UNUSUAL SOURCES

These catalogs satisfy any plant collector’s search

by SARA BEGG

Some catalogs are not like other catalogs—they’re more akin to the old-fashioned kind of garden catalog, where the owner is plantsperson, writer, and chief cook and bottle washer. With these catalogs, you have to order early before choice items sell out, and you don’t dare skip the sometimes quirky but usually informative descriptions. But don’t expect much hand-holding—the catalog writers generally assume a certain amount of gardening experience, and photos, in most cases, are nonexistent. Often you’ll be encouraged to try a plant that is a trifle expensive but gardenworthy, like Crocus mathewi. In his list, Paul Christian describes this choice species as one that “does NOT like fuss—cherish it in a pot (i.e. torture it in a pot) and you will overbake it and desiccate it. Be brave, plant it out, get the soil conditions right, and be rewarded.” So go forth, be adventurous, and open your garden to the horticultural riches that are yours for the planting.

SEEDS

Alplains P.O. Box 489 Kiowa, CO 80117 Printed catalog $2

The majority of Alplains’ collections come from the western United States, providing keen gardeners with access to an important body of native alpine species. Alan Bradshaw, the proprietor and chief seed hunter, risks life and limb to bring you this rich listing, which includes many hard-to-find agaves, penstemons, phlox, and clematis. The easy-to-follow catalog also includes clear, concise germination instructions. No Web site.

Gardens North 5984 Third Line Road North North Gower, Ontario KOA 2TO Canada seed@gardensnorth.com www.gardensnorth.com Printed catalog $5

From the Great White North comes this beautiful seed catalog, first issued in 1991 by Kristl Walek. Walek is primarily interested in growing underused perennial and woody plants for northern gardens. The catalog is easy to use and meticulously laid out, as is the Web site. Highlights of the wide-ranging list include species of Alcea, Allium, Eryngium, Magnolia, Primula, and Sorbus. Germination tips and advice are included in the descriptions.

JJAseeds ’Bryn Collen’ Ffostrasol, Llandysul SA44 55B Wales United Kingdom www.jjaseeds.com Online catalog

The company takes its name from Jim and Jenny Archibald, two formidable seed hunters who have been growing and distributing rare seeds for over 20 years. Based in Wales, the Archibalds span the globe in their search for gardenworthy species. Their seed list is designed for the specialist grower and offers few photos or detailed descriptions; the amount of fascinating information, however, is enough to turn the adventurous beginner into a committed alpinist. The “Genus” page on their Web site is a rich trove of cultural, historical, and geographical information, enhanced by discussions of nomenclature and suggestions for further reading.

Rocky Mountain Rare Plants 1706 Deerpath Road Franktown, CO 80116 staff@rmrp.com www.rmrp.com Printed catalog $1

Set aside several long winter evenings to give yourself adequate time to study both the printed RMRP catalog and the Web site, which is unusually well constructed. Most, but not all, of the plants are native to the mountainous habitats of the western United States. The Web site also has a great section on growing alpines, a picture gallery, and an in-depth plant description reference area.

Seedhunt P.O. Box 96 Freedom, CA 95019 seedhunt@aol.com www.seedhunt.com Online catalog

Ginny Hunt has created a list that takes the hard work out of finding unusual and exciting seeds. Your only task is to edit your own wish list down to a realistic size—she offers over 70 Salvia species and cultivars alone. Almost all the seeds are harvested from plants growing in her own garden; the rest are from friends. The collection focuses on plants that are hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9, and includes many species from California, South Africa, and Spain. If you garden in a Mediterranean climate, this list is a must.

Silverhill Seeds P.O. Box 53108 Kenilworth 7745 Cape Town South Africa info@silverhillseeds.co.za www.silverhillseeds.co.za Online catalog

After reading just a few pages of this catalog, you’ll think you’ve gone to plant heaven, which you have, in a way—South Africa has an amazingly rich and diverse flora, and Rod and Rachel Saunders know it intimately. It’s impossible to list here the hundreds of genera offered, but if you crave aloes, proteas, pelargoniums, babianas, gladioli, lachenalias, romuleas, or moraeas, this is your catalog home. Almost every plant listing even includes a USDA Zone reference. The online catalog is useful and informative.

BULBS

Paul Christian Rare Plants P. O. Box 468 Wrexham LL13 9XR United Kingdom www.rareplants.co.uk Printed catalog $9.80

Paul Christian’s declaration that his is the “biggest and best bulbs and rare plant site on the Internet” may be true. It focuses on rare and unusual gardenworthy species that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. Christian is lavish with his information, and the descriptions include interesting cultural and historical background. Even if you don’t place an order (and you probably will), an hour spent perusing the Web site will enrich your horticultural education.

Odyssey Bulbs P. O. Box 308 Berrien Springs, MI 49103 269-471-4642 mail@odysseybulbs.com www.odysseybulbs.com Printed catalog $1

Russell Stafford, the proprietor of Odyssey Bulbs, is always looking for the rare and uncommon. His catalog will drive you crazy as you try to narrow your choices, but whatever you wind up ordering will make your garden sparkle through the seasons. Along with a vast selection of spring- and fall-blooming Crocus species, highlights in this year’s catalog include species of Allium, Corydalis, Colchicum, Iris, and Tulipa. In future catalogs, Russell plans to showcase native species, such as Dicentra cucullaria, Anemonella thalctroides, and Zigadenus elegans, along with exotics, such as Cyclamen, Crocosmia, and Cardiocrinum. Orders placed early receive a discount. The Web site offers photos and more information than the printed catalog.

Janis Ruksans Bulb Nursery LV-4150 Rozula, Cesu raj. Latvia Janis.bulb@hawk.lv Printed catalog $5

The bulbs that Ruksans offers may be more than the average gardener can absorb at a single sitting, but don’t let that intimidate you. The corydalis are jewel-like, the colchicums come in shades of yellow, mauve, lavender, and pale lilac pink, and the fritillarias are like creatures from another planet. Prices can be hefty, but you won’t find many of these bulbs anywhere else, unless you plan to climb the East Bozkirian Mountains of Turkey yourself. Get your order in early, as Ruksans will only accept those sent before August 1.

Telos Rare Bulbs P.O. Box 4147 Arcata, CA 95518 rarebulbs@earthlink.net www.telosrarebulbs.com

The slender catalog from Telos Rare Bulbs belies the exquisite offerings within. Organized geographically, the plant list covers a significant portion of the world’s landmass. Each bulb’s provenance is carefully noted, which provides insight into the plant’s preferred garden conditions. The Telos list is particularly strong in the genera Oxalis and Lachenalia, and boasts an excellent selection of native bulbs from western North America, such as Calochortus, Fritillaria, and Erythronium.

The Temple Nursery Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 Printed catalog $2

If you have been bitten by the galanthus bug, this is the nursery for you. The charming little catalog lays out all the snowdrops that you could ever want, and some you didn’t even know you wanted. Some are so rare that you are only permitted to order one at a time. As the proprietor, Hitch Lyman, says, “Be patient—good things take time.” The catalog is worth ordering for the descriptions and cultural information alone. No Web site or e-mail. H

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