The 2024 Seed Catalogs Are Here - 27 East

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The 2024 Seed Catalogs Are Here

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The crop of 2024 seed and plant catalogs is arriving and several are excellent germination and variety selection guides. If something “new” catches your fancy make sure it’s really, truly new.

The crop of 2024 seed and plant catalogs is arriving and several are excellent germination and variety selection guides. If something “new” catches your fancy make sure it’s really, truly new.

Prairie Moon offers great selections of wildflowers and natives available as seed, bare roots and in cells. As seen here you can mix and match species on one flat getting as many as six species and 38 plants in a flat for just $4.45 a plant plus shipping. That’s a pretty great deal and lots of garden opportunities.

Prairie Moon offers great selections of wildflowers and natives available as seed, bare roots and in cells. As seen here you can mix and match species on one flat getting as many as six species and 38 plants in a flat for just $4.45 a plant plus shipping. That’s a pretty great deal and lots of garden opportunities.

Johnny’s Select Seeds catalog is incredible for not just its number of vegetable seed offerings but also its charts, diagrams and detailed instructions. This page shows the color, texture and comparative size of baby leaf greens that are available individually or in mixes. Many are cut-and-come-again types.

Johnny’s Select Seeds catalog is incredible for not just its number of vegetable seed offerings but also its charts, diagrams and detailed instructions. This page shows the color, texture and comparative size of baby leaf greens that are available individually or in mixes. Many are cut-and-come-again types.

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Hampton Gardener®

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Jan 18, 2024
  • Columnist: Andrew Messinger

While I hate to wake you from our traditional gardener’s hibernation, the seed and plant catalogs have arrived. If you want the best of the best or if you got a message last year that said “sold out for 2023” then it’s time to get to work. We’ll review some of the catalogs this week and a few truly “new” offerings, but first some buying and shopping thoughts.

Every year I caution readers to be careful when they see the tag “NEW” in a catalog. The word seems to have different meanings depending on the catalog. For some vendors the word means the plant has previously not been offered by any vendor and is therefore truly new. For others it simply means the plant or seed is new to their catalog. “New” does not necessarily mean it’s been tested or trialed in our growing area even though the catalog says it’s hardy in our zone.

A good example of this was a Philadelphus, or mock orange, shrub that began to be marketed two years ago. It was promoted by one of my trusted vendors, but after two years on the retail market it seems to be or is in the process of being removed from the retail trade. I haven’t been told why other than “We now have a better variety.” It happens.

Read the catalogs carefully. Some, like Johnny’s Selected Seeds can be daunting with the depth of information you can glean. Look at the disease resistance characteristics of plants (mostly veggies and fruits) which are generally listed in each variety description in each catalog, but Johnny’s also has a full page titled “Start Growing with the Best Resources” that is a great starting point.

Next, look for specialty catalogs. If it’s annuals you’re looking for Burpee’s is always a good source. If it’s perennials, try to stick to vendors who specialize in them; Burpee isn’t one of them. For fruit trees Stark Brothers (starkbros.com) is a good place to start, but again, their specialty is fruits, and chances are that other plants they offer are actually from other vendors.

When it comes to the most common fruit trees varieties, Stark Brothers is probably the largest mail-order supplier of fruit trees, and I’ve always found them to be reliable and helpful. This is a fine vendor for those just wanting the classic retail varieties, but for those of you who want to grow heirloom fruits you may have to look at smaller, family-run operations that offer extensive lists. There are many of these so if that’s your preference let me know and I can find you some great vendors.

When buying strawberry plants from any vendor it’s critical to purchase guaranteed virus-free plants. This does not guarantee that your strawberries will remain virus or disease free, but it’s a great start. You should also refrain from friends and family who offer you strawberry plants from their gardens. These plants can be an unwitting donation of diseases that the giver is unaware of. Buy only certified stock. To take it a step further you may want to limit your choices to strawberries with noted disease resistance.

As I noted above, Johnny’s is one of my top picks for vegetable seeds. They do most of their own seed growing or contract it out based on the seed they have developed and tested. Their catalog is second to none as are their online resources, which you should certainly take advantage of. This includes tutorials, introductions to new varieties and a good supply of charts and calculators that help with planting times and seed/plant spacing. Johnny’s turn around time on orders is great. And when up in Maine this summer Johnny’s is a great place to visit.

Second on my veggie seed list is Renee’s Garden Seed (reneesgarden.com). I’ve been buying from Renee’s for years because I’ve had great success with their packets of salad greens and mixes. Each seed packet is a mini encyclopedia giving you all the information you need to get going. It doesn’t hurt either that the seed packet artwork is wonderful.

When it comes to “native” plant seeds and plants, it’s hard to beat Prairie Moon Nursery (prairiemoon.com). They not only sell the seeds, but bare-root dormant plants as well as potted plants. As they remind us, seeds take time to turn into plants, bare-rooted plants may take a year to two for top field performance, and potted plants are fast to establish. They offer multiple purchase options as well as collections of plants that can be turned into nearly instant gardens. You can even mix and match up to six species in one flat of 38 plants for $169.

The Prairie Moon catalog is another great resource. There are instructions on how to germinate and grow on each variety, and seed packet collections for a variety of settings and conditions. They offer the true native blue lupine (Lupine perennis) which other vendors have confused with the nonpollinator West Coast variety. If a pollinator garden or meadow is on your mind then this is the catalog for you.

My love/hate relationship with the White Flower Farm (whiteflowerfarm.com) continues. They do offer some varieties that are not yet available from other vendors or in garden centers, but their prices for the size of roots and plants they send is a bit too much for my wallet. Many, but not all of their offerings can be found from other vendors at lower prices. They do, however, offer a good selection of annuals and biennials for planters that are hard to find elsewhere, and I do admit to buying at least one or two plants from them every year simply because they are the only vendor offering that variety that year.

I have a very long history with Bluestone Perennials that goes back over 40 years when they supplied my nursery with stock plants. They seem to have gone back to their roots (perennials) as I don’t see any trees or shrubs in this years catalog, and this is a good thing. You won’t find the most recent perennial introductions in their offerings but they get extra points for great shipping (and customer service) as I rarely if ever get damaged plants.

Another perennial vendor is Edelweiss Perennials in Oregon (edelweissperennials.com). They have one of if not the largest listing of perennials that I know of but no printed catalog. You can go online and go through their listing and just be blown away. Be careful to get varieties that are hardy here as some aren’t. Shipping is cross country so be ready to unbox and plant or pot as soon as your order arrives. My plants have always arrived in great shape.

Lastly is Plant Delights Nursery (plantsdelights.com) in North Carolina. This is another vendor that I’ve used for years, and their field trials are extensive — but in North Carolina. Their offerings of hardy perennials are extensive, but for those to like to experiment and push hardiness boundaries you’ll find many, many temptations. If you are tempted to try a plant that might be marginal, maybe start with one instead of three or five just to see how it goes. And if you’re looking for hardy orchids get your credit card ready and get a bank loan because they have an extensive selection.

On the topic of hardy garden lilies, is it a collection you’re after and want to build on over the years or just a few to throw into the garden or use for cuts? There’s a lot of lilies coming out of Holland that are simply inferior. Many turn out not to be true to name and this can drive a collector crazy. A good lily bulb will cost from $15 to $25 and up. If you’re paying less it’s probably a Dutch import, and the Dutch seem to dump their inferior bulbs on the U.S. market. Instead try to shop for domestically grown bulbs, but even this is difficult.

I did find one grower in Oregon that you might want to try. The Lily Garden (thelilygarden.com) does some of their own breeding and raises some of their own stock of other varieties. I bought a few bulbs from them last year but won’t know until this summer how they’ll do. They are also resellers for another domestic hybridizer, but three of the five offerings are already sold out. I’ve also written to them three times to clarify which of their offerings are produced at their farm and never got a response. They only ship lilies in the fall. That’s undoubtedly the best planting time for these bulbs, but you’ll see them in stores and some catalogs for spring delivery. Check out their website and maybe even try their Crocosmia offerings.

I’m always being reminded by these vendors that you should also check their online offerings. Some varieties aren’t available when the catalogs are printed, and when they do become available, they go on the websites and sell out fast. Keep in mind that when you have plants shipped that will add about 30 percent to your order. Try to be home when plants arrive as they don’t do well in the cold, dark boxes for more than a few days (including shipping time). Some vendors charge shipping based on the cost of your order. Plant Delights does that but can get up to six plants in your box but with only one shipping charge — not per plant. Keep growing.

Garden Notes

 

As I write this about a week before you might be reading that the forecast is calling for extremely cold weather for a week or longer into the third week of January. This would be a great time to add any winter mulch that your gardens might need. The purpose is to get the mulch down when and while the ground is solidly frozen, not before. The mulch keeps the sun off the soil and keeps the soil frozen for several days to weeks once it warms up again. This prevents freeze/thaw damage that can heave plants out of the ground and protects the crown area of plants from cellular damage from freezing and thawing over and over. Apply about an inch of mulch, but around fruit trees planted last year keep the mulch at least six inches away from the truck to stifle voles from chewing the trunk bark at ground level that can severely damage the tree.

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