Hartley Magazine

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Five Specialty Nursery Catalogs for the Holidays

The hunt is on for the rare and unusual

It’s the darkest time of the year, when your outdoor garden makes few demands—although you may be enjoying the plants in your greenhouse—so now is the perfect time to curl up and read catalogs. Start your armchair hunt for the next fabulous wow-factor plant to give to a fellow gardener or grow yourself. Specialty plant catalogs abound with rare and unusual varieties whose descriptions, like great travel books, open up new vistas to explore.

Catalog Criteria

I prefer catalogs with lots of text and few pictures. While I do shop online, I like to hold a catalog in my hands. And because there’s no plot, when holiday expectations intrude, you can always put your reading down and later pick up where you left off.
I avoid any catalog that doesn’t use botanical Latin. Common names are confusing. The use of Latin means the purveyors hold a higher standard.
Here in Oregon, I’m surrounded by some of the finest specialty mail-order nurseries. They are family-owned and ship all over the U.S. and beyond. (All mail free catalogs, but for Christmas presents you may need to go online rather than wait for print versions.)

Five for Fabulous

Forest Farm
(www.forestfarm.com) – This nursery’s paperback-book size catalog is a great bedtime read. Encyclopedic inclusion of plant requirements, such as zones, sun/shade and how to use it, adds to your education as a gardener. For my wish list, early-flowering Prunus mume ‘Dawn’.

Gossler Farms Nursery (www.gosslerfarms.com) – Roger Gossler writes quirky, personal plant descriptions, without plant requirements—so keep an encyclopedia handy. He gives an insider’s perspective on rare acquisitions and talks knowledgeably about how plants have fared in his own display gardens. My choice – Styrax japonica ‘Fragrant Fountain’.

Greer Gardens
(www.greergardens.com) Passionate horticultural writing and incredible depth in areas like Japanese maples and rhododendrons make my wish list way too long. I want deciduous Azalea ‘Soir de Paris’.

Nichols Garden Nursery (www.nicholsgardennursery.com) For herbs, vegetables and flower seeds, along with wonderfully practical how-to tips on growing tomatoes or brewing beer, this is the catalog I turn to when dreaming of summer tables full of home-grown bounty. I favor the pepper with jalapeño flavor but no heat – Capsicum anuum ‘Fooled You’.

Territorial Seed Company (www.territorialseed.com) A comprehensive seed catalog (with photos) of veggies, flowers and cover crops, that also includes a selection of live plants, planting suggestions and a section on helpful tools and gadgets for farming your own back yard. I’ll take the runner bean with peach-pink flowers – Phaseolus coccineus “Sunset’.