Gardening - March, 2015By Rhea Hamilton-Seeger
Old catalogues a valuable resource
Like many gardeners, I enjoy pouring over the catalogues that land on my desk during the dark days of January. I salivate over the wonderful pictures of vegetables and lust after the blooms. I have saved a few of my catalogues to use as reference guides and I have found that as time goes on and new varieties are developed that these old catalogues serve as a resource when identifying older plants. (It could also be because I have a few issues with throwing anything printed away.)
So it was with great sadness I listened to the interview with Dugald Cameron of Gardenimport on CBC last month. They are retiring after 32 years of supplying out of the ordinary perennials and bulbs. Their mail order business will be sorely missed. Their selection was spectacular and their catalogues were beautiful. Gardenimport also offered Suttons Seeds from England. And for anyone wanting that little bit of something different, seeds are the way to go.
When I heard the interview with Dugald Cameron I quickly checked my catalogue box and I had saved a back issue. The cover of Spring, 1994 featured my favourite yellow rose, Charlotte, by David Austin. Unfortunately I purged my collection and only kept this catalogue. While rooting around I pulled out my 1998 Cruickshanks, The Garden Guild, catalogue. Started by Clarence Cruickshank in 1925, the company specialized in fine and rare bulbs. Right from the beginning, Cruickshanks became the exclusive agent for the Van Tubergen Bulb company in Lisse, Holland. Van Tubergen were the leaders in the introduction of new and unusual bulbs.
Mr. Cruickshank was 90 when he finally decided to stop working 9 to 5. He and his family still offered bulbs and plants from the Garden Guild location at Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto and later from Scarborough. Two passionate gardeners took over the business, Laura Rapp and Linda Ledgett. Annette McCoubrey soon joined them and each year they expanded their offering including garden accessories that I loved too. The catalogue was pure eye candy, great photography of wonderful new plants that we all needed in our gardens. But through a series of takeovers the firm was swallowed and then dissolved. Their last catalogue was Summer/Fall 2001.
The oldest catalogue I have is a reproduction of a 1940 E.D. Smith and Sons from Winona, Ontario. It is actually a reference guide of the trees and plants they grew in Winona. They also produced jams, pickles and canned produce at their factory on the same site as the orchard and nursery. A wee bonus in this issue is the page of photos of from 1895 of the employees packing trees and plants for shipping.
Today seed companies and plant nurseries are offering their catalogues on-line. When cruising around websites I check the home pages first to see where a grower is located when the site was last updated. If I don’t see hours for 2015 or plans for the upcoming season I steer clear.
On-line catalogues do not always offer photos but it is easy to ‘google’ the plant name to find a picture.
When I started buying plants, the best selection was by mail. Clear bags with a numbly twigs, bits of root or bulbs, all nested in peat moss would arrive to be carefully nurtured. We have a wonderful smoke tree that came as a wee twig. We also have a patch of thornless blackberries from Manitoba which are still producing tasty berries every summer.
Shipping has improved. Plants are now boxed with dividers and arrive green and ready to be planted. I can still picture my first order from Richters. I opened the box and six lovely herbs greeted me, green, and in perfect condition. Now this style is the norm and, if you can imagine, even improved upon!
There is a massive nursery/grower market supplying plants to the big stores in the spring. They focus on the most interesting colours and flowers. If you are looking for something different you need to search out the smaller growers. Those that offer mail-order work hard to make sure your plants arrive in good condition. Better yet, take a day trip and seek out these sites. Just seeing the gardens at the growers gives you a better idea how to situate your purchases. Top of my list is Lost Horizons near Acton, WildFlower Farm near Shomberg and of course Falhaven Farm on Orchard line out of Goderich and Riverend Nursery by Wroxeter.
Just a wee note to let those tree lovers out there know my Ohio Buckeye seeds are sprouting. So far I have 23 shoots and more to come. I have my gingko seeds potted up and I am faithfully watching for any signs of life. From what I have read it may take a lot longer for them to sprout. I will keep you posted. In the meantime, get your catalogues out until we are happy in our gardens again.◊
|Rhea Hamilton-Seeger and her husband live near Auburn. She is a skilled cook and gardener.|