January 27, 2009
Review of Mail/Internet Nurseries
My garden soil may be frozen, but now is a great time for the gardening chore (delight!) of studying catalogs, pondering choices and ordering new plants and seeds for the coming season.
Here are my reviews of some mail-order nurseries that sell a wide range of perennials, bulbs, shrubs and trees. I plan to do a post on several specialty nurseries later.
This nursery has one of the top ratings on the Garden Watchdog website. Garden Watchdog allows gardeners to rate mail-order nurseries and includes over 6,000 companies. Bluestone Perennials has a huge selection of - you guessed it - perennials, as well as some shrubs, bulbs and clematis. Many of their perennials come in 3-packs. Each plant is quite small, but the price for 3 plants is very reasonable (and most perennials DO grow quickly). Their catalog is informative and includes pictures but isn't as artfully laid out as some others. Last year I ordered columbine, liriope and two types of heuchera from them and was pleased when they all arrived in good condition.
As the most highly-rated company on Garden Watchdog, Forestfarm is a sure bet when ordering trees, shrubs, vines and perennials. Forestfarm's catalog is thick like a paperback book and costs $5 (though they've sent 2 free catalogs to me since my order). Pictures aren't included in the catalog, but you can find images on their website. They have an astoundingly large selection of plants. Last year I ordered two wisterias, a limelight hydrangea and a lilac shrub. They arrived in a giant box - almost as tall as me - in perfect condition. The plants had nice height but were lacking in horizontal branches, which was perfect for the vines but a little strange for the shrubs. They'll probably fill out this year. And most mail-order shrubs are narrow AND short, so I was very happy with Forestfarm's offerings.
High Country Gardens
A new catalog for me this year came from High Country Gardens. I like their focus on low-water gardening, which is especially appropriate for much of the western US. I learned quite a bit by reading their catalog. Garden Watchdog rates them highly, so I placed an order with them and expect to be pleased.
White Flower Farm
Years ago my landscape design professor named this as his favorite mail-order nursery. Recently I was disappointed to find mixed reviews about WWF from Garden Watchdog. One of the main complaints is that their plants aren't large enough to justify their high-end pricing. Regardless, they would win my 'Prettiest Catalog Award.' Their catalog is very informative, and their exquisite pot combinations are worth studying. Usually there is a $5 charge to order the catalog, but I just checked their site and was able to order one for free. This catalog is worth having even if you don't place an order.
I was going to list a few of the other companies from whom I ordered last year, but was disappointed when I checked out their overall ratings on Garden Watchdog. If you're looking for a good mail-order nursery, perhaps the best advice is to just check out the Watchdog Top 30 list. These companies are obviously doing a good job. However, I think ratings do have to be taken with a grain of salt. Angry people often look harder for a way to express their opinions than contented people. The business of growing and shipping live plants is very challenging, and mishaps are going to occur. A good company will politely find a way to make it right. If you are pleased about your experience with a mail-order company, the nicest thing you can do for them is write a positive review at Garden Watchdog.
Labels: buying plants