January is dreamtime for gardeners and I finally have time, after an
over-stressed over-scheduled December, to sit down with all of the
mail-order garden catalogues I piled in a basket next to my favorite
chair since Thanksgiving. Last week I dedicated an afternoon to
checking out the catalogues.
There are pros and cons to using catalogues.
Con: You pay for shipping. But Pro: You usually don't pay sales tax.
Con: You don't get to make an 'on the spot' evaluation of the health
of the plant as you would in a nursery. But Pro: You usually get a
better deal with catalogues, a wider choice of unusual varieties, and
good mail order nurseries want repeat business so they stand behind
their plants, in case one arrives with problems.
There are plants I'll plan to buy at local stores, just because I
know that I can get a better deal and a common variety and a sturdy
plant, but still, I'm drawn to catalogues. They are part of the
gardening tradition for good reason.
For one thing, the best catalogues are great learning resources. They
describe plants. The best ones use plantsman's language, even
botanical names. If you read the better catalogues you will begin
saying and thinking botanical names. The good catalogues will tell
you tell you how to grow individual plants, what spacing and light
and watering and other factors they require.
And the luscious color photographs spark my creative thinking. I've
planted more imaginary gardens in January than I ever will have time
or space or money enough to plant in May.
However...I order from:
Bluestone. My all time favorite catalogue to see in the mailbox. Small but healthy perennial at prices that don't make choosing too difficult. Somethimes has a jump on the competition in offering new plants. Fun coupons. Discounts. Recycling deal on packaging that helps with shipping. Nice people.
Nichols. Herb and flower seeds. Hops.
Park seed. Garden porn photos, always a killer "gotta have" plant .
Burpee. Veggie seeds.
A relevant quote from a popular Michigan garden guru, Janet Makunovich:
"Make your catalogues support your plans rather than drive them.
Define your plans first, by re-organizing and re-reading notes, and then go to catalogues with a purpose."