Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Holloween

Things are absolutely still singing in the garden. I have some pale yellow irises re-blooming, though barely seeing any sun. Asters, sunflowers, roses, goldenrod, cosmos, monkshood, chrysanthemums, even phlox still in bloom. But the twinge to start dividing and moving plants is picking up. I think I'll have to wait another two weeks before I can stand to cut down some of those blooms. I did purchase a Salvia Elegans, Pineapple Sage the other day on my Red Hook Nursery District tour. There is no place for it, which means digging something up to place it. Hmmn, what will it be? I need more space. Maybe I can find a new location to garden in addition to the front yard. A post soon on my trip to Red Hook.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Green-wood Cemetery



street sign               cicada moult

This Sunday I spent the earlier half of daylight hours, in a post Holloween party night daze, walking through Green-wood Cemetery. As I strolled through the early-mid 19th century grounds for picnicking with the dead, I thought how peaceful it is in this park. It really is my favorite park and really is peaceful. But watch out, cars sometimes wrap corners pretty fast and silently as drivers aren't expecting walkers. Green-wood, noted so much for its famous dead and buried, brownstone Gothic arch, and parrots, has a nice selection of tree and shrub specimens. This photo is of a hydrangea I noticed while walking along. I have my favorite hydrangeas, and this isn't one of them, but it is amazing how pleasing this shrub can be in summer and then turn to match autumnal color. Pretty spectacular.

Hydrangea Flowers

As I neared the archway, I gazed upon hundreds of people about to take a tour of some kind and I became glad I was leaving as they were coming. That's just the thing about telling people about your favorite places -you don't want everyone to go. Whats that old saying, "Nobody goes there anymore, its too crowded." I'd say the stigma of death and the soccer obstacles we call headstones will keep it mostly quiet.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Hook Nursery District Tour

This Sunday was such a lovely day that I walked through Green-wood Cemetery to get over to the 5th Avenue entrance. Here I picked up the B63, took it to the B77 which I rode to Van Brunt Street for my Red Hook Nursery District tour. Now I must mention that this may not be the best time to gauge nurseries. However, they are open, have items for sale, and as I have stated before, autumn is an excellent time to plant. Plus, I was excited to visit three nearly new nurseries in one area. So why wait till spring? I will qualify my pros and cons with the statement that this was a preliminary visit, in an off season. New visits in spring!

Chelsea Garden Center:


The first thing you should know about the Chelsea Garden Center is that it is broken into two parts with two separate addresses. The main entrance, at 444 Van Brunt Street opens onto their plant yard. This time a year I do not expect much to be laid out here, but this nursery did have an assortment of shrubs and small trees. Chelsea is probably closest to the name "garden center" because it sells plants and all the extras like trellising, pottery, wooden planters, and other decor items. Also carried are an assortment of tools, fertilizers, and soil amendments.

What caught my attention was their decision to offer this season's remaining half and one gallon perennials at 50% off. This was the greatest surprise and delight. They had little in terms of selection, but the willingness to cut prices to reduce over-wintering of these plants makes this gardener happy. Next year I'll get there on the first day this deal is offered. I would say that their plants looked healthy and were well labeled. The selection of 1/2 and full gallon pots ranged in price from $16.95 to 19.95, although a few were $14. Hostas seemed to range higher, up to $24.95, and this higher pricing for hostas occurred at the other nurseries as well.


The other address (on the corner of Reed and Conover Streets) contained their large selection of ceramic pots and the greenhouse. The greenhouse has less houseplants than I expected given its size. A number of people I assumed were the staff did make an effort to say "hi" to me as I wandered the plant yard. I usually don't need the help and I am happy when staff leaves me to be instead of continually asking if I need help.

Pros: Currently fifty percent off perennial pricing! (making pots $8.50-10), lots of planters, pottery, trellis
Cons: Smallish plant yard, little selection of perennials
Prices: The highest in the district $16-24.95 1/2- 1 gallon perennial pots
Quality: Plants appeared healthy. Chelsea sells Monrovia plants, good plants but they are shipped great distances
Selection: Average to low (but it is late October)
Staff: Says hi, leaves me be


Afterward, I left busy Van Brunt (used to be so quiet on Sundays) to move on to 204-207 Van Dyke Street, home of Liberty Sunset Garden Center.

Liberty Sunset Garden Center:


My first impression was built on the confusing signage which told me the entrance was in two opposite directions. First, I went left, then right. Turns out right was, uh, right. As I head down the pier, I begin to see the plants lined up along its edge. A woman with a large dog says that I may go inside. On the right is a multi-tiered display of plants, from annuals to perennials, herbs to flowers. On the left, more of the same.


All kinds of plants are out and about with no apparent sense of order. Some plants are overgrown and bearing fruit (peppers, tomatoes). To confuse more, some plant pots have white numbered prices hand written on them, others correspond to a list the center has posted with a colored "dot" system. Finding the dots on the plants was not always possible. It was hard to tell if the pricing was current. Many plants were not labeled with description or names. There were shrubs, small trees, and some additional perennials around the back of the pier as well as an awfully inviting set of table and chairs.

This may be the wrong aspect to celebrate when discussing nurseries, but Liberty Sunset has the best view of any nursery, maybe anywhere. You start to understand the vibe when you lose yourself to the winds blowing in off New York Harbor. But wait, I can't be thrown off by this. Look at these plants, blown over by the wind, poorly labeled, overgrown, uncared for. Whats up with the expensive cone flower (new variety, I guess)?


But wait, there's a plant I've been looking for- Salvia Elegans, Pineapple Sage. Its still in flower, leggy as hell and probably root bound. I should get this at a bargain-its annual here in NYC. I better go inside.

Now if the view didn't blow you away, you may swoon at the romance of the 1850's warehouse this nursery decorates. Tall ceiling, wooden beams, big space. Operatic music flowing out of some unseen sound system. Tropical plants, well placed all around-is this a store at all? I head towards the sunlight pouring in through the wood and glass doors in the back. As I approach the sounds of falling water, I look to my right and see a man and woman surrounding an enormous bowl of food (smells good) in a dining area. Suddenly I feel I am intruding and turn back towards the front. I ask the friendly guy at the register if he could ring me out. He didn't know enough to tell me if the plant I was buying had overwintered in this location, but he could tell me that tropicals are the owner's real interest, and that that was him eating his meal. The clerk tells me I get two sages for the price of one, to which I decline because it may not survive the winter, and who wants two if that is the case. I quietly hoped he would offer me this one at half price then, but he did not. At $5 and change with tax, this was no deal for an annual that I could easily propagate from a stem I could easily have snipped. But hey, it was worth $5 just to see this place.

Pros: Great view, Civil War era industrial NYC romance
Cons: Confusing signage, plants disorganized, uncared for.
Prices: Reasonable 1/2 gallon perennials $12.99 - $16.99, 1 gallon perennials $14.99 - $22.99
Quality: Tropicals good, outdoor plants seemed they had seen better days
Selection: Average
Staff: eating lunch, friendly clerk at register


After a brief stop at Mark's pizza on Van Brunt, I jumped on the B61 for a few blocks. Off again at the handball courts, near Hamilton Ave. One block away at 45 Summit Street is Gowanus Nursery.

Gowanus Nursery:

This roving plant center had its start on 3rd Street in Gowanus Gardens or what have you. There were few customers when I arrived around 2 or 3 pm. The two staff were friendly and helpful from the start. I could see the difference in this nursery as soon as I walked through the gates.


There was a logic to the layout and all I had to do was inquire to understand it. As for price labels, a logic here too. A handy color chart enabled me to know the prices based on the color combination of a wooden stake and the letter "g" painted on it. Some stakes were light pink with a dark blue "g". Others were yellow, with a pink "g", and so on. I studied the chart along with looking at the plants' stakes and soon I began to remember prices based on the color combos without having to resort to the chart. All plants were labelled with names and descriptions, often from regional wholesale growers. The staff told me that in the future, plant prices will be right on the container.

The organic layout of the plants encouraged me to linger, which then led to getting into in depth conversations with the two staff members on hand. This was quite pleasant. Also, I didn't feel like I had to buy something for their time, always a relief as I have so little room in the garden as it is.

It appeared to me that the Gowanus Nursery endeavors to find the more unusual varieties of common perennials, keeping plant people happy who are always hoping to find something different. This nursery is doing what many larger out of town nurseries won't or can't do at this time of year -selling perennials! The surprise was that Gowanus had on average the lowest prices in Red Hook. One half gallon and one gallon perennials ranged from $11 to $16. Some plants ranged higher, such as the hostas, but overall most were modestly priced. They also had quart-sized perennials running under $10.

What they had little of was the garden center decor items, such as pottery, trellis, and wooden planters, or bags of soil amendments, like fertilizers, compost or manure. One note of caution, check their website before going next spring as this nursery may be moving once again.

Pros: Best average prices, unusual plant varieties
Cons: Few garden center items, like pots and bagged amendments
Prices: On average, Red Hook's lowest. 1/2 and one gallon perennials ranged from $11 - $16, occasionally higher
Quality: Healthy looking plants
Selection: Best selection in the neighborhood, some unusual varieties
Staff: Friendly, conversational, knowledgeable

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hooked on Plants

Who doesn't remember Red Hook when it was a bit sleepier, especially on weekends. Before Fairway, I used to have a studio on Beard Street. Alas, the prices rose and now I am adrift. But what's this, a virtual renaissance of Red Hook's empty lots. Nurseries you say, three?! Maybe for its empty lots, maybe for its new found vehicular traffic on weekends, but there it is-three plant and garden centers in Red Hook. Three?! That is unusual. I guess we need to call it a district now.

I have not been to the Gowanus Nursery since its inception on 3rd. I haven't been to Chelsea Garden Center since it was only in Chelsea. Liberty Sunset, well that's just too new, but I think I was staring at its plastic sheeted greenhouse for at least a couple of years. What I do realize is the dependence on cars to get to these establishments (B77, B71, and B61 buses go to the neighborhood).

Do you know one of those people who will drive all around town to save three cents on gas? Don't drive out of town for plants unless that's what its all about-the drive out of town, nice day in the country (or on the L.I.E.). As for price differences in Red Hook, I say the nurseries are close enough to each other to shop around. But really, what do you think a flat of annuals should cost in NYC? Let me tell you about 4.99 a gallon perennials I buy in Maine when I drop in. And prices are going up, for us and the retailer-the price of fuel alone is driving up the price of everything.

I expect that if each of these nurseries has a specific identity, they all may last. Specialize, have good service. Keep your plants watered. Twenty bucks for a flat of annuals isn't so bad. Twenty bucks ain't what it used to be. The souls who work out in the rurals, those folks who put seeds into flats in humid greenhouses need to make their dollar too. This is NEW YORK CITY! I expect twenty dollar flats to be near the bottom! When I was 19 I worked at Frank's Nursery & Crafts. We sold flats of annuals for 7.99-11.99. This was in 1989. What has happened to the price of everything in 18 years? How much is the real estate you garden on worth? This isn't the suburbs either, where you may have a 1/4 acre to fill with your annual mash up. The lots are small, no doubt not filled with annual starts. In places like NYC small things cost more than big things elsewhere. Either way, I don't hesitate to say, if you want the cheapest annuals, try the big chains.

I do gauge a nursery's prices, but not on a flat of disposable annuals-a luxury product. I gauge them on the price of a half or full gallon perennial and with the knowledge that some perennials will cost more than others, even if all in the same sized pot. I do this with the understanding that year after year, this plant will be with me, and divisible. Suddenly, that 14.99 dollar gallon seems on low side, 12.99 a downright bargain. I'd say that 12.99 is the minimum we may find locally. I suspect, too, that the price of the gallon is relative to the attention paid to it while it at the nursery.

An example: Hick's Nursery and Martin Viette Nursery. Both out on Long Island, about an hour's drive. Viette is on Route 25A in East Norwich. Hick's is on Route 25 in Westbury. Viette has higher prices (12.99-19.99) per gallon perennial, but the upkeep is excellent. Hick's has lower prices, say 9.99 to 14.99 the last time I visited (3 years ago), but their plants often looked abused, often unwatered, tipped over - the reason why its been so long since I have been there. Same plants species at each, but different prices. My observation is that Hick's is an understaffed, high traffic nursery in a slightly cheaper real estate zone. Viette has plenty of exceptional staff, less customer volume, and in a much fancier neighborhood. These differences account for differences in price.

If we want nurseries in our neighborhoods, we must visit them, go at the least three times a year-not counting when you buy Christmas trees. Ask for plants in the spring, summer, and definitely autumn. New York City is a downright excellent place to plant in autumn. Check out the Blogging Nurseryman to keep up on the difficulties of running a small, independent nursery. Its got to be harder in the real estate frenzy of New York City.

Yet what we do have in New York City is discerning, curious plant lovers. Our gardens are small, but come on, this is one of the best places to garden given our climate and rainfall. I hope these nurseries can develop a strong base of customers who support them because they are small, knowledgeable, and have unique offerings. I hope these nurserypeople consider the vast ethnic variety of New York City so that they can provide plants desired by people from all over the world. Good luck. I'll visit soon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Smashed Plants

And so my prediction of an early end to the season in my new plot on the side of the house came true. At least in part. Workers doing tasks on the landlord's building danced on the plants. Too bad, because if I had known when they were working, maybe I could have prepared. Well I learned an important lesson: don't plant right up against a house, leave three feet of working space.


Not that my garden is some kind of foundation planting, but just that there is so little space I needed to use every last bit of it. It could be said that every street-side garden in NYC is a foundation planting. Google foundation planting and all you seem to get are commercial articles about the project. Its maybe unfashionable to talk about it in the garden design crowd, but commercial landscapers do it by the truck load. I think it is funny how one of the articles mentions that people today like to garden privately in their backyards. This is true, but its also true that I like to garden in the only yard I have-the front. Its public and I appreciate the relationship I develop with the people in the neighborhood via this activity. I'll do a post on this in the future.

Anyhow, make it possible to get to your house if work may need to be done, sparing yourself the agony of smashed plants. Or pull out the plants before the worker's arrive. So as not to end on a bad note, here is a picture of my "Sheffield Pink" Chrysanthemum, doing well in its first year in the garden.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Our Weeds: part 1

The topic of weeds is so broad that it will be hard to blog about it in one post. I am putting together a catalogue of weed photos so that you can access them for identification. Please email nycgarden@gmail.com or comment about factual corrections so that I can update the listing.

So what is a weed, after all? I believe it was Emerson who stated that a weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. It seems that this future virtue will be in the eye of the beholder. I once grew out a lawn (meaning I did not mow -to the neighbor's displeasure) around a house I had rented just to see what would rise up. Seven flowering plants in the lawn I had catalogued that summer or as clear to the neighbor's eye- seven weeds. I am no enemy of plants so that certain "volunteers", as my grandmother calls them, are always visible in my garden. Fortunately this means little to my Brooklyn neighborhood where weeds and garden plants seem to equal each other in number. Weeds are the green mass around the concrete mass.

I allow in my current garden a selection of weeds that I feel I can manage, namely Dayflower Commelina Communis and Smartweed Polygonum caespitosum. They self-sow each year, have pleasant visual attributes, and are easy to pull should they get out of hand. I allow them to fill in blanks the way another gardener may with annual seeds bought at the garden center. Now I must admit I also have a knack for picking perennial plants for my garden that become "weedy." It took me two years to eradicate plume poppy Macleaya cordata from the garden. At times it seems that everything I like is weedy in the garden: Solidago, Spiderwort, Perennial Ageratum, Maximillian Sunflower, and Boltonia. It has become a matter of learning how to manage these perennials so that they do not behave like weeds. So even cultivated plants become weeds in the garden, and often they do so out of the garden.

Do we think the same of a weed that pushes through our sidewalk as we do of a weed in the garden, farm or park? I think the context with which you engage these plants gives them their offensiveness or virtue. For instance, if you are trying to tackle a weedy back lot that has not seen the sustained attention of humans in years, you will curse the perniciousness of certain plants till your death. A friend in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn has been battling morning glory vines since they moved into that house 11 years ago. Decades of seeds sitting in the soil, simply waiting for the right stimulus to sprout. Weeds to the farmer hit his bottom line, infiltrate his harvest, and so are cursed, yet some commercial crops are weeds themselves. In parks, especially wilderness parks, the weeds are often called "invasives" or "aliens". Yet the native plants found in many parks may be considered weeds to the farmer or in our home garden. As a way of distinguishing, maybe it is that weeds seem to inhabit our most cultivated landscapes, whereas invasives inhabit our more natural places. No matter though, because all these plants have the ability to adapt to and exploit their new environment. Some will be weeds in your garden and some invasives will be your beloved garden plants. What's a gardener to do?

We have to make choices for our gardens. Its worth checking online lists of weeds and invasives so that you can make informed choices, learn about the habits of these plants so that if you do plant them, you may try to keep them under control. The New England Wildflower Society has a great website with lots of information, including their definition of native, exotic, and invasive plants. Also, check out the United States National Arboretum site which, at the bottom of the page, has a state by state listing and also several links to other organizations regarding invasive plants.

Certain plants are illegal to cultivate in certain states and often these will not be for sale in those states. I have not found a listing of illegal plants for New York State, but state government has established a council, the Invasive Plant Council of New York State. I believe, as in some other states, that sales of certain garden plants (ex. Purple Loosestrife, Japanese Barberry) will be made illegal in the state of New York. A list has recently been put together by Suffolk County.

Ultimately, I have mixed feelings about the whole issue. Weed versus cultivated plant, native versus alien invasive. I am concerned about the ecosystem disruption brought on by the non-native invasive plants. It has become a landscape management crisis. However, species do migrate on their own and as companions to other species (like us). When we think about this we need to understand that it is human need and desire that creates both invasive plant problems and native plant conservation. We want the native flora to flourish and to have our cultivated plants. How can we choose? Should we?

I really like the Connecticut Botanical Society website. I have linked to it many times in this post. They have a wildflower listing that includes wild-growing plants that we would consider garden plants and weeds in addition to natives. Great photos, clear layout, great site. You can search via flower color or plant family. Great for identification. Also linked to many times for great images and information is missouriplants.com. While the site specializes in Missouri plants, many grow in our own area. Superb for identification.

Well a little post on our weeds has become a long post on invasives. Surely there's more to come on that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Where Bees Sleep


I am getting ready to put together a longer post on weeds. Until then, I want to relay to you my utter fascination with the beds for bees. Tonight, as I passed the garden's sunflowers, I noticed one bee, then many sitting on the disk. I almost couldn't believe what I was looking at so that I had to blow on them to see if they would move. It took me a few minutes to realize I should try to get some photos. I had to use the flash, which disturbed them a little. But then back to sleep they went.




My landlord set up a date with a siding contractor, coming soon. Despite promises to the contrary, I fully expect major destruction to the garden wherever the workers will be. Small spaces, ladders, bootfeet, and old shingles tossed to the ground pretty much spells the end of the growing season to me. With that in mind, here's a shot of the garden from this morning.


The garden in early June


The garden now.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Farms go Vertical



According to this article at MSNBC, architects are planning for vertical tower farms in cities (or elsewhere). Seems a little too technological for my taste, but it is arguable that many of our vegetal foods already do come from horizontal greenhouses. Check out this site: verticalfarm.com.

My wife and I had a vegetable garden in a
community plot in Madison, Maine in the summer of 2006. Its a short season up there.
I bought Early Girl and some Roma-type plums tomatoes and I was lucky to harvest any before I had to leave at the end of August. I bought large-sized starts, maybe 18 inches tall, to get me going. So what do I know when I read that a company, Backyard Farms, Inc. (previously known as U.S. Functional Foods, LLC), decided that this is a great place to open a huge greenhouse complex to grow tomatoes, year round! Well, central Maine does have some economic woes and so, no doubt, the government there gave the company some tax incentives and excellent electricity rates. To grow fruit of this sort in a greenhouse without the aid of the sun (essentially 1/2 the year) requires a lot of artificial light. It requires pumps and fans and irrigation. It requires heat. A lot of energy goes into this type of production.

Despite all this, central Maine is now providing much of New England with hothouse tomatoes year round. Could it really be cost effective? How do those tomatoes taste? I read one report that Whole Foods is carrying them. The press has been good, though mostly scraped from the Associated Press report. Check out these links: Kennebec Journal, The Maine Democrat, Global Good News.

Would you like to see 18 story greenhouses in New York City?

Do check out the book Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. I really enjoyed this book and it is worth your time. I am thinking twice about all those potatoes I have ever eaten after reading Pollan's description of an ordinary Idaho farmer's agricultural practices in the field. This is simply a great read on the interelationship of humans and plants.

It happens to be raining tonight and it is about time. Its been a bit droughty the last six weeks or so. The plants are doing fine, but the trees have given in to some leaf drop. Tonight we did see some lightning. You know that it is said to be good for the plants. Oh they look so healthy after a good thunderstorm. I'll continue to think it even though I always suspected it wasn't true. Its just that when you get some lightning, you often get some good, deep-soaking rain. However, and this is just some foolish thinking, I do think that plants know when it is going to rain and prepare for it. So that beside the deep-soaking rain, they were also prepared for it, not taxed by it like they may be from the sprinkler or hose.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

NYC Closes Sprink Creek Composting Facility

It is hard for me to believe that NYC could close Brooklyn and Queens only compost facility - Spring Creek. Not only is composting an important waste reduction activity, it has been a great boon to gardeners across the boroughs of this city. I have been going to Spring Creek for a few years now to supply my garden with fresh and FREE compost. As much as I can cart away. Let me tell you this was a busy place on the giveaway weekends. The facility was well staffed with DSNY employees directing cars in and out of the facility and helpful with directions should drivers feel disoriented. To be sure, this is not an area many people go often. Spring Creek is on the north side of the Belt Parkway, NW of JFK airport. But its easy to get to (I take Linden Blvd., aka Route 27, the whole way) and no problem once there.  

Apparently the DSNY has not been able to renew their operating permit. I do not know why this is the case. They say they are searching for new facilities. Meanwhile, there are two other sites to pick up fresh compost this fall, at the Fresh Kills Facility on Staten Island and at the Sound View Facility in the Bronx.

Last year DSNY gave away at Spring Creek great brown paper leaf bags. They also have compost bins at discounted prices for sale. Check out the schedule for this years compost giveways. Also check out the schedule for leaf pick-up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fall is the time


Fall is the time I most want to plant. Many would suspect that its the spring, after the long winter. But autumn I think is the ideal time, especially in New York City. In the typical Brooklyn autumn, I like to start my transplanting around Halloween and often after that date. Given my garden's southern exposure and the warm temperatures we have been having over the last few years, my asters, sunflowers, roses and some annuals are still flowering at that time. I have years when these plants are still going in December. So it is that I hate to disrupt this display by tramping all over everything and digging things up. I want to wait until the last moment, and keep my eye on the coming weather. These days I'm just thinking about moving things, in November, I'm probably doing it.

Fall being a time to garden, transplant, and to find new plants, I like to go to nurseries. However, these days nurseries are filled with pumpkins, hay bales, and assorted autumnal decorations. Maybe they have bushels of apples for sale and hay rides in a wagon. Even my local nursery, and I am lucky to have one, brings out the decorations at this time of year.

J&L Landscaping on the corner of Caton Ave. and E7th St. in Brooklyn

We are all familiar with the Christmas trees and wreaths sold at nurseries in December. I am sure that many of you have noticed the creep of holiday sales into the fall planting season. Now I don't blame the nurseries. After all, they are businesses trying to make a buck. Most non-gardeners buy plants in late Spring and summer-when its on their minds. Gardeners of course are a different breed altogether, its always on their minds. So the nurseries succumbed to a business model that offers nostalgia and sentiment over plants. Check out the Blogging Nurseryman.

Part of the issue is that many nursery plants just look like hell in their pots at this time of year. Management wants them to be out of sight of future customers. Many days seen without water, blown over in windstorms, root bound in their pots. Who'd want to buy them. I just miss the days of sales, when a good gardener could resurrect almost any plant under duress, and get a good deal or two. The industry is such that retail nurseries will only get shipments of what the wholesale growers are pushing. In fall, you know its the Chrysanthemums. To be fair, most nurseries are still offering their selection of trees and shrubs until frost. Those are out past the 1/2 acre of pumpkins on hay.

As with all things lustful, there is the Internet. Gone are the days of mail order plants. I remember my first shipment from a catalog. Some dehydrated roots of who knows what! How disappointing to open your shipment of new plants and find three brown twigs. I was sure they were dead already, but then I was a kid and didn't know the first thing about it. The Internet changed all that. Glorious photos, all year round, of full healthy plants. Easy ordering and easy shipping.  Suddenly it was possible to get healthy, although small, plants fresh on your doorstep at the time to plant. Every plant I have ordered has survived, even thrived. White Flower Farm was the source for my Russian Sage, my Boltonia, and my Aster "Monch". All are very healthy. I also got nice lilium bulbs from Select Seeds, but get on it early as they do sell out. The only worry we have is whether or not we can be there when the FED EX guy shows up.

If you can tear yourself away from the Internet, go on over to your local nursery this fall and buy a plant (if you can find one). While your there, pick up a pumpkin. Still can't get those online.