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

 

The Boonville Cottage Rose Garden

First, I would like to say that sadly, David Austin Sr., acclaimed rosarian and founder of David Austin Roses, recently passed away on December 18th, 2018.  He was 92 years old and he left behind a huge legacy in the world of roses.  He spent much of his life creating an amazing array of romantic, “English Roses,” at a time when the trend was going with the more common, (dare I say boring,) Hybrid Tea Roses that can be found in any big box garden center.  He definitely changed the way that many people appreciate and use roses in their gardens. His family will be carrying on with their wonderful roses, but he will be immensely missed.

So, with that being said, if you love growing roses, you’ll know that David Austin Roses are simply the most beautiful and healthiest roses available.  Their old world charm, wonderful fragrance and hardiness make them my only choice for the new, rose garden at the Boonville cottage.  While it is still too early to plant a majority of the plants in the main garden, I did order a couple of, “Wollerton Old Hall,” climbers this season to grow over the shed.  The flowers are a pale apricot that fade to cream and I think that they will look nice next to the “salmon red” walls of the shed.

The rest of the rose garden will probably have to planted next year.  There just won’t be enough time to get the lot graded and the hardscape done before the heat of summer sets in.  However, I may go ahead and order the roses this spring, pot them up and leave them on my porch, where I can carefully watch and water them.  Of course, buying in bulk is the way to go.  David Austin offers several collections that are so enticing.  I’ve also got a 15% off discount because I’ve ordered from them before.  Nice!

Surrounding the rose garden will be hedges.  Right now, I’m thinking of using a cultivar of Thuja Arborvitae for my hedge plants.  They grow tall and will maintain a lovely, conical shape if left to grow naturally, or they can be clipped into a tall, boxy shape.

I plan to use smaller hedges closer to the cottage, most likely some sort of boxwood cultivar.  The backyard will be lawn, rimmed with white Hydrangeas (arborescens Incrediball®) and already established trees.

There’s a lot of hard work ahead.  I will have to get some help with the soil preparation and planting.  These old bones just can’t take it anymore.  Still, it is what keeps me young.  Garden on!

~ C

New Gardens For The New Year 2017

New gardens planned for 2017.  Already?  Yee gads, I’m still recuperating from Christmas!  Time certainly does not wait!

More Garden Chores In January

As each growing season ends I always think to myself that next year, I’ll cut back on the gardening.  I’m just getting to old to do all of this.  But, as January rolls around and the garden catalogs start to pile up on my coffee table, I begin to feel a renewed energy and optimism.  So, instead of cutting back on my gardening chores, I end up expanding them.  Last year I put in a beautiful, cutting garden and lawns around the house.  This year, I’ve already added a mini, grape vineyard to our food garden, expanded our blackberry patch, as well as enlarged our fruit orchard by adding 15 new trees.  I also plan to put in a demo garden to spruce up our commercial property in town, as well as planting a dozen “Lady Banks” roses.  Over ambitious?  Maybe.  Talk to me about that in August.  Right now, (…sigh…) I just can’t help myself.  New gardens are so inspiring!

Keeping Up With the Compost

The biggest obstacle that I have to growing so much stuff isn’t the initial plantings, nor the tending of the gardens.  It’s generating enough organic compost to keep the plants going through the summer to fall. Right now, I’m creating wheelbarrows full, but in reality, I need truckloads.

I could go out and buy a couple of dump trucks full of compost from our local garden supply, but that’s expensive, especially since they would charge me a pretty penny to haul it up here.  Besides, I don’t know what goes into it.  I definitely want it comprised of organic materials and I certainly don’t want any seeds from invasive species up here.  I have a tough enough time with the wild radishes and bindweed that showed up in the hay we brought in a few years ago.  Call me a control freak, but I need to make my compost myself and be fully aware of just exactly what is going into it.  I should go out and gather leaves this morning, but geesh, it’s cold out there.

Now is also the time to get started

The new, early spring plants like peas, lettuce, greens, broccoli, cauliflower, for the veggie garden have to be started now.  Early flowers for the cutting garden need to go on that list too.  My dear husband made me a seed starting tray out of redwood.  It’s just beautiful!  (Thanks hon, I need about 25 more of these please.) I would absolutely love a greenhouse, but alas, I won’t be getting one this year.  Starting the seeds on the porch is my best option right now.  I may break down and make a temporary hoop house.  They’re ugly as sin, but I’m getting desperate and I just may have the materials for that lying around.  I need the space and warmth for my early starts.

Cleaning Out 2016 Plants

Of course, besides starting new plants, I still need to clean out the old ones.  With all of the rain and cold snaps we’ve had I haven’t been able to get out to the veggie garden, which is still a tangled mess of dead vines and weeds.  There are some perennials in there like the asparagus and artichokes that need cutting back and dividing.  The grape arbor could use a hard pruning, as well as the orchard trees and berries.  This is also the year we plan to put a deer proof fence around the orchard…lots of work, lots of money.

Demonstration Garden Planned in Boonville

Also, as I mentioned earlier, besides my new gardens at home, I’m also planning on putting in a demonstration garden and climbing roses at our bare property in Boonville.

New gardens and updates for shed in Boonville are coming soon
Front of the shed that faces the street. It’s in dire need of an update and new gardens.

It’s about a 1/6 of an acre with about 20 old apple trees and a medium-sized shed structure on it.  The property is a real eyesore right now, so I’m getting ready to clean up the land, paint the shed and plant a pretty garden.  The shed will be “barn red” and covered in yellow, “Lady Banks,” climbing roses.

Lady Banks Climbing Rose, perfect for fence and shed.
The fence and shed will be awash in yellow, “Lady Banks,” roses.

The “Gawd awful,” ugly chain link fence will also get the rose treatment.  The dirt there is OK.  It’s valley bottom land so the soil is not so terrible, but it still needs amending.  (Shewwwwt….Now I need even MORE compost.)  The land is totally flat, so it will be a good place to plant the different kinds of corn we’ve ordered, being careful not to cross pollinate them, of course.  Other summer crops will go in such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and herbs.  It’s starting to sound like I’ve got an native American theme going on, so maybe I’ll stick with that and just go for the summer crops.  Eventually, I’d like the Boonville garden to produce tons of food year round that can be donated to the local food banks.

So, as you can see, I’ve got my dirty hands full all year.  I have a ton of ambition right now.  We’ll see how far I get with my plans for the new gardens.  I’ll be sure to post updates.

Keep on growin’

~ C