When you order a pair of shoes from Zappos, you know you’ll be able to return them without a hassle, but what about a bulb or seedling that will not prove its quality for weeks, months, or even years? The Oregonian recently published an article about mail-order nurseries by Lee Reich, and it was peppered with useful advice, including:
- Check out online review sites like Yelp
- Note which nurseries are mentioned or reviewed in gardening magazine articles
- Refer to resources from Dave’s Garden, such as the Garden Watchdog (“a free directory of 7,808 mail order gardening companies”) and PlantScout (“instantly locate the vendors that sell the exact plant (or seed or bulbs/roots) you’re looking for”)
- Read product descriptions with a skeptical eye and pay close attention to specifications (e.g., bulb size)
- Cross-reference product descriptions with reliable online or print information sources, especially ones tailored to your climate or gardening zone
- Offers of free replacements may not be worthwhile if the nursery’s overall quality is poor — what if it “just brings you another plant more worthy of your compost pile than your garden”?
A few of our green-thumbed friends have recommended the following nurseries, though, of course, your mileage may vary:
“Bluestone Perennials and Jackson & Perkins roses. Great results from both and the care they take in packaging young plants means I have never had one die, which is remarkable.”
“I’ve been very happy with my mail order Blenheim apricot tree from Bay Laurel Nursery.”
“Territorial Seed Company based out of Cottage Grove is really great. They specialize in vegetables, but have a good selection of ornamental plants as well. They also do some crazy grafted plants (like a potato-tomato combo). I mostly buy seeds from them, but the few nursery plants I’ve gotten have been good and professionally shipped.“
“I love One Green World. (They do a lot of mail order, but I’ve always gone in person.)“
“Raintree Nursery in Morton, WA, or thereabouts has good stock and packages things well. The most painstaking packaging and care I have seen of plants would probably be Sarracenia Northwest, which specializes in carnivorous plants. Everything I have ever received from them has been fine. I even had a plant get eaten by a neighbor dog once, and when they found out they gave me another (which they totally didn’t need to do) when I visited their Saturday Market booth.”
Are you inspired to shop? We hope this post helps you feel better prepared!