Thursday, July 13, 2006

Park's Shrubs

The fall issue of Park’s Seed catalog arrived recently. I thumbed through it on the bus as I rode to work. As I flipped through the pages, I thought, “I have that….and that….and that…and…” Last season, I placed multiple orders with Park’s. While I bought a few perennials from them, I mostly ordered shrubs.

Park’s Seed doesn’t get a great rating on the Garden Watchdog, but I like the glossy catalog and easy-to-navigate website. If you’ve noticed that the Wayside Gardens’ website looks strikingly similar, it’s probably because Wayside is an affiliate company of Park’s. Unlike the Direct Gardening company of Bloomington, IL, which masquerades under a number of different names, Park’s seems to be a reputable company.

No matter how stellar the company, I’ve found that plants ordered by mail always seem shockingly small when they arrive (except Forest Farm). The expectation vs. reality disparity is even more pronounced when one orders shrubs. I ordered six shrubs (four varieties) from Park’s and imagined enormous potted bushes emerging from the back of a delivery van. With the exception of the hardy gardenia, my arrivals turned out to be sticks in tiny pots via USPS. Supposedly, the smaller the plant, the better it transplants, so how did those sticks fare?

The following is a rundown of the shrubs I purchased from Park’s last season. I hope you find the information helpful whether you plan on ordering from Park’s yourself or are just interested in the same variety of plant from another merchant.

Mockorange (Philadelphus) "Snowbelle." The two plants were short, single whips upon arrival. I planted them in the sun bed last fall. I did not expect them to bloom this season, but they surprised me by covering themselves with double, white blooms in the spring. While I was impressed with the bloom production, I was underwhelmed by the fragrance. However, I think the scent will be more noticeable when the plants become large enough that I don’t have to belly crawl through the mulch to smell flowers.

Hydrangea paniculata "Limelight." I planted the 8 inch stick in a carefully prepared hole last fall. It did not survive the winter. At $14.95, I probably could have bought a much larger plant at a local fall sale.

Hydrangea macrophylla "Hornli." After Limelight’s dismal performance, I didn’t expect Hornli to live either. This dwarf surprised me by leafing out this spring and looking very much alive. I see none of the famed red blooms, but I won’t complain, yet.

Gardenia augusta "Grif’s Select." The story of the gardenias is a very sad one. I ordered two and they arrived as small, multi-branched plants covered in deliciously glossy leaves and sporting a few fat flower beds. I amended our clay soil well and hoped the plants would survive the winter, as promised. (This gardenia is advertised as hardy to zone 6.) The gardenia is also described as evergreen, but it lost its leaves over the winter (and the flower buds never did develop.) By April, there was no sign of a reappearance of leaves, so I resigned myself to the fact that these were losses and replaced them with viburnum. However, I didn’t toss the gardenias in the compost pile, but instead stuffed them in plastic pots to monitor. A few months later, it is evident that one of the plants appears to be clinging to life. I’m really not sure what to do with it.

I don’t think I’ll order shrubs from Park’s again. I prefer to buy my shrubs locally. However, if you are looking for a specific, hard-to-find cultivar, I can’t recommend Forest Farm highly enough. The shipping charges are high, but I received large, undamaged shrubs. I’ll highlight those survivors soon.


Blogger Ali said...

Thanks for the tip about Forest Farm Nursery. I just looked briefly at their site, and was pleased to find 2 shrubs Carolina Allspice & Spicebush) I've been looking for!

I am very much enjoying your blog. You've done wonders with your gardens.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Nelumbo said...

Park Seed is actually located not to far from me in SC! I bought a few things on location during their annual flower sale and I've been happy with them.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Middie said...

I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog! (I had googled "yard edger rental rates cincinnati" & somehow got a page of your blog, started reading abt the College Hill garden tour & was hooked!) I moved last fall into a ranch house in Westwood with a whole lotta yard, & got a great deal on hydrangeas at Firehouse Nursery down by the junction of River Road and Delhi Pike. The owner admits he's got a "thing" for hydrangeas & he's got a great selection. I got a "Little Lambs" variety, Endless Summer, Blue Billow & Tokyo Rose. They are all leafed out this first year (contrary to previous experience at old house) and have started to bloom. Unfortunately, Tokyo Rose got eaten by a deer who apparently was still hungry even though he'd just had a healthy snack of roses from my "Julia Child." Who would have thought that Westwood would have such a deer problem? I have just started to try & garden outside of containers & have noticed that it is much easier when one has a yard larger than an oversize book. In my previous yard, I had planted a few 3 or 5 gallon sized nursery-bought hydrangeas, & then ordered one from a mail order deal. I planted it with care, and it disappeared after a few months. Two YEARS later, it reappeared & started producing blooms so heavy they crashed to the ground. I have some pictures of my old house, hydrangeas, former container gardens, & a cat or two at the my Webshots site. In any case, thanks for your lively blog & gorgeous garden photos.

10:46 PM  
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