April 12th, 2011

Plants on my Doorstep

dougI 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

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