May 21, 2009

Spring 2009 Mail Order Experiences: Part II

I always enjoy the instant gratification of coming home from my local nursery with a large, healthy plant in tow. But the pleasure of anticipating a coming order of plants by mail is also delicious. Most nurseries ship early in the week so the plants can arrive for weekend planting. That makes Thursdays and Fridays exciting. What will show up this week? When will the UPS man finally ring the doorbell? The excitement is tempered by the realization that the plants will probably be dormant or smaller than at the nursery. But when my nursery doesn't have just the cultivar I'm after, I consider mail order plants a worthwhile investment and well worth the required patience.
In this post I will continue reviewing the last five mail order nurseries from whom I have ordered this spring. Click on the bold nursery name to get to their website. See my earlier post for reviews of David Austin Roses, Regan Nursery, Park Seed, Garden Crossings and Heronswood.

1. Bloomin Designs
Ordered: Sagae, June, Great Expectations and Earth Angel hostas
I had to wait to write this post until my hosta order arrived from Bloomin Designs this week. Getting a few hosta divisions from a friend this month picqued my interest in the fantastic hosta cultivars available now, and hubby really likes hostas. That was enough encouragement for a trip to the local nursery to buy a few (High Society, Francee Williams, Orange Marmalade) and to place an order to Bloomin Designs for others that my local nursery didn't carry. The order, pictured above, arrived in good condition with moderately sized plant divisions (see 'Sagae' pictured at the top of the post). This is my third order from Bloomin Designs. I'm drawn by their large selection of daylilies and hostas and reasonable prices, and I've also been pleased with the service I received.

2. White Oak Nursery
Ordered: Smoky Mountain Autumn and Autumn Wood daylilies.
White Oak Nursery specializes in perennials, including a large selection of daylilies and hostas. I turned to this nursery because they carried 'Smoky Mountain Autumn', a daylily that I was convinced I needed thanks to the glowing description in the Oakes Daylily catalog. I wasn't ready to spent $40 for it, though, so I was pleased to find that White Oak carried the plant for just $8 each (I ordered two). I also ordered two Autumn Wood daylilies, also for $8 each. The plants that arrived for SMA were half the size (2-3 fans each) of the AW plants (5-7 fans). I wonder if SMA is a slow grower. Anyway, I planted my two SMA's together and made three decently-sized clumps out of the AW's. Hopefully I'll post pictures of the blooms later in the season. I have no complaints about my experience with White Oak, and I'm pleased that the $16 I paid for two SMA plants brought me a similar number of fans to what one $40 SMA from Oakes would have brought.

3. High Country Gardens
Ordered: Kingston Blue Strain agapantus, Cold Hardy white agapanthus, Penstemon tubaeflorus, Annie hardy verbena, Miss Manners obedient plant
I made two orders from High Country Gardens this spring. I was a little disappointed when the first order arrived. The white agapanthus and penstemon were moderately-sized for mail-order, but the blue agapanthus was puny. This was especially disappointing since I featured these two agapanthus in an earlier post. When I removed the blue agapanthus from its pot to plant, most of the soil fell away because the roots only occupied the top quarter (or less) of the 5" deep pot. I think all three plants were stunned by the transition from New Mexico temperatures to Spokane spring - probably a difference of 30 to 40 degrees. The white agapanthus and penstemon are finally putting on new growth, but the blue agapanthus has died back to the ground. I'm hoping it will resprout, but I'll contact the company to request a replacement if it doesn't. I don't often kill plants, and I think a larger version would have withstood the stress of transplanting better. My second order from HCG included two hardy (!) 'Annie' verbenas and a well-behaved 'Miss Manners' physostegia. All three plants (pictured above) were small on top but had great roots in their narrow but deep pots. They're doing well out in the garden now. Other than the blue agapanthus issue, I continue to think good things about High Country Gardens. They carry many unique plants that are especially suited to gardens in the western USA. Their packaging was great. I like their focus on sustainability and will probably order from them again (I'll post an update on the blue agapanthus later).
4. White Flower Farm
Ordered: Rosea Lavender and Snowdrift fern-leaf bleeding heart
I was hesitant to order from WFF after reading some complaints about them at But I received a $25 off coupon for WFF after subscribing to Fine Gardening Magazine, so I went ahead and ordered the pink lavender and white bleeding heart that were calling to me from the catalog. I would have ordered a Bonanza clematis, but they were sold out (so I ordered it from Garden Crossings). My order arrived very quickly, as they were having a ships-the-day-after-ordering special. The 4" pot of lavender was moderately sized for mail order, and the bareroot clump of bleeding heart was large - probably four times as large as the bareroot plants I received from Park Seed. So I have no complaints, especially since my $25 coupon meant that I only had to pay for shipping.

5. Forest Farm
Ordered: Autumn Bride heuchera
Forest Farm is great, and their new website is beautiful. I've had Autumn Bride on my wish list for a while, and reading about it's charms in May's Fine Gardening magazine pushed me into ordering it. I couldn't find a nursery that carried AB and shipped to Washington state, other than Forestfarm. The one-gallon pot was reasonably priced at $9, but shipping was $12 for the heavy pot. The plant that arrived (pictured above) was nicely sized and healthy and is growing well out in the garden. I have to thank owner Ray for his quick response to my email after I couldn't find Autumn Bride on the website (though it was listed in the paper catalog). Forest Farm's GIGANTIC selection places it into a class of its own for mail order nurseries. Their plants are large for the price, though the drawback to large pots is more expensive shipping. I've learned a lot by poring over their paper catalog for hours on end and can highly recommend both the catalog and the plants.

Here ends my spring 2009 mail order reviews. I hope my words will encourage you to experience the delight of anticipating a mail delivery of that perfect, hard-to-find plant for your garden!


  1. You must be creating a stunning garden. I love looking at the catalogues then I'm just not patient enough to wait. I did find a great catalogue for heirloom bulbs. I will be ordering in the fall when I'm not so tempted by pretty things at the stores. It is nice to know that the flowers you ordered were not so tiny thet they take years to establish.

  2. I love the sounds of all the plants you ordered. It sounds like you've been having good luck so far with your plants. I can't wait to see how they look since I'm unfamiliar with most of the varieties you listed.

  3. That AB is really quite big and they all look very healthy.

  4. Hi VW~~ I too can vouch for Forest Farm. I love their huge selection and the plants arrive in good order but yes the shipping is pricy.

    Have you perused Big Dipper Farm? They're in Washington state and have a huge selection, decent prices and shipping. The only thumbs down is they take a few weeks to send plants--usually about the time I'm calling them thinking my order is lost in space.

    I thought about the Fine Gardening/White Flower Farm collaboration but declined after not finding anything I REALLY wanted from White Flower. Now I'm thinking I should take another look at their website.

    Anyway, great post.

  5. Hi VW

    I enjoyed reading this and your first post on the subject.

    I have to say that all in all the US really understands the value of service.

    I wish I could say the same for over here. I ordered six Geranium Psilostemon from a mail order firm called 'plantes et jardins', the puny little plants arrived and three have died (how can you lose a hardy geranium?). If ever I can find my order confirmation email I'll complain. It's not the first time I've been let down with mail order plants and with other companies.

    Anyway, that Heuchera looks terrific!


  6. Thanks VW! You make me want to grab a catalogue and go shopping! I have to admit I am much more of a wander the nursery kind of shopper but when there is something specific you are after nothing beats a catalogue, especially in a somewhat nursery deficient area (can I say that? Being a former Spokanite I do feel your pain!). The only one I've ordered from that you did is High Country Gardens. I've always been very happy with the service and packaging but find that the plants themselves are usually on the small side.

  7. VW, This is SO helpful! I also want to give praise to Mountain Valley Growers in Squaw Valley (Lake Tahoe), CA. Perfect, healthy plants, packed with great care.

  8. Hi VW, I really enjoyed reading about your experiences with these companies. Sometimes that is the only way to get certain plants that your heart must have. I want to add about HCG that their catalog online and paper is so enticing it is hard not to over buy. I have bought things from them that are just not suited to my area, and had the same experience with soil falling away from roots when it was removed from the pot. But they did send replacement plants at the proper time that were quite healthy if small. Forestfarm is fantastic, but the shipping can be pricey. Watch out for late fall, they will air express it. I bought a $9 plant and paid $40 shipping without realizing it!!! Good thing it was a plant I really wanted and could not find elsewhere, Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail'.


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