Growing Concerns 554: Mail order, peace Lily

In this issue:
Obtaining and rating mail order catalogs and e-catalogs
Flowers from forced twigs
Peace lily problem solved
Signs of winter's end
Day-lengthening light angle not always welcome

Dig in to mail order gardening through magazines or internet


Dear Janet & Steven,

I'm interested in the Jackson & Perkins rose catalog. Can help me to get one? - M.G. -

Dear M.G.,

We don't order by mail as much as we used to, having found that our area is very well served by local garden centers. Almost everything we see in catalogs is available locally. Yet it's fun to order by mail, and if you're not in a major metro area you may have less variety at your garden centers.

Magazines list mail order nurseries

This is the time of year to pick up a gardening magazine, if you aren't already receiving lots of garden catalogs. In the magazine you'll find sources listed after each article (American Gardener magazine), suppliers listings for all items mentioned in the issue (Horticulture, Better Homes & Gardens Perennials) or a marketplace and classified ad section where many mail order suppliers are listed (Organic Gardening, Fine Gardening). Once you request a few catalogs or place an order, other suppliers will find you.

Finding catalogs on-line

On-line, we have great luck reading e-catalogs by simply typing a mail order nursery name into the Search field of a search engine. (There are so many:,,,, etc. Keep in mind that a search engine "learns" about you as you use it. It's a mixed blessing in terms of privacy and unasked-for ads on one hand, but increasingly easy read-your-mind use on the other.

We do love to recline on the couch or in bed to read catalogs -- tho' it's not simple with a laptop and lacks visual panorama with a smart phone. Yet there are great reasons to take a look at the e-catalogs, too. One of the niftiest things about them are the embedded videos. Take a look at the catalog for Johnny's Selected Seeds or Seed Savers Exchange, for instance, where you can learn about how to pinch a tomato plant or save seed while you decide which of dozens of varieties you want to try this year.

There are so many mail order firms that a first-time buyer may be unsure where to start. We  recommend you buy first from a company that's recommended to you by a satisfied customer. It can't ever be a guarantee but you'll know it's a fair lead! ( We do list some of our favorites on our Recommended Resources list, but it's not an exhaustive list. We've been building it and updating it only as each source comes up in articles. ) Later, place small test orders with other companies. You'll be able to compare each new company's service to that first one.

Order woody plants from nurseries in your same hardiness zone or colder. Wherever you have a choice in shipping dates, select a Monday after April 25.

Short reports

Force a bit of spring

High time for flowers in the house. Cut branches of forsythia, flowering almond, redbud or other woodies that flower very early, before the leaves emerge. Soak them in deep water for a day in a warm, bright room. Then put them in a vase in the sun, change the water daily and watch the flowers unfold.

Next, expand your horizons. Cut a twig of Japanese maple to see its gorgeous leaves unfurl or red maple to admire its tiny, bright red flowers.


Peace lily problem solved

Your article and Jane Suhail were right, I had let it wilt!

So A.B. responded after reading Suhail's advice here last week about her lackluster peace lily. A little uncanny, A.B. thought, since she hadn't provided the information that wilting was part of the plant's history.

People like Suhail have seen a lot and learned to recognize patterns. Keep that in mind when you next fail a plant but choose to fall back on its guarantee and return it. Say what you want, the expert at the garden center can often tell what really happened!


Green thumbs up

to signs that winter's winding down. They include our bay tree, which decided winter was over and burst its buds to begin growing once more, and our dogs, who have begun their spring shed.


Green thumbs down

to that light streaming in my windows, coming now at an angle steep enough to bounce off every cobweb and dusty houseplant we own. We're not ready to begin spring cleaning, do you hear?

 Originally published 2/14/04