Winter Entertainment? Try Mail Order Catalogs

ChiloquinNews article 12/13/2010

I have been pouring over garden (and other) mail order catalogs for years. For 30 years at Lake Tahoe and now for almost 4 years in Chiloquin, I have lived where the closest nursery was 30 miles away, closed in the winter, and didn’t have the variety of plants that I coveted anyway. Used to be that I read them all, but after all this time I’ve become a bit more selective, though there are still a few that I read just because they are so pretty. And I do prefer print catalogs to the internet for a cozy winter night’s entertainment, but now I use the web to research any interesting possibilities and then place the order on the web.

Shopping for our Chiloquin climate is a bit of a challenge. We don’t really fit the definition of Pacific Northwest, though that is where we are. It’s always assumed that it’s a moist, overcast, reasonably mild climate, with cool summers—not us! We don’t fit Mountain and Prairie regions because we don’t have the snow cover of the mountainous regions, or the heat of the prairies. We certainly don’t fit Pacific Southwest, which is a pity because I’d love to grow some of those plants. Perhaps Intermountain West covers it, but although we are in there, that region actually extends almost as far south as Mexico, east into Texas, and includes many different climate zones.

I had to stop a lot of the seed catalogs. There are dozens of them. Now I just get the Territorial catalog, because it’s an Oregon company, and has a good variety of seeds. I did get a Totally Tomatoes catalog last week though and couldn’t resist looking through it—which really is ridiculous because we all know how well tomatoes don’t grow here. Ronniger Potato Farm has a fun catalog if you’re into potatoes, which do grow remarkably well here.

One Green World (an Oregon company) and Raintree (a Washington company) sell almost an identical range of plants but I enjoy both their catalogs and can happily pass a couple of hours with one. I have bought a lot of plants from both of them over the years, but once again, got to read carefully because many of their plants are for the Pacific Northwest, and get frozen out by our late spring freezes.

Forest Farm is a gem of a catalog. It’s THICK, and I use it like a reference library. Their nursery is over in Williams, not far from here (though with much milder weather) and they sell thousands of plants. Close by is Goodwin Creek Gardens and in Talent, Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery, both of which have much thinner catalogs but with some fascinating selections.

High Country Gardens has wonderful plants, but beware—they are Pacific Southwest plants and many will not survive our winters. It is not the cold that does them in, but the wet. Those plants grow in sandy soil that dries out quickly, even in winter. They can’t tolerate our pumice soil that turns into something resembling a quicksand bog in the winter. They also like much hotter summers than we can provide.

For dreaming, I love to peruse Logee’s Tropical Plants, for beauty, Heirloom Roses, for wonderful photos, White Flower Farm, and for bulbs I seem to have settled on John Scheeper’s.

Then there is one that doesn’t have a printed catalog that I like to browse anyway. Wallace W Hansen’s Northwest Native Plants has great information on native plants, and a monthly online newsletter that I really enjoy reading.

There are lots more, of course, but these will provide many hours of winter entertainment—happy reading!

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