Ordering Plants On The Internet – Some Tips

It’s that time of year…spring planting.  This year, I have 2 gardens to plant. ( Well, actually 3 if you count the veggie garden,)  The first is a flower garden at my home.  It was started about three years ago, in a crazy attempt to frantically get the yard in shape before my son’s wedding.  It was a beautiful success that first year, but unfortunately, a huge storm came in the night before the wedding and we had to move the whole shebang to an indoor location at the last minute.  Not a single guest saw my flowers…oh well.   Since then, I’ve made a lot of changes and more than a few errors in that garden.  The annuals are now slowly being replaced by perennials, those lovely bushes I planted the first year are now past their prime and annual seeds keep popping up in all of the wrong places.  So really, it’s like I’m starting all over this season.

Most of my plants for this garden are coming from just two places: Annie’s Annuals and Perennials and Breck’s.  In the past, I’ve also had good luck ordering from One Green World for our unusual berries that are now establishing themselves in the yard. I’ve ordered from all of these places many times with good results, so I know I can trust them.

The second garden is at our property in town.  It’s a brand, spanking new, rose garden, created only on paper, so far.  It will live next to a new cottage that we are planning to build there.  I’ve ordered the roses as well as a few hydrangeas for the back yard.  David Austin Roses is the ONLY place that I will ever order roses from again (see my previous post,) and the Hydrangeas were ordered from White Flower Farm, a new vendor for me…fingers crossed.

Buying plants from a brick and mortar plant nursery is always best, but the problem is, I don’t have many of those close by.  In fact, two of the three closest ones just recently closed their doors.  Too bad. The selection from the remaining nursery is very limited, so ordering from an online plant nursery is my only real option.  However, that can be hit, or miss.  There are places that I won’t mention that I would never order from again.  Plants from these places arrived weak and spindly, late, half dead, all dead, or not at all.  (One company actually sent my plants a whole year later than expected!)   When things arrive too late in the spring, then I have to pot them up, baby them through the hot summer, cross my fingers, pray an swish some sage smoke over them, then delay planting them in the ground until late fall.  What a waste of time and effort.  Finding nurseries that you can completely trust to do things right is so valuable.  Here are some tips to do just that:

1. Read the comments.  I realize that plants are perishable things and not everyone has that magical green thumb, so there are bound to be some negative comments.  That being said, if you see a LOT of negatives, back slowly away from the computer screen.  If you see a lot of positives, keep reading!

2. Carefully read all plant descriptions and planting instructions.  You don’t want to buy something that only grows in zones 3-7, if you live in zone 9, or 10.  Nor, do you want a plant that eventually reaches 25 feet tall, when the description told you that it will only get about 8 feet tall.

If you want to get your new plant off to a good start, then definitely read the company’s planting instructions.  I would also suggest that you research the plant online and look for other companies’ instructions and growers’ comments too.

3. High price does not necessarily mean quality.  Just because their prices are up in the stratosphere, that doesn’t mean that they are selling you a “super plant.”  Same goes for bargain basement prices…those are usually left overs at the end of the season and not always in tip-top shape.  In other words, don’t go by price alone.

For example, David Austin Roses are only a dollar, or two more than a few of the other rose growers, but the quality and size are so much better.  I once ordered roses from one of those “other, online, rose nurseries.”  Their roses were more expensive than the DA roses, but the roses arrived weak, covered in black spot and three months late.  I planted them anyway, stripped them of all of their leaves to get rid of the black spot and hoped for the best, but they are still spindly and at least a year behind.  Actually, I think one of them has recently died.

4.  Check to see if the nursery has a promised a precise delivery date for your area.  Most will try to give you some idea, but the really good ones will tell you the delivery date within a week, or two AND they will stick to their promise.  David Austin Roses and Annie’s Annuals and Perennials are absolute experts at this.  I have never, once had a late shipment from them and they always ship at a practical time for my area.  One time Annie’s delivery person could not find my house, so they even called me several times to make sure that my address was correct and acted as a liasion between me and the delivery company.  The really wanted to make their delivery date and I appreciate that.

5.  Ask what soil medium your plants grow in at the nursery that you are buying from.  Boy…I’ve learned this one the hard way.  My virgin soil in my own garden was contaminated with horrible  Devil’s Grass from one of, “those other nurseries,” several years ago.  I’m still pulling the stuff out and probably will be for the rest of my life.  Give the nursery a call and just ask what medium they grow their plants in and if they have any safeguards, or guarantees against pests and weeds showing up with your plant purchase.

6. Make sure that your plant order is trackable.  You would think that this is a no brainer… but no…not all nurseries will track your shipments.  If there is a hang up on the delivery service’s part, at least you can call them with a tracking number and find out what’s up.

7. Ask how they pack your order.  You want to know how the plants will stay fresh and undamaged during shipping.  The great nurseries will take exceptional care in how they pack the plants, carefully making sure that nothing gets jostled about, adding moisture pellets and wrapping, if necessary, and possibly misting them before sealing up the box.

8.  Check their return policy.  It’s tragic when dead plants arrive on your doorstep.  I’ve tried to baby them along, because frankly, it was a hassle to send them back and try to get a refund.  The really good places just credit your account, no questions asked.

That’s about it.  Get out there, have fun!  Garden on!

~ C

 

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