The catalogs have been arriving in our mailboxes for some time now, urging us to order plants and seeds for next spring. You probably have your favorites, the tried and true catalogs you rely on every year. But why not check out a couple of new catalogs to expand your gardening repertoire?
The Mailorder Gardening Association Web site at www.mailordergardening.com is a great place to get a glimpse of dozens of different catalogs. The site -- which also provides catalog shopping tips, a glossary and a description of what to expect when your plants arrive -- includes the names, addresses and phone numbers of a wide range of catalogs, some of which can be ordered online.
The site may help you find some new favorites. Here are a few of mine:
This catalog specializes in antique and heirloom flowers, particularly old-fashioned fragrant varieties, flowering vines and rare annuals. (It defines antique flowers as ones that originated at least 50 years ago and are open-pollinated by insects or wind, which produce generation after generation of plants that are identical or nearly identical to their parents.)
In addition to their unusual plant selection, what I like about Select Seeds is that it offers not only the mixed-color seeds that are so common in many catalogs and on seed racks, but also single-color seeds, such as 'Black Gem' cornflowers or 'Alba' four o'clocks.
Renee's offers antique flowers as well as a good selection of heirloom herbs and vegetables, including many fancy European varieties favored by gourmet cooks. It also has newer flower, herb and vegetable seeds, some of which are modern hybrids that boast superior flavor, appearance and reliability.
Renee's Garden seed packets are surprisingly informative and beautifully illustrated, but the company offers no printed catalog. Seeds can only be purchased off the Web site or at garden centers.
White Flower Farm
White Flower Farm, on the other hand, does print catalogs, and its catalogs are keepers. Full of useful growing information and detailed photography, the catalogs feature accurate depictions of perennials as well as annuals, bulbs and some flowering shrubs. The colors are truthfully rendered, not enhanced for sales appeal, so you know what the flowers will look like in your garden.
White Flower Farm only offers plants, not seeds, and the plants aren't cheap. However, it does offer a price break when you order multiples of any one plant. And plants from White Flower Farm arrive well-protected with heavy-duty packaging.
Bluestone offers a large number of flowering perennials and allows you to do labor-saving customized searches on its Web site. If you enter your hardiness zone, soil type, sun exposure, the bloom time you're looking for, colors and so on, the site will pull up pages of plant photos that meet those criteria. To find out more detailed information about growing a specific plant, all you need to do is click on a photo.
It's wise to order seeds early, when the stock is plentiful. If you wait too long, you may end up with substitutes rather than the seeds you choose, especially if you selected new offerings. And if you plan to start early seeds in mid-February (begonias, geraniums, heliotrope, pansies) it's none too soon to get organized.
One thing to remember: If you order plants early, you may need to include a date for shipping. Early May should be safe for the Twin Cities area.
Deb Brown is a horticulturist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service Yard and Garden Line. For help with garden, plant and insect questions, call the Yard and Garden Line at 612-624-4771.