Catalogs entice with unusual plants to grow


Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 10:24 p.m.
We have lots of places to buy plants in the North Central Florida area, from "big box" stores like The Home Depot and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse to local nurseries run by local gardeners and the farmers markets.
But the lure of catalogs is still strong. And their glossy pages do entice.
Repeating the mantra of caveat emptor (buyer beware) when you leaf through page after page of hype and glowing descriptions, you can find unusual and beautiful additions to your landscape. And since most are offered by seed, they are a really good deal (if you are good at starting plants from seed; I am not).
I am, understandably, on the mailing list of many, many catalogs. Some I can hardly wait to get - White Flower Farm, Renee's Gardens, Park's Seeds - and others I am glad have stopped bothering me - Michigan Bulb Co., most notably.
When ordering from catalogs, carefully peruse their policies and shipping times. If you don't want them to share your name to other mailing lists, most provide that option. Bulbs and plants that may be damaged by cold (some of these suppliers are up north) are usually held until weather permits their safe passage.
Several cease shipping of plants and bulbs after May 30, but continue sending seeds year-round.
Make sure the plants you are ordering are suitable for our area. Just because you get their catalog doesn't mean the peonies from Song Sparrow are going to grow here - and they shouldn't have to honor a guarantee they will grow.
But most of all, take the opportunity to experiment. There's all sorts of new and interesting stuff in these catalogs, and some may just become your new favorites.
A sampling:
  • Park's Seed Flowers and Vegetables, 1 Parkton Ave., Greenwood, S.C., 29647-0001, www.parkseed.com. Dwarf spider flowers, Peppermint Stick zinnias, 'Purple Majesty' purple millet (I am definitely going to try this: 4-5 feet tall grassy leaves and foot-long flowerstalks - all deep purple in the full sun; and reportedly not invasive).
  • Tomato Growers Supply Company, P.O. Box 2237, Fort Myers, FL 33902; www.tomatogrowers.com. Costoluto Genovese heirloom Italian tomatoes that do well in the heat, Jersey Devil paste tomatoes that look like banana peppers, and grape tomatoes - but not the supermarket kind, which are Santas. (Get those from Totally Tomatoes, P.O. Box 1626, Augusta, GA 30903-1626; 803 663-0016). Plus dozens of pepper and eggplant varieties.
  • Plant Delights Nursery, 9241 Sauls Road, Raleigh, NC 27603; www.plantdelights.com. They specialize in hostas, but have hundreds of other unique plants suitable for here. Speckled cast-iron plant, yellow fairy bells (Disporum flavens) and striped elephant ear stand out. Oh, and the catalog costs 10 stamps or a box of chocolates. When owner Tony Avent was at one of the recent perennial field days in Gainesville, he verified they get a lot of boxes of chocolates during the spring season.
  • Seeds of Change, P.O. Box 15700. Santa Fe, N.M. 87592-1500; www.seedsofchange.com. Organically-produce seeds for organic gardens. More food and herbs than flowers, and many heirloom varieties. Cempoalxochitl marigold (pronounced zem-pul-so-chee-tul), originated in Oaxaca, Mexico, where it is honored on the Day of the Dead. Aztec black sweet corn: white in milk stage, jet black dried, makes blue cornbread.
  • White Flower Farm, P.O. Box 50, Litchfield, CT 06759-0050; www.whiteflowerfarm.com. OK, so this may be Martha Stewart's favorite nursery, but the Web site and catalog are beautifully done. Prices are fairly high, but quality is top-notch. Plus they offer a help line. Diascia 'Red Start' and Petasites, sweet coltsfoot - the 'Variegatus,' which produces four-foot-wide rounded leaves - stood out.
    For information on shopping via catalog, and a listing of many catalogs and magazines, visit the Web site of the Mail-order Gardening Association, www.mailordergardening.com.
    Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or gardener@gvillesun.com.
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