Regular readers will know that last year I won a competition run by the wonderful people at WoodBlocX. My prize was a voucher worth £140 to spend with Garden on a Roll. I used the voucher and have just taken delivery of my box of goodies. I know you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth but my original plans to write a couple of blog posts about my winnings have been thwarted and I’ll just about manage this post before going ahead on my own.
My prize came in a sturdy box with internal dividers as you’d get if you ordered a case of wine. Let’s just look inside for a minute.
There’s a lot of space above those plants and nothing to hold them in place. If, in transit, the box had got shaken about or even turned upside down, there would have been some plant damage. I’ve never taken delivery of plants where pots were loose in the box like this – they’ve either been “attached” to the box by staples, tape or fold-out bits of cardboard or there have been sticks inserted into the pots which will stop them falling about and crushing the plants. All credit to the carrier for delivering them safely but I’d have expected better packing in the first place.
What’s in the Box?
For £140 (even if it wasn’t my money) I got a grand total of nine plants.
Healthy, well grown, generally 1 litre pots or a litre and a bit. Nothing exotic. I could have bought this lot for well under £50.
Then there’s the planting plan. The idea behind Garden on a Roll is that it’s just planting by numbers. My voucher covered the cost of a 6 x 2 feet border. I could choose from a range of border types and a range of different sizes. I chose a sunny border and stuck with the size that my voucher covered.
I’m assuming, from the printing that I’m looking at my border from the front. Have you spotted the obvious fly in the ointment yet?
There are also some extras.
Standard items are ground pegs to hold the planting plan down, a pack of “Root Plus” – a fertiliser/moisture-retentive stuff/those fungi that promote root growth, a pair of secateurs, a kneeler and a cotton bag to hold everything. In addition there’s a choice of men’s or women’s garden gloves (I chose men’s of course) and one of three hand tools – trowel, fork or cultivator. I chose cultivator because I already have five trowels and four hand forks but only two cultivators. I had a look on Amazon (why not?) and found that I could buy everything bar the cotton bag for £31 including delivery where charged.
So I’m generously allowing £81 for the cost of plants and extras (most of the extras I don’t want).
The inclusion of the extras and the fact that it’s “planting by numbers” implies, in my head, that this product is aimed at the novice gardener. I’ve been planting stuff for over forty years without the aid of a plan. I work with a mix of intuition and noticing a hole and planting something in it chosen from the array of plants I always have waiting for such a hole to be discovered.
So I’m reviewing from here on in from the perspective of a novice.
Matching Plants to the Plan
Each plant has a combination of letters and numbers stuck to its pot and the idea is that you lay the planting plan over your carefully prepared border area and then peg it down, cut holes through it to put the plants in and finally cover it with mulch and it breaks down, providing some measure of weed protection membrane in the interim. Let’s hope the novice thinks of removing those plastic pegs that held the plan down.
So just match the plants to the plan. Simples.
The circles are meant to indicate the eventual spread of the plant. That big circle on the right is going to be filled with Erigeron Karvinskianus. Yep, it’s a quick spreader. But a little ground hugger. I wouldn’t devote a third of my border area to it; I’d add some taller plants and let the Erigeron scramble around them. Plant A on the left end is a dwarf Buddleja. It will perhaps spread out over that area but I have a couple of mature dwarf Buddleja already and none has spread to more than a foot or so wide. Then there’s plant X. A Cytisus; broom to those who like simple names. At the front of the border occupying a circle a foot across. A mature Cytisus will be about six feet tall and could be as much across. It’ll certainly fill half the border area and totally hide the Coreopsis behind it in B1. It’s a back of border plant, not front!
I know I could turn the plan around front-to-back but will a novice, who won’t necessarily know eventual plant sizes, think of doing that? More likely they’ll assume the printing should be the right way up – at the front.
I’d certainly plant more closely than the plan indicates. But have you noticed the fly in the ointment yet? This is a planting plan for novices, holding their hands, so to speak, and telling them exactly what to plant where so that as the border matures they’ll end up with a masterpiece.
So what do you do with …….
Poor homeless plants. Maybe I’ll shove them in in the Erigeron space, except one is an Armeria which is likely to be swamped by the Erigeron. Whatever; major fail of the planting by numbers idea.
So the planting plan goes in the bin and I’ll do it, in the best Frank Sinatra tradition, my way.
If you are a novice, but not-novice-enough to fail to notice things like back-of-the-border plants going in the front and not-novice-enough to be able to work out where to put the surplus plants, then maybe this is for you. But I cannot see how this represents value for money. I’d take out the non-plant extras and include more plants. But still, £60 to cover packaging and delivery, a printed plan (which in my case was “defective”) and paying someone to put stuff in the box seems a bit on the steep side. And for your money you get something that’s wasted on an experienced gardener yet confusing to a novice.
So, overall, not a product I could recommend.