In just a very few days, the hubbub of the holidays will be past; guests will have returned home, and assorted kids gone back to college. Once again the guest room will be empty and the refrigerator full. It’s time to dig out the garden catalogs that have been arriving for the past several weeks and delight in a favorite pastime, wishing upon a catalog.
Choose a sunny day when you’ve got a free hour or two to indulge in your garden fantasies. Grab a mug of coffee or cocoa and spread your material out in a pleasant environment, such as your now-available dining room table.
Hopefully you will have already winnowed the selection down to just a few. I like to sort my catalogs from the get-go. When one arrives in my mailbox that I know I’m never gonna order from, into the recycling it goes. The rest I glance at, then store on a shelf in the family room. When choosing day comes, I display the five or six favored ones, (no more, or I’ll get discombobulated and overwhelmed). I like Bluestone Perennials, www.bluestoneperennials.com in Ohio for their modestly-priced, quality offerings. I always look at Burpee www.burpee.com , mostly out of tradition. Wayside Gardens offers a wide choice of plants, tools, and treasures www.waysidegardens.com . For exquisite vegetable photography and old-fashioned flavor, there’s Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. www.rareseeds.com . And I wouldn’t be without Johnny’s Selected Seeds www.johnnyseeds.com , an employee-owned company in Maine, which will sell small quantities of seeds if the customer desires.
I make out my list, dividing into sections such as annuals, perennials and shrubs. Of course the list is always too long, so in the ongoing effort to keep the domestic pocketbook intact, I whittle down my wants to just a few must-haves.
Next I get out the sticky notes, and mark the pages in each catalog describing a cherished item. I write on the note what the item is, so I can see at a glance who has what. Finally I compare price, and make my selection. Nowadays it’s possible to order online, by telephone or by using the cute little order blank included in the center fold. (I’m one of the Neanderthals who still prefers to fill out the form). I verify my choices, write my check, and pop the order in the mail.
A couple more suggestions: When your seeds arrive, mark the sowing date on the envelopes, and place in chronological order. And, when your live plants arrive, note on the packing form where in the garden you’ll be putting them. This is so you don’t find yourself a few days later, wandering (like me) around your overstuffed garden, orphan plant in hand, muttering, What Was I Thinking?
So remember, whether you’re growing beans, baptisia or buddleia, the gardening year starts not when the first yellow crocus pops in late March, or when the soil warms in April. Nope, the garden year starts right now, with the catalogues. Be prepared.