April 28: plants by mail

I’ve wanted a passionflower the past two years, but I always manage to miss the very brief window our garden center has them, if they get any in at all. I also wanted a couple more perennial milkweeds, specifically in orange, which is also always a crapshoot.

With the pandemic raging, and our local nursery not knowing what they’ll get or when, and because we’re sheltering in place, I decided to try ordering plants by mail. I wasn’t sure where to begin because I’ve never ordered plants by mail, and I really didn’t know what I should look for in a seller (or how to find a reputable one). Some Google searches turned up a few options, and I was able to find both passionflower and milkweed at Burpee online. I ordered in early April, and they said the plants would be ready to send April 27.

I had no idea in what condition they would arrive. This was all new to me! They arrived in a cardboard box. They were potted in soil and had a sophisticated cardboard contraption to hold the pots in place. The box was stamped with arrows indicating THIS SIDE UP, but of course the soil was spilled all over the place in the box.

Plants by mail
A peek inside the box — how do I get the plants out?

It was damp inside the box, and the plants looked like they’d been through the ringer, but they were intact and green. They were very small given how much they cost. I’d have been able to get plants 3 times that size at the nursery for half the price, but as I mentioned, that would have been dependent on the nursery actually having them. And also, pandemic.

Liberating the plants without injuring them
The pots underneath the pot holder

I had to destroy the box to get them out (I couldn’t figure out how to get the cup-holder like contraption out without tearing off the sides of the box), but the plants were alive, with leaves attached to stems and stems attached to roots.

Plants by mail freed from the box!
Passionflower (1) and Milkweed (2) plant tags

I put them straight into the ground and watered them in. I have my fingers crossed the rabbits don’t eat these. If they do, I’ll put up fencing.

One transplanted milkweed (foreground) and two milkweed by mail (middle and flagged)
Passionflower by mail

Apr 2: day three of gardening vacation

Two full days of gardening down, and I’ve barely made a dent in the work. It would probably help if I didn’t keep buying plants.

I bought more plants anyway.

View this post on Instagram

I bought more plants 😬

A post shared by Andrea Badgley (@andreabadgley) on

Today I bought:

  • Three Dianthus (Sweet William) for next to my garden chair
  • Two more phlox
  • A Germander (I’ve never had one of these)
  • A Gaura (beeblossom) for the hummingbirds (for next to my garden chair)
  • A lamb’s ear for our daughter for out back

I moved the final plants around in the front beds to make space for everything that’s going to go there. I can’t remember which day I did what,:

  • the asters, blue mums, Rudbeckia, blue Salvia, and yarrow are all in their rightful place in the bed in front of the stairs.
  • the Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, bee balm, and goldenrod have all been cleared out of the butterfly bush bed
  • the butterfly bush, white milkweed, sedums, blue Salvia, Germander, phlox, Gaura, lemon balm, and new Dianthus are all planted in their rightful places in the long lobe of the front bed.
  • a Sedum, Rudbeckia, and Gaillardia are by the mailbox. I also moved the tulips around down there.

Today our daughter sowed some blue wheat, and we covered it with twigs to keep the birds from eating the seeds. It looks like a giant nest in the middle of the bed. have no idea if these will work or how they’ll look, but that’s the fun of gardening. If I don’t like the wheat, I can just put an ornamental grass in that spot next year.

day 3 mulched front bed
Blue wheat seeds are under that nest of twigs

Once I got all the plants in place, I started edging the front bed like I did with the herb bed — slice an edge using the half-moon spade, dig a trench using the shovel or a trowel — and then I started mulching.

The front bed is big, so I’m mulching it one section at a time. I hope to finish that on day four, and maybe the mailbox too.

At that point I’ll maybe be able to relax and rest. I’ve got a couple more things I want to do out back, and I’m hopeful I can get to those before this weekend: before the mulch.

The back hill is going to be a beast to spread mulch on, but for that I’ve enlisted the help of Virginia Tech’s Big Event, a student-run day of service where students help residents with projects like painting a house or mulching a garden. I’ve got my fingers crossed it doesn’t get rained (or snowed) out. I’m not sure if I can handle covering that big hill by myself.