Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hey, all you gardeners

It's catalog season and for winter weary gardeners it's an exciting time. I don't know about you, but, I am finding it hard to resist their seductive plant photos! I am tempted to order anything that looks lush and colorful right this very minute!
But, I have learned over the years not to fill the cart up with "I must have that gorgeous beauty" impulse buys. I have a mound of tags to commemorate the many dead and inappropriate plants that I've impulsively brought home over the years.  I keep them to remind me that without careful planning one can end up with a broken heart and a lot of wasted budget.
How can tempted gardeners survive buyers remorse!

 Guidelines!  You can  create your own plant buying guidelines. That's what I did a number of years ago!
Without guidelines, I would be stuffing my cart with plants that are especially seductive at this time of year. Beautiful they would certainly be, but, they might not make sense for my garden. It took me a few years, but, I made peace with Clay and Limestone's shallow, clay soil that is dry in the summer and wet all the winter. Most plants in the garden are rough and tumble native wildflowers that don't need coddling. They provide food and shelter for the critters that visit and live in this garden. Of course, there are some native plants that need special care, I am not that tough a taskmaster! Those plants get extra water in the summers or are planted so they don't drown in the winters. 

My guidelines are quite simple; before any plant goes into the cart, I like to make sure:
  • It has a good chance to survive the difficult conditions at Clay and Limestone.
  • It's a nectar or pollen source for pollinators
  • It's a host plant for pollinators
  • It will add to plant diversity in my critter friendly garden
  • It's native to Middle Tennessee or is garden friendly (a non invasive plant)
  • It isn't available locally

My dear friends, how do you handle the catalogs that are arriving daily in your email or mail box?

Hamamelis vernalis is not native to Middle Tennessee. It's one of those plants that made it into my cart and  needs some extra watering in the summer to insure bud set. When it blooms in January, I am happy that I dragged the hose all over the place.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I read about people buying plants online and through catalogs but I have rarely had luck with that type of purchase. I usually grow what I can lay my eyes and my hands on. Sometimes I am lucky enough that people trade or give me some seeds. That is always fun.

  2. Beautifully written and the best advice. Now, I say that, but today I invested in houseplants. Houseplants! Me of all people, but I just couldn't stop myself. Love ya.~~Dee

  3. I rarely buy ornamental plants via mail order, except for houseplants. But then, I have access to more than enough nurseries to keep me satisfied. I've developed a pretty rigorous checklist myself, to determine if anything will go in the physical cart, though. I do order seed for the vegetable garden, but I don't go too crazy there.

  4. I occasionally order plants online, usually those I can't find locally, but not very often. I do however, order most of my seeds online, There just aren't many stores locally that carry exactly what I want. I think I am just extra picky! First I go to the local nursery and pick up whatever seeds I "can" find. Then I ordcer all the rest.

  5. Good post, as always, Gail. I'm growing more annuals from seed, getting plants locally when possible, and increasingly converting to native perennials and shrubs. My soil is very good, so my biggest challenges are shade and rabbits. ;-)

  6. I share your agenda. I also try to avoid the plants being sold at HD with the neonic labels (although I do appreciate the labeling).

  7. Oh, my, you are tough! Your guidelines are admirable and our environments would benefit if all of us were as clear-minded and exercised as much restraint. I try to but some plants just call out so strongly that I can't resist. And occasionally I discover something that shouldn't survive or do well but does -- and that's a wonderful surprise.

  8. I have to admit no catalogue temptation, due to my terrible terrible gardening skills (supreme failures in the past) and complete lack of gardening knowledge. As a newer gardener, traditional garden nursery plants seem a bit of a minefield, so I have to come to avoid them altogether (do I need soil amendments, fertilizing, what plants are not harmful/invasive, will it survive or take over my garden, neonics, distance the plants shipped from, do they growers use pesticides, is the seed collected or gmo, diseases, sustainability of soils used such as peat, etc. ACK! Overwhelming!!). Local native growers simplify many of these choices for me :)

    I did order some seed from Wildflower Farms, but did so fully accepting that I may not succeed in growing them (CMS seems tricky!).

  9. I am trying to be pickier. I tend to splurge on bulbs and rely on local plant sales and swaps with other gardeners. Usually I will find plants that will do well for me in those places. If I actually buy a plant from a business, I usually buy a native plant.

  10. My guidelines are that it cannot be expensive, and it has to fit in with what I have. I am not going to spend a lot of money on something that has a chance to croak. And, any newcomers must get along with what's here -- cultural requirements, size, perennial or other, bloom time, color, etc.

  11. It's great living in America and having all these choices! I usually buy natives after many years of exotic overload. Over the last five years I usually wait til August to get bargains and go to native plant sales in the spring/summer which benefit native plant organizations.

  12. All those catalogs are so enticing! But I've gotten pickier, too, mainly because I've run out of room for the time being, and planting something new may mean something else has to go. I like to look at the catalogs, but I only order something if I'm pretty sure I won't find it locally. Headed to a MG meeting tonight about incorporating more native plants in the garden, so I imagine I will be adding more to my wish list for this year:)


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson