Next phase in Spring garden preparation: Ordering Seeds

>> Saturday, January 5, 2008

The piece of furniture I share my office with is a desk secretary that collects all of my ‘to do’ stuff. This morning it finally caught my attention. It has become unsightly with its catalogs to go through, books to read, and snacks to eat.

Due to this weekend’s cold, wintry forecast, predicted high winds and high snowfall, I think the time has come to dive in.

Spring catalogs are no stranger to this household. Over the years of gardening and non-gardening (anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows I have not been able to garden every year, but my heart has always been there) I have come to expect no less than seventeen seed catalogs to fill my mailbox and secretary desk. This year is no exception.

The old standbys are Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co., Stark Bros., Stokes and Burpee Gardening. I order my fruits and vegetables from these catalogs pretty much exclusively. They have all been great suppliers of the tried and true varieties and I go through them comparing prices and looking for new varieties.

Since this past year was the first time I really jumped into perennial flower gardening I have become acquainted with White Flower Farm, Bluestone Perennials, Springhill, Jackson & Perkins, Michigan Bulb Co., Wayside Gardens, and Parks Seeds. A couple of others have arrived that I have not asked for, my best guess is they were sold my name and address by one or more of these other seed companies in an entrepreneurial fit that I wish I could be a part of. After all, it is my personal information. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sell your own name and address the way these companies do? Why should they alone make money off of your personal information? I gave them my information for the sole purpose of conveniently purchasing from them in my own home not so they can profit from my information. Anyway, subject for another post.

Pricing can be confusing when looking at different catalogs. An example, Wayside Gardens sells Hydrangea Annabelle for $24.95 while Bluestone sells the same plant for $10.95. Pretty obvious which is the better buy, right? Until you examine the plant size that they are selling you. The Wayside Hydrangea is in a gallon container, the Bluestone Hydrangea is in a ‘jumbo pot’ which stands 5” tall and therefore the plant is fairly small.

White Flower Farm weighs in with six varieties of Hydrangea, but they are not your run of the mill offerings. Their shrubs come in one gallon containers at $29.95. This higher price seems to run true with everything they offer, so I have never purchased from them.

To cloud the picture even further, Bluestone offers 24 varieties of Hydrangea, Wayside offers 15 varieties, and White Farms offers 6.

My point is, these seed/plant catalogs do not all offer the same plant, nor do they all come in the same size containers and therefore it is not easy to make an informed decision in order to get the most for your money.

What I like to do is go through each catalog, after tossing out the expensive ones, marking plants I want with a yellow highlighter. The second and subsequent passes start bringing my selection list more into reality with my budget and then space available.

I also keep a spread sheet of plants I have seen in magazines, books, and blogs that I want and then look for these in the catalogs. I don’t always find them which tells me there are other catalogs lurking about that I know nothing of. Gasp! Just how large of a stack can I create?

This brings up another point, I have always done my ordering online. True, way back when, I ordered some seeds from catalogs before the internet, shiver, that was a long time ago. Anyway, why do I even receive catalogs in the mail? It is more convenient to look at the gorgeous pictures that all of these suppliers are producing and I am thankful for that. But I can see the same images online unless my computer breaks down. On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t even go here.

There are also the garden supply catalogs, Gardeners Supply Company, Audubon Workshop, Gardens Alive, and Lee Valley, just to name a few. These each have some great tools, supplies and general garden accessory stuff.

Oh by the way, I bought a copy of The Bountiful Container by two ladies whose love of container gardening shines on every page. Rose Marie Nichols McGee (of the Nichols Garden Nursery clan) and co-author Maggie Stuckey have written a book that I find very informative and has inspired me to fill my back deck with their suggestions. They cover what they call Hardware (containers, trellis, tools, storage) and Software (soil, seeds, plants) and present chapters on vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers in a very easy to read dialogue. This has become one of my favorite garden books.

Another book on the desk is Basic Country Skills by John and Martha Storey. This book is a ‘practical guide to self-reliance’, it says so right on the cover. After skimming through it I am struck by its range of topics. It covers everything from building your own country home to designing, building and maintaining your garden, yard and orchard. Their purpose for this book truly is self-reliance. Topics also include using your produce in country recipes, preserving your harvest, and everything you want to know on how to raise farm animals. A must have for anyone wishing to break away from city living.

As far as what I am going to plant this year, well, that’s what cold winter days like this are for.

The snow outside has been steadily falling (and piling up) so its either shovel the walks, again, or read. My cozy easy chair looks awfully inviting, I think the sidewalks and driveway will have to wait a few more hours. Besides, I always have snacks to attend to.


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