Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mail Order - Gardens in a box

Mail-order Herb Plants….Garden in a Box

By now the avalanche of seed and plant catalogs has tapered off to a trickle. The mound of magazines beside the chair pulled up close to the fireplace is almost all in the recycle bin and your orders are winging their way via mail, internet or phone to your favorite herb and perennial companies. And you are sitting back and waiting on the boxes of lovely plants to come to the door. Let me ask you something. Ever been disappointed when you opened that box of plants that you paid a lot of money for? Sure you have. We all have. We have all fallen under the spell of the plant catalog with those big, glossy pictures of full size plants and the sexy description that always follows. And we are so sucked in to buying those pretty pictures. We anxiously await the UPS or FedEx dude to bring our treasures only to find very small and very UN-like the picture plants. Ah yes, we have ALL been there before.

Here are some tried and true suggestions when ordering from mail-order plant companies to insure that you are receiving healthy and happy plants. And that said plants will grow and prosper in your garden or in pots on your deck. First and probably most importantly, get to know the people who are growing the plants for you. That may mean letting go of the well-known plant company and finding a small, family owned company. Chances are when you call a smaller company; the owner will most likely be the person answering the phone. If not, there is without a doubt, that if you will leave a message, the owner will call you back as soon as she can wash the dirt off of her hands and get to the phone. Ask questions about the plants such as will they grow in my zone? How big are the plants at the time of shipping? This is important because in your mind you are seeing those slick pictures of full size plants and that’s what you want. Full size plants will not be what are in the box upon arrival. Plants should be, on average five to size inches tall if you had ordered say Rosemary for example. If you ordered Thyme the pot should be quite full and lush. Ask how the plants will be shipped? Which carrier is bringing it and what will they charge? We all know shipping rates are expensive and I truly do not see that changing anytime soon. However, be aware that some plant companies charge shipping and HANDLING which will be added to the total. Or some companies will add a few bucks to the total to cover the cost of the packing materials. Not all companies do this and the ones that do should indicate their practices somewhere on their website or in their catalog. Find out too, if the company you are ordering from is using recycled material. Getting a box full of packing peanuts can be quite irritating. But if plants are gently but firmly wrapped in newspaper and laid in a cardboard box sturdy enough to withstand the worst UPS driver’s handling then that might be more environmentally friendly.

Timing is everything when ordering via mail-order. We all get antsy in January and start placing our orders. Disappointment sets in when we find out we are not going to get our plants until the weather is just right in our part of the country. And that is as it should be. If a plant company is shipping plants in January then they had better be packing those babies in fur booties. Some companies do ship plants in winter but for the most part they are shipping to greenhouses and the greenhouse operator is aware they are coming and are willing to pay for the quicker shipping. Usually in that case an order was placed many months ago and the order has been divided up into multiple deliveries. When ordering from a website, utilize the comments section. Tell the company when you would like your order and if you will accept substitutions. Plant companies do not hire mind readers. So, if there is nothing noted in the comments section very likely someone is guessing when you would really like your plants.

Okay, it is now March going into April. The weather is balmy in much of the regions of the U.S. and the UPS and FedEx drivers are starting to make their deliveries with your precious plant orders. Now what? First, if you are expecting a plant order keep an eye out for a box. You never know where the driver might stick it. Front door, back door, basement door, garage door is all the same as “to the door” with delivery drivers so look for your box. Carefully pull or cut the tape away from your box using a knife or scissors. Don’t stab into the box. You might stab into a plant. Find the packing list or a copy of the order. There should be one attached to the outside of the box or tucked inside on top. Begin pulling out the packing material and unwrap every plant. Do this the same day it was delivered. Make sure you got what you ordered. Each plant should have a tag or possibly the name of the plant is written on the material used to wrap the plant. If it is fairly warm outside, put the plants in a shady area like under a deck or on a shady porch. Give them all a little drink and leave them alone for a few days. If it is brisk and cool outside, do this in your basement or garage. Look at each plant to be sure that there is a good stem with several leaves. Some plants hate to be in the dark, hate to travel, and are really fragile. The plant company does everything they can to insure a plant will make it to your house, but there are those times when stuff just happens. The stem breaks or there might be other damage. Yellow leaves do not count as damage. That’s the plants defensive mechanism kicking in. The leaves will fall off and new growth will not be far behind. Once the plants have settled in to their new environment and have hardened off they are ready to plant. Recycle the packing material and enjoy your new plants.
You may be wondering why we know so much about the mail-order plant business. It’s because that is what we do. For eleven years Possum Creek Herb Farm has strived to grow, sell, and ship healthy plants that will survive a trip in the back of the brown truck and arrive alive at your home. We are very conscientious of what it takes to wrap and pack one plant or a hundred and one plants so that breakage is at a minimum. You will not get over fed, over watered or plants sprayed with non-organic pesticides from us. Dinky little plants do not get shipped. It is just our rule and we hold ourselves to it. We do answer the phone when it rings and we do return messages if they are left on our voicemail or email. And we love to answer questions about the plants you want to purchase so ask us. And use that comments section on our website. Get to know us. You might just throw all of those catalogs away in January knowing that when you are ordering herbs and perennials from Possum Creek Herb Farm you are getting a little bit of Pat and Michele in every plant you purchase. Article excerpt March/April 2009 issue The Essential Herbal Magazine

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