The dirt says ‘Hot’

………the label says ‘Not’

I used to work for Procter and Gamble and this was one of their slogans.  Not quite as well known as ‘For hands that do dishes……..’, but it encapsulates the dilemma I  was faced with recently when looking for plants for my garden.

I have a south facing garden on chalky soil and I wanted something evergreen and not too large, so I was attracted to this Osmanthus in the plant centre at RHS Wisley.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'

The RHS descriptions above the plants are full of information and so on reading the conditions and sizing for this plant, I decided to put it in my trolley.

Just the right sort of height and can cope with my alkaline soil and sunny position.  However when I prepared to plant and removed the supplier’s label, I found conflicting advice.

Twice the height and needing acid, moist soil.  What to do?  The RHS website advice for this cultivar, not surprisingly, mirrors the information shown in the plant centre.  Who do I believe?  No National Collection of Osmanthus for expert guidance.  After a little consideration, I decided that as I have a couple of other Osmanthus doing well in the garden, the supplier says that it is possible to prune if necessary, and really the RHS should know what they are talking about,  I would risk it.

At about the same time, Joanna Jones came back from the Garden Media event with a new talking technology to help us choose plants.  Called Garden Audio, plants will be labelled with a QR code (Quick Response Code) which can be scanned by a smart phone bringing up advice on the plant.  Garden Audio are working in partnership with Barnsdale Gardens, created by Geoff Hamilton for BBC Gardeners’ World and now run by his son Nick, surely another source of reliable information to aid the plant selection process.


2 thoughts on “The dirt says ‘Hot’

  1. I would hazard the response that there is, as with P&G washing labels, a good deal of posterior covering in the supplier and RHS plant label!
    Even the RHS ‘s bland info about plants is not the definitive guide. I have several plants flagged as “sun and well drained soil” that grow in semi-shade in the concrete like Bedfordshire clay quite happily!
    My experience is that knowing optimum conditions (i.e the plant label info) I can then work out if it has a hope of growing in my soil/aspect. Of course sometimes it all goes pear shaped but on the whole it’s worked out quite well.

  2. Cosmicveggie

    The info on plant labels is researched and written for label companies by individuals on a freelance basis, not by the grower or the RHS. I used to write them so I know!! The info is only as good as the person’s research tools, whether that be their own knowledge, books or internet. Personally I used to check several sources before committing anything to paper. One thing you MUST remember about gardening, growing and plant siting – rules are there to be broken, they always have been and always will be! Plant siting instructions are guidelines only and give the optimal position so it doesn’t mean it won’t grow somewhere else :0)

Comments are closed.