Caveat emptor

Black Petunias_DBG_LAH_0511Today’s post is a simple reminder to gardeners hoping to grow something new and exciting. As gardeners, we’re always tempted by a special cultivar that is unusual, a bit out of the ordinary. Why else the hunt for black flowers—roses, or petunias—especially when the colors they do come in are so much prettier? I have a friend who paid a considerable sum for a yellow peony—just because most peonies are white, pink, or red.

There are plenty of unusual plants to keep us happy. We can grow purple carrots or potatoes, orange cauliflower, and corn with hues to rival a box of crayons. Apparently that’s not good enough. There are scurrilous people just waiting to take advantage of gardeners who desire something truly unique.

Let the buyer beware.

There are many ways to dupe the aspiring seed sower. Only rarely do my flowers and veggies turn out as gorgeous as they do in the seed catalogs. That’s because even the most reputable of seed sellers go through their trial gardens and choose the best subjects for their catalog. Multiply that times the number of years they’ve grown these cultivars, and it’s not surprising that my results don’t quite measure up. I certainly can’t fault them for showing their best results.

Sometimes, however, the catalog creators go a bit farther. They want their offerings to be irresistible. Their eggplants may only ripen one or two fruits (yes, eggplants are botanically fruits) per plant, so they may add a few more, either wired onto the branches or placed there with Photoshop. A picture of a bouquet looks more enticing than one showing a couple of blossoms scattered among the foliage, and if you can make it appear as if all those flowers actually grew there, so much the better.

Photoshop does more than add the appearance of a bountiful harvest. It’s easy to create redder reds, brighter whites, and you can use the healing brush (or clone tool) to cover up any damaged petals or hungry bugs.

Consider this cultivar of Cucurbita maxima, a commonly grown winter squash.

Yes, Jarrahdale pumpkins are kind of blue, as the first photo shows. But how about the second photo? No, they’re not that blue!

Most gardeners are aware of these enhancements, and adjust our expectations accordingly. However, some sellers go far beyond the point of simply improving their products, into the realm of downright fraud. I’ve already posted about the “rainbow” roses and other flowers, whose color actually comes from dyes added after the flowers are cut.

Here are some more ways to be scammed out of your hard-earned cash:


Interestingly, the website description for these ghostly cucumbers says that they’re green.

orange trees

I have never seen an orange tree with this many oranges (and I grew up in Orange County, California, when there were still orange groves instead of houses)!

Then there are the ultimate fake-you-out photos. Someone sure had fun with Photoshop’s color replacement feature! Besides, I find the idea of a blue tomato rather unappetizing.

(Lest you be tempted to order these products on a lark, consider the multitude of complaints this company has received.)

There are a lot of astonishing plants out there, many of which are real. Just do your homework before ordering, and remember, caveat emptor!

Photos: Black petunias growing at Denver Botanic Gardens; Jarrahdale pumpkin: Burpee Seeds, very blue pumpkin: Jack Seeds; White Cucumbers: Jack Seeds, orange “trees”: Ali Express ; Strawberries: Jack Seeds, Rainbow tomato seeds: Jack Seeds.



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