Mail order plants, autumn bulb planting and autumn colour

I’m not a fan of catalogue retailers of plants and bulbs. I have no problem with normal nurseries offering their wares mail order: it’s those glossy, strangely unnatural colours and the “two plants for the price of one / free gifts with every order / you have definitely won a small fortune in our free draw” companies I dislike.

Granny used to buy from one such company in England and I, forgive my innocence, have just tried one here in France. To encourage me with my first order, Willemse told me I was to be given a years supply of Strelitzia, free delivery and a big wet kiss from the van driver (I exaggerate for effect, as is my way, but not a lot). In addition, I had definitely won a great deal of money: how could I lose? I ordered loads of stuff. I also kept a copy of the order form and filed the catalogue safely away for future reference.

Fruits on our Arbutus, newlt planted against the walls of the Garden Design Academy log cabin classroom

When the bulbs and other plants I had ordered arrived several weeks later, we noticed some were missing: a pack which was supposed to have nine plants only had three. I emailed the help desk and was told that our order was fine: three plants as ordered. I explained in which respect it wasn’t fine but was told it was definitely fine: three plants as per my order. I sent them a copy of the order: “No, you ordered the one of each variety, super discount offer”. I sent them a photograph of the page in the catalogue which provided details of their offer to supply nine plants and was told it was not the case: what I had ordered was three plants. Just as I was considering driving over to impress on them my disappointment, they replied to a further email with the news that they would send me the six missing plants I had paid for and not charge me for them: in effect, I was told, they are free! And sure enough, the offending plants arrived a week later and are now out in the garden: three groups of three Hemerocallis.



Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus - autumn leaf and flower

Is it me, or do people who order a number of plants expect to receive that number? I was, and still remain, unimpressed. Anyway, I am looking forward to the huge amount of money I have definitely won; when I do, it’s all ’round to Elliott’s place for a champagne party!

Fritillaria dreaming

This is not my first mail order gardening problem in France, but may well be my last. Attentive readers will remember my fight with Thompson and Morgan, a seed company with whom I have traded happily for years in the UK; unfortunately in France you have to deal with their French office, with inflated French prices and a French attitude to customer service. My wife, by the way and in the interests of balance, uses a number of mail order companies for clothes and other things and has had few problems. Perhaps it is just me.

The bulbs were OK as far as I could see. I planted dwarf Daffodils next to our new Mahonia nitens, tulips with pansies in the front garden, Crown Imperial Fritillaria amongst variegated Cistus and Euphorbia wulfenii. Drifts of Ixia and Ipheion have been inserted into patches of gravel below the washing lines while broad lines of Muscari wind around new planting near the log cabin. Japanese Iris went to the oriental garden next to a new clump of Arum Lilies bought at Courson. The Hemerocallis? Three creamy-white Vanilla Fluff were planted in the white border while the two other varieties, Double Royal Red and Congo Orange went to the other side of the garden. Three of each. Not one.

We have had three frosts so far, the last a week or so ago. These pulled the leaves from the grape vines giving us no autumn show at all. The forests and countryside however, have carried on as normal and are gradually gearing up for a fantastic display of autumn leaf colour (fall color, if you are from the other side of the Atlantic). Several plants in the garden are also putting on a show, with Euphorbia giffithii Fireglow perhaps the best. As the season moves on I shall be posting up photographs for all to admire. It’s a glorious season!

Euphorbia Fireglow, young plants showing autumn leaf colour in the garden at Chabris


2 thoughts on “Mail order plants, autumn bulb planting and autumn colour

  1. Hello! ;o)) Love your sense of humour…and tenacity!
    Congratulations on your victory over W ! You certainly didn’t start with the best mail order company (I would certainly not call them a “nursery”!). And like in Murphy’s law, I will add: “Smile, next time, with B…..x, it will be worse!” Lol!
    We have very good (true) nurseries in France, but I wouldn’t say a word in defense of these mail-order companies or even our garden center large companies.
    For not-so-rare bulbs or perennials though, you’d better rely on the latter, where at least, you can select your plants and bulbs yourself!
    (I also second your disappointment with T&M France!)
    A french gardener in the Rhone Valley

    • Hi and thanks for your encouragement!
      At Courson I have talked to some great French nursery men and women, and here in the Loire we have concentrations of them near Orleans and Angers. I find French prices a little high but I have never let money get in the way of a good looking plant.

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