I went to the garden center today to get some potting soil because I have a few plants that desperately need to be repotted if they are to survive the winter indoors. (I learned my lesson last year--my rosemary was so rootbound that even overwatering it would have been fine for once. It only made it through mid-December.) I should have known better than to venture into a garden center shortly after having collected a surprise check from my second job... I really should have known better.
You know how these garden center visits go at this time of the year, right? As you drive there, you remind yourself that you are, indeed, a plant addict and feel smug that you've successfully gotten through Step 1: Acknowledging that you have a Problem. Then you comment out loud that you really don't have space for anything else, anyway, and resolve that you are ONLY going to the part of the store where the one specific thing you need resides. You are going to put it on your cart, and then you are going to proceed directly to the cash registers--no moving your head to either side as you walk down the aisles, even. You can do it, you tell yourself. For you are Strong.
You enter the building like a woman on a mission... and before you know it, you have your bag of potting soil. Plus 2 ceramic pots that were marked 30% off at the entrance to the potting soil room. Your cart then heads to the annuals section as if it has a mind of its own. (It must want to look for bargains to fill those new pots.) In the annuals section, you score 3 "annual" ornamental grasses marked as hardy to a zone warmer than you but bearing the same botanical name as the three you overwintered in your garden this past year--'Frosted Curls' sedge, to be precise--and a tiny "fall magic" pot of the 'Angelina' sedum that so entranced you in a picture on someone else's blog but was sold out of the perennials section by the time you went looking for it.
By this time, you feel a little lucky, so you stride toward the perennials section and find that they a running an unadvertised Buy-X-Get-X-Free deal. 'Silver Queen' ajuga jumps onto your cart (after all, who couldn't use more groundcover?) and she is followed quite cozily by the inky purple 'Arthur Branch' sedum that you drooled over this weekend at the botanical garden, where it was sprawling through 'Silver Falls' dichondra.
2 pots of hardy plumbago that you figure can be divided into 3 different clumps each before they are planted are squeezed into the last corner... what a bargain, and won't they look stunning in the fall tucked in between your 'Diablo' ninebark and the chartreuse leaves of 'Sum and Substance' hosta?... at which point you realize with horror that your cart is almost full.
So you head toward the cash register to see what kind of damage you've done--but to get there, you have to walk the gauntlet of clearance tables. "All Peonies 50% Off" catches your eye, as you know they had some lovely tree peonies earlier in the season that were a little rich for your blood at $40-some...
But enough of this *ahem* hypothetical situation. Let's get right to the part where I admit that I need your help. Before anyone jumps in, I don't particularly want suggestions on how to avoid my next plant bender. (Heck, I wear the same clothes for so many years in a row that I figure I have earned the right to splurge occasionally on plants with my frugality. Some women are clotheshorses, I'm a plant-horse.)
No, what I really need is advice on how to site and care for my new tree peony! All I can think about is that when I first looked them up in an Allan Armitage book, the first line under paeonia suffruticosa read something like this: "The proper care and cultivation of tree peonies remains shrouded in mystery..."
Yikes. That sounds even more daunting than a late summer trip to the garden center. Help!