I keep trying since I do keep learning something each time. So I have high hopes.

- Tony Reznicek, in the talk Why I Grow the Plants I Do -
see What's Coming Up #81


Some tulips last so long you could almost dust them off, and others you can't trust over night.

- Constance Spry -
see What's Coming Up #88


Flowering crabapples and lilacs actually grow better in the North than in other parts of the continent.

- Leon Snyder, in Trees and Shrubs for Northern Gardens -
see What's Coming Up #71


Herbes... comfort the wearied braine with fragrant smells which yielde a certaine kind of nourishment.

- William Coles, 1656 -
see What's Coming Up #76


(Heliotrope), the smell rewards the care.

- Thomas Jefferson, in instructions accompanying a gift of seeds to a grandson -
see What's Coming Up #92

Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII of France, had such an aversion to roses that she could not stand seeing one even in a painting.

- Allen Lacy, in The Inviting Garden -
see What's Coming Up #91

 Juniperus chinensis 'Pfitzeriana'... The granddaddy of juniper cultivars; ...usually listed as growing about 5' high and 10' wide, actually can grow larger...

- Michael Dirr -
see What's Coming Up #156


It's bad luck to say 'Thank you' for a plant.
Better to say, 'I'll think of you when I see it.'

- Common saying, unknown origin-