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Get Growing: Gardening catalogs to consider

Fairweather Gardens catalog features specialty, hard-to-find ferns, irises, sedums, hollies, viburnums, witch hazels, shrubs, grasses and flowering trees, including the native Franklinia tree, a member of the tea family, that bears fragrant flowers August-September and must have excellent drainage and light shade; www.fairweathergardens.com. (MCT)

Fairweather Gardens catalog features specialty, hard-to-find ferns, irises, sedums, hollies, viburnums, witch hazels, shrubs, grasses and flowering trees, including the native Franklinia tree, a member of the tea family, that bears fragrant flowers August-September and must have excellent drainage and light shade; www.fairweathergardens.com. (MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

By Cheryl B. Wilson

Mail ordering perennials, trees and shrubs is far less necessary today than it was when I started gardening in the late 1970s. That’s because we are blessed with outstanding local nurseries and garden centers which grow and stock wonderful unusual plants. However, sometimes you just have to order from outside the area.

For instance, when I wanted Aster ‘Little Carlow’ two years ago after falling in love with it at Sissinghurst in England, the only supplier I could find was Digging Dog Nursery in California. (www.diggingdog.com) To make shipping worthwhile, I also bought a few other perennials such as penstemons and a white Anemone japonica ‘Andrea Atkinson’ I had never seen locally. All have thrived except for one marginally hardy penstemon. I have also had great success with orders from Niche Gardens in North Carolina and was even able to visit the nursery outside Chapel Hill when I visited relatives in the area a few years ago in early spring.

So, I always read magazine and newspaper articles about mail-order catalogs in hopes of finding a new supplier. Last week’s Gazette featured an article by a writer in Norfolk, Virginia, who recommended 10 catalogs. I was familiar with most of them and can agree with her endorsement. Three, however, were new to me. Fairweather Gardens in southern New Jersey has enticing perennials such as hellebores and epimediums that I would love to have. Their prices, alas, are a bit steep. (www.fairweathernursery.com) But it is definitely worth checking out.

I was a bit dubious about a camellia nursery since camellias simply aren’t very hardy in New England. A recent article in the New York Times about cold-hardy camellias had piqued my interest and Camellia Forest in North Carolina (again just outside Chapel Hill) was mentioned in the article. Anyone living in Zone 6 might want to look at the website. There are a few cultivars labeled 6A or 6B and Northampton and Hadley are now officially in those zones. There is also a helpful section on the website for growing camellias in cold climates. (camforest.com). And if camellias appeal to you, set aside the weekend of March 2 and 3 for the annual camellia show of the Massachusetts Camellia Society at Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston.

The final newbie for me was The Gardener’s Workshop near Colonial Williamsburg. This is a seed and tool company with a delightful website. There are good seed-starting supplies, gloves and tools and a wide array of herb and flower seeds. The women who run the company do garden lectures as far north as New York City. (www.thegardenersworkshop.com) As for the other catalogs in Kathy Van Mullerom’s article, I can attest that Select Seeds in Connecticut, Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia, and Bluestone Perennials in Ohio have all provided me with good products. I used to order seeds from The Cook’s Garden when it was in Vermont but haven’t dealt with them since they were sold to Park’s Seeds. Tomato Growers has an impressive catalog as does Renee’s Garden (online only) and both Renee’s and Burpee’s seeds are available at local garden centers.

Do check out websites of mail order companies and don’t hesitate to purchase seeds, plants and garden supplies from the ones listed above. Our local nurseries stock wonderful plants but they can’t supply us with everything.

SEED STARTING: Maura Brown will lead a seed-starting workshop tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Annie’s Garden & Gift Store in North Amherst. Learn how to do succession planting for longer harvests, transplant and harden off seedlings and design a container garden with herbs and vegetables. It is free, but registration is encouraged. Call 549-6359.

BERRY GROWING: Sonia Schloemann, small fruit specialist at University of Massachusetts Extension, will discuss “Berries for the Home Landscape” in a free garden clinic tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Hadley Garden Center, Route 9, Hadley. Learn about blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and other small fruits during this informative workshop. The session is free. Call 584-1423.

MINIMAL VEGETABLE GARDEN: Michelle Owens, one of the founders of Garden Rant blog, offers a workshop on “The Minimal Vegetable Garden” on Feb. 16 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. The fee is $35. Register by calling 298-3926 or online at berkshirebotanical.org.

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