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Mail Order experiences


Many of us have been using mail order companies this season, as well as supporting our local nurseries and garden centres.

Our experiences have varied! So I thought it might be interesting to compare experiences, recommending (or NOT recommending) the companies we have used.

These are just my own personal experiences.

KNOLL GARDENS in Dorset specialise mainly in grasses but also sell a few perennials. Plants were all in excellent condition and a good mature size . . . worth the expensive postage (£9), but a 10% discount if spending more than £50. Marvellous catalogue which I have kept for years as it’s full of useful information.

SARAH RAVEN – very tempting catalogue, good service, and mostly good quality plants. Unusually, two small ones arrived dying – I took photos with label, and they were replaced promptly. Planting instructions with comprehensive advice included in the parcel.

CROCUS have a good website, plants arrive well-packaged and also have planting instructions included. When they made a mistake (wrong Penstemons sent) they quickly sent the correct ones, and I was allowed to keep the others (happy with that!).

DORSET PERENNIALS: excellent. Campanulas and perennial Geraniums arrived in perfect condition and a very good size (8"). I spent £80 and got free shipping.

BETH CHATTO – hadn’t tried their mail order before because delivery is £9.95. But the quality is superb: all the plants mature and ready for planting out. One box arrived crushed in spite of masses of “Fragile” stickers, but that was the fault of the courier. Helpful man at Beth Chatto offered to replace any plants that were damaged, but they were all OK.

ORNAMENTAL TREES. Good website, but the Acer ‘Seiyru’ they sent is pathetic: I’m hoping it will bush out in time, but I think buying trees is probably best done in person.

Please share your experiences to make this blog more useful – thanks!

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Interesting blog Sheila. I rarely shop on-line for anything but have ordered from Hayloft Plants, purely because they were advertising in the RHS magazine and I had seen them at RHS Wisley Plant Fair a while back.

A collection of Dianthus planted two years ago are gorgeous and earlier this year I received a collection of Hellebores, really well packaged and labelled so I would recommend Hayloft Plants.

9 Jun, 2018


Thank you Shirley. I have mixed feelings about Hayloft, but am glad you've had successes with them. Their advertisements always look yummy, but then I realise that they'll be sending out plants in 7cm pots, so it will be a while before they flower!

9 Jun, 2018


I think where Mail Order in concerned, you live and learn. I've got fed up of ordering beautiful plants that arrive so small that the slugs just make lunch of them. This happens with anything in less than a 1L pot, so from now on I just take care what I am ordering unless I am prepared to grow it on in a larger pot for a year. Hayloft, J Parkers, Thompson-Morgan, Crocus and sometimes Sarah Raven all send out these tiny plants.

For larger, stronger and less expensive plants, I use Gardening Express and Primrose. They have never disappointed me....yet.

As for Customer Service.....I have had good experiences with all of the companies when I have had genuine cause for complaint. I find them helpful, apologetic and prompt in sending out replacements, and I haven't yet been asked to send anything back. So my advice would be...if something's wrong, do complain. But first, check the size of the plant they are sending out because its always in the details on the website.

A couple of times I've used Amazon to buy plants lately, and they have been ok as well. Good value usually too.

Mostly I seem to use specialist nurseries and they are always very good indeed. They have to be...they depend on our business. :) And definitely agree with you Sheila...if buying trees, try to view them first. This isn't always possible and I have never been disappointed with Bluebell Nursery and Arboretum. They are excellent. :)

9 Jun, 2018


Thanks Sheila will keep this incase I have to refer to the list.... Just received the new Clematis 'Sarah Elizabeth' from Evisons.... Very small, but in good condition.

9 Jun, 2018


OH ordered a very large order from J. Parker from their catalogue, which all arrived safely packed. As said they were small, especially the shrubs, but then you get the size you pay for. All are doing well, just need the time now to put them in their permanent home. The lavenders are going out today, the shrubs this week. I was disappointed with one of the Acers I purchased and mentioned it, and they sent an email and letter apologising and refunding OH's money - and I have the Acer.

9 Jun, 2018


I don't like Van Meuwn as plugs were poor and showing signs of mould and they weren't too hot in customer service. Parkers are good with bulbs and larger plugs and plants and usually respond well if I have had problems. Don't use T&M any more as many plants poor and again they weren't too bothered.
Cotswold garden Flowers [Bob Brown] wrap there plants in newspaper so no pots. everything has been brilliant and thrived.

9 Jun, 2018


Hi don't always get the size you pay for, which is why I recommend checking what you are actually buying before paying! Some of these big companies are ridiculous. This year I bought a single white meconopsis from ...think it was parkers...which was tiny ..and dead...when it arrived. I got a replacement no problem. But in the meantime I went to local nursery and bought three really substantial ones for the price of the one dead one from Parkers.

9 Jun, 2018


I have used Crocus, Coblands which were good and just recently Farmyard Nurseries as they had an alstroemeria I wanted but it is a bit nerve racking especially when paying 10 pound postage but did buy 5 plants to justify, I bought a hackonekloa which has done nothing but have not contacted them as yet couldn't decide. But I try to buy 2litre pots in the hope that the plants will be decent size as I have also over the years got tiny plugs which are disappointing, but I suppose it depends on what you are looking for and who has it for sale as you can't always find what you want in a garden centre or even the garden shows. :-))

10 Jun, 2018


Hang in there, Day Lily, the Hachenochloa (never can spell it) is quite a slow grower, so hopefully it will get going soon! Thanks for joining in . . .

10 Jun, 2018


Yes...was going to say that. My New Hakon. Is sitting doing not very much. It will grow away next year.

10 Jun, 2018


Thanks both, I did read this morning that they like the heat to get going aswell :-))

10 Jun, 2018


I wouldn't touch Thompson and Morgan with a barge pole. Poor plants and customer service likewise.I find their seeds also have a poor germination success. I've ordered from both Parkers and Hayloft and they've both supplied small but healthy plants. For the most part I prefer to visit the GC or grower to see what I'm buying.

10 Jun, 2018


I agree Waddy - T&M inundate you with unwanted emails if you do go anywhere near them!

10 Jun, 2018


Or freebies in newspapers!

11 Jun, 2018


I've used all the companies mentioned in the comments and never had a problem with any of them. I like Hayloft and Sarah Raven, but find them a bit expensive. I love looking around garden centres but sometimes they don't have the plants I'm looking for and which I can find online. Also The Secret Gardening Club and You Garden are new ones I've tried recently for bedding, perennials and alpine and they seem ok. You Gardens take a long time to arrive, but they arrive well packaged and are healthy. I use Gardening Direct for plug plants and they arrive healthy.

12 Jun, 2018


Thanks Lisam, that’s interesting.

12 Jun, 2018


You are all lucky to have so many positive comments on your terrific nurseries. Coming from the Eastern part of US,
and using most of their catalogs, I am finding more and more that the quality is not as good, and quite a few wrong colors. The quality cannot be underestimated. Small, and spindly/ The colors, you don't know until they bloom/ Forinstance, I received 20 orange Turk's Cap, ordered Pink!
so beware whom you order from, fellow citizens. Never mind the seed quality!!!

1 Aug, 2018


Yes, we are very lucky, Posy, to have such a wide choice of sources.

1 Aug, 2018


In Dorset we are fortunate to have quite a few garden centres or specialised nurseries. OH likes some of the Cornish growers but I shop around for him.
Ordered a special Camellia from France once and had superb service. Then it was delayed in Dorset for nearly a week. Fortunately the packing was so good the plant looked great when it did arrive and it's doing well.
I fall for all the lovely images in flower catalogues but my OH (very wisely) puts me off them!!

18 Nov, 2018


Of forgot to mention! We ordered some begonias from the shopping channel one year and had the most glorious display. Must look for the photos.

18 Nov, 2018


We are very fortunate in Dorset to have so many garden centres and specialist nurseries. As our garden is full now we tend to only buy bulbs and plants for tubs and like to see the ones we buy.
I did send for a Camellia from France once as it was unobtainable in the UK. They sent a lovely specimen, fantastically wrapped. It was then held up, (forgotten), on the quay. Thanks to the excellent packing the shrub looked great when it did arrive and it's growing well . The firm even arranged for an English-speaking person to talk to me and they did all the phoning.
Oh nearly forgot! We sent for some Begonias from the Shopping Channel once! We had the most wonderful display . Everyone wanted to know where they had come from!(Must look for those photos)

18 Nov, 2018

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