This was followed by the creation of my Eight Gardening Limitations which I hope to share with everyone over several widespread postings. They will be listed backwards from the one having the least impact on my personal gardening plans to the one having the greatest (8 = least limiting, 1= most limiting).
Gardening Limitation #8: Environment
Gardening Limitation #7: Proximity
I define proximity as "a nearness to resources". Though the internet, email and mail-order (not to mention television and radio) have helped to bring resources & information directly into our homes (and gardens), pictures and text are simply not the same as the real thing. Being able to reach out and touch the plant, to actually view the shrub growing in your zone, to have discussions, face to face, with experienced gardeners from your area - these are some of the most valuable gardening resources available.
Local plant nurseries typically provide higher quality plants for less cost than most other means and are a great resource for purchasing native and adapted plants specific for your area.
Family Member: "Look dear, I found just the plant we need. See how big & full it looks in the online catalog?"
Gardener: "Yes, looks quite nice."
Family Member: "Hmmm, it appears they only sell it in 4 inch containers."
Gardener: "What!? That's not what the picture shows. It'll take years to get even close to what the picture shows."
Family Member: "Well, its just $12. And then there's the shipping from way up north, let's see, that adds another $10. No tax though, that's nice. So it'll only cost $22"
Gardener: "(Incoherent choking sounds)"
Even better, the really good nurseries are also founts of gardening knowledge. They provide additional insights into raising the plant in your specific locale. Perhaps a particular plant is usually listed as sun-loving, but your local nursery will advise you to provide some afternoon shade as your sun is pretty intense. Or maybe they'll point out that this species can be rather invasive in your garden due to your mild winters - and then guide you to an appropriate substitute. Often, even the plant information provided on the individual sale signs will have a regional flavor missing in big box nursery shops or on the generic pot labels from distant growers.
Local gardening organizations & societies are another great means of sharing information on your area's growing conditions or on your own particular plant interests. While it is common for these groups to have an online presence, it is not a substitute for being able to actually meet both people and plant alike. Visiting home gardens, discussing plant varieties, investigating growing conditions and even sharing plants - all benefits to the gardener who can participate in these groups.
Nearby botanical gardens also provide another great resource. Walking through these gardens allows one to actually see growing plants that are adapted to the local conditions and situations. Species names and plant information are readily available - helping the gardener to discover both new plants and new ideas.
Much like Limitation #8 (Environment), short of moving, not much can be done to directly overcome the proximity limitation. A blog I recently read mentioned a two hour drive into town - imagine the effort required to access resources for that garden (or even possibly the non-existence of such resources) - and the restrictions placed upon the gardener. If one lives far from these resources, the best you can do is minimize their absence.
The internet, email and mail-order significantly help to alleviate the impact of an unfavorable proximity. But nothing replaces that human to human contact, or even that human to plant contact. No matter the online research I conduct, it doesn't substitute for actually being able to view the plant growing in similar conditions in my area or discussing it with a knowledgeable individual.
While not having these resources nearby will likely not prevent one from achieving their gardening goals, it makes the journey more arduous.
(Next up: Gardening Limitation #6: Knowledge)