One of the most frequently asked questions when people visit or see pictures of my garden is, "Where do you find such cool plants?" The answer is, "Everywhere!" You just have to develop a keen eye and look past the most common offerings. Petunias, while they have their place, rarely, if ever, find a home at Wits' End. And even if you are tempted by the most common of bedding plants, at least look for the most unusual forms of more common plants that you can find. That's what will set your garden apart from the others.
While I do plenty of shopping at and firmly believe in shopping my local garden centers--and encourage you to do the same--sometimes I have to cast a wider net to find the best of the best. I also encourage you to do that! It makes the garden much more exciting!
Here is a list of a few favorite mail-order nurseries and their websites to get you started. I buy plants from many of these sources each year and have always been pleased with the quality of the plants and service I receive. Happy shopping and gardening!
www.plantdelights.com Rare and unusual Perennials, Tropicals, Annuals and Shrubs
www.diggingdog.com Excellent selection of unusual perennials
www.anniesannuals.com Some of the most exotic Perennials and Annuals of any nursery
www.rareseeds.com For the vegetable gardeners who love heirlooms and unusual varieties
www.dahlias.com Swan Island Dahlias, the most beautiful dahlias available today
www.pineknotfarms.com Exceptional hellebores (Lenten roses) for Southern gardens
www.woodlanders.net A great mix of natives and exotics, the most unusual varieties of each
www.arrowheadalpines.com Rare and unusual perennials, bulbs and more
www.brokenarrownursery.com Rare and unusual woody plants (trees and shrubs) and perennials
www.cistus.com Also top notch when it comes to things rare and unusual. In the Pacific Northwest, but they sell a variety of plants that will grow well in the South.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of fantastic mail order nurseries in the world today, but these are a few favorites that get my repeat business. So kick back and start browsing--and maybe keep the credit card in the other room until the impulse buying period has passed...
With the winter we have experienced this year, it seems that spring may never arrive. Good news! Winter's days are numbered--literally--and spring is just around the corner.
One of the first true signs of spring in my garden and in the fence rows and pastures along the country roads where I live is the flowering of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the bright yellow daffodil that has naturalized itself on old homesteads and farms all over the South. I can't think of anything more cheerful than its bright yellow flowers that appear in late February and early March, brightening up the landscape during winter's last drab and dreary days.
These "wild" daffodils are soon joined by other garden varieties whose flowers continue opening throughout March and into early and mid-April. In a good year, the daffodil season will start in late February in my garden and last for nearly two months, with the very latest varieties finishing up in mid-April.
Some of my favorite narcissus, or daffodils, are the species and wild forms that have been grown for many generations throughout the South and include the following:
Narcissus 'Von Sion', also known as "butter and eggs".
Narcissus poeticus var. ornatus, the "Pheasant's Eye" narcissus, is one of the very last narcissus, or daffodils, to flower. Often, it is still blooming near the beginning of May! Just remember that the later they flower, the later into the season their foliage will remain standing in the garden. It is important to leave the foliage of ALL of your daffodils standing for at least 6 weeks AFTER they finish flowering to give them enough time to store energy to flower again the following year. Cutting or mowing them down sooner may affect the quantity and quality of blooms next season and repeated early cutting over a period of years will eventually starve the bulbs out entirely!
Helleborus x hybridus 'Tutu'
With the exceptionally cold weather that we have experienced in Tennessee this winter and with little to no snow cover to protect plants from the single digit temperatures, I was elated when I saw new growth and even a few buds on the hellebores (aka Lenten rose) pushing through the ground this week as the weather moderated just a little. Winter is far from over, but I found a glimmer of hope in the fact that maybe the plants aren't quite as bad off as I thought they might be. In another week or so, I'll carefully trim last year's brown, freeze-dried leaves from the plants as flower buds and new growth begin to emerge, but for now, the dead leaves are still offering a little protection to the new growth that is just emerging.
I have been experimenting with hellebores, or Lenten roses, for nearly 20 years and I am especially fond of some of the new cultivars with flowers in clean, clear colors and in single, semi-double and fully double forms. Hellebores are happiest in part to full shade, in rich, well-amended soil. They need good drainage, especially in winter. Once they're established, they are quite drought tolerant and if you have a deer problem, they'll quickly become one of your favorite shade garden plants, since the deer won't touch them. Here are a few current favorites.
Helleborus x hybridus 'Golden Lotus'
Helleborus niger 'Double Fantasy'
Helleborus x 'Winter Moonbeam'
Helleborus x hybridus 'Red Lady'
These are but a few favorites. There are many others. I hope this sparks a little interest and sends you on a search for these tough, forgiving, easy-to-grow and exceptionally beautiful plants.