Saturday, January 1, 2011

Garden Catalog Glossary

 January is the perfect time to cuddle up with all the garden catalogs that are arriving in the mail. It's easy to be seduced by their content. Visions of red, ripe tomatoes and stunningly colorful marigolds are teleported by your imagination from the catalogs to your backyard. After a few years of this winter pasttime, the gardener gets a bit jaundiced. As the seasoned garden catalog peruser knows, seed and plant descriptions, along with their carefully staged pictures, are akin to Playboy "Playmate of the Month" articles: difficult to take seriously. For instance, the Playmate who says her favorite recreation is, "a walk along a secluded beach" can safely be translated as, "I want to go to Fiji and I want to go now!" Or, if she says her favorite male trait is "a sense of humor", that can be taken to mean, "chuckles to himself as he opens up his wallet to pay for that $25,000 diamond trinket."

In garden catalogs, here are some commonly used expressions, and what they really mean:

"vigorous": will not only take over your garden, but will house a large family of rodents by the end of summer.

"old time favorite": this may be the tomato that killed your great grandpa; we can't be sure, though.

"crack-free": the skin is as hard as a rock

"high yields": your neighbors will shut their blinds when they see you walking up their driveway, lugging that damn shopping bag...again.

"spreading vines": kiss your miniature poodle goodbye.

"self-sows easily": by any other name, a weed

"best for storage": slice it with a chain saw

"unique heirloom": old, ugly

"unusual heirloom": old, really ugly

"unusual nutty flavor": be prepared to spit.

And the pictures of those luscious peppers and perfect petunias? Ha! As one garden writer noted: those catalog pinups are probably the result of the work of someone with extreme Photoshop capabilities.

And I concur: have your ever seen a truly perfect, ideally formed fruit, vegetable or flower? No ragged or slightly discolored leaves? No hint of the presence of a bug?  Only in the pages of a catalog.

But that's OK. This is still a great time to buy too many seeds for your spring and summer garden! And dream....


  1. I LOVE garden porn (aka catalogs) what better way to get through the winter than believing the perfect tomato is right around the corner (even it it has be be photoshopped and is inedible).

  2. Could not agree more..............

    Volunteer plant: a weed one is too lazy to pull or too in tune with the earth to kill
    Organic: long beard, flea bitten hat, birkenstocks
    Companion planting: another term for alternative lifestyle
    Hydroponics: cash crop
    Compost: the dirty socks of an organic gardener
    Master Gardener: My tomatoes are better than yours
    Herb: see hydroponics

  3. Love this ! And (for once) I agree with Greg and his further definitions...