As a rule, I don't do a lot of plant shopping through the Internet or mailorder catalogs, but when I was invited by the folks at a new website called DoLeaf to sample some of their plants and write about them, it was easy to say yes. Even a quick look at the DoLeaf site tells you that this is different. DoLeaf is like a virtual farmers market for specialty nurseries and independent garden centers. With the participation of more than a dozen nurseries across the country so far, the variety of plant material is good and likely to get better.
What I liked even better was how you can shop. The site offers several ways to search for plants: by category (trees, shrubs, perennials, indoor, etc.); sun preference; growth rate; shipping form (seed, bulb, bareroot, etc.); USDA growth zone; or store. So if you want a slow-growing shade tree for your zone, you can check the appropriate boxes and get the results without having to sift through a lot of unrelated products.
After quite a bit of searching (there were a lot of good options for just about every spot in the garden I was looking to fill), I finally narrowed my selection down to three plants from Studley Flower Gardens: a fuchsia begonia, a gartenmeister fuchsia, and a variegated bougainvillea, each in 4.5-inch pots.
The plants arrived yesterday and here's where the story is not quite as good. Although the three plants were clearly healthy, beautiful plants when they were shipped, two of the three suffered some breakage during shipping. The bougainvillea was intact and beautiful:
The fuchsia begonia lost about a 4-inch piece:
And the gartenmeister fuchsia got the worst of it--several broken branches that left the plant looking pretty small:
Now, as I said at the beginning, I don't often buy plants through the mail, so I'm not sure how common it is to have plants arrive broken. And because the plants were big and healthy when they were shipped, I'm sure they'll recover--and I'll get several additional plants by rooting the broken pieces. So I'm not disappointed. But with all the aspects of DoLeaf that I liked, packaging may be the one area they need to improve.
Do check out their site, though, which is still in beta. It seems like a great idea and I'd like to see anything that gives small, independent growers another sales outlet succeed.