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For The Love Of Gardening: Gardening Catalogs Still Reign



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Gardeners love gardening so much that they can’t keep their enthusiasm to themselves! At least, that’s what happened to me. Asked recently to write a little something for The Bee about gardening gloves, I couldn’t help thinking about all the other garden-related subjects that would be fun to write about. For instance, the wonderful catalogs that find their way, often unbidden, into my mailbox.

The first to arrive this year was from Breck’s (“Bulbs direct to you from Holland since 1818”). This company publishes two catalogs a year. The spring catalog features hardy perennials like hellebores and hostas. I have already succumbed to a new hosta with enormous leaves two feet long and eighteen inches wide. The name of this huge hosta is “Kingsize,” which is rather unimaginative! But the photo in the catalog shows a large man behind a really gigantic clump of hosta, so it must be pretty impressive. Hostas with very large leaves take about three years to come into their own but they are worth the wait. They can create real drama in places that sun-loving plants can’t tolerate.

Breck’s is an old reliable company. They want you to be happy and successful with your purchases and to that end, include a free planting handbook with every order. Look for the fall catalog sometime in May.

At the time I wrote A Passion for Daylilies: The Flowers and the People in 1992, Gilbert H. Wild And Son, Inc, was the largest daylily nursery in the world, and it is still America’s foremost grower of daylilies, iris, and peonies. I received their spring catalog recently. What I did not know back in 1963, when my first Wild catalog came in the mail, was that it was the beginning of a long, ardent love affair with daylilies and the Wild family of Sarcoxie, Missouri. I still have a few old cultivars from those early days: pale yellow “Whir of Lace” and “Kindly Light,” another pale yellow with narrow, spidery segments. I also love and still grow “Rocket City,” a big, beautiful orange with a darker eye zone and “Siloam Double Classic,” a fluffy pink one.

The story of this venerable nursery began when James Herman Wild was on a wagon train heading west. Somewhere along the way, the wagon broke down. Wild was dismayed at first, but as he looked around, he liked what he saw — open fields and wild flowers. He decided then and there to put down roots himself. His son also liked the landscape and bought a crate of peony roots which he planted around the house. They grew and prospered. So did irises and daylilies. Before long, the Wilds were in the nursery business. And they are likely to remain so for as long as gardeners love growing vigorous, healthy peonies, daylilies, irises, and other perennials.

Another mail order catalog I look forward to is Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. The owner, Annie Hayes, has a smile that says it all: “Gardening makes people happy!”

Along with a look at new possibilities for the garden, I learned from this year’s catalog that Annie is retiring. However, she introduces us to the equally upbeat Sarah Hundley, the new owner, of whom Annie says, “With endless drive, curiosity, a great sense of humor and a strong background in business and agriculture, I’m so glad the stars aligned to bring Sarah and me together.” I’m glad, too, and feel reassured that the Annie’s catalog will continue to offer every annual and perennial you can think of and more.

That last sentence hits the nail on the head: Mail order catalogs are of value to gardeners since many have specialties and/or carry plants not available at local nurseries. Best of all, they often arrive when the only thing you can do is dream about the garden.

Love your gardening, ’til next time!

Sydney Eddison will regularly be contributing a column in the upcoming weeks. She has written seven books on gardening. In addition, she collaborated with the Color Wheel Company, on The Gardener’s Color Wheel: A Guide to Using Color in the Garden.

For her work as a writer, gardener, and lecturer, she received the Connecticut Horticultural Society’s Gustav A. L. Melquist Award in 2002; the New England Wild Flower Society Kathryn S. Taylor Award in 2005; in 2006, the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s Bronze Medal. In 2010, her book Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older won the American Horticultural Society Book Award.

A former drama teacher, lifelong gardener, and Newtown resident for sixty years, Eddison’s love of the English language has found its most satisfying expression in four volumes of poetry: Where We Walk : Poems rooted in the soil of New England , 2015; Fragments of Time: Poems of gratitude for everyday miracles, 2016; All the Luck: Poems celebrating love, life, and the enduring human spirit 2018; and Light of Day: Poems from a lifetime of looking and listening, 2019.

Sydney Eddison and Phoebe —Hank Meirowitz photo
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