Deception in the catalogs

Jim McKenney
Fri, 13 Aug 2004 06:59:14 PDT
Roger Whitlock, in discussing the promotional materials distributed with
corms of Crocus kotschyanus,  touched, tangentially, a topic I would like
to expand. Roger wrote (I've paraphrased a bit)
>Finally, Crocus kotschyanus comes close to pink...the color cards
>provided with the boxes of bulbs in the fall show it in a deep pink...but
>that's a blatant falsification.

I sitting here surrounded by piles of catalogs. They are one of the real
pleasures of the gardening life. But sometimes they are also a hoot: they
have their share of petty deceptions and venalities. Here are some of the
real howlers which are repeated each year. Maybe the rest of you can add to
this list. 

Lycoris squamigera is generally illustrated by a photo of Amaryllis
belladonna. The Amaryllis is among the most elegant of bulbs; the Lycoris
is, by comparison, a sort of hoyden country cousin. Do the people who buy
from these catalogs blame themselves for the degradation which has
apparently occurred under their care? 

Lycoris radiata is often illustrated by Nerine sarniensis. There is some
irony here, because Lycoris radiata was still being marketed as Nerine
sarniensis in my youth. In this case, the Lycoris and the Nerine are of
comparable beauty, and what eventually blooms in the garden has a passable
resemblance to what you saw in the catalog. 

Allium giganteum and A. 'Globemaster' are often illustrated with foliage of
something else - Clivia, for instance. Anyone who has grown these Allium
knows that their foliage is pretty ragged at bloom time - hardly
photogenic. So the ever pliant photographer has 'improved' the picture with
alien foliage which has a remote resemblance to the real thing when it is
in good condition. 

Pyrethrum (Tanacetum coccineum, the plant generations of gardeners knew as
Chrysanthemum coccineum) are sometimes illustrated with photos of
Callistephus chinensis, the annual China Aster. The China Aster has a
broader color range which includes colors not seen in the Tanacetum.

At least one of the catalogs offering the Chinese tree peonies has in the
recent  past used photos of lactiflora peonies to illustrate the blooms of
the Chinese tree peonies: the foliage in the background is the give-away. 

OK, everyone, it's your turn: why not chip in a few examples from your own

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where - not, of course, that
I would know anything about this from personal experience - I'm wondering
if those people who use phoney photos of themselves for the dating services
are gardeners who learned this sly art from the plant catalogs.

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