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Garden Catalog Shopping

While you're flipping through catalogs and browsing websites, remember these tips to ensure you pick the best plants for your garden.
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Mail-order gardening can be a great way to increase the variety of plants in your garden. Often it's the only way to get the exact species or cultivar you want, especially if you don't have many diverse garden centers in your area. In fact, at first you may feel overwhelmed by choices once you enter the world of gardening-by-mail. As you shop, follow these tips to ensure you choose the plants and seeds that will satisfy you and be successful in your garden:

  • Read descriptions with an eye for the facts. Don't be distracted by adjectives singing about a plant's beauty. Pay at least as much attention to the list of growing requirements: sun or shade, wet or dry soil, hardiness zone, etc.
  • Also take note of the expected mature size of the plant, to be sure it will continue to fit in your garden.
  • Look for tips about companion plants or garden design. Many catalogs now include special symbols that indicate certain uses of the plants. They may show that the plant is good for a butterfly garden; that it attracts birds; that it smells good; that it has won an award; and more.
  • Look for botanical Latin names to be sure you know what you're ordering. Common names are variable.
  • Be careful about color. Publishers and printers try very hard to recreate true color in printed images, but it can be difficult. Flower color can look different depending on whether the photo was taken on a gloomy morning or in the harsh midday sun. If you're nervous about color, double check the image in the catalog with a few books. Be sure you'd be happy with any of the shades if they vary.
  • Know the lingo. If you aren't sure what a term means in the descriptions, call the company and ask. The customer-service people will be happy to clarify just what those words indicate.