Ordering Plants from a Catalog

Few couples can remember the subject of their first serious argument.

I can.

I even remember that it occurred on I-285 near Buford Highway on a Saturday afternoon.

I casually mentioned to her that I had ordered several plants from a company whose catalog I had perused over the Internet. She looked at me as if I had asked to have Vienna sausages for Thanksgiving. “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of,” she blurted. “I would NEVER consider buying a plant I haven’t seen or touched!”

It was the first time she had ever raised her voice towards me.  I immediately decided to keep my catalog buying habits (Internet and otherwise) to myself.

Buying plants from a distant provider is not without risks but the practice has a long history. Seeds were the first plant item shipped by mail commercially but were soon followed by bulbs, roots and rooted cuttings. As the U.S. Postal Service standardized its techniques, bare-root plants were commonly mailed to gardeners in the early part of this century. Depending on nothing more than hyperbolic descriptions in a paper catalog was standard practice for rural gardeners.

You’d think my sweetheart’s valuable opinion would keep me away from mail-order and Internet gardening. On the contrary, I received two big boxes of bulbs last week and a crate of perennials the week before that. I had looked at the bulb offerings at local garden centers and found nothing I hadn’t seen before so I bought some butterfly narcissus and some dog-tooth violet bulbs online.

Several of my garden friends have had great results from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs . I have also shopped with success at McClure & Zimmerman .

My favorite source of perennials via the mail has to be Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina . Their catalogs, spiced with terrific information and enormous humor from owner Tony Avent, are collectors items. I stash my credit card in an ice cube tray in the freezer when a new catalog arrives so I won’t be tempted into bankruptcy also. It was my order from Plant Delights that caused the original semi-connubial contretemps.

Locally, Wilkerson Mill Gardens (www.hydrangea.com) in Palmetto ships rare and unusual hydrangeas throughout the country.

The best source of information on plant shopping by mail is the Garden Watchdog It lists dozens of catalogs and the unvarnished opinions of customers who have ordered from them. With that knowledge in hand, you can confidently purchase unusual and distinctive plants from honorable vendors across the country.

Tags For This Article: