We survived the toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortage of 2020. Then garden seeds and Mason jars were scarce. The whole year seemed to be one problem after another. Murder Hornets and zombie cicadas gave us the creeps and on top of all of that, we were isolated from our friends, relatives and workplaces. What else could go wrong? Well, it seems that roses and other garden plants may be scarce this spring and summer.
Roses and other garden plants are scarce this spring
The Great Garden Boom of 2020 was wonderful and frustrating at the same time. People stuck at home learned lots of new skills and many of them planted vegetable and ornamental gardens. Wholesale garden outlets were overwhelmed with requests for more plants from their retail vendors and many of them dipped into what was supposed to be their 2021 offerings to fill the orders. On top of that, there was the devastating freeze that hit Texas and other parts of the South that killed both the plants outdoors and in the greenhouses that had no power for days. Now, 2021 is here and the wholesale nurseries haven't recovered. People are still wanting to beautify their properties and shortages are once again upon us. Everyone wants plants and they all want them at about the same time. This is the new toilet paper folks and growers have been caught with their plants down (pun intended.)
Get creative during the plant shortage
What can a gardener, or would-be gardener do to fill some of the plantless void? There are actually a few things, and several of those actually save money. You'll need to be creative and you may need to learn a new skill or two, however you can keep this from being a plantless summer if you try hard enough. Here in my area, the number of bedding plants seem to be enough for everyone, however I've noticed that perennials, trees and shrubs seem to be in short supply. There isn't as varied a selection as there usually is. Instead of twenty varieties of tomato, we have seven or eight. The same with other vegetable starts. You can still have an edible garden this year, it just may not have exactly what you want in it. Trees and shrubs are a different matter. The selection is not very good. And if your part of the country is like mine, the garden centers are having a hard time just filling their shelves.
Pay attention to plant patents
Propagating plants from cuttings is a skill every gardener should know. However there is something that you need to be aware of. Some plants are patented and it is illegal to propagate them. I want some more Encore® azaleas, however these plants are protected by a patent. I'll have to wait until the cultivar that I want is available again. The same goes for roses. Knockouts® are patented, so we can't propagate them. There are others with a patent as well. However, if your aunt or grandmother has an old garden rose that you love, then you can take a cutting and grow your own. A quick search on the internet will tell you if you can propagate a rose or any other plant. Just put in the search bar 'is XYZ rose patented?' That will give you an answer. Now we need to learn how to take a cutting.
Take cuttings of roses
I like to use rooting hormone powder and you can pick some up at most garden centers or on line. It stimulates the branch into forming roots. Right now, in late spring or early summer take your cuttings from new growth. That is the stem right under where the rose has bloomed. Use a sharp knife or razor blade and cut the stem at a slant just above the last set of leaves before you get to the bloom. Count down a total of four sets of leaves or leaf nodes (as the are called) and make another slanted cut to sever the twig. Strip off all of the leaves except for the last set. Place the cutting in water until you have the soil prepared. Fill a generous container with potting mix and dampen it well. Make a hole with a pencil a little wider and as deep as you are going to plant the cutting. Pour a little rooting hormone in a dish and roll the dampened lower half of the stem in the powder. Place it in the hole and press the potting mix around it to make contact. You can put several cuttings in one pot. Humidity needs to stay high around the cuttings, so lightly wrap a bit of plastic film around the pot, however leave the top open so that it doesn't overheat. Place in an area with bright light, but out of direct sunlight and make sure the soil stays moist. You should see new growth in about four weeks. I put mine under my elevated beds. These cuttings were taken from a local wild, or naturalized rose that we have all around my area. The closest cultivar I've found is Dorothy Perkins and I feel it is probably an escapee that enjoys our climate.
Get pass alongs from other gardeners or family members
If you want new plants and don't have time to wait for cuttings to root, why not beg some pass alongs from friends, neighbors and relatives. Daylilies put on a wonderful summer show and different cultivars have different bloom times, so you can have some color all summer long. Salvias are also good along with coneflowers, lavender, yarrow and butterfly bushes. Take cuttings of butterfly bushes just like you did with the roses. This shortage will pass, however it may take a season or two for the wholesale growers to catch up. Instead of moaning about the shortages, why not get creative and explore some alternate solutions?
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