When we first met, I was not charmed.
The World Wide Web seemed too complicated, too commercial, too electric to ever put dirt under your garden editor's keyboard.
I stumbled over addresses, puzzled over links, suffered when a site I liked vanished without even a goodbye kiss.
Even so, we stuck together because I knew many gardeners were starting to see the Internet as essential as trowel or tiller.
And then Â don't ask me to say when, exactly Â we clicked.
I began to find the Web useful: Learning the most popular iris or daylily was easy; finding wildflower seeds by the pound proved a snap. Sites created by organizations and universities to spread information and bring gardeners together won my heart.
Here are some Web sites, mostly noncommercial ones, that proved inspiring and necessary.
Â American Daffodil Society, www.daffodilusa.org/
The basics: Here's the complete treatment on a favorite flower, including planting, tending and identifying the various types. Good pictures help separate the trumpets from the tazettas.
A bonus: Don't leave home from March to May without checking the calendar of dates and places for daffodil shows from Mississippi to Minnesota.
Â American Hemerocallis Society, www.daylilies.org/daylilies.html
The basics: An international daylily organization offers authoritative guidance on growing this perennial.
A bonus: If you can't tell a scape from a sepal, go straight to "The Daylily Dictionary." There, in plain English, you get definitions of hundreds of terms, specific to daylilies, but also of use to serious gardeners interested in other plants.
Â American Iris Society, www.irises.org/
The basics: Journal articles, clear directions on growing irises, information about local and regional organizations, chat nights and more make this a complete place for iris buffs.
A bonus: The annual voting by the society's membership ranks the top 100 irises. That lets you see how your favorite stacks up, be it Beverly Sills, Silverado or the top iris in 2000 and 2001, Dusky Challenger.
Â Burpee, www.burpee.com/
The basics: Primarily a retail outlet, the famous seed company offers the Burpee Garden School, free online courses on vegetable and flower gardening well suited for beginners. Be ready for pop quizzes.
A bonus: Want to show off your produce or landscape on the Internet? Burpee Neighbors is a salute to gardeners from around the country, showing their photos and telling their success stories.
Â GardenWeb, www.gardenweb.com/
The basics: Find your gardening friends, even if they live thousands of miles away. A community of interest for gardeners, this address guides you to more than 90 forums on gardening topics. Besides broad-based ones such as seeds, soil and shrubs, there are forums on such particular subjects as regional gardening, garden traveling and greenhouses.
A bonus: Seed and plant exchanges invite gardeners to swap Â say, horseradish and sweet grass for pineapple and orange mints Â while making online friends. The tone is helpful and good-hearted.
Â Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center, www.bulb.com/
The basics: Don't miss this if you plant bulbs. This authoritative site offers everything you need to know about growing flower bulbs. It covers bulbs from achimenes to zephyranthus, not forgetting tulips, daffodils and crocuses.
A bonus: If you've ever failed at forcing bulbs, you'll find the most specific directions anywhere on selecting and forcing bulbs into early bloom indoors.