Sunday, December 30, 2012

Garden Catalog Season


It's the most wonderful time of the year - the time when the mailbox bursts with colorful garden catalogs, bright pictures of plant porn startlingly bright against the snow and gray skies.  So many catalogs!  So many dreams!  So many ideas!  If you get on one mailing list, you'll soon be on many lists and getting catalogs from companies you've never heard of, selling stuff you've never imagined.  Some catalogs are really good (I love Bluestone Perennials, Select Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds), some are just so-so (usually catalogs from big companies who have bought out multiple small seedsmen and plantsmen and have them all selling the same stuff from the same major suppliers), and a handful are just cheap dreck, the supermarket tabloids of plant sales, selling plants via photoshop and iffy cartoonish drawings, with tomatoes the size of cantaloupes, cantaloupes the size of watermelons, and watermelons the size of VW Bugs).  Then there are specialist catalogs for whatever plants really float your boat - those catalogs you have to go looking for, they don't tend to find you by accident, but they can be the most fun of all.  My vice is daylily catalogs.

Ordering plants and seeds from a catalog is just plain fun, just like Christmas shopping, only for yourself.  Once you've ordered from a few places, you'll quickly make your own judgement about who sends quality merchandise, and who cuts corners.  It's even better to find out ahead of time where the good places to order from are, via word of mouth  from friends (or word of blog, as the case may be), so you don't waste money and time.  Sites like Dave's Garden Watchdog are also a great way to get reviews of garden catalog companies.

I don't order a large number of plants each year any more, for several reasons.  One is that I have most of what I really need already established in the garden, since we've been here a few years.  I'm not landscaping new beds on a large scale any more, so I don't need lots of new plants.  Another reason is that I can grow most of what I want from seed by winter sowing, and I have for the past almost decade.  That's saved me a HUGE amount of money each year, and it makes it cheaper to try new things.  The last reason is that I don't have unlimited funds, so I have to pick and choose what I really want, carefully.  Usually I take my favorite handful of catalogs and mark them all up, circling what I'm interested in, mulling over my choices, reading the catalogs several times, then culling the list down to the essentials plus a few extras.  I try something new every year, just for fun, even when money is tight.

One of my own daylily seedlings, 
which I call 'Oye Como Va' - unregistered (yet).

I usually order a handful of plants from Bluestone each year (perennials), and a whole bunch of seeds from Pinetree (mostly veggies and herbs, some annuals) and Select Seeds (annuals and perennials).  This year I'd like to get a couple plants from Select Seeds, too - they always have a nice selection of fragrant-leaved old-fashioned pelargoniums (traditional window box geraniums, not to be confused with true geraniums, which are a temperate climate woodland flower).  I'd like one pelargonium scented like roses, and one scented like lemons.  I can bring them inside for the winter.  (Maybe Molly the cat won't be so eager to eat them, with their strong aromatic oils - she keeps eating my fuchsia, which is really annoying).  And, I want white heliotrope:  nothing smells like white heliotrope, and I haven't been able to find it locally since we moved almost four years ago.  If I have to, I'll get some when we visit my sister, who lives near the only nursery/greenhouse I've ever seen sell white heliotrope in bloom.   It smells like vanilla, just so you know, and is wonderful in containers.

White heliotrope, from my old garden.