My Favorite Native Plant Catalogs

Oh, frabjous day! Callooh, callay! Sincerest apologies to Lewis Carroll, but I am very happy to have now in my possession the 2014 editions of my favorite catalogs for native plants, Prairie Nursery of Wisconsin and Prairie Moon of Minnesota. I am chortling in my joy.

prairie nursery 2014 catalog bigger

Prairie Moon has always struck me as the Moosewood Cookbook of garden catalogs, if you can draw an analogy between cookbooks and garden catalogs. Prairie Moon is earnest, benevolent, and determinedly non-flashy in its commitment to “spread the propagation and restoration of native plants.”

What’s great about this catalog is, first of all, the extremely wide selection of native plants – perennials, shrubs, trees, vines, ferns, grasses, sedges, and rushes. For example, there are over 60 species of sedge. Imagine!

In terms of plant descriptions, Prairie Moon has an admirable “just the facts” approach. There are basically no narrative descriptions, only a table which gives you information on  sun and moisture preferences, bloom times, etc. Many of Prairie Moon’s plants are of more interest to conservationists than to most gardeners, and the table notes which plants are suitable for a home landscape and are easy to grow. Plants that are rhizomatous or otherwise aggressive are also identified without euphemism.

Of their handful of new plants for 2014, I found the most intriguing to be the Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum). Beautiful, although the catalog notes that this plant can take many years to flower.

prairie moon 2014 catalog

Prairie Moon has a variety of seed mixes, but I usually buy their bare root plants. Buying bare root is very sensible and economical, but can be rather unsatisfying. When that box arrives we want adorable green baby plants, not a plastic bag stuffed with something that looks like dried squid.

Lately Prairie Moon has been making more of an effort to be market savvy. They now offer a number of their more popular garden plants in pots, but only if you order a tray of 38 for $119, an excellent value. There is even a hint of showmanship in the names of their seed mixes, such as the Pretty Darn Quick or Pollinator-Palooza mixes.

Prairie Nursery and its owner Neil Diboll have been pioneers in the use of native plants in home landscapes. They have a good selection of plants, not as extensive as Prairie Moon, but all of their plants are garden-worthy.

The Prairie Nursery catalog is more satisfying to peruse because it has a brief narrative paragraph about each plant. It may be silly, but I really like to have a narrative description along with the basic information and  a photo.

Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery
Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery

Plants in this catalog are helpfully organized by type of site: clay soils, medium soils, moist soils, dry soils, shade and semi-shade.

Prairie Nursery has gradually diversified its offerings since I started ordering from them. They now offer quite a few woody plants in two gallon pots. Also, while almost all the plants are native to the Midwest, some derive from other parts of North America. For example, they have Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) which is from eastern North America but can grow well in the Midwest.

While focused on straight species plants, Prairie Nursery offers a naturally occurring variety of Butterflyweed that grows well in clay soil (Asclepias tuberosa var. clay). While I do not have clay soil, I have found this variety of Butterflyweed to be the best adapted to my rich, loamy soil. Normally Butterflyweed prefers dry soils.

Butterflyweed
Butterflyweed

The 2014 Prairie Nursery catalogs has quite a few new plants. I was most interested in the naturally pink Coreopsis (Coreopsis rosea) and Bottle Gentian (Gentian andewsii). Though not a new plant, I also really want to find a place for Long Beaked Sedge (Carex sprengelii) in my garden.

Have you ever ordered from either of these catalogs? Where do you like to get your native plants?

 

47 Comments on “My Favorite Native Plant Catalogs

    • We do have some good local nurseries but their selection is a little limited when it comes to natives. I give them plenty of business anyway, though.

  1. Oh my….what a treat for you!!! They sound wonderful, and while the cold bites deeper you can have endless fun. The problem is self control for me!!! Enjoy.xxx

  2. Carex sprengellii, a favorite of mine, is the Prairie Dropseed of savannas and woodlands. See page 139 of my book, Design Your Natural Midwest Garden for a stunning photo It makes a graceful edging to a .shade garden.

  3. The only thing I wonder about people who sell native plants is, where do they get them. I don’t know that they do, but I worry about them collecting plants from the wild.
    I know where there are large drifts of yellow trout lilies here and they are beautiful, but I don’t know how long it takes them to bloom. The leaves are also interesting but since they are a spring ephemeral neither flowers nor leaves last long.

    • Both PM and PN grow all their own plants. I actually had a chance to visit PN’s nursery, which is in Central Wisconsin not far from where Aldo Leopold wrote Sand County Almanac.

  4. Here, we’re bravely considering a mini Minnesota Midget Melon patch project (MMMMPP). Creating invisible boundaries in public places is a challenge without exotic temptations. On the other hand, life is an experiment. We value observing animal behavior.

    For our experiment we are installing a small melon patch in the midst of a public housing parking lot. Our hypothesis: As knowledge of the melon increases, the melon rises in value and respect of melons, before they are melons of edible value, increases. Without regulation, it is suspected mini Midget Melons will become a protected parking lot ruderal species.

    Thank you for the ideal source of seed for Minnesota Midget Melons. Our apple trees, Honeycrisp, were also developed in Minnesota. We are linking back to your post for these resources. This is our first link back to a WP Post. Amendments or removal immediately on your request.

    In our neck of the woods we are consistently happy with Raintree Nursery (www.raintreenursery.com/), because they choose and test cultivars suited for our region, and for many Northern regions, with our type of warming and freezing throughout Winter. – The Healing Garden gardener

  5. My sheepish apologies. Single mindedly excited about a melon patch, and on a mission for Minnesota Melon seeds, I went into denial reading the words ‘native plants’. Botanically speaking, I understand this is an exact and important distinction. More quietly, my quest will continue for melon seeds. – The Healing Garden gardener

    • One thing these nurseries don’t have is stuff for edible gardening. However, I like ordering from different specialized catalogs, as it means I have more stuff to leaf through during the winter.

  6. I seem to be on Prairie Moon’s mailing list. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to get something from them if I can figure out where I have likely space. 🙂

    • That is always a challenge. Perhaps some of your least favorite plants could have an “accident”.

      • You betcha. It’s just finding the time to get out there and dig. And then remember what and where I planted two seasons before…

  7. I’ve ordered from both, and love them both. I actually like the no-nonsense but very informative descriptions in the Prairie Moon catalog. Loved your reference to dried squid in a plastic bag.

    • There are so many practical advantages to bare root, but planting them is sort of a leap of faith. Although I guess you could say the same about sowing seeds.

  8. I’ve always loved seeing the trout lilies out in the wild. One of those wonderful early spring treats. Usually there’s many more leaves than flowers, but even the leaves are interesting with their fun speckling.
    Will be checking these catalogues out as well. The butterflyweed looks very interesting. Might have a spot for it. I get a lot of my native and local plants from the Morton Arboretum annual plant sale. Their catalogue should be coming out soon.

    • I really recommend butterflyweed if you have a hot, dryish spot. I love the bright orange flowers, and if you are lucky you’ll get some Monarch caterpillars.

  9. Two of my favorites, too, Jason! I ordered bare-root Anise Hyssop plants from Prairie Moon and planted them in the fall. I’ll be amazed if they survive this brutal winter, but if not I’ll try planting in the spring. I also planted several varieties of seeds ordered from these companies. Our summer place is very near Prairie Nursery, and I’m planning to visit there this spring/summer. I agree–reading their catalogs, and dreaming about the plants and warmer weather, is a pleasure. 🙂

    • I did go to one of the Prairie Nursery open house days. Unfortunately it was brutally hot, but I was impressed even so.

  10. I don’t think a ‘native plant’ catalogue exists in the UK and certainly not in Italy, it would be great if there were some, I’m feeling pretty envious of you at this moment.

    • Yes. In Britain there is the beautiful catalogue of drawings by Ross-Craig from Kew. It is very complete for Britain. One must then hunt and search for a supplier. There are very old botanical gardens around Rome. A read on the web shows the oldest botanical garden (and herbarium) in the Western World nearby (http://www.ortobotanico.unipd.it/en/index.html). This is not the same as a convenient catalog. But once you know what you want, botanical gardeners can lead you to a plant specimen. – The Healing Garden gardener

      • Sadly Italians have lost their knowledge about gardening and most don’t know what is native and what not. I help with a small group in a local village and you really wouldn’t believe their lack of knowledge of the most basic things.

      • Padova is the oldest. Botanic garden in the world. But is nowhere near me and with a very different climate

      • Groups in Italy are rediscovering and reviving heirloom fruit trees among the older gardens. Preserving and and sharing our plant heritage is an heroic task. Remember, during the height of the Roman Empire, it was Spain that was the ‘bread basket’ of the world. Where oral traditions are forgotten, they are often preserved in herbariums, botanical gardens, illustrations, historical records and journals. Where these traditions are lost, one resorts to ‘botanical anthropology and archeology’. Field work of this nature is critically important. Plants represent our heritage, too. And tracing our invisible heritage to its source, except what remains in the form of a plant, is not easy. But we also can preserve our cultural botanical heritage through volunteering experiences and anecdotal stories. – The Healing Garden gardener

    • I can believe that with all the thousands of years of gardening and having plants arrive from around the Mediterranean and beyond it would be difficult to tell which plants are native. After all, non-natives in North American are generally considered to be those that arrived after the Europeans a mere 600 years ago, which is probably a lot easier to keep track of. But I find it really hard to believe that Italians have lost the knack for gardening.

  11. I planted trout lilies last year and am eager to see what comes up this spring. Our weather has been more reasonable than yours, but brutal compared to what we usually have.

    • I hope your Trout Lilies do well, the flowers look lovely. As far as being brutal, the low tonight is expected to be -17.

  12. I don’t know either of those catalogs, but your enthusiasm is infectious – I am going to try to get hold of a copy. The trout lilies were native to the property we bought 14 years ago, and they make my heart sing each Spring when they bravely appear. They seem to like the pond bank and an area behind an old stone wall.

    • You are so lucky to have an established patch of trout lilies! When we lived in Wisconsin our house had a patch of white trillium. Wish I had taken them with, but somehow that didn’t seem right.

  13. Lucky you and your new reading material ! I will check out these nurseries online. I grow some yellow trout lilies, and they do take time establishing themselves. Only plants with two leaves are old enough to flower, so keep your eyes open.

    • I get impatient with my plants but I’m thinking I will try to plant some and then forget that they are there for a couple of years.

  14. I have ordered many, many plants from Prairie Moon. In fact, most of the native plants in my garden are from Prairie Moon. I, too, prefer bare root plants. That Trout Lily is on my list! I will wait for the flower. I recently discovered Prairie Nursery and plan to give them a try before I run out of room. I love mail ordering plants because you get exactly what you want! I would love to see some highlights of the plants you have ordered in your garden. I’ll have to dig around your blog.

    • Getting exactly what you want is a big plus of ordering on line. Also you get your plants when they are ready to be planted, not when they are blooming – which is the only time a lot of garden centers will carry them. On the other hand, garden centers offer more immediate gratification by selling bigger plants.

      • Yes, it is nice to see what you’re getting but I really like planting smaller plants – less work and they seem to grow up better. I sorely miss the Auchobon in ME that sold small perennials for $2 a piece! Every Friday I would pick up $10 worth of plants to plant over the weekend – it was better than happy hour. But now here in NY I have planted so much in my much smaller garden that I need big plants just so they can get a foothold – ha.

  15. Not my part of the country, but I would be tempted by Pollinator Palooza! I am always so happy to receive my favorite garden catalogues just when winter is at its nastiest. Enjoy your reading and your dreaming!

  16. Prairie Moon is my go to spot for natives not found locally…I have yellow trout lily growing naturally in my meadow…they rebounded after it was excavated….I did a profile on them and yes you have to be very patient for them to grow and multiply…once they do they are stunning…I think I look forward to seeing them flower more than any wildflower.

  17. Good ‘source” information. I haven’t ordered from these catalogues, only because I’m looking for Gulf Coast natives. Any ideas?

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