Information you can trust

With over 60% of retail plants now purchased at the box stores, we wonder if most consumers know you can’t trust much if anything you read on a label at a mass marketer. Our most recent example is this tag on an Illicium parviflorum at our local Lowes. I particularly love the common name, Japanese Anise. Unfortunately, Illicium parviflorum is native only to Florida…quite a few miles from Japan.

The tag mentions full sun, which Illicium parviflorum certainly tolerates, but in the wild, it grows naturally in moist woodlands.

Then, there is the note about cool temperatures and warm soil promotes root growth. Well, warm soil does promote root growth for some plants, but not for all. Wouldn’t the soil have been warmer in mid-summer than now? Just wondering…

And, if that wasn’t enough, our staff taxonomist, Zac Hill spotted this tag for our native bald cypress, Taxodium distichum at a different Lowes store. The problem is that the plant is actually a Chinese Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia instead of a Taxodium. I wonder if they thought…”what the hell, those dumb consumers will never know the difference.”. After all, it’s just another little green lie. As Anita likes to say, ‘The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.”

Lies, Damn Lies, and Plant Labels

We just snapped this photo of Lemon Thread Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Lemon Thread’) in the gardens here at Juniper Level, and wanted to share since it illustrates our constant rants about trusting nurseries, plant tags, and websites to give accurate mature sizes. For a woody plant, our typical advice is to triple any size you are given. So, we wanted to see how that advice would work with the plant below.

Lemon Thread cypress was discovered in the mid 1980s as a sport at Oregon’s Mitsch Nurseries, so it’s a relative newcomer as plants go. Our 20 year old specimen is planted in compost-amended sandy loam without any chemical fertilizers ever. We should also add that we don’t believe in shearing plants, which we find a waste of energy as well as a middle finger to natures’s beauty. Our specimen now measures 25′ tall x 15′ wide.

We then searched the web for Lemon Thread Cypress and recorded the sizes from the top 30 sites that came up in Google…see notes below the photo.  Sizes we found range from 2-5′ tall x 2-3′ wide with only one site giving a height greater than 10′.

Is it any wonder that people install plants in the wrong place!  So, why does this happen? Many reasons:

  • Vendors lie to sell more plants…sad, but true.
  • Vendors almost never update inaccurate information once it’s in their system.
  • Few vendors/garden writers bother to visit a public garden and actually measure the plant. It’s much easier to copy someone else’s mistake.
  • Most plants which are measured, are measured either in containers, or from heavily pruned garden specimens.
  • Plants grow differently in different climates.  Very true!
  • It takes too much time to be accurate, but don’t we really owe that to our customers?

2-5′ 2-3′
3′ 4′
3-5′ 2-4′
4′ 3′
5′ 4′
5′ 5′
5′ 4′
5-12′ 7-8′
5-6′ 6-8′
6-8′ 3-4′
12′