Garden Catalog Review: Prairie Moon Nursery
This is the time of year when I end every day leafing through garden catalogs before going to sleep. The promise of new blooms and greenery help me get through the short bleak days of winter.
Fortunately I get lots of catalogs, and over the next few weeks I’m going to write about some of my favorites.
Prairie Moon really stands out in a number of ways. Their website is here. They carry plants native to the American Midwest almost exclusively, and they have a vast selection – well over 500 wildflowers, grasses, sedges, ferns, shrubs, trees, and vines.
Partly because the variety is almost overwhelming, Prairie Moon actually puts out two catalogs. The Catalog and Cultural Guide is for hard core native plant enthusiasts. All plants are listed, and most of the information is in tables with limited descriptive text.
The Native Gardener’s Companion is limited to the most garden-worthy plants and has more narrative text. Both catalogs have really nice photographs, and neither engages in the kind of plant hype you find in some catalogs. Both are on my bedside table.
Prairie Moon sells seeds, bare root plants, and trays of 2×5 inch pots. It is generally simplest and cheapest to buy bare root. They tend to look like dried squid, but are easy to plant and establish.
Over 70 plants are available in pots. Pots are only sold in trays of 38. A tray of just one species costs $92 ($2.42 per plant – pretty good!). You can fill the tray with up to six species of your choosing for $129 ($3.40 per plant, still pretty good).
This year Prairie Moon has quite a few new plants on offer, most of which I haven’t seen before. Right now I am on the lookout for shorter plants that don’t need a lot of moisture, so the following grabbed my attention:
Small Yellow Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctora). A wild indigo with yellow flowers, growing just 2′ high.
Downy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata). About 1′ tall, with pink-purple flower spikes. Actually, they have carried this one for a while.
Dwarf Blazing Star (Liatris cylandracea). Just 1′ tall and blooming July into autumn.
I’m also thinking about Smallspike False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), which is sold only as seed. Like Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), it is a host plant for Red Admiral butterflies, but without the nasty stinging hairs. Not terribly attractive, I could sow it in a few out-of-the way spots.
Prairie Moon emphasizes plants that benefit pollinators, and does all their growing without neonicotinoid insecticides.
Do you usually order plants as seed, bareroot, or in pots?
❤ Prairie Moon! And at the risk of sounding risque I like to call winter catalogues flower-porn. I like buying plants in pots but this year I have my grow-light set up so I've gone all seedy for 2015. I have always had the worst luck with bare-root plants so I tend to avoid them.
I dream of going seedy, but I’m traveling a lot January through May. Maybe after I retire.
Eager to read which others are your favorites! Nice to know we’re all connected with each other as we peruse the masses of catalogs.
Yes, even before the internet, we were all connected through garden catalogs.
My favorite Baptisia is Cream False Indigo (Baptisia leucophaea or bracteata). Let me quote its merits from my book Design Your Natural Midwest Garden on pg 6: “The pictures I had seen of Cream Wild Indigo didn’t do it justice. Long, lush, drooping racemes of large butter-yellow pea blossoms decorate a bushy, rounded mound 2′ tall and wide, of smooth stems and waxy leaves from early to mid-May through early June.” It can also be found on pg. 26 of last year’s Prairie Nursery Catalog.
I’ve considered cream wild indigo as well.
Here the cream indigo has an open spreading habit more in mind of a Cornus alternifolia. Structurally it is unique.
I always enjoy your reviews even though l can’t access the plants. I buy seeds, and plants, whatever seems right.
Can you buy mail order from throughout the EU or only in Italy?
Thanks, Jason. I am looking forward to further reports. You have set my mind to thinking about catalogs and one on which I might report (it is a thing of the past).
You know, maybe we could organize a garden catalog convention, modeled after those comic book conventions.
I enjoy reading your catalog reviews but my budget isn’t quite at your level. I do a lot with seeds and start my own. Things were different when I working FT outside the home. 🙂
I am a total spendthrift when it comes to plants. I may go bankrupt, but the garden will be fabulous.
He doesn’t ski, or drive a sports car, or play golf, or smoke or drink, or have other expensive habits, so I just look the other way. Plus, the garden is amazing.
I have to say Prairie Moon is one of my favorites. I’ve ordered both seeds and plants, and the plants are always very healthy with strong root systems.
I agree, the quality of the plants is very good.
I used to buy almost everything locally, but if I did order anything it was seeds. That dwarf Liatris sounds interesting.
It does, doesn’t it?
I ordered downy wood mint (blephilia ciliata) this year also and from a different source: Prairie Nursery out of WI. I used the online catalog. Their seed packets are not expensive.. I direct sowed the seeds outside this winter during a thaw. People say that works well with native plants if the area has been somewhat cleared for planting in the fall.
I also order from Prairie Nursery, another excellent source for native plants. I think most native plants should be sowed in fall or winter because they need a period of chilling. Otherwise you need to keep them in the refrigerator for a while.
Prairie Moon is the gold standard! I have lots of plants from them and always order bare root. I love your description of them as squid since roots can be pretty weird looking. Their plants are also 100% free of pesticides.
Only thing is they have ONLY the straight species – no cultivars.
I’ve read that the more a plant is bred to produce certain traits, the less pollen remains. I have a friend who is a garden designer specializing in native pollinator gardens and he only uses straight species.
Spring will be here before you know it so it’s not too early to start thinking about your garden.
Very true! Hooray!
That dwarf blazing star is pretty fantastic!!! As are these catalogs!! Thanks for passing them along…as I sit here and think of a way to change my whole backyard around! Have a great week Jason!
You too, Nicole!
Oh it is so tempting…but I have such a small yard and so little time for it, I tend not to wake up to it until it’s too late. The last thing I did was scatter seeds before the ground got hard. Sometimes this works (and sometimes it doesn’t)! I think I have ordered seeds from Prairie Moon.
Some things are very easy to sow – especially Wild Columbine.
I have just been thumbing through a seed catalogue myself! Only this one is only for herbs. Some plants are available in pots too, and I buy both, especially if I know I’ll be using a lot and want a decent sized plant, such as with Lemon Verbena. That Downy Wood Mint looks nice.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to try it.
Great review. Good luck with making your selections. I’ll check out the Prairie Moon website. I’ve been off the mailing lists for gardening catalogs lately but after visiting Plants Delights this year I received their catalog last week and it’s so addictive to mark those pages.
I haven’t gotten Plant Delights yet. I hope they didn’t forget me!
We have so many garden stores and nurseries around here that I rarely do mail order. Trouble is, the catalogs stop coming after a while. All it takes is a couple of seed and bulb orders to restart the flood. They do make excellent daydreaming material.
Exactly. Actually, I always order through the online catalog, but I much prefer paging through a paper one before going to bed.
I love catalogues too…..they do help with surviving the endless dark nights! I do like the look of your choices and shall enjoy seeing them in full bloom come summer.
I tend to buy seeds and love taking cuttings….I do buy dry root roses.xxx
Looking at your exchange with Christina above, in Europe we can choose a nursery almost anywhere, because many ship all over Europe these days (particularly bareroot – it’s the weight in the carriage that gets prohibitive). About half of the nurseries I buy from are in France, and I do try to support ‘home grown’, if possible. If it’s a species, I always get seed and I’ll try for up to 5 years to germinate (that’s 5 times buying/acquiring seed, not looking at one seed pot for 5 years – I give one seed pot 3 years before I toss it out). After that, I decide I’m not capable of germinating the little … if I really want it I’ll then buy container or bareroot, the latter preferred simply on price. You are lucky to live in such a wonderfully big market . Enjoy your catalogues!
All plants (or seeds) I get are wholesale or free from the main nursery I deal with. The only catalog I order from is John Scheepers Bulbs or Van Engelen Inc, the wholesale portion of their company. I know many look forward to the catalogs, but to me it is always for work and is work. My garden is to small to add to each year. The Prairie Moon catalog looks like a nice one though.
It is one of the joys of winter looking through catalogues and dreaming. I don’t buy many plants through mail order because I prefer to visit nurseries. Still I love looking at them. Seed catalogues are a terrible temptation, I always buy far more than I have time or space to deal with. I expect that is how they make their money. All those unopened packets lying about in drawers.
It means you will have garden supplies in the even of a Zombie Apocalypse.
Prairie Moon will send seeds to Canada (although not plants) and last year I put in an order. I love their sensible and easy-to-understand germination codes. I also get seeds from the Ontario Rock Garden Society’s seed exchange and they use a code – I believe it is the same as the one used by the North American Rock Garden Society – that drives me nuts trying to figure out which seed goes into the fridge when. I had good results with 18 of the 20 species I ordered from Prairie Moon. That’s good for native perennials.
I haven’t ordered their seeds, though this year I’m planning to buy some seed for false nettle.
I like some of your choices and I love Prairie Moon for natives I can’t find locally. I usually try potted and then bareroot….seed is mainly for my meadow.