Every gardener has a long list of plants that were once in their garden but are now no longer in their garden.
Some of us keep the tags from these plants. Then when we want to feel bad about ourselves as gardeners, we sit down and sift through all the labels and lament all the plants we killed.
And those plants that just up and died on us.
And those plants that just one day went missing.
And when we are done looking at all those labels, it sure seems like a lot of plants have come and gone from our gardens.
Because a lot of plants have come and gone from our gardens.
Then we can go through all the tags of the plants that are still in our gardens, still growing, still giving us joy. And we should. Because a lot of plants are still in our gardens, thank goodness.
We could throw out all those tags for plants we killed or that died or just want missing to make ourselves feel better as gardeners. But then we wouldn’t be able to calculate our Plant Kill Rate (PKR). Or our Plant Died Rate (PDR). Or our Plant Missing Rate (PMR).
Now you are asking, “Carol, why would I want to calculate rates like those? Won’t those numbers just make me feel bad about myself as a gardener?”
You should calculate those rates and tell other gardeners about them, especially newer gardeners, so they understand that not every plant we acquire and put in our gardens or in the case of houseplants, in our houses, is going to live.
And I’m not talking about annual flowers, which we expect to die at the end of the growing season.
I’m talking about expensive plants. I’m talking about rare plants. I’m talking about trees and shrubs that we thought defined a whole area of the garden. I’m talking about perennials.
I’m talking about our beloved plants.
Sometimes they just die. Or we kill them. Or they go missing. It is a fact of gardening!
Will knowing those rates make it less of a fact?
Indeed not. It will just make us aware that not every plant will live, even with our best care. And it might help newer gardeners understand that they, too, will one day have their own stack of labels for dead, killed, or missing plants. And there is no shame in having such mementos. It is a fact of gardening, a fact of life.
I’ll confess my rates to get the ball rolling here…
My PMR… not too high. I don’t have many missing plants. I know where most of them are, even if they are in the compost pile. I’ll say 1% because it probably isn’t zero.
My PKR… oh, I never blame myself for the death of a plant so this is almost certainly zero.
My PDR… higher than I’d like but that’s because I am willing to try to grow a lot of different plants. Let’s go with 10%. For every 10 plants I buy, one dies. As it turns out, some of those plants are not all that suitable for my climate or aren’t able to live without water for months on end. (See above for Ludisia discolor, an orchid I had several years ago. It isn’t really missing, it’s dead, but that’s a nice graphic I made so let’s not split root hairs over it.)
Of course, why didn’t I think of it. I should flip this whole thing upside down and think only of my PSR, Plant Survival Rate. That’s a much better number. 90%! I’ll take it!