Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Delights of Mail Order

Lambley Dry Garden

I have to admit I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to plant mail order catalogues. Even if I'm not ordering I love to leaf through those catalogues and read up on the virtues of new or newly included plant varieties. I don't receive many catalogues and there are only really a couple that get my heart racing but all the same my delight at opening my letterbox and discovering the latest issue has arrived is really quite delicious.

I remember when I was in the UK reading an article by Christopher Lloyd on his pleasure at this too. Of course in his case he was ordering vast quantities of seeds for his magnificent "
Great Dixter". I like to imagine him in a wing tipped armchair with a rug over his knees poring through the catalogues - all a bit Charles Dickens I know but if you've ever visited "Great Dixter" you'll know why my imagination runs away with me.

My two top poring catalogues here in Australia are the catalogue from
Lambley Nursery just outside Ballarat in Victoria and The Diggers Club Catalogue - which I love because not only do I get a garden plant fix but also a magnificent array of fruit and vegetables which I like to imagine growing in my garden. This unfortunately is not possible due to the size and shady nature of my yard but all the same I can dream.

My poring over catalogues usually does include sneaking off to a quiet corner somewhere cup of tea or coffee in hand and letting my own imagination run away with me. Many of the plants that I coo over are not necessarily terribly fashionable here in Australia at the moment. I've always had a bit of a penchant for large swathes of colourful or textural plants a la
Piet Oudolf or Oehme and Van Sweden. I get my fix on this front through the Lambley catalogue.

If you're in the Melbourne area the garden itself is worth a visit - how they do what they do in those dry, windswept western plains makes me wonder. What I love about their catalogue is that I know the plants have been tested in the most trying of conditions and if they're grown in the "
Dry Garden" they are incredibly tough and drought tolerant. That is always my complaint with some nursery grown plants that are used to a high level of water and cosseting and expect the same in the average suburban garden - and frankly they're just not going to get it.

Our handsome but expensive Halloween Pumpkin

The Diggers Catalogue always has an interesting array of plants and fruit and vegetables and also includes useful articles. Sometimes I must admit my musings are quite fantastical - for example lately my dreaming has turned to pumpkins - my son has a passion for Halloween and last week I found and paid a ridiculous amount for a large orange pumpkin which the vendor told me was a Canadian pumpkin. An American friend of mine informed me that in the US this is the only type called a pumpkin and that everything else we call pumpkins are in fact what they call squash. I saved the seeds from my magnificent pumpkin with thoughts of planting them but then turned to the catalogue and found such a magnificent array of pumpkin/squash that I had visions of tearing out all the plants in my minute front garden and just having pumpkins rambling everywhere ....

Some of the pumpkin delights from Digger's Club

So this is why I love a catalogue because not only does it feed the practical but also the fantastical which sometimes is so much more fun.

PS If anyone knows of any magnificent catalogues to add to my obsession please let me know!

I also must include this link to a recipe from my friend Bea who lives in Boston and has a rather fantastic food blog called La Tartine Gourmande - this particular recipe is for
curried winter squash soup and even if you're not much of a cook - her magnificent autumnal photos are worth a look.


camellia said...

I'm also a sucker for plant catalogues. My my, can they seduce you with just a few pictures... I loved the picture from Lambley Dry Garden. The hues, the textures and subtle contrasts are beautiful. Very definied. Just what I would like with my garden...working on it :-)

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

And here's one more plant catalogue addict... even if sometimes get a bit too stressed about how many fantastic seeds and bulbs there are and how little time there is to nurse them to full-grown plants and to figure out where to plant them. One of my favorites is www.botanicus.nu, they sell rare bulbs. Just check out their "Bildarkiv", one of my little darlings is Muscari muscarimi.... just lovely, those dark maroon tips on the white bell-shaped white flowers! Or the wild tulips... fantastic!