Over the years, solicitations from garden vendors have become so commonplace that I’m used to getting emails from Park Seed, High Country, and Jackson Perkins almost every other day, regardless of the season. I’m pretty sure that the word SUCKER screams out in flashing lights from every digital trail I’ve ever left. Most times I delete without reading, but it may be a mark of my generation that I still look forward to the printed catalog onslaught every winter.
Would I like the printed catalog to become an endangered species? I suppose so, but I also wonder if some companies are ready to survive on Internet ordering alone. Until that day, I will look forward with great pleasure to my Bluestone, Lily Garden, Van Engelen, Plant Delights, Old House Gardens, and Brent and Becky’s catalogs each season. The Bluestone 2008 catalog has already arrived. Early? Yes, but once the snow coverage gets over a foot, I’m more than ready to dream of plants.
The beautiful thing about Bluestone is the cozy chaos of its layout. (Graphic artists where I work would be discouraged from creating pages like these.) No matter how many times I pick up the catalog, I find something new—previously hidden from an overly linear sensibility—something that might just find a home in the back of the border. Bluestone strikes a balance somewhere in between the old-fashioned pack-em-in density of a seed catalog and the more refined organization of such fellow perennial vendors as Plant Delights and High Country Gardens.
The perennials that interest me for next season reflect a growing interest in height, in natives, and in new introductions from plant families that have previously been successful for me. But, like every other wish list I’ve ever made, it also reflects my stubborn refusal to accept that 1. I really don’t have room for any of this; and 2. Certain plants will never work in my yard, no matter how many times I try them.
Agastache Tutti Frutti : Hyssop Giant Oh what the heck. It says 6-10, but maybe I can protect it.
Coreopsis Jethro Tull I don’t really want this. I just like the idea of growing something that has Jethro Tull in the name. (Yeah, I know who the real Jethro Tull was but the name will always mean 70s prog rock to me.)
Eryngium Sapphire Blue I have always longed for it and I think I now have just the right never-watered spot.
Eupatorium rugosum “Chocolate” Having avoided this plant for years, I’m now ready for it, in a border that will mainly be other tall, weedy-looking perennials. I’m going for the mini-meadow-in-the-city look.
Helianthus, heliopsis, helenium? I’m confused. Which do I have? Which do I need? I’ll probably end up with some varietal of one of these that promises to be tallest.
Hydrangea macrophylla Cityline Paris Ooh la la! I have the arborens and paniculata, but I still love the showy mopheads. Though it might be better to buy a more mature plant locally. There’s nothing more pathetic-looking than an undersized hydrangea.
And, oh-so-many more. Sure, you could engage in the same fantasies using your browser but there are still some places—the tub, the bedside table, an easy chair and a glass of wine—where a printed catalog works best.