It all started back in January with a simple question: “How do you propagate pussy willows.” That led me to a Martha Stewart Youtube video. (Yeah, she’s annoyingly perfect and so well-funded that she pays someone else to plant her shrubs and trees mechanically, but she is informative.) Aside from being absurdly easy to propagate, I was astonished to discover there were no less than 5 varieties of pussy willow. Well, who knew?
Since pussy willows are among the first things to bloom in the spring and they bloom at a time when beehives are nearly starving after a long winter and bees love pussy willow . . . I went looking for those 5 varieties of pussy willow – an extra something to add to my plain vanilla pussy willows from the Arbor Day Foundation that are as yet too young to blossom. That search led me to . . .
The Lazy S’s Farm Nursery. I can’t say enough good things about these people. I placed my order with them in early March and got a quick reply back saying when my order would ship. The day my plants shipped, I received another email with specific instructions on how to harden off my plants and what to do in case of frost. (And yes, it’s looking like we’re going to get at least one more hard freeze in the next couple of days.) Each plant was carefully labeled with the Latin name, packed with moss and plastic, and then fitted with bamboo stakes to keep them from rattling around in the box. The box was clearly labeled as live plants with a “This side up” request in bold print. The plants arrived in pristine condition – so pristine a friend asked me what (local) nursery I’d gotten them from.
As for the 5 varieties of pussy willow – Lazy S’s has 7! In fact, they have a wide variety of plants that are difficult to find elsewhere. If you’re into medicinals, bee fodder or permaculture, Lazy S’s is a great place to start. And for a really cool insight into what goes down at a mail order nursery, see this link: Behind the Scenes
There’s a lot to see on their website, but you really have to know what you’re looking for. It’s all arranged alphabetically by Latin name. There’s no “browse by shrubs, trees, herb, perennials, annuals” function. You can search by common name and that gets you where you want to go most of the time. But mostly, unless you’re looking for something specific, you’ll be browsing alphabetically.
Now what would really be cool, would be a nursery site that would allow you to enter the characteristics you’re looking for and offer a list of possibilities. Need a nitrogen fixer other than clover for full sun in zone 7a that is also bee forage? Need plants that can survive the juglone attack of a black walnut while providing habitat for predatory insects and edible fruits? What about a plant that will thrive with wet feet, produce fiber suitable for basket weaving and seed attractive to birds. How about a tree that grows quickly, stands repeated coppicing and burns cleanly? A nursery that organizes its plants by zone and then function would really be helpful but that’s the permie in me talking.
What’s a farm without a giant rose bush standing sentinel by the pasture gate? Well, um, that would be my farm. But I am going to be changing that. Roses generally are not my kind of plant. Life is too short to deal with thorns and cut flowers are forbidden in my house due to allergies. But as stand after stand of neighboring timber fell this winter, I went searching for more bee fodder and I found what I was looking for at:
The Antique Rose Emporium. Now having lived in the Dallas area for 15 years and doing my fair share of driving along I-20, I know Tyler, Texas considers itself the rose capitol of the world. But way down in south Texas, outside of Houston is where you’ll find The Antique Rose Emporium. This rose nursery got its start when the owner, growing tired of growing ligustrum and pittisporum, noticed roses thriving in out of the way places with no apparent human intervention. He “rustled” some cuttings and a new enterprise was born. No fuss roses and a lot of them.
I became acquainted with The Antique Rose Emporium when my mother-in-law gifted me a Belinda two years ago – big, gorgeous pink blossoms, but a little prone to black spot (which goes untreated) and cedar apple rust (something it’s going to have to deal with until I cut down the cedars). She sent me another gift certificate for Christmas this year and I found 3 bee friendly roses in the online catalog, These have small blossoms that open wide which should allow the short honey bee proboscis access to the rose nectar and pollen. Two of them produce lots of hips – a marketable commodity and emergency food source. This year I got a Ballerina, a Cole’s Settlement and a Swamp Rose.
When I called with my order, (a necessity because of the gift certificate) the staff was so courteous and helpful. Most importantly, they were very particular about my weather. “When does your weather settle?” was the question. I said early April, meaning we’ve typically seen the last of the ice and snow, but frosts and freezes are still possible. I also knew the roses wouldn’t come bare root and wouldn’t need immediate planting. My new roses arrived in gallon pots in fantastic condition thanks to the careful packaging.
I also wanted to pass on kudos to Restoration Seeds and Horizon Herbs. These two companies really know how to label a seed packet! If seeds need scarifying, cold storage, light or slow passage through the gut of a lactating emu to germinate, well, that’s right on the package. And if you follow their explicit instructions, the seeds sprout like clockwork.
So there you go – four great companies beautifying the world one seed, one cutting at a time. Let them help you pretty up and diversify your little corner of the world.
I shared this post at The Backyard Farming Connection Hop