Internet Garden Catalogs – the missing Link
In the old days ( like before about 2005), seed and nursery catalogs were glossy shopping magazines. They came unbidden in the mail just when you were sick to death of winter, bearing page after page of enticing close ups: brilliantly colored trumpets and daisies, clusters of nodding bells and panicles of jewel-drops, all guaranteed to make you forget that your garden was not the size of Versailles.
Understandable. Closeup photos are the easiest to take, for one thing. Plus we know from the garden center in spring that nothing sells as well as eye candy. Add the fact that printing and postage are big expenses, and it’s no wonder the mail box wish books cut right to the chase.
But on the net, production costs are the same for one catalog or ten million; distribution is dirt cheap and space limitations have no meaning (let’s hear it for links!).
So why do we see mostly this:
and nothing else?
In other words, why are most online catalogs simply uploads of the print version, albeit sometimes faster to search and not infrequently expanded with growing tips, links, and photographs of the family dog?
It’s still wall to wall flower close ups, unsupported by additional views. Oftentimes you can blow them up supersize. But can you see this?
Almost never. Even though flowers grow on plants, plants that are there before and after bloom, those plants are missing in action.
It’s bad enough when you’re dealing with something familiar; different cultivars often have strikingly different proportions. But if you’ve never seen the plant you’re really up the creek sans paddle when it’s time to figure out where said plant fits in the larger scheme of things.
What do the leaves look like and how are they arranged? Is the growth dense or airy? Rounded? Pyramidal? Columnar?
We burn to know. There are some suggestions of how this might look at Annie’s Annuals, where some (alas far from all) of the offerings have a dual portrait – check out the Kniphofia caulescens for an example. I’ve never ordered anything from Annie’s so cannot speak to quality or service, but in the online catalog department they appear to get it. Sort of. And there must be others that do more than reproduce the wholesalers’ mugshots – do you know any?
Just for the record, since the only cosmos here is (mea culpa) the close up, in our gardens Double Click is a paltrier plant than old fashioned Sensation or my favorite Psyche. In Maine, it’s short, in New York tall, but in both gardens it’s spindly – even when pinched to force branching.
Cosmos photo by Kristi Niedermann