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Specialty catalogs offer some unique plants

January 24, 2009

By JEFF RUGG

Creators Syndicate

Last time, I mentioned that January is National Mail Order Gardening Month and if you had not received any gardening catalogs you should go to www.mailordergardening.com to start getting some.

I took my own advice and ordered a few catalogs from companies with which I was not familiar. I have some favorites that I want to tell you about today. I prefer small family-run operations, partly because I have been in small family-run businesses and I know how hard everyone must work. I also like the enthusiasm that these family-run companies have for their favorite plants.

High Country Gardens is located in Santa Fe, N.M., and they have plants for the whole U.S., but especially the Western and Southern states that need plants that thrive in low-rainfall situations. Many people don't realize that much of the dry West is also at a high-enough altitude that their plants must also be adapted for cold weather, too. A native grass or perennial from Utah can be a great plant for a parking lot island in Chicago, New York or Atlanta because it can take summer heat and dryness as well as winter cold and snow, and it might even be salt tolerant.

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High Country Gardens has introduced many exclusives in the past 10 years. They have many xeriscape plants that need little water after they become established. They also have a wide variety of deer- and rabbit-resistant plants, and butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting plants.

The pre-planned gardens they offer are a great way to get a group of plants that not only look good growing together, but also need the same environmental conditions. It is easy to get sidetracked into making a garden with a bunch of plants that look good on paper, but that can't tolerate the same sun, shade or soil moisture conditions as the other plants and so it all fails. Using pre-planned gardens prevents that common mistake. You can reach the company at www.highcountrygardens.com or (800) 925-9387.

Let's go to the other end of the country to Wood Prairie Farm in Maine. Even though they carry garden vegetables like many companies, there are two specialties here that you don't want to miss. They have a granary for bakers that includes whole grain and fresh stone-ground flours that are produced right on the farm. You can order real cornmeal, buckwheat pancake mix, winter rye and spelt. You read that right, I said spelt. If it was good enough for the ancient Egyptians and Romans, it is good enough for me. Actually, I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds good.

The other family specialty is certified seed potatoes. It takes a great deal of effort to create a potato that is certified to be disease free. They start in tissue-culture propagation laboratories and then are grown organically to produce the potatoes you receive.

These aren't just ordinary potatoes, either. There are purple, gold, red, white and blue ones. Imagine the colors you could get in your favorite potato salad recipe. Don't have room to grow a bunch of potatoes, or do you want some for the Memorial Day picnic before you can grow your own? Then the Potato Sampler of the Month is designed for you. You will have to order early because they only ship from September through April. Contact them at www.woodprairies.com or (800) 829-9765.

Now we head west to One Green World in Oregon. They carry warm region plants like citrus and olives to cold season plants like persimmons and pawpaws. They carry fruiting trees, shrubs, vines, berries and nut-producing trees. If you are looking for a rare fruit that you can't find in the specialty grocery store, give this catalog a try. You can order one online at www.onegreenworld.com or (877) 353-4028.

If you are looking for tropical plants to grow, try the Louisiana-based Stokes Tropicals catalog. They have bamboo, ginger, plumeria and many other beautiful tropical flowers. They also have bananas, including the Japanese Fiber Banana, which is hardy to -3 degrees Fahrenheit when planted in the ground and to -24 degrees if given proper mulching. If I could find the right piece of land, I would order every plant in the catalog. Check them out at www.stokestropicals.com or 866-478-2502.

In the Midwest we have the Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery catalog. This family has been growing peonies for more than 150 years! They also have an extensive farm that grows daylilies, hostas, clematis and tree peonies, plus many other ornamental perennials, trees and shrubs. Their catalog is more like a high-quality coffee table book. You can pick it up and just look at flowers all day, and the winter weather will just melt away, which is just what the gardening doctor ordered. I think I might just have to finish this article later. . . .

E-mail questions to Jeff Rugg, Kendall County unit educator, University of Illinois Extension at jrugg@uluc.edu.

Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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