May 12, 2009

Spring 2009 Mail-Order Experiences: Part I

This spring I have ordered plants from 10 mail-order nurseries. My pickiness about cultivars ensures that I can never find everything I want locally, so I have to branch out to find the perfect plants from various mail-order sources. Hopefully such selectivity will pay off with a beautiful garden in a few years. Ordering plants by mail involves a trade-off between economical shipping costs and the size of the plant. Good customer service is an important factor as well. In this post, I’ll share my experiences with 5 of the nurseries. I’ll review the other 5 later this month. Hopefully my reviews will give you more insight about what you can expect from these nurseries. Click on the nursery name to get to their website.

David Austin Roses
Ordered: Claire Austin, William Shakespeare 2000, LD Braithwaite, Francine Austin, and Queen of Sweden roses
My 5 roses arrived from DA roses at the beginning of April. All of them qualified as grade #1 (at least 3 sturdy canes), and several were much larger than the standard. They were shipped bareroot inside a plastic bag tucked into a large box and arrived in great shape. I immediately opened them to make sure they were moist, then wrapped them up for a day or two until I was ready to give them an overnight soak in a bucket (see above picture) before planting. It actually snowed a couple of inches on the roses after they were planted, but they weren’t fazed at all since they were still mostly dormant. Last year my order included 4 ‘Eglantyne’ roses, and one of them turned out to be an oddball, with blooms the same color but a very different shape than the others. After I emailed a picture of the offending blooms, DA Roses cheerfully agreed to send me a replacement this spring. Gotta love that great service. This is my third order from DA Roses and I continue to be pleased. There are other mail-order nurseries that offer lower prices on English roses, but I love the wide selection and large plants available from DA Roses.

Regan Nursery
Ordered: Yves Piaget and Sister Elizabeth roses
I broke my vow of never growing hybrid tea roses to add Yves Piaget to my garden. I fell in love with Yves in a friend’s yard. Maybe I’ll hate it in my landscape, but I’m willing to take a chance for that fragrance . . . yummy. Regan Nursery was one of the few sources I could find for this rose, and I’d heard good things about the nursery when I lived in California. Regan’s price for the English rose ‘Sister Elizabeth’ was several dollars lower than David Austin’s price, and the shipping also worked out to be a few bucks less when ordered this way. Both roses were grade #1 and shipped in a similar manner to David Austin’s. I originally ordered a William Shakespeare 2000 from Regan, then cancelled that part of the order and received a credit on my card. They mistakenly sent WS 2000 anyway, so I stuck it in the hole with the other WS 2000 from DA roses. Since the roses from Regan were healthy and their prices and service were good, I’d definitely order from them again.

Park Seed
Ordered: Clemantine Blue columbine, Victoria salvia, Rose Double Click Bonbon cosmo, Verbena bonariensis, Melting Fire heuchera, Felix & Blue Carpet nepeta, and Nestor veronica seeds
August Emperor and Eden’s Charm Japanese iris, Double Queen hellebore, and Will Goodwin clematis plants
I haven’t planted all of the seeds from Park yet, but here’s the update on the ones I have tried. Just 2 columbines came up from indoor sowing, so I finally gave up on the rest and scattered the seeded soil around the garden. Maybe more will come up outside. The Victoria salvia have germinated well. I just scattered the verbena and cosmo seeds last week, so none have germinated yet. Maybe I’ll have to come back and add an update on the rest of the seeds later.
The plants from Park arrived last week in good condition. As with a previous order from Park, the plants were on the smallish side but healthy. The iris, hellebore and clematis were all shipped bareroot, and though the tops were small the roots were large. I soaked them for a few hours before planting (see above picture), and hopefully they’ll take off and grow well now that they’re in the ground. Overall I’m satisfied about my experience with Park Seed because I’m willing to be patient while my baby plants grow. If you want instant impact from large plants though, you won’t be happy with Park.

Garden Crossings
Ordered: Bonanza clematis
Here is a case of giving in to plant lust. After reading about this fabulously floriferous new clematis and envisioning how nice the 3-4 inch flowers would look in arrangements with roses, I decided to place an order with the highly-reviewed Garden Crossings for the vine. Paying shipping for one plant is NOT a thrifty way of buying plants. But the plant that arrived was generously sized and very healthy. Their prices aren’t the lowest, but other reviewers at Garden Watchdog agree that plants from Garden Crossings are a good value because of their larger size. This is another mail-order nursery worthy of recommendation.

Ordered: Velvet Lips, Pink Tea Cup and Kingston Cardinal hellebores
After reading on other blogs about how well hellebores reseed, I held my breath and cringed and shelled out $20 a pop for 3 gorgeous hellebores from Heronswood. I have no problems with paying $20 for a rosebush, but somehow it seems steep for a little perennial. Hopefully these mamas will give me many plants from seed in years to come. The plants that came in 4-inch pots were a nice size for mail-order and in great condition. A week and a half before my plants were due to ship, I called Heronswood to ask if I could add another hellebore (Velvet Lips) to my order. Even though my order was already being processed down in the nursery, the friendly customer service rep said she’d try to add the plant. The cost of the plant showed up on my credit card the next week, so I assumed she was successful. Since they didn’t charge me any extra shipping, I was surprised when the 3rd plant arrived in its own box, which must have cost them extra. Wow! Thanks Heronswood for going above and beyond to impress this customer! Their interesting selection of plants and my good experience ensure that I will be ordering from them in the future.

The other mail-order nurseries from which I ordered this spring are Forestfarm, White Flower Farm, White Oak Nursery, High Country Gardens and Bloomin Designs. Watch for my reviews of them in an upcoming post. Happy plant shopping!


  1. I am guessing with all the care you are taking with your garden plants and the specific cultivars, your garden will be most beautiful!!

  2. Great information and reviews! I've ordered from Park Seed before and have had good luck with their plants. They were on the small too, but did well. -Jackie

  3. This is so helpful, VW--thank you!

    P.S. You ordered from White Flower Farm? Very curious to $ee your report on that.

  4. It sounds like you'll have some gorgeous flowers! I've only done mail order a couple of times. It's good to have some recommendations though, for future orders. Can't wait to see some of these in bloom.

  5. VW, looks like your selections are all in good shape. Can't wait to see the garden photos later in the season. We have had mixed reviews with Park Seed Company's plants, but they will send a replacement in a heartbeat. Good customer service.

  6. This is a great post, VW. I've never mail ordered before, in part because there are so many nurseries in this area (including Regan's) that most of what I want is generally available, but I've considered it for some of the more rare ornamental grasses.

    Any chance you will report on the success of the nepeta and cosmos? I'm always interested in new nepetas and would love one that stays a little smaller and flatter but still has the wonderful long bloom period, not to mention deer resistance, of a walker's low.

  7. Excellent information~ I am hesitant to order on line because the plants are often smaller then I think they should be for the price! But there are times when the only way to get a coveted plant is to order it! You will love the hellebores! gail

  8. I have good luck with throwing columbine seeds here VW. I am curious about your experience with White Flower Farm too.

  9. Hi VW, I sometimes use mail order, it prevents impulse buying (to an extent). I do get impatient though, and prefer to drive an hour each way to go to nurseries with plants I want. cheers, catmint


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