A bucket list for the depths of winter

Does anyone else have a bucket list for mailorder nurseries?

I do, and each year I’m trying to check one or two off.  Nurseries make the list for random reasons often more because of specialized and quirky offerings rather than for being part of some magic top ten for mailorder, so while the snow flies let me offer up my February to-do list 🙂

snowy morning in Pennsylvania

Everything is cold and frozen here.  I used my phone and didn’t even have the motivation to open the back door for this.

In no particular order (well actually it has to start off with snowdrops since that’s all that’s on my mind 🙂

  • Temple Nursery.  Just snowdrops.  No online presence so if that’s what you need visit the equally obsessed Carolyn’s Shade Garden.
  • Edgewood Gardens.  For the cyclamen obsessed.  John hasn’t quit his day job but his night job is coming along quite well so check the list, send an email, and soon you’ll be in trouble.
  • The Lily Garden.  Long ago I read an article in Horticulture magazine about Judith Freeman and her decades long commitment to lily breeding and I’ve wanted her lilies ever since.  She’s the force behind Columbia-Platte Lilies and one of the pioneers of the cross-division hybrids which are the newest and best on the lily scene.  She breeds for garden plants, not the florist trade so many of her introductions are growing worldwide and are bulletproof.
  • Odyssey Bulbs.  Your first step into growing odd, obscure, rare little bulbs which you didn’t even know you needed until all of a sudden you NEEDED.
  • Augis Bulbs.  Ordering bulbs from Lithuania makes absolutely no sense.
  • Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery.  A beautiful catalog, beautiful website, the prices might be higher, but the quality and service match.
  • Ashwood Nurseries.  A leader in hellebores out of the UK.  Seeds would be my only option and at over 1$ a seed even before international postage costs….
  • Plant delights Nursery.  What can I say?  When the run of the mill perennials get old and you have money to burn.
  • Annies Annuals.  Postage from the west coast may kill me, but I think this is the year I just have to order.
  • White Flower Farm.  I can’t recommend them but back in the day their catalog was everything great about gardening with a good dose of snobbery on top.  Still expensive but that might be all they have to offer.
  • Mums of Minnesota.  Mums are disposable fall annuals, right?  For some reason I need reliably perennial garden mums with odd and oversized flowers.  Don’t judge me for not being satisfied with the anonymous lumps of color they sell around here….
  • Swan Island Dahlias.  Don’t judge me for this either, I was young and experimenting and thought I needed many big, overblown dahlias.
  • Superstition Iris.  There are many great iris sources, but this one deals in many of the historical varieties which I love and can’t get elsewhere.  Find their photobucket listing, pick what you’d like and then email the owner for availability and pricing.  Sometimes getting what you want takes a little more than a point and click.
  • Green Ice Nursery.  Doesn’t everyone order fancy cyclamen seed from the Netherlands?  I couldn’t be happier with the ones I received, and my bucket list check off has turned into a semi-annual splurge.
  • Fedco Seeds.  I checked this one off just recently, it’s a co-op seed seller from Maine, reasonably priced with great varieties.  What’s not to love?

I could go on of course.  I’ve been dabbling in grafted conifers recently, plus have some strange need to add lady slipper orchids to my garden, so there will always be a to-do list, but for now I’ll keep this one.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still faithful to Santa Rosa Gardens for perennials, Brent and Becky for bulbs, and Pinetree garden seeds, but a boy’s got to dream and I need something to get through what’s been the coldest weather since last winter.

winter temperatures

-7F (-22C) on a recent drive to work.  Please congratulate me for actually stopping before taking a picture.

More snow is on its way tonight so winter is still in full swing, but yesterday  temperatures edged above freezing for a few hours and I swear I heard a little bit of joy in the birdsong.  Maybe it’s just me.  In any case I think I’ll start a pot or two of onion seeds today and see if a few of the overwintering geraniums are worth saving.  That and maybe I’ll look at some more mums that might need ordering 🙂

Let me know if I missed any great nurseries, I’m always more than happy to add a few new or forgotten ones!


32 comments on “A bucket list for the depths of winter

  1. Hi and thanks for the recommendation. The day job won’t be ending anytime soon, but I’ve every intention of continuing to ‘grow’ the green business. If anyone is interested I will be at Pine Knot Farms Hellebore Open Days on February 20-21, 27-28 and March 6-7. I will only be there in spirit, unlike my plants, for the middle weekend because the earthly part of me will be at the Rare Find Nursery Hamamelis Festival. I am, as we speak updating my website, but the cyclamen list is reasonably current. If there’s something you are after just let me know, whether it says sold out or not. Nothing much going on here in the garden either, but the greenhouse is a riot of cyclamen color. Going through all my images it is hard to believe what the scorched brown mulched earth will be like in 3 short months. I can’t wait.

    • bittster says:

      Hi John, thanks for the info. Pine Knot and Rare Find are two nurseries which could easily be added to the list, and based on reviews from last year, your cyclamen display at Pine Knot was exceptionally tempting! Hmmm. Just out of curiosity I mapped it but I think the seven and a half hour drive is more than I want to take on….
      I saw some pictures on Facebook from inside your greenhouse, and agree it has quite a few treasures inside. It must be a great place to hide in when the gloom of winter wears out it’s welcome -although I’m not sure when you find the time!
      I’ll stick with my day job as well. Although one often hears about how lucrative the nurseryman’s life can be I think my only escape options somehow involve the lottery.

  2. Good job stopping before you took the picture of your dashboard! (and an A+ for me for following directions?) I placed an order from Fedco on Friday, and I was very happy with the perennials I ordered from Santa Rosa in the fall. A company I have had good luck with is Great Garden Plants. I got some really nice Heucheras from them in the fall of 2013, and they did well in the lasagna bed last summer.

    My husband does not thank you for giving me more plant-buying options!

    Preparing for the onslaught of ice and snow day #10 tomorrow! Liked it better when the forecast was just snow!

    • bittster says:

      Remember Kimberley, this is a bucket list for things like mountain trekking in Nepal and bungee jumping in New Zealand, not an every year thing, so resist the peer pressure! Fedco is likely the only one I’ll be repeating on a regular basis, the rest may not happen for a few years.
      I just took a look at the Great Garden Plants website. They have a ‘today only’ sale on Winter Thriller hellebores and I’m not pleased. It will be bothering me all day since I have more than enough hellebores in need of permanent homes yet I really feel the need to get a few more. I’ll be sitting on my wallet all day and hope it doesn’t sneak out since in the back of my mind there’s a voice mumbling something about not having any of the “Winter Thriller” hellebores. I really need to just remind myself of how many are still taking up room in the vegetable garden…..
      The kids just went from a two hour delay to closed. I’m not sure why they bother with the delay, I could have predicted the closure last night.
      Enjoy your extended weekend!

  3. Oh I do not envy those with cold and ice. My daffodils have begun to bloom and the high today will be about 70. I have never had a winter like this! Picked cilantro from the garden along with green onions and made a fresh peach salsa this afternoon. Love your nursery list – thank you for sharing!!

    • bittster says:

      Ugh. Jayne I just read about your beautiful weather and the fun of getting outside and enjoying it. I know I can easily bundle up appropriately and enjoy things here, but sunny and70 sure sounds nicer!

  4. Love Fedco. Love Odyssey Bulbs (as I think you know). Haven’t tried any of the others except for WFF a long time ago. But in pre-internet days I would read and re-read their catalogs. They gave me quite an education. I like to try one new mailorder place a year. Sounds like you might be a tad more ambitious than I am.

    • bittster says:

      This is the first year I tried Fedco and I don’t know why I waited so long… and of course Odyssey should have a two day waiting period for orders since it should require background checks and credit reports 🙂
      I think I have one or two WFF catalogs down in the basement from the late 80’s. They’ve been read and re-read and I though Amos Pettingill was just the smartest wittiest entertaining gardener I ever ‘knew’. Good times.
      I make no claim to ambition, but I do tend to dream a little more than I should 🙂

  5. Well you didn’t mention Bluestone Perennials, but you did mention several that I didn’t know about and that sound pretty interesting. I’ll be checking them out shortly.

  6. bittster says:

    Thanks for the comment, I’ve ordered from Bluestone in the past but I’m lucky enough to be able to buy most of their offerings locally for about the same price. Good place though!

    • I bought from Bluestone quite a bit during the early 2000s but it seemed to me that gradually they began sending much less “plant” for the money than they used to do previously. Overall the quality just wasn’t there anymore. Maybe they have turned things around over the past 10 years though?

      • bittster says:

        I’m not going to comment since Bluestone is one of those places loved by many, but I also ordered several years ago for the (probably)last time. The plants did well but there was only one plant which I really NEEDED -which of course was the one that died and then was never offered again :/

  7. I still buy from WFF, Frank, though you are right they are a bit pricey. At the other extreme, price-wise, that offer from Great Garden Plants is very tempting to me, as I’m in the market for more hellebores. I try to buy near to home and we are fortunate to have an excellent nursery called Point Phillips Perennials near here — very reasonably priced, high quality plants. So do I wait for PPP to open in the spring, or order from GGP today? P. x

    • bittster says:

      Pam you are right of course, I remember seeing the bulbs you planted from WFF this past autumn, and they really seemed to be top quality. I guess it’s their perennials which often show mixed reviews.
      Did you crack on the hellebores? I’ll laugh if I see their arrival described in your next post 😉
      Hmmmm, I just looked at where Point Philips Perennials is located. I’ll have to keep them in mind for the next time I’m down that way!

  8. Chloris says:

    My goodness that’ s quite a list. I suppose the longer the winter, goes on the longer your shopping list grows. With all that snow what else can you do but plan more planting schemes?

    • bittster says:

      I’ve been planning and re-planning schemes all winter! Good thing the snow has keep me inside or else I bet I’d also be digging up a nice winter garden to accent the snow. Yours of course will be much nicer, and I’m sure more enjoyable too since anything planted here will spend most of the season as a formless lump of white.

  9. I am resolving to buy as few plants as possible this year since I added so many last fall, last spring, the previous fall, etc. But bulletproof lily bulbs sound irresistible. -7 sucks. I used to live in North Dakota right under the Canadian border so I remember well what that feels like and it feels like cold frozen suck.

    • bittster says:

      Oh wow. I don’t think our winters even come close to comparing to a North Dakota tundra blast! Yikes.
      For as many things as I’d like to try I’m also trying to take it easy. Too many plants spend too long in pots on the driveway for me to let myself go new-plant wild. But it never hurts to get just a few little things 🙂

  10. A nice collection of catalogs. We too are deep in snow, four feet of the stuff, so it will be a long time until spring peeks in our way. At least looking, planning and dreaming makes it seem a bit closer.

    • bittster says:

      yes, there’s still quite a way to go…. but the catalogs do help, and I’ve also been known to lose myself in your blog archives for hours looking for inspiration and cheering up! Spring will be here before we know it.

  11. I haven’t heard of a lot of those so thank you for adding to my ever growing list! I study seed catalogs like my life depended on it. #gardennerd

    • bittster says:

      Haha, yeah there are catalogs all over the place here and I know way too much about what I want and where I want it from! If the box of unplanted seeds is any indication, I should really not order a single thing more 🙂

  12. Cathy says:

    The only problem with reading about nurseries on the other side of the Atlantic is that you wish you were there! We are synched with the onions – I sowed some two days after you. Happy shopping (its a wonderful way to dream in winter, isn’t it?)

  13. bittster says:

    Haha, we are going to have to compare onion progress!
    Funny you should say that about the nurseries, I always think they are so much better on your side of the Atlantic! -but then again it all comes down to location. I’m in the middle of nowhere so everything is mailorder. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I was surrounded by several excellent, local, nurseries. I think that could be trouble, no?

  14. Linda from Each Little World says:

    Joe Pyeweed Gardens for iris, Hillside for species peonies and lady slipper orchids. I’ve been checking out Odyssey daily waiting for the 2015 listings.

    • bittster says:

      Ahhhh, JoePyeweed can easily be added to the list, their Siberian iris are amazing and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the quality of their plants. If I remember I’ll add their name to this post even though I really don’t want to add any new Siberians to my garden…. although I’d like to 😉

  15. My budget may not thank you, but the gardener in me certainly does! 😉 Some of your nurseries have been on my list for quite a while but others are new to me. One that I wish was still around is Brad Kasparek’s nursery, Zebra Iris, because I have a weakness for those lovely broken-color weirdies and that’s what they specialized in.

    • I just remembered (after commenting) that I would definitely add Forestfarm to any “bucket list”! No photos, but that has been my go-to nursery for woody things that I can’t find elsewhere. Problem is, the shipping costs from them to the East Coast can be a killer. :-/

      • bittster says:

        I didn’t think to include Forestfarm since I checked that one off several years ago. Several of the goodies I received are now good sized trees and I could probably get into a lot of trouble if the postage to the east coast wasn’t what you said.
        Thanks for the comments!

    • bittster says:

      Just knowing they’re there is sometimes enough fun since you can’t order from every cool nursery! There area few I also regret never having a chance to order from. Heronswood is one of them although I think they would have been out of my price range back in the day.

      • I did have a few things in garden#2 from Heronswood, as the budget occasionally allowed (or through creative rationalization, LOL). 🙂

      • bittster says:

        Heronswood really left an impression on so many gardeners and gardens. I think it was a nursery which closed before its time :/
        -fyi I just found your comment in my spam folder. Not sure what happened but I suspect some security thing had a hiccup and hopefully it doesn’t repeat!

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