When I moved into my home 4 years ago, it was in desperate need of some colorful landscaping. I wanted flowers, and a lot of them. I decided early on that I wanted to invest in perennials so that I didn't have to repurchase annuals every year. I also decided to give some of the mail order catalogue companies a try. I compared the cost of their products to my local nursery and wanted to save some money. I understood that their plants would be smaller, but I was willing to be patient.
Naturally, I tried the cheap places first. Many offered coupons on the front of their catalogues that made them even more appealing. Suffice it to say, I am still working on getting a return for my initial investment into these companies.
One company in particular, Direct Gardening (which includes many companies found here ), I have given up on altogether. I cashed in a replacement voucher I received in the fall for $180 worth of plants that all died, and none of them survived the winter. Que sera, sera. I'm going to let it go. Actually, looking at that last sentence, I realize that I wrote untruthfully. I said they all died, but they didn't. I received plants that were black and either slimy or had white mold on them. Foolishly, I planted them anyway, as though I could revive them. Of course they didn't grow.
Unlike the other companies who take your word for it, in order to receive a replacement voucher from Direct Gardening, you have to save the label on the box the plants came in, dig up the dead plants, (if you can find them), and ship them back, or write a letter outlining your problem.
I have been able to successfully grow creeping phlox and ornamental grasses from this company. I would only trust them if I were selecting plants that were very, very hardy and easy to grow.
I have also had quite an experience with Springhill Nursery, which is affiliated with companies such as Michigan Bulb, Gurney's, Henry Fields, and others. My initial complaint with them centered around the fact that my ship date was continuously pushed back until the plants that I ordered wouldn't be available until the following year. When I was finally able to plant them next spring, they died within days despite my attempts to nurse them back to health. Most likely this was due to the fact that they had fallen out of the packaging during shipping. Thus began a long, laborious, and hopefully completed, process of getting something for my money. Most recently, I received a backordered group of plants a few weeks ago that I bought in the fall. I opened the box and was shocked to find that I had 3 plants that I hadn't even ordered. They looked great, but they certainly couldn't be substituted for the plants that I had purchased. I was looking for something for my shady bed, these were for hot, dry areas and rock beds! Clearly it wasn't even an issue of being out of stock and making a substitute. I contacted them and they said they would immediately resolve the issue, which they did... by sending one of the correct plant instead of the three that I ordered! Fortunately, this wrinkle was ironed out as well, I have the correct plants in the ground and now they actually have yet to perish.
One other company that I have ordered from is Wayside Gardens. They seem to specialize in a lot of rare plants, shrubs, and trees. They are more expensive than other companies out there and while I was satisfied with their products for the most part, after one plant died I found out that they offer no refund or guarantee after you plant their product like the other companies do.
Before I continued making purchases based solely upon price, I decided to research the companies that I sent my husband's hard earned money off to. I found, much to my delight, a resource at Dave's Garden called Garden Watchdog.
The Garden Watchdog is a free directory of 6,815 mail order gardening
companies. Here gardeners share their opinions on which companies really
deliver on quality, price and service.
This was exactly what I needed! There were so many companies out there that I had never even heard of! Through this resource I was able to find 2 companies that I have been incredibly pleased with.
High Country Gardens, has the most beautiful catalogue that I've ever seen! (Gives me the gimmes!) While they are geared to xeric gardening for drier climates, more northern zones are able to plant many of their offerings. For me, "xeric"= "Won't die if you forget to water." I received large healthy plants in sturdy packaging. I lost two plants, which were promptly replaced, and I have been incredibly impressed with how large everything has grown in a full season! Considering they were about half the price of a nursery cost, or less, I would say that after one year of growth, they are already larger than similar nursery plants.
I learned from High Country Gardens, that it can be beneficial to plant your perennials in the fall. This is because the roots will become established and strengthened by the overwinter rest since they will not have to fuel the plant. Then your perennials will grow even more in the spring.
I ordered from Great Garden Plants and was also impressed with the size and quality of the plants as well as the packaging. Everything that I planted in the fall came up this year and I am looking forward to seeing how large they become.
My all time favorite place to get perennials from is... a friend! Most perennials could benefit from being divided every few years anyway in order to maintain their vigor. This year, I know my black eyed susans, purple coneflowers, and dianthus could all use dividing. Next year, I'll need to split my hosta. If you're not sure how or when a plant should be divided, Heritage Perennials has an everything-you-need-to-know plant searchable encyclopedia.
I hope that someone can benefit from the experiences I have had with these mail order gardening companies and that I have potentially saved others from the hassle of planting, replacing, and re-planting numerous times (not to mention dealing with customer service!)
This year I have a bed in which I need to replace everything because of the handiwork of a rascally little chipmunk who made his home under the bed last year, destroying the root system. I'm considering purchasing the following flowers from HCG to replace the dead ones.