Buying Different Types of Plants

There are firms specializing in this or that class of plant. This is important because it is useless to look for plants in the wrong catalogues or expect to find them in the wrong nurseries.

Annuals and Biennials

Annuals and biennials are grown commercially by seedsmen who issue special catalogues devoted to their products. One way to start a garden is with annuals or biennials and if one has the facilities to raise them from seed it can be the cheapest way, but it is not the only way to start, nor necessarily the best way for the beginner.

Many nurserymen specialize in raising plants from seed and these they either offer for sale themselves or sell through retail shops and garden centres. Many such plants are grown in shallow wooden boxes containing 40 or 50 small plants which can be sold at a very reasonable price. The peak of this trade is in the late spring, but it continues into early summer and resumes again in the autumn, when seed-raised plants to flower the following spring are offered.

Hardy Herbaceous Perennials

Hardy herbaceous perennials, often loosely referred to simply as hardy plants, though this term is rather misleading as it really covers a much wider range of plants, also tend to be grown by specialist nurseries and to be offered in separate lists, and catalogues. Many of them can be raised from seed, but as a rule it is a couple of years before sizeable, flowering plants are obtained.

To save time and to be certain of obtaining precisely the varieties one requires it is best to purchase hardy herbaceous perennials as plants. If these are grown by the nurseryman in the open ground, the most favourable periods for transplanting them are spring and autumn. However, a great many nurseries now grow these plants in containers of some kind, usually plastic pots. Or even strong polythene bags. It is easy to plant from these with practically no disturbance of the roots or of the soil around them, and this makes it possible to plant at practically any time of the year, the only limiting factor being the state of the soil. If it is very wet or frozen it becomes physically almost impossible to plant – certainly impossible to plant successfully.

Rock Plants

Rock plants are nearly always container grown, usually in small pots, and so, like container-grown herbaceous plants, can be planted whenever soil conditions permit. They can be obtained from specialist nurseries, and also from garden centres. In spring many shops and stores offer a limited range of rock plants.

Bulbs, Corms and Tubers

Bulbs, Corms and tubers, as 1 have already said, tend to be produced by specialist nurseries. Vast quantities of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are grown in quite a small area in Holland, and there are similar bulb fields in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire and in other parts of Britain. Many lily bulbs are imported from America and Japan, and gladioli also come in from America and Europe.

The fully hardy bulbs, such as daffodils (a term that includes narcissi), tulips, hyacinths, crocuses and snowdrops, are offered for sale as dry bulbs from late summer to early winter, but the peak planting season is in early and mid-autumn. Half-hardy corms such as the gladiolus (a corm is a specialized type of bulb) are kept in a frost-proof store most of the winter and are offered for sale throughout the spring. Lilies would ideally be offered in autumn, but imported supplies do not always arrive in time for this and sales continue into the spring.

Aquatic Plants

Aquatics have a rather brief planting season, roughly in the latter half of spring and early summer, and are almost all bought direct from specialist nurseries; the bigger general nurseries and garden centres usually stock a few.


Shrubs are grown in vast quantities by nurserymen, many of whom are specialists who issue lengthy and highly informative catalogues. If they are grown in the open ground the lifting and dispatching season is from mid-autumn to early spring, but increasing numbers of shrubs are being grown in containers so that they can be purchased and planted at any time of the year.


All that I have said about shrubs applies equally to roses and many of the best specialist rose nurseries issue catalogues well illustrated in colour, which makes the task of selection easier.


Trees are usually grown by the nurserymen who specialize in shrubs and the same planting times apply. Some are grown in containers for all-year-round planting, but because of the greater size of trees, even when quite young, this is not as easy as with shrubs. Special techniques have been developed for moving large trees with powerful earth-shifting machinery, and for spraying their leaves with a plastic substance to check loss of water while they are becoming established, but this is work for experts and is quite costly. It is only under special circumstances that it is likely to be required in the garden.

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