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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label mailorder. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label mailorder. Show all posts

      Tuesday, May 18, 2010

      a beautiful box of bounteous bloom

      One of the benefits of being a garden writer (aside from the incredibly lucrative work in publishing) is that I occasionally receive free plants from growers. Sending live plants by mail isn't easy, but some companies do it better than others. And while I'm not usually one to look a gift horse in the mouth, there are times when no free plants is better than some free plants.

      The plants below arrived from a vendor (who shall not be named!) last month.

      The three Coreopsis on the bottom were DOA. The Dicentra on the top layer was iffy but I planted it anyway. Didn't last a week. To be fair, the Euphorbia and the Dianthus are doing well.

      Last year the same vendor sent similarly packaged plants which arrived in similar condition. When I called to suggest that more care was required, they claimed I was the first person who had ever complained. Either most people are too polite to complain about free gifts, or the vendor was a big fat liar. I mean, severely mistaken.

      In sharp contrast to the shoddy shipping of those perennial plants is the box of exquisitely shipped shrubs I received yesterday from Proven Winners & White Flower Farm.

      The packing was a thing of beauty: each plant individually wrapped to prevent soil spillage, supported with sturdy cardboard to prevent breaking stems and twigs, and padded to prevent movement within the box. The eight shrubs were in pristine shape. Not a torn leaf or a bent twig, no roots exposed or soil spilled.

      These plants are full of potential, with every chance of flourishing and flowering: the landscape rose Candy Oh Vivid Red, and three different ornamental quinces: Double Take Scarlet Storm, Pink Storm, and Orange Storm. (I know, I know, the names are crazy.) I received two of each and will trial them both in containers and in the ground.

      The extra cost of preparing and shipping these plants was money well spent. Not only because they arrived intact and vigorous, but also because it gives me confidence in the grower to see the care they took with their plants. The less careful, unnamed vendor not only pissed me off by treating their plants so poorly, but also because they didn't change their shipping practices despite being informed of a serious problem. Why would I have confidence in a grower like that?

      Kudos to both Proven Winners and White Flower Farm for getting these flowering shrubs off to an excellent start. I'll try to do my job as well as you did yours.

      Saturday, January 16, 2010


      Who's a real New Yorker? When I moved here from Pennsylvania, I was advised not to call myself a New Yorker until I had survived the city for 7 years.
      But I discovered two more meaningful criteria.
      1. When, deciding to go car-less, I sold my Jeep with its Meadow Lark Flower & Herb Farm logo.
      2. When I fully accepted mailorder gardening as a feature, not a bug, of living in the city.

      On my farm, I had used my Jeep and GMC panel truck to haul bags of fertilizer, trees and shrubs, flats of herbs and annuals, and even as modified cold frames in emergencies. I had ordered specialty seeds for the hundreds of varieties I grew for drying (Nigella orientalis anyone?) ordered bulbs so I could get the exact shade and timing I required, but everything else I trucked from nurseries as much as 90 miles away. Below, the interior of my barn with dried harvest.©Alan & Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design, all rights reserved.

      Now in Manhattan, too cheap to rent a truck, and not wanting to rely totally on the kindness of Other Ellen to buy things for me, I expanded my use of long distance ordering. From Klehm's I bought the lovely native wisteria 'Amethyst Falls' (above), three varieties of clematis and two peonies. Well-Sweep Herb Farm had the grand assortment of species I needed for a living herb wreath. Do you think the Home Depot at 59th St. would have the peanut seeds that I REQUIRED? No, but Henry Field's did and shipped them right out with great instructions printed on the pack. Racks of Renee's Seeds are often available in the city, but what I crave are the unusual, and for that I run right to the catalog, though Renee sometimes gives me free seeds to try. At High Country Gardens I found some great lavenders, yarrows and other xeric plants for those containers not on my drip system. A terrific bonus of a good catalog is the amount of valuable planting and growing information, so pay heed.

      Seeds, roses, perennials, herbs, shrubs, containers, fertilizers, and bagged compost all showed up in my building lobby, trucked there by UPS, FedEx, or USPS. I paid attention to the pot size and shipping dates so I'd know just what to expect and be available to plant immediately.

      Daughter Jen living in NH, tries to eat from her garden from April thought November, and has the luxurious choice of a car or her husband's truck. But she still buys seeds, bulbs, and even perennials and trees from her favorite mailorder houses like Fedco for starter trees and organic vegetables, Bluestone Perennials where she can find small size plants to fit her budget, knowing (three varieties of beets and other good stuff from Jen's garden)
      that they'll catch up to landscape size in a year or two, Baker Creek Seeds for heirlooms, Pinetree for their mini-packs so she can try lots of new varieties before committing to a pack of 60-100 tomatoes, beets or carrots, and Johnny's from Maine where winter hardiness is a given.
      If I need to ponder which one of 32 varieties of sunflower to choose, from the largest to the smallest, I go straight to Johnny's. (below, biggest and smallest at the Korn King produce stand, Canterbury NH)If you want to check out other mailorder sources visit the Mailorder Gardening Association which lists members selling all categories of plants and garden stuff, phone numbers for paper catalogs, direct links to online sites, updated USDA hardiness map from 2003, and tips on how to handle your plants if you can't put them right in the ground. As I was exploring this site for today's post, I ran across Moss Acres; I had been hearing good things about them, had been meaning to try their mosses and now will, if not in New York, then in the shady garden of one of my kids.

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