Hide Your Credit Cards: The 2016 Catalogues Have Landed!

Reading time 7 minutes

In parallel with the mercury in my thermometer, the spring seed, bulb and plant catalogues are starting to drop, drop, drop onto the doormat. A film of thin, clear plastic is all that stands between me and the treasures proffered within. Even in my Night Nurse-saturated state I feel excited by the prospects for my garden in 2016. I will scour the latest brochures’ pages from front to back, two or three times, before beginning to mark my choices in ink. This year my seal of approval is a scruffy, yet jaunty, Barbie-pink star.

The first catalogue through the letterbox was sent by Burncoose Nurseries, a fine Cornish establishment owned by the same Williams’ family that gifted gardeners of the temperate world Camellia x williamsii hybrids, as well as countless rhododendrons and magnolias. Burncoose is one of those rare nurseries that stocks a huge range of unusual perennials and tender shrubs as well as prodigious collections of camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias, as you might expect. Although their main business is mail order, I am fortunate to pass by the nursery a couple of times each year, picking up rare beauties such as Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius Silver Jubilee’, Tradescantia ‘Purple Sabre’ and the New Zealand rock lily, Arthropodium cirratum ‘Matapouri Bay’. This year I am sorely tempted by a new postbox-red salvia called S. ‘Embers Wish’ from New Zealand (below); coral-red Crocosmia ‘Limpopo’ and pink Agapetes ‘Ludgvan Cross’ AGM, a faintly reptilian and other-worldly-looking evergreen shrub which requires acid soil (uh-oh!).

Salvia 'Embers Wish'
Salvia ‘Embers Wish’, offered by Burncoose Nurseries

For the last few seasons the bulk of my bulb orders have been going to Jacques Amand (Living Colour Bulbs). Their range is extensive, particularly if one is in the market for something unusual or unpronounceable (“Sprekelia formosissima anyone?”, “Well thank you, just the one!”). Having had rude success with pleiones (I am still not exactly sure what I am doing right) I fancy trying out purply-pink P. ‘Aurita’ and buttercup yellow P. ‘Forrestii’. The prices are eye-watering at first glance, but equate to less than three London pints, which is my comparison-cum-justification of choice for anything less than £30. (Should you not be au fait with the cost of a London pint, it’s currently in excess of £5 in most establishments where I live.)

I am planning to line the narrow pathway to Polegate Cottage with a collection of sun-loving nerines. Like the pleiones, they have indicated that they get on with my style of gardening, so I am going to encourage them with the purchase of four more varieties: N. ‘Isabel’ (deep-pink); N. ‘Ostara’ (just-pink); N. ‘Companion Mr John’ (purple-red); and N. ‘Vesta’ (shell-pink). One can spend an awful lot of money on nerines, which is a risk if one’s planting outside, so I am going for a careful balance of quantity versus choiceness.

Nerine bowdenii 'Pink Triumph' (Photo: Rose Cottage Plants)
Nerine bowdenii ‘Pink Triumph’ (Photo: Rose Cottage Plants)

Last on today’s wonder list is Sarah Raven. Judging by the size of this spring’s catalogue, business is booming at Perch Hill. Sarah opens her catalogue with dahlias, a very personal selection centred around her favourite palette of apricots, corals, oranges, plums, aubergines and decadent reds. It’s here that I stock up on tubers of my favourite Dahlia ‘American Dawn’: get in quick because they sold out in 2015.

Tickling my fancy this year are D. ‘Magenta Star’ (very much for the back of the border); D. ‘Mambo’ (reddish-mauve anemone-flowered dahlia) and, talk of the town introduction, D. ‘Darkarin’ which Sarah describes as having flowers the colour of a ‘beautiful, faded velvet cushion’. Spot on. A dahlia I love the look of but am struggling to place is D. ‘Labyrinth’. Sarah admits she never thought she’d like it, but it reminds her of the Queen Mother’s hat. Those romantically ruffled petals are straight from a milliner’s sketch book. Last on my list is a variety I admired at The Salutation last year, the wonderfully relaxed and irreverent D. ‘Walzing Matilda’.

Dahlia 'Labyrinth' (Photo: Peonies and Posies)
Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’ (Photo: Peonies and Posies)

The challenge now is to work out how to smuggle all these bulbs and plants past Him Indoors. With building work looming all spending is under the closest of scrutiny, despite my pleas to have shoes, shirts and plants excluded from the austerity. We may not have door knobs, but we will have dahlias. All unnecessary consumption is met with a deep, bank manager-esque frown. On top of that the garden at Polegate Cottage will be completely off-limits, which means, yet again, that the dining room at The Watch House will have to serve as a temporary nursery. Still, if God had meant us to be sensible or frugal he wouldn’t have invented credit cards, would he?

I’d love to hear what’s caught your eye in the spring catalogues and how you plan to spend your precious gardening budget this year. TFG.

Spring bulb, seed and plant catalogues, January 2016


Categories: Bulbs, Flowers, Musings, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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23 comments On "Hide Your Credit Cards: The 2016 Catalogues Have Landed!"

  1. I have only seen Baker Creek, and it sure didn’t rival these. My pulse quickened just reading this post, but I’m thinking that maybe your budget is a just a little bit bigger than mine. Now, I have to go look up some of the ones you mentioned so I can have garden envy a little more. At least that’s a good way to occupy myself on a really cold, gray day with a snowstorm blowing in tonight. Happy shopping, and you could always carry those bulbs around in the trunk of your car until it’s time to plant. 🙂

    1. That’s an idea Judy! I already have a few things squirrelled away in the house next door, but then, like a squirrel, I forget about them! We missed the snow that crossed the country over the weekend and still haven’t had a frost. I am so hoping we can get away without subzero temperatures this year, but I think we’ll be lucky.

  2. I love the seed catalogues, but rarely order from them. My spring plant orders are not usually very large, unless my Mother is going to the Royal Botanical Gardens spring plant sale, then I send her with my wish list. The fall catalogues with the spring bulbs are my downfall. I will put in 4 or 5 separate orders, panic sets in in the fall.

  3. I’ve already put in a too big seed order with Chilterns (60 packets on Black Friday with a 30% discount!) but somehow I still seem to be looking at everyone else’s seed catalogues as voraciously as ever.
    And I spent a very happy time this morning looking at Bowden’s ferns and hostas. Nothing ordered yet, but I know it’s only matter of time. Thank goodness I’m back at work…

  4. (It amazes me, the cost of tying one on in the UK. I’d love to become a soak, but I simply have never been able to afford it.) Do you cut your dahlias, or leave them on the plant? I love dahlias in pictures–so much variety–but I find them incredibly awkward in a vase, with that big sideways bloom creating an instant flat spot. Queen Mum’s hat is right. Maybe I’m just planting the wrong ones…

    1. Hey Tina! I had to look up ‘tying one on’, but now I know what it means. You learn something new every day! I don’t really have enough space to grow dahlias for cutting, but I’d love to. If you follow the peonies and posies link you’ll find some lovely professional arrangements using ‘Labyrinth’, although generally I find smaller dahlias and cactus types easier to work with at home. Have a lovely weekend.

  5. Hi Dan,
    I have already ordered some lilies – Golden Splendour. I know I should have planted them in autumn but winters here are sometimes really cold with temperatures -20*C. Thus I have decided to plant them in spring – they will bloom a bit later ( late July or August ) but I in this way I can be sure they won’t die because of the frost. Now I am waiting for the delivery of my lilies 🙂 .
    Every year in February there is international garden fair in Poznan ( the closest big city to my place ) . The fair is called GARDENIA and of course I am going to visit it again and purchase some new hellebores and hepaticas for my grden.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Have a look at the last year’s event:
    And the one from 2014

    1. Looks like a good show Paul. I have been growing ‘Golden Splendour’ for many years. You will see some of them in the lead image of this post from 2014: http://frustratedgardener.com/2014/07/20/jungle-warfare/. I think you are absolutely right to plant in spring now and you will glad of the flowers come late summer. I keep planting lillies as late as July to give me flowers through until October. And I will also plant more ‘Golden Splendour’ this spring to make my clumps larger. The scent is amazing – strong and spicy. You won’t be disappointed.

      1. Thanks for your reply and the link, Dan. I wish I could plant lilies as you do until July, but in October we usually have early frost up to -5*C, so the best time for me to plant them will be April. I hope they will grow well.
        I can’t wait for the scent .
        A nice evening and Sunday for you and Him Indoors . 🙂

  6. Lovely post – got me drooling, and perhaps spending later this weekend? Unfortunately in this household I am not only the one who buys the plants, but also the one with the bank-managerish frown. A real schizophrenic struggle is coming on! I love D. ‘Labyrinth’ in particular and was forced to have a quick look at Sarah Raven’s website.

    1. Now that is a challenge; spending and holding the purse strings! Him Indoors would keel over if he knew how much I spent on the garden. The groans of ‘not more plants?’ begin around April time and continue until October when ‘not more bulbs?’ kicks in! Let me know if you give Labyrinth a go. Look forward to reading more about your lovely garden this year.

  7. It’s indeed a dangerous time of year . . . had my first catalog arrive Friday at work . . . I didn’t dare open it, as nothing else would have been accomplished the rest of the afternoon.

      1. Two girl friends and I are going to dedicate part of our shared garden to the “Three Sisters”: corn, beans, squash. I’m hoping to include Rattlesnake Pole Beans as part of the project, as well as Painted Mountain Corn (the colors are stunning). . .but I need to do some research on the latter as I’m not sure how it will do in a warm climate.

  8. Looks like fabulous fun, we don’t really get seed catalogues here in South Africa. If we did I would never do nything in the garden, just sit in the shade and order seeds. Anyway most of my gardening budget this year is going on rain water tanks to try and keep my garden alive through winter. Should have done it years ago.

    1. That sound like lots of work and expense, but a good investment. I don’t buy too many seeds as I don’t have space to grow them and invariably end up with more plants than I know what to do with. Living in South Africa you must be able to grow lots of wonderful things Jem?

  9. Excellent range of plants.. We bought a couple of their boarder collections to get our garden started and a handful of plants died and they replaced them without question and with no formality whatever. Good customer service. A bit pricey.

    1. Yes, I agree they are not cheap, however they do grow everything themselves and I know they don’t make a fortune from the business. Offering such a diversity of plants is not the most economic model! I am very happy to hear that your plants were replaced without quibble. That’s great service indeed.

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