Some catalogs are just plain clever. This is always a reflection of their owners' sense of humor or dedication to the subject matter at hand. It means not only great information but a good read is as well.
I can't remember the first time I saw a cover of Plant Delights Nursery, but I knew instantly that this was not an ordinary plant catalog. Political satire is not usually part of gardening. After I studied the cover for half an hour, I started to flip through the catalog. Here was verbiage and description that would make Seinfeld's Peterman weep. Descriptive. Opinionated. Accurate.
I have since had the distinct pleasure of not only meeting Tony Avent (and his lovely wife Michelle and many of his staff), but touring his nursery, which is located in Raleigh, N.C. It's one thing to have a fabulous catalog. It's another to have an even better nursery, and yet one more to display subtle and not so subtle humor amongst plants. If you are ever in the area, check it out. And check out the website, as it has a lot of links and information.
Yes, this is a southern business. However, Tony told me they have several repeat customers in Alaska and, even if you don't buy, this is a great website. Check out plant descriptions. Learn all about plants you see on your vacation to Hawaii. The links are fantastic. By the way, there is also an active Facebook page. Is this the next wave for plant and seed catalogs?
Next, and a bit closer to home, is Terra Nova Nurseries. Dan Heims, one of the owners of the company, has spoken here and even played two flutes at once - and through his nose. The man has a sense of humor.
It is worth poking around on this site, because Terra Nova is all about bringing new stuff to your garden. In fact, if you think you have an unusual sort that developed out of no where, Terra Nova is the company to contact. If they like what you have, they will breed it and sell it to the wholesalers who bring these kinds of things to our local nurseries.
Then there is Seed Saver's Exchange. I think it is pretty darn clever to save the world's best heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. We live in an area which has very special growing conditions. Unique, in fact. There are all sorts of open pollinated seeds that people have been using for generation after generation that will fit our conditions. Better yet, we can take these, pick the best fruit each year for next year's seeds and improve on them for our conditions. Oh, yeah, you only have to buy heirloom and open pollinated seeds once.
Make sure to check out this year's tomato section. Tomatoes are the crop almost everyone with an outdoor greenhouse in Alaska grows, and this list has some beautiful fruits worth examining. As noted, even though lots of these have been passed down from one generation to the next for 200 years, they are just now on the market. Wow. By the way, if you have a favorite heirloom, let me know.
It is clever to put together a catalog of fruit plants and nothing but fruit plants. That is what my friend Sam has done at Raintree Nursery.
Gardeners in Alaska are always looking for new fruits to add to our meager palate of crops. And here is a catalog that does just that. The website is a good one. The hard copy catalog will make you drool.
It is winter and this is a "bad" one. Catalogs and eCatalogs will help you entertain yourself while you wait for the indoor part of our outdoor gardening season to begin. Read on!
Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. You can reach him at teamingwithmicrobes.com.