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Garden Gate’s Favorite Mail-Order Web Sites

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We love to shop, especially for plants, bulbs, seeds, and anything garden-related! Here are several of our favorite mail-order garden Web sites. Learn what we like about each one in the list that follows. Then check out our guide to planting mail-order plants in the article below.

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Garden Gate’s Mail-Order Guide
Mail-order plants are a great way to get out-of-the-ordinary species and cultivars. They’re shipped potted, like the group in photo 1, or bareroot, like those below. Every company has its own packing method to keep plants safe on the journey to your home. Some are better than others, so keep your camera on hand and snap photos if the box is damaged or the plants aren’t looking good as you unpack. The plants above were just packed in paper and excelsior, made of wood shavings, to keep pots from spilling and plants from jostling too much. Potted plants will look a lot like what you find in the garden center (although often smaller, for ease of shipping). Look for healthy foliage, stems and roots. They should be ready to go in the ground right away.

BAREROOT Depending on when you order them, your perennials may be shipped dormant, with no foliage, or with leaves, either cut back or not. The tall sedum in photo 2 has been cut back before shipping. It’ll recover nicely as soon as it’s planted. Check plants both visually and by smelling them—make sure there’s nothing rotten or mushy or that plants aren’t shriveled. If it’s just a small piece that looks bad, trim it off; otherwise, request a replacement. Fuzzy gray mold sometimes develops on the roots while they’re in storage. As long as no more than 50 percent of the roots are covered, the plant should be fine. A few broken stems or roots aren’t a problem —just trim them off.
Get bareroot plants potted right away to avoid drying out or rotting. You can store them for a few days in your refrigerator crisper if you need to. Make sure temperatures stay in the 35 to 38 degree F range. Most plants, like the daylily (Hemerocallis hybrid) in photo 3, will do best with an hour soak in water before planting. After that, put the roots in a nursery pot, like the one in photo 4, that’s big enough for them to grow for a few weeks. Plant your perennial in the pot the same way you will in the ground. Most will do best with the crown sitting at the same level as the mix or the soil. Wait to water until you see new growth. After that, only water whenever the potting mix is dry to avoid rot. Keep plants outside in a sheltered spot or in a cold frame if it’s early in the growing season. In a few weeks, give a gentle tug on the foliage, and if you feel resistance, it’s ready to go into the garden.