Lost in the Supermarket

Normally I go to the supermarket either right after work or first thing Sunday morning—it’s all about avoiding the crowds. Last weekend, though, I ended up going on Saturday night, on the way home from a quick dinner out with the family. Accompanying me were little Juliet, who had just devoured a very large M&M cookie; and John, my husband, who typically I try to keep out of the grocery store.

See, I am very much a plan-of-attack, stick-to-the-list, use-coupons (though not in an “extreme” way) shopper. John tends to wander down random aisles in an untargeted manner and come back with “interesting” things that may or may not get eaten. Why take the chance?

Who would have known that I would be the one making a random impulse buy? Indeed, it was an uneventful trip for John, who quickly went from wonderment (“Why do you suppose they put the beef jerky by the dairy?”) to cart rage (“These lanes can’t be regulation width! And why do people leave their carts right in the middle?”). As for Juliet, she seemed to think we expected her to eat everything in the cart as soon as we got home. Every addition was met with “NO!” and a face that clearly said “Did you see the cookie I just ate? I’m stuffed.”

We were almost finished shopping when I spotted it—an eye-catching plant in the floral department. A quick peek at the tag confirmed my suspicion—’Kent’s Beauty’ oregano. I’ve read about this plant many times. I think several years ago we even printed something about it in Hort. I hadn’t actually seen one in person, though, and wow, what a pretty plant, even in the fluorescent glow of a Saturday night supermarket.

Much deliberating with myself—to buy or not to buy. Enough silent waffling to prompt a “What are you doing?” from John, who was about 20 feet away with Juliet and the cart, having perked up enough to investigate some sort of pre-made sandwich.

Well, of course I bought the plant. I even thought I had still stuck to the budget despite this purchase, though I soon realized I’d forgotten the bagels, which sit opposite floral of course.

I planted it on top of our rock wall on Sunday. I hope it makes it through the winter; everything I’ve read says it is just barely hardy here. Although if it dies, I guess that’s just a reminder—like an ancient box of “Chicken in a Biskit” in the cupboard—to stick to the list.

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15 thoughts on “Lost in the Supermarket

  1. Meghan,
    Thanks for the further description and the link. Much clearer picture. You are right it IS a strikingly beautiful oregano. Kind of reminds me of Hellebores only smaller.
    I might have to have one of the Hobbits pick a few of them up for me next time they go to the nursery.

  2. I guess Lisa will be double mad at me, when I confess that I often trade plants with other gardeners. As well as save seeds, and have been know to dig up (“steal”!) wayside orphans along country roads. . .

    To be fair to her side of the discussion, wasn’t it the Big Box stores that brought us tomato blight a couple of years back?

    • There’s no shame in that! Plant swaps are the best.

      Yes, the tomatoes with late blight in 2009 were from a grower who distributes through Big Box stores.

      I plan to blog a little more about IGCs and Big Boxes next week and am looking forward to getting a discussion going if it interests people.

  3. Wow,deja vu. Just last week in my local grocery store I spotted a “Kent Beauty” oregano. As with you, I had never seen one before and they were not available at local nurseries. The tag said it is hardy in my area (zone 8b). I am looking forward to growing it and seeing how it fares.

    • You should be fine in 8b! I’m in Zone 6 and I’m really uncertain because all my trusted sources seem to differ…I’ve seen it rated Z5–9, 6–9, 7–9 and 8–9.

  4. With so many Independent Garden Centers going out of business, I am upset that you would promote buying any plant from a grocery store. Was there a professional there to answer your questions regarding the care of your plant ? I could go on and on…

    • Hi, Lisa. I’m sorry to upset you. I’m well aware of the struggles independent garden centers (IGCs) are facing and I’m happy to go on the record right now that I buy the vast, vast, vast majority of plants for my garden at three local IGCs. I also visit a favorite IGC in a neighboring state a couple times a year. Why? Because they are more apt to have the exact species/cultivars I want, because of their service and because of the quality of their plants.

      But I’m not ashamed that I bought this oregano at the grocery store. I was there to buy food; the plant was an impulse buy that grabbed my attention because it was different than the houseplants they typically offer. If someone asked me where to buy plants for their garden, the last place I would think of is the supermarket.

  5. There are several (or more) types of these ‘ornamental oreganos’ (is that what they are called) and I would like to grow them all . . .I wonder if they would cross-pollinate and disappear or if they would retain their unique traits if planted in an “ornamental oregano” garden?

    • Hi, Janet. Any perennial oreganoes hardy in your area would come back the same year after year—the original plants, at least. I’m not sure whether they would cross and result in seedlings with different traits. I can look into that for you.

  6. Regardless of the plant, I really loved the little story. Especially how the plant RIGHT BESIDE THE BAGELS got your attention and you walked out without the bagels. And the husband.

  7. Nice vignette but you didn’t tell us why you like “Kents Beauty” other than it’s a pretty plant. Maybe a little description along with the picture and something about the fragrance compared to other oreganos.

    • Hi there, “Bilbo” — good point! The best thing about ‘Kent’s Beauty’ is its interesting flowers. The actual flowers are very small, but each one is surrounded by a collar of large pink-and-green bracts. Several of these are stacked on each stem. This sounds weird but they remind me of rotini pasta. The plant as a whole has a sprawling habit that makes it good for hanging baskets or on top of a wall, as I placed mine. It has a good oregano scent but from what I’ve read, not much flavor. It’s usually grown as an ornamental, for its flowers. They last a long time and can also be dried.

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