Is this anathema to you? As I cut the sleeve from Thompson and Morgan's plug plants, I had no idea what I would find. I had no idea what I'd ordered.
I was lured by their newsletter offering thirty-six perennials (worth £35.94) for the cost of postage only (£4.95). It promised a minimum of three different plants from a range that included heuchera, silene, geum, gaillardia.
Couldn't resist. But, I'm interested, can you imagine yourself doing this? Do you do this?
As I potted up six of each of the following
- Coreopsis 'Golden Joy'
- Achillia 'Cassis'
- Digitalis 'Dalmation Mixed'
- Sweet William 'Sweet'
- Salvia 'Blue Queen'
- Verbena Bonariensis
I pondered. Well, first of all I pondered where on earth I'd put them. You have to pot them up, keep them frost-free over winter and then plant out mid-late spring. That's thirty-six small pots that have arrived for board and lodging with very little notice.
But equally I pondered why I'd ordered them. OK, yes, they were cheap. (On their website T&M were offering the lucky dip for £14.99.) But there was something more than that. There was the lucky dip aspect.
Is it the subliminal thought of hidden treasure that makes this so attractive? The memory of the excitement of bran tubs at school fairs?
Or is it more prosaic?
An article by Linda Blair in the Telegraph today seems to sum up the attraction. She quotes research at Columbia University which asked customers at two delicatessens to sample jam from a choice of thirty and jam from a choice of six.
Are you surprised to hear that ten times fewer people made a decision when faced with thirty and, of those that did make a decision, more were dissatisfied with their choice from thirty than those who'd only had to choose from six?
I'm not. Here's me with a gardening catalogue: flip, flip, flip. Flip, flip, flip. Research needed for various plants. Difficulty in deciding if the height's right. Colour combination? Clay soil? Support needed?
Linda Blair summarises:
It appears...that the relationship between choice and wellbeing isn’t simple. Some choice is important—it helps us feel more in control in our lives. Too many choices, however, will overwhelm, and ultimately lead to indecision and dissatisfaction.
All those gardening queries swept away in a single action. The knowledge that I bought exactly the wrong plant for a particular spot, even after careful research - gone. And I can't possibly even think of ordering more. I now have a lot of what promise to be attractive plants that, to be honest, I probably wouldn't have thought of, and a couple I'm really pleased to have got (the salvia and the verbena). I'm merely sorry there weren't any heuchera.
If you're a different personality - and a good gardener, some might add - you probably hate the idea of unvetted plants arriving. I'm willing to bet you make disciplined and well-chosen lists when perusing catalogues, and take complete control over what goes where. That's the sort of gardener I've always aimed to be.
Why fight Nature, though? If it all seems a bit overwhelming, I recommend a lucky dip. It's positively liberating!