Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis the season - for garden catalogs!

 I love December, for all the holiday fun it brings, but I also love December for what shows up in my mailbox almost every day:  garden catalogs!  I love getting gardening catalogs.  I have a couple favorites I order from every year, but I look through all of them.  Now is the time I start dreaming of next year's garden, planning what I need to order, what I want to order, and where the budget dictates the reality of what I can afford.  'Tis the season for wish lists, and sorting through the seed box, and gathering winter sowing supplies.  (I told my husband that a bale of ProMix potting soil would be a wonderful Christmas gift.  He flat out refused, saying something like, "I am NOT going to tell people that I bought my wife a bag of dirt for Christmas!")

 Not all garden catalogs are created equal.  Some are always good value with good merchandise (in my opinion that would include Bluestone Perennials, Marietta Daylily Gardens, Park Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Brent & Becky's Bulbs, Oakes Daylilies and Select Seeds).  Some are higher end, and sometimes overpriced, but with good to excellent merchandise - sometimes you get what you pay for (I think of Klehm's Songsparrow Nursery, Wayside Gardens, and White Flower Farm in this category).  Others are inexpensive and a little buyer-beware, but still worth looking at, especially for seeds or older varieties of plants (Jung's Seeds, G. H. Wild).  Still others are very iffy in quality and/or honesty in advertising.

 With all of these catalogs (there are thousands in the United States and Canada alone), how can you find reputable ones with good merchandise and customer service without having to get on every mailing list and read them all yourself?  How can you tell if that shiny, bright dream-book full of plant-porn from "Garden X Company" is really worth sending your money to?  My favorite site on which to check out companies I'm not familiar with is the Garden Watchdog through Dave's Garden.  It's a directory of over 7,000 garden-related catalogs and websites, with customer reviews and detailed rankings of their quality and customer service.  It is really, really worth checking out if you have any question about a catalog you receive - it can save you a lot of money in costly mistakes, show you how to have the best garden shopping experience via catalog or online, and turn you on to some wonderful companies.

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