By Chuck Gleaves

Winter is the time for gardeners to read, study, and plan. Inevitably, interesting planting ideas come up and the question arises, “where can I get the necessary plants”. If you wait to see if your area garden centers will be offering them you may be disappointed at a time that is almost too late to order through the mail. The search for each perennial offers a different challenge. For example, I have long admired the giant red stalks of Angelica atropurpureagrowing in a field along my drive home from work, and I recently decided this is the year I am going to grow them in my own garden. As a native plant that is rarely cultivated I assumed I would have to look at native plant specialists. One of my favorites is Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, Minnesota. They offer bare root Angelica for only $4.00 each. I’ll take five please. Prairie Moon Nursery is also one of the rare retail nurseries that sells flats of plants. So often in modern planting styles, scores of plants are needed. Conveniently they offer flats of 38 plants at a very reasonable price (for retail). Last year I ordered a flat of the native Geranium maculatum. Booming Designs Nursery in Auburn, Georgia is another retailer who sells perennials by the flat. I just discovered them recently and hope to place my first order with them this year.

By the way, if you are taken aback by my use of botanical names then the world of mail order perennials will be very limited to you. Botanical nomenclature is the norm.

Sometimes I will hear about a new introduction that just sounds too good to be true. Some are just laughable, but others are tempting, and I often find myself wanting one (or more). A great example this year is yet another blue flowered Corydalis. It’s called Corydalis‘Porcelain Blue’. Yes, there have been many that have come before that were weak growers, would not survive hot summers and/or cold winters and disappeared as the spring turned to summer. The promotion says this one is more vigorous, does not go dormant in the summer, has profuse repeat flowering and has a stronger stiffer habit. They call it “surprisingly robust”. (They know they must convince often burned past buyers of blue Corydalis.) Perhaps there is even more skepticism out there than I imagined, because I have not yet found an American source for this plant.

When I am frustrated in trying to find an obscure garden plant my last resort is Far Reaches Farm in Washington state. In this case I found that they have nine different blue flowered Corydalis but not this supposed super plant, Porcelain Blue. This is a good example of why it is sometimes best to survey availability lists of nurseries that grow unusual plants or the sort of plants you are looking for (like specialty peony, edibles, iris, daylily, etc. growers). Don’t start with Far Reaches though, they have such a huge number of plants it becomes overwhelming. For open ended mail order perennial shopping, I like Plant Delights Nursery, Lazy S’ Farm, Digging Dog Nursery, and Bluestone Perennials.

Garden Vision Epimediums, Wrightman Alpines Nursery, Odyssey Perennials, Arrowhead Alpines, and Joe Pye Weed’s Garden are some of the tiny specialty nurseries I have found that offer a few wonderful plants that almost no one else offers. Even though their range of choices is limited I somehow manage to find something I want more years than not.

I used to order from Seneca Hill Nursery, Asiatica, Evermay Nursery, Fairweather Gardens, Flower Scent Gardens, We Du Nursery, and Heronswood Nursery, but they have all closed. These mail order plant businesses tend to have short life spans.

I prefer to buy plants from people who grow plants and primarily sell what they grow. It is not always obvious that a business such as Wayside Gardens is primarily just a plant broker, but when they offer a plant I want, and I can’t find it elsewhere (like the ‘At Last’ rose) I don’t hesitate to order from them.

Happy Shopping

Photograph from Hillier Nurseries who introduced Corydalis "Porcelain Blue'

Photograph from Hillier Nurseries who introduced Corydalis “Porcelain Blue’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *