It was the first gardening catalog I ordered from ten years
ago. It is memorialized in Michael Pollan’s Second Nature as “reveling in the
sexiness of its flowers,” and cited by Tony Avent as setting him up for his first big gardening disappointment,
when he discovered that despite its lush catalog, there was no corresponding show garden at
the Wayside Garden’s physical site.
I think of Wayside Gardens whenever I prune Charlotte, a
David Austin rose I bought from the nursery in 1999, or clear away the dead
leaves from my two biggest clumps of hellebores. I never ordered from them
again (there were a number of failures stemming from that first purchase), and
I’m not sure if the catalog I used is even published anymore.
As many of you will have heard, Wayside’s parent, Park Seed has filed for bankruptcy along with Jackson Perkins. David Austin roses, which
used to be sold through these companies, now sells directly to US garden
centers. Park, after various corporate merges and purchases over the years, operates 4 companies, including Jackson Perkins, under one umbrella, and the sales for all of their companies declined 29% in 2009.
You’d never know that Park was in trouble from the biweekly
emails I still receive from them, touting various wacky hybrids. Jackson
Perkins, too. Indeed, they hope to restructure—saying that this should not
affect customers—and fight their way back to financial stability. In his
monthly letter to his customers, Tony Avent concludes, “many … seem to think
that Park's problems are more of a management issue than an economic one.
… Regardless of the cause, the Park family of companies are a very important
part of the mail order nursery industry and a large employer in the Greenwood
area. We wish them the best of luck in turning their ship around.”
I guess I do too, for the sake of their employees, and
because I did get some very nice plants from them once.