Friday, April 14, 2006


No, this is not about federal elections in Florida, it's about Compulsive Horticultural Acquisition Disorder. Don't laugh, I suffer from this ... syndrome, as do millions of others. We talk about it on the Garden Web forums all the time.

How do you know when you've got CHAD? If you wake up on Sunday morning full of remorse over the tab you ran up on the Heronswood web site the night before, if you take the back row of seats out of the minivan in April and don't put them back in until November, if a big package arrives from Joy Creek and you actually have no memory of placing an order, if you are absolutely dying to to get your hands on Black Jack Sedum before you've even laid eyes on it, if you find yourself walking around the garden, over and over, holding a pot in one hand and a shovel in the other, searching for an open spot, any spot, well, pal, you've got CHAD.

I've joked before that some enterprising business person should start a 12-step program for CHAD, to be held at the local garden center; this would draw in the addicts like nothing else.

Is there a cure? I've found that having a detailed garden plan, a scale drawing of my garden, works wonders, but doesn't actually cure the problem. Knowing where you have *actual* space available, knowing that something will have to be removed to make room for a new specimen, is key.

It takes many years to develop a full-bore plant addiction, and I think it also takes years to recover. Some of the little steps forward that I've made happened almost unnoticed. I finally bought the long-coveted Crambe cordifolia, and found out within a year what a monster it is. This is just an example; there have been dozens of rare plants that I longed for, for many seasons, that turned out the be "rare for a reason." Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is an enormous monster. Franklinia alatamaha is remarkably fussy. Darmera petata draws insect pests like a magnet, to the point of disfigurement within weeks of its gorgeous, enormous leaves unfurling in spring.

Here's my most recent strategy. I can buy as many plants as I want, as long as they are not new. So, since I've got a sedum collection, I can buy sedum. I don't have a redbud (cercis) so although I long for one, I'm not buying it. This system not only cuts down on the overspending and overplanting, it protects my garden from the "one of each" look and forces some cohesion and rhythm in my garden.


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