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 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 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.
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.
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?