Mailorder Gardening

By Barbara Perry Lawton

(This article first appeared in The Gateway Gardener January/February 2007 issue)

a picture of mail order catalogsDo the following mailorder catalog companies bring to mind pleasant winter hours planning for a 2007 garden that will—of course—be the best and most beautiful garden you’ve ever had?

Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery (13101 East Rye Road, Avalon, Wisconsin;; Bluestone Perennials (7211 Middle Ridge Road, Madison, Ohio 44057;; W. Atlee Burpee & Co. Warminster, PA 18974;; Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (7900 Daffodil Lane, Gloucester, VA 23061;, and Thompson & Morgan (220 Faraday Avenue, Jackson, NJ 08527; www.thompson&

The above are just a few of the many members of the Mailorder Gardening Association (MGA, Member firms and customers alike have come to view the MGA logo as comparable to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

While I’m always for supporting our local independent nurseries, sometimes I get a yen for plants or garden supplies that I can’t find at any of my favorite garden centers. That’s when I dig out the catalogs and search for the plants or seeds that are more unusual or rare. Buying plants, garden equipment and supplies by mail, mailorder gardening, has been made easier and more reliable, thanks to the Mailorder Gardening Association (MGA).

Mailorder Gardening Association
The MGA board of directors takes applications seriously to make sure that member companies follow good business ethics, offer quality products and stand behind the products and services that they offer.

More than half of the current 198 member firms are direct marketing companies that sell to home gardeners. The remaining members are wholesale growers that supply some of the catalog companies and also support businesses such as printing firms, list houses, marketing companies and publications.

MGA Benefits
Shopping for plants and gardening supplies by mail or online offers a number of benefits, according to Roberta Simpson-Dolbeare, immediate past president of MGA:

  • Product selection is often broader since a printed or web catalog can include so many more plants and products than a local retailer can stock.
  • Knowledgeable customer sales staffers of the garden catalogs have strong horticultural backgrounds and are trained to know the products they are selling.
  • The convenience of arm chair or desk chair shopping is hard to beat. Consumers can study catalogs and websites at their leisure and place orders when they want—many companies will take orders 24/7.
  • MGA members offer the best guarantees in the green industry.
  • Last but not least, mailorder companies deliver plants directly to the customers’ doors, when it’s planting time in their growing area.

Although MGA membership is primarily based in the lower 48, there are a number of international members from other countries, including Canada, Holland and the United Kingdom.

Planning for 2007
That time of year is here once again. Garden catalogs are rolling in and their colorful promises of new and wondrous plants as well as faithful old reliables are tempting us. Along with your long-time favorites, order a few of the dazzling newcomers. You’ll be glad you did.

Be sure to note the environmental requirements of any plants you aren’t familiar with. Matching zones, exposures, and other recommendations will pay off in gardening success. As we know to well, gardening success consists of planting the right plants in the right places.

(Ed. Note: Subsequent to the writing of this article, The Mailorder Gardening Association in 2011 changed its name to the Direct Gardening Association. All links mentioned above currently apply as of this post.)

Barbara Perry Lawton is a writer, author, speaker and photographer. She has served as manager of publications for Missouri Botanical Garden and as weekly garden columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The author of a number of gardening and natural history books, and contributor to many periodicals, she has earned regional and national honors for her writing and photography. Barbara is also a Master Gardener and volunteers at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO.