Friday, August 12, 2005

Plants By Mail

I’m by no means a veteran of mail-ordering plants. This spring, I ordered my first plants from Park’s. I’ll admit, I had visions of a Park’s van pulling up to the house and unloading 1-gallon potted plants from the back end. Go ahead and laugh, I was hopelessly naïve. I’ve now placed and received, two orders from Park’s and one from Mulberry Creek. The following is a plant-by-plant review. None of them arrived in a nursery truck.

Clematis jackmanii: ordered from Park’s. It arrived via USPS in a cardboard box, cushioned with styrofoam peanuts. The three plants were in 2 inch pots. The plants themselves were between 3 and 8 inches high. The tall plant (8”) lost its top half from the shipping trauma. I planted them in the early spring. Two are doing well, between 3 and 4 feet tall now, and one is much smaller, but it looks healthy. I bought these from Park’s because I was impatient and the home improvement stores/nurseries didn’t have clematis yet (March). I was sorry when all the 1 gallon clematis started showing up for little more than the price of a 2-inch pot! Bottom line: be patient and buy all of your clematis locally, in one-gallon containers.

Trumpet vine “Indian summer”: ordered from Park’s. It arrived with the clematis and also in 2 inch pots. They looked like dead sticks with roots. Because there were no leaves, there wasn’t much to be damaged. I planted them with the clematis. They didn’t leaf out until May or so, but have taken off like gangbusters since then. I’ve seen trumpet vine only rarely in the nurseries and it has always looked bedraggled. Bottom line: I’m very happy with my trumpet vine from Parks. Maybe it will bloom next year?

Elfin Thyme: ordered from Mulberry Creek. It came via USPS. Each of the four 3-inch pots was cushioned inside a cardboard tube. The plants were very healthy upon arrival. The nursery included a helpful, and amusing, sheet on adjusting my new babies to life outside the box. The thyme is in the ground and spreading. It surprised me by blooming this year. The price was also good ($4/each). Bottom line: Mulberry Creek makes me wish I was more of an herb gardener.

Heliotrope: ordered from Park’s. It arrived via USPS in a box cushioned with accordion folds of cardboard. The plants were not in pots, but rooted in a growing sponge (1 ½” diameter). The plants looked extraordinarily healthy and two were even blooming. A note from the grower (not Park’s, which is a distributor) was included on the proper care and planting of plants grown in a sponge. The health of these plants was a great contrast to the delphinium I was to receive next from Park’s (alas, must have been a different grower). Bottom line: I was silly to buy an annual online. I could have bought heliotrope at the nursery that was three times the size and the same price. I should have shopped around first.

Delphinium: Ordered from Park’s. It arrived via USPS in a box with the styrofoam peanuts and in 2-inch pots, again. Upon unpacking, two plants looked dead (no foliage) and two were on the verge of death. I planted all four and the last two promptly died. I complained and Park’s gave me store credit. Bottom line: I was grateful for the Park's guarantee, and I may try again, as the local delphinium selection is very slim.

I’ll soon have more plants to review. I’m waiting on a few shrubs (hardy gardenia, mock orange, and two varieties of hydrangea) and a vine (hardy jasmine) from Park’s. I should also mention that Park’s has had some problems with its suppliers. The heliotrope was delayed a few months and the jasmine, although ordered in March, isn’t scheduled to ship until September. The Park’s delays prompted me to try a new mail order nursery, Van Dyck’s. I’ll have updates on the Van Dyck’s plants this spring.

Although I’ve been disappointed by the bruised or dead plants I’ve received, it is pretty amazing that they live through the postal service at all. From what I’ve seen, some sort of cardboard bracing protects the plants best. I still think a superior product would come from the back of a dedicated truck, but I suppose it is a long trip from South Carolina (Park’s Garden’s home) to Cincinnati, OH.


Blogger AngelSil said...

I've ordered twice from Park's this Summer. I've been terribly happy with their daylillies. Every single one has done well even in this horrible Florida heat and with my black thumb. The calla lillies were 90% - the giant one never bloomed.

I ordered a massive amount of roses from Jackson-Perkins which also did very well.

2:57 PM  
Blogger deb said...

i've never ordered live plants probably because if the company is in the united states, there's a customs fee of approximatley $75USD on top of the shipping and exchange. although i have gotten loads of seeds from thompson & morgan which overall i'm very happy with.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Kasmira said...

Must look at Jackson-Perkins website.... (I'm planning a rose garden)

7:13 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

I haven't ordered from plant catalogs for a long time. I believe the last were for bulbs and possible from Brecks. I just ordered allium and giant tulips from them because of their $25 off coupon. Thanks to Zoey for that heads up.
I have won plant auctions from eBay. I have a box of 20 lily fans sitting in my cool living room waiting for our 5th heat wave to break so I can plant half for me and half down at my mom's house. I got 20 of 10 different ones for $20! They are clean and healthy. I am waiting for some bearded irises to ship from a place in Georgia.
The internet is a good place to find plants!
About your trumpet vine, and I may have commented about it before, it may be a good 5 yrs or so before it blooms if it's anything like mine. I took a slip from my mother-in-law's plant at least 12 or so years ago and it's only been blooming about half that time. It depends on how fast it grows where you have it. Good luck.

1:50 PM  
Blogger OldRoses said...

I haven't been happy with Park's quality for plants. I usually order my plants from Breck's and Springhill. The plants are always well packed and very healthy.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Trissa said...

Thanks for the great feeback/reviews. I'm hope to have more of a complete garden plan by next Spring & may try some plants by mail.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anne said...

Your newbie mail-order experience sounds so much like mine. Now I compare catalogs and local nurseries before purchasing. And go easy on those JP rose catalogs - there are lots of other options :-)

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, I live in the city and trying to grow plants is a pain in the rear. I even have to have planets delivered to my work! Blah. I wanted to tell you that there is a site called that has a a bunch of articles on gardening and planting and things of that nature. I found an article on how to "apartment garden", which excited me :P

11:20 AM  
Blogger Sylvana said...

I've always been really happy with Jungs. They are located in middle Wisconsin though, only two hours away. Maybe that's why they always show up so perky!

I will have to try Spring Hill. I've always been hesitant to order from them for some reason.

You can start delphiniums by seed fairly easily. I have a link to a delphinium seed catalog on my site if you want to try that. I've never ordered from them, but they have a lot to offer.

6:55 PM  

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