I believe in supporting my local garden centers, but they don’t always sell all the seeds and plants I’m interested in growing at home. That’s where mail-order comes in. Garden catalogs and online retailers give me access to nearly infinite plant choices. This time of year, the UPS guy leaves boxes of plants on my doorstep a couple times a week. It’s better than Christmas.
Trying to keep up with plants as they arrive can be a challenge. My advice: Open all boxes and immediately deal with anything that has been shipped bare-root. If I know where in the garden I want a plant to go, I’ll get it into the ground that day. If I don’t have time to plant until the weekend, I cover the roots with damp compost or potting soil in a big metal washtub—a process called “heeling in”—and leave the washtub next to the windows in my cool garage.
For many of the plants I order, however, I’m not sure where I want them to reside permanently. Some purchases, like the 15 grafted Japanese maples I ordered this spring, are still too small to go directly into the ground. So I pot these up in plastic nursery pots. Growing perennials, shrubs, and small ornamental trees in large containers for a season allows them to bulk up before they go into the garden. And it gives me a couple more months to make up my mind. —Doug Hall