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Zoning In
by Eleanor Tylbor
by Eleanor Tylbor


Eleanor Tylbor has been a freelance writer and columnist for more than twenty years. A resident of Laval, Quebec, Canada, she began her career as a columnist writing for weekly papers and continues to freelance a column covering local news for “The Chomedy News.”

She has also freelanced articles for Internet sites in addition to providing human-interest pieces for various dailies, and is a monthly contributor to the site, sharing her humorous observations and gardening-angst with gardening aficionados.

She is now into balcony gardening.

Blog The (Somewhat) Complete Gardener

April 27, 2003

After years of speculating as to the reasons why my garden doesn't thrive as many others do, I believe that I may have the answer. Note the usage of the word "may", which is frequently followed by the terms could have, should have, would have, might have been since gardening is frequently a speculative undertaking. In fact the explanation is so obvious that I'm surprised it never dawned on me before now: I've been in the wrong plant zone! Go figure!

As a seasoned gardener I've never found the necessity to consult with the plant hardiness zone guide…I lie. To be honest and let's keep this between us, I'm not very good at reading maps…actually, I can't read maps at all. South to me is Florida, out west is Texas, north is frigid cold, snow and sled dogs and east is more or less where we live.

"My heavens," or words to that effect, you're probably saying to yourself right now and shaking your head in utter astonishment and disbelief. "How can she call herself a gardener and not know in which area her plant zone is located?" Simple – I just never bothered to check for one reason or another. My philosophy has been a plant is a plant is…and popped in dirt along with fertilizer and a dose of water, it'll grow or produce something interesting and green. Now I find out that I've been living under a misconception.

This was brought to my attention recently during a cyber discussion with a plant person, while chatting about a new plant specie coming on the market for the summer. Concerned as to whether it would "take" in my garden, the question arose as to in what hardiness zone our house was located. No one had ever asked this question before and my credibility faded as fast as a hosta planted in full sun location.

"Does it make any difference?" I responded innocently, knowing darn well that it did.

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it supplies information on just about everything a person needs to know about gardening, right at one's fingertips. Finding the plant hardiness zone map was simple enough but deciphering it was a whole other issue. What struck me was that visually, the map has a lot of eye appeal with pretty colors ranging from your earth tones of browns, beige and yellows, purple and soft lavender, lime to leaf green and for one reason or the other, an unimaginative dull black. There was also a zoom-in and zoom-out device presumably for verifying the exact location of the area in which a garden is located. According to the map we're situated in a light-ish green to mint-green area known as 5b … or maybe it could be 5a…it's a close call … At least we're in a region that's located in a decent color shade and one that's fashionably acceptable. Things like that are important to gardeners – alright – to me.

According to one Internet gardening source the average minimum temperature should not be the only factor taken into consideration, as to whether a plant will survive in a garden. Tell me something I don't know! For example we could have an area in our garden that deserves a higher rank due to variable climatic conditions, like shrubs protecting a corner of the garden. This would allow plants of a higher zone to survive. In other words and in the end, it's all a guessing game anyway.

The planting season is here and armed with the knowledge that I'm living in zone 5a or 5b, I'm wondering how this will change, if at all, my selection of flowers. It's been my experience that growers and greenhouses raise species that are tried-and-true, and specifically customized to the climatic conditions in that particular area.

Now that I'm aware of my plant hardiness zone, I have a new excuse for my plants' failure to thrive. At least that's what I'll tell everyone.

You can find the Plant Zone Maps under the 'Help' area on the site!


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