Lowenfels: Last glance at plant catalogs before the light returns

Jeff Lowenfels

OK. This is the last column on catalogs/webalogs. The days are finally getting noticeably longer and seed racks are popping up all over. This means it is time to think about actually buying some seeds and even starting a few (sweet peas, pelargonium and indoor herbs, for example).

Let's start with Florabund seeds, florabundaseeds.com, a Canadian company dedicated to preserving the plants used in old English cottage gardens. Their seeds are available to U.S. gardeners and are "pre-hybrid," some collected way back during the Middle Ages. These are truly heirlooms and the list contains some unusual and rare annuals. Definitely worth a look.

Next, take a look at Wild Garden Seeds, wildgardenseed.com. Oregon based, this is where farmers go to buy seed. They feature many of the best seeds for farmers markets and for fare used at fancy restaurants. Everything is open pollinated and organic.

Another source for small farmers is Stellar Seeds, stellarseeds.com. These folks feature organic, gourmet vegetable seeds. They have a beautiful, purple-red skinned carrot, a pole bean called "Jack's Giant" for obvious reasons and some really beautiful lettuces.

High Mowing seeds, highmowingseeds.com, has great seed and a great catalog. They feature organic vegetable and flower seeds. I love their online resources sections, which has dozens and dozens of articles on growing organic. It is a great information source.

Nature Hills Nursery, naturehills.com, sells plants and trees online. Shipping may be too expensive, but it is fun to look at their collection of nut trees and trees that provide fall color. We can always dream for more global warming.

High Country Gardens, highcountrygardens.com, sells plants for water-wise gardeners. Too little water has never been a problem in the Alaskan garden, but it is fun to look. Again, there is a good resources section where you can link to all sorts of useful information.

How about a webalog of photos of perennials? Check out Donnan.com at donnan.com/perennials.htm. Use your computer to the fullest and enjoy photos of tons of perennials. This is a great way to learn the names of plants you can order elsewhere.

You would expect great heirlooms from the Amish. Check out Amsihland Heirloom Seeds, amishlandseeds.com, to confirm your expectations. There are lots and lots of Amish and Mennonite heirloom seeds. Some go back to the 1700s. There is a section of Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian tomato varieties.

Sometimes you just have to go with a name. That is what attracted me to Weird Dude's Plant Zoo, weirddudesplantzoo.com, I am not sure how many of these will grow here and Weird Dude lives in Florida, but there are some unusual things to look at.

I have always liked Logees Greenhouses, logees.com. They have terrific greenhouse and indoor plants as well as some interesting outdoor fare. This is a great website and has tons of information you probably won't find elsewhere with as much ease.

Cotswold Nursery, cgf.net, is an English webalog. I don't think you can buy from them, but in typical English gardener fashion, the site has a tremendous amount of information and tons of pictures of perennials with over 5,000 listings to check out.

Fungi are not plants, but they do very well here. This means all gardeners should check out Fungi Perfecti, fungi.com. This is a great website full of information. Best of all, one can purchase indoor and outdoor mushroom growing kits.

Finally, Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery, songsparrow.com, has an extensive selection of peonies. The site also has a lot of great cultural information that will help make you a better peony grower. The photos are absolutely beautiful.

Again, local racks are up and local nurseries are open or opening. You don't need to buy mail order. Still, it is a great way to stimulate the senses in the middle of the winter and to learn a lot about our hobby. If you have questions about finding specific plants, let me know at teamingwithmicrobes.com.


Jeff Lowenfels' is author of "Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to The Soil Food Web."

Garden calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden Spring Conference: March 8-9. Featuring Gary Paul Nathan, an internationally- celebrated nature writer, food and farming activist, and proponent of conserving the links between biodiversity and cultural diversity. Reserve your place now at alaskabg.org.

Fungus gnats: Too much watering causes these irritating gnats to breed. Place newspaper on top of the soil or try Azamax.

Light is back: Give some to your plants. Now is a great time to start cuttings.


Jeff Lowenfels