Bulb Catalog
Image by Stock Photo received from Tim Kennelty

Ordering Trees, Shrubs and Bulbs

Episode 27: Ordering Trees, Shrubs and Bulbs

In this episode, Master Gardener Jean Thomas helps to decode the information found in catalogs when attempting to order shrubs, trees and bulbs. Teresa Golden (The Veggie Patch) describes the wide range of legume vegetables that can be grown in your garden. The Hum of the Hive (with Linda Aydlett) returns with a discussion of the role of propolis within a honey bee hive. Listen and learn!

Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas

Guest: Jean Thomas

Production Support: Linda Aydlett and Teresa Golden


Ordering Shrubs, Trees and Bulbs: E-Burgess (eburgess.com); Bluestone Perennials -- Home; Breck's Flower Bulbs - Direct to you from Holland since 1818 (brecks.com) ; Bare Root Trees For Sale, Tree Seedlings For Sale, Tree Saplings For Sale - Chief River Nursery ; Flower Garden Bulbs | Flower Bulbs | McClure & Zimmerman Company (mzbulb.com) ; Prairie Moon Nursery; Wholesale Flower Bulbs and Perennials | K. van Bourgondien (dutchbulbs.com)

Legumes (The Veggie Patch with Teresa Golden): Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides - Growing Guide ; Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides - Growing Guide ; Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides - Growing Guide

Propolis (Hum of the Hive with Linda Aydlett):

Resins, U.S. Forest Service; Simone-Finstrom, M., Spivak, M.  Propolis and bee health: the natural history and significance of resin use by honey bees. Apidologie 41, 295–311 (2010).; Wagh V. D. (2013).  Propolis: a wonder bees product and its pharmacological potentials. Advances in pharmacological sciences, 2013, 308249. 


Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Our team's goal is to present science based information about gardening and all things nature in New York's Hudson Valley. Hosts Jean and Tim, along with team members, Teresa: and Linda, are Master Gardener Volunteers for New York's Columbia and Greene counties. So if you're interested in gardening or nature or nuggets of information about what's happening outside your door, settle in, enjoy the conversation. Whatever the season, we have something to say.

Musical segue

Tim: Hi, I'm Tim Kennelty.

Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas.

Tim: And welcome to another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Jean who we interviewing today? One of our very best interviewees, brilliant person, right? That would happen to be Jean, you're gonna talk about catalogs again.

Jean: We're shopping.

Tim: Yeah. What are you specifically are you talking about?

Jean: Well, we were in bulbs last time.

Tim: We were in bulbs.

Jean: We were in bulbs. And then I realized that there are many more catalogs.

Tim: I love when you think of these things?

Jean: I do. Yeah. And I realized that there are shrubs and all kinds of other things that we can buy by catalogs. But you have to beware of the magic beans.

Tim: The magic beans, right? Well, it's true. It's I mean, look, it's an advertising piece. Some of them are really informational, but some of them are not exactly truthful, too, right?

Jean: Yeah. If somebody advertises a tree that is going to grow 67 different kinds of apples and three kinds of peaches, it's probably not going to be a really wildly healthy little tree.

Tim: If it's too good to be true. It's too good to be true. Right? Well, I can't wait to hear that. That's great.

Jean: It's going to be fun.

Tim: And Teresa's here again, right. Our wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and I'm gonna say it again, wonderful Teresa because she's sitting here so I want to say wonderful.

Jean: And she's smiling, I could tell.

Tim: Yeah. Yeah. And she's back with another edition of the wonderful Veggie Patch. Right.

Jean: And she's talking about legumes.

Tim: Legumes or legumes.

Jean: One of those. It's beans and peas. Nice, big good seeds..

Tim: And how to grow them. Yeah.

Jean: Now I've got a question.

Tim: Tell me.

Jean: Wax beans. What's your opinion?

Tim: I say no.

Jean: Ditto. How about soy beans?

Tim: I say no.

Jean: Ditto.

Tim: Wow. We're on the same page. How is that possible?

Jean: Linda's with us, also.

Tim: I love when Linda's here at the best, right? She talks all about bees.

Jean: And we're gonna talk about these little ladies and all the amazing things they're up to.

Tim: Always the best.

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Teresa: Hi, and welcome back to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. I'm Teresa Golden.

Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas.

Teresa: Today's chat is about more catalog buying. And an earlier episode we reviewed the realities of buying seeds from catalogs and discovered that there was a whole other world of catalogs specializing in flowering bulbs and in nursery stock. Perennial plants also appear in many catalogs. So Jean, why do we need another whole episode about bulb and plant buying? Isn't a catalog a catalog? What's the difference?

Jean: Well, one of the biggest differences is price. A packet of seed is a few dollars and has great potential. Your major investment is your time to bring all that potential to fruition, there's usually a much bigger cash investment in bulbs and plants. Also, there's usually a bigger investment in space and time. So if you don't read a catalog accurately, your mistakes will be on a much larger scale.

Teresa: Can you give me an example?

Jean: Sure. Let's start with trees and shrubs. I'm always amazed at what I call the magic beans product. My favorites are the multi fruit or multi flowering trees. You can get a fruit cocktail tree, it's an assortment of peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots grafted onto one trunk. Or a three in one butterfly bush. Or a five in one pear tree. This is where you'd better read the small print. If you're an experienced gardener these can be a fun novelty. If they survive you have bragging rights. An inexperienced gardener might be discouraged for life. These plants are usually small bare root twigs, and the shipping costs can be prohibitive. Usually the first thing I look for is the chart of shipping and handling costs, usually listed on the order form. spending an extra $10 or more on a gamble can be painful. I recommend that rookies use a technique I've perfected. Shop through a catalog. Make your list of plants and prices and shipping costs. Put the list inside the catalog and set it aside. Go back another day and look at your list. This time check to see what zone the plant is hardy to what's the actual size of the plant being shipped. Look up the mature size of the plant so you can reserve the space in your yard and the requirements for light water and in our area deer protection. If you still want the order, go for it. If you're having second thoughts, maybe a trip to a local garden center might be in order. My motto about woody plants in particular is "Time is money". This translate to would you rather buy a bare root two foot tall baby tree and nurse it along? Or would you rather spend twice or three times as much for one that's several years older and proportionately bigger. The bigger one has received all the TLC from the nursery growers that you'd be providing the baby tree. I'm at an age where I'd rather not wait a few extra years, but there are good reasons for each school of thought.

Teresa: Okay, sticking with woody plants for now, when is it better to buy from a catalog.

Jean: Well, if you want to plant a significant number of plants and you can protect them to adulthood. For instance, many of the fast growing hedge favorites such as lilac and Rose of Sharon, or oak and maple varieties can be bought in multiples. There are several catalogs that offer hardwoods and conifers in plugs from a single plant to a box of hundreds for forest buildings or restoration. Chief River Nursery Company was established in 1973 and offers a large range of native trees and shrubs, as well as an assortment of bare root fruit trees.

Teresa: But aren't a lot of plants offered in catalogs problematic?

Jean: Yes, they are. Many such as burning bush, Siberian elm and non native honeysuckles are prohibited in New York State. The catalog will have a notation at the end of the plant description listing states that don't allow these plants to be shipped in. I'm also wary of forsythia, mock orange and butterfly bush because they can be aggressive and muscle their way into larger spaces than you might like. And I'll argue about Rose of Sharon until the cows come home and maybe let the cows eat the darn things.

Teresa: Well, no opinions there. Let's move on to herbaceous plants, herbs and perennials.

Jean: Okay, that's a kinder and gentler world. Perennial herbs are included in most perennial catalogs and you can go from as simple as a favorite collection of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme to plant in a container outside your kitchen to a collection of salvias or a border of cat mins. The life plans may be small at first, but they do grow quickly and fill up space for you. They're usually shipped in a three inch pot and the packaging is amazing.

Teresa: What about perennials? As a Master Gardener I'm an enthusiast about native plants and pollinators?

Jean: Well, perennial flower (and don't forget grass) starter plants are not for weekend gardeners. Like any babies, they need a little more attention at first. Just like seed catalogs the best plant catalogs give copious information about the requirements of the plant. There are many specialty catalogs available for perennials and I must say the information provided for the plant is exemplary. These people want their plants to be successful and do their best to make them foolproof. Prairie Moon nursery in Minnesota is celebrating its 40th year in business and the title and the catalog says it'll all: native seeds and plants for gardening and restoration. I'm still trying to get my head around how 1982 was 40 years ago it doesn't feel that way. Prairie Moon like many of the catalogs offers a pre planned gardens designed for specific conditions. There's tend to be like little meadows.

Teresa: And I'm sure this catalog for more traditional gardens?

Jean: Oh Teresa, absolutely. Bluestone perennials has been around for 50 years and their catalog is an oasis of logic. Their plants are listed alphabetically by Latin name and have a full set of guidelines and icons describing what each individual plant needs.

Teresa: You said Prairie Moon offers collections of plants designed to plant all at once. Who else does that?

Jean: Well. A couple of my favorites are K van Bourgondien and Spring Hill. Both tend to stray into hyperbole in their catalogs, but have excellent mixtures and blends available. Finn Burgundian has one I'm going to tell Linda Levitt about

Teresa: Linda Levitt who contributes to the Flower Power segment to the podcast? Why?

Jean: They have a Flower Power perennial blend of four really good deer proof cutting flowers. They must have named it after her, right.

Teresa: I think we've reached the end of perennials and woody plants. Tell us about buying bulbs from catalogs.

Jean: Okay, this comes with a warning, I'm bonkers about bulbs, and I will spend hours comparing prices between catalogs because I ordered them the only way you should, by the hundreds. I'm going to start with the assumption that our listeners have seen the seasonal retail displays in just about every store that sells plants -- or food. So I'll remind you of the basic rules. If an occasional Dahlia or Canna seduces you into bringing it home, be sure the bulb is healthy and has good solidity. If it's shriveled and weightless, or mushy, do not adopt it, it cannot be saved at any discount. If it's healthy, go for it and follow the planting instructions. Buying from a catalog gives you wider choices and less pressure. I feel the pain of somebody who yielded to temptation and brought home a bunch of balls and then had to navigate around them, waiting for the chance to do the planting. With mail order, you have several days of warning before you start to procrastinate.

Teresa: But anyway, I just drove past a yard full of gladiolas what catalogs should I use to order some myself right now while I'm thinking of it? Or should I just go get some at the store so I don't have to wait for delivery?

Jean: You know, Theresa, maybe I'm so in love with bulbs because there's so contrary. I if you see daffodils flowering, that means you can't buy bulbs to plant. There's some of the spring flowering bulbs that all require planting in the fall, so they can develop in the soil over the winter. And you can only buy them in the fall. For what comfort it might be. The catalogs start to arrive pretty early in the summer so you can order them for delivery in the fall. So that works for gladiolas as well as daffodils.

Teresa: All right, so I have a catalog. There seems to be two types. One has planned pornography with luscious photos on every page and the other is all botanical with line drawings sprinkled on the pages.

Jean: Yep, the shiny pretty ones have all basic bulbs with lots of varieties of each. Often they'll offer collections of stuff that looks great together and or bloom in sequence to lengthen the season. Van Bourgondien, Dutch Gardens, Breck are among these. They all bring in their bulbs from Holland. Pretty cool for the snobs and the greedy, and the lovers of plant trivia. A catalogue like McClure Zimmerman is an absolute treat. There are many fewer illustrations and much more text and lots more selections. Don't be afraid to expand your horizon, it can be an adventure. The first page tells you how to read the entries in the catalog. They'll even warn you if something's difficult to grow. All these catalogs don't just sell bulbs. They have corms, rhizomes and tubers available. What's the difference? Well, they're all the basic starter roots from which plants develop. For our purposes, the only difference is that how you plant them will differ. bulbs and corms must be buried to a specific depth, but rhizomes and tubers need to be shallower in the soil. Read the directions to be safe. For example, an iris or a peony planted too deep will not thrive and probably not even flower.

Teresa: So what's the deal with those flowers I see in the summer like lilies and gladiolas, and dahlias?

Jean: Well, we continue with the timing dilemma. By the time you see the flowers, it's too late to plant. Besides few of the summer flowering flowers are hearty, so you have to buy them in the spring. All the same catalogs have spring editions. So once you're on a mailing list, you'll get both when you can do your ordering.

Teresa: So am I understanding this correctly, plants and trees and shrubs can be ordered from catalogs from spring to fall. But bulbs can only be ordered when they're not flowering.

Jean: Pretty much. I'm adding a list of some catalogs to the reference section of the transcript. It's by no means a complete list. And I'm not saying these are the best. I just happen to use these catalogs more frequently.

Jean: Any last advice?

Jean: Oh Teresa, I almost forgot, size matters. By that I mean, you will see what looks like the exact same flower in two different catalogs. But with a wild difference in price. Always look closely in the descriptions often you'll find a difference in the size of the bulb. And that presents the determining factor for you. You can get smaller bulbs and let them develop in your garden over time, or get plants and flowers that may be bigger and sturdier.

Teresa: Well, that's all folks. No more catalog talk for today. Thanks for listening to Nature Calls: Conversations in the Hudson Valley. Until next time, this is Teresa and Jean.

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Stay tuned for The Veggie Patch

Teresa: Welcome back to The Veggie Patch. My name is Teresa Golden, a Master Gardener volunteer, and today let's talk about legumes. Legumes are grown agriculturally, primarily for human consumption, but also for livestock forage, and as a cover crop to replenish nutrients in depleted soils. Well known legumes include beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, peanuts, lentils, mesquite, carob, alfalfa and clover.

Teresa: Beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They can tolerate a fairly wide range of soils so they can be grown in most home gardens. There are over 130 varieties of edible beans, with pod colors ranging from green, yellow and purple to red or streaked. Some of them are collectively known as snap beans. While green beans are exclusively green, yellow pod beans may be referred to as wax beans. Shapes range from skinny fillet types to a wide “romano” type, and more common types in between.

Teresa: Beans grow typically as either ‘bush’ or ‘pole’ types. Bush beans or short plants growing to about two feet high, often without requiring any support. They tend to reach maturity and produce their fruit in a relatively short period of time. Pole beans have a climbing habit and produce a twisting vine which must be supported by poles or trellises. They typically produce higher yields over a longer period and in less space than bush types. Half runner beans have both bush and pole characteristics. Their runners can be anywhere between three and 10 feet long.

Teresa: Plant beans and full sun after the danger frost has passed. Make sure to follow the planning instructions for the variety of you've chosen. Mulch the soil around the plants to retain moisture, but make sure that it is well drained. Beans have shallow roots so the mulch keeps them cool. Water them regularly about two inches per square foot per week to keep them flowering. Note that excessive nitrogen will delay flowering so don't over fertilize. Make sure to weed diligently, but carefully, to avoid disturbing the shallow root systems.

Teresa: Harvest snap beans any time before the pods begin to toughen and the bean seeds begin to mature. They will be most tender when the small seeds inside is 1/4 the normal size. From this stage on, pods will become more fibrous and the bean starch here. Beans can be picked every two to three days, but only when the vines are dry to help prevent being messed in the spread of other diseases. Picking beans often irregularly will help to lengthen the harvest period. Harvest lima, soy and fava beans while the pods still have their attractive green color, and are plump. Make sure they don't lose your gloss or turn yellow. Quality is best if they're eaten as soon as possible after being picked since sugars quickly turn to starch. To ensure continuous harvest you can plant snap beans every two to three weeks from the frost free date until mid July.

Teresa: Another common legume is a pea. Pea is one of the first crops planted and harvested in New York State. Three main types of grown in the home garden: English or garden peas, snap peas and snow peas. Cultivars can be bushy and less than three feet tall or grow to over five feet tall. Considered a cool weather crop. Peas can be planted outdoors when the soil reaches a temperature of at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but warmer soils will speed germination. However, you can also plant or replant peas in July to yield the full crop in September or October. The good news is that piece can handle a light frost. For the best yield plant seeds one to three inches apart in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 that is well drained. There's no need to thin them if appropriately placed. Note the peas are very sensitive to excess soil moisture, so well-drained soil is key. Varieties under three feet tall can be grown without any support in rows 12 inches to 18 inches apart. For taller varieties, use a trellis or chicken wire to keep the vines upright to make them easy to pick and keep them off the ground.

Teresa: You can harvest them when the peas enlarge in pods. Note that weeds can quickly outcompete peas in our special problem in late April and May plantings, so make sure to stay on top of you weeding. Adequate moisture is critical at pod fill. So make sure to water the garden as needed. Harvesting varies by type. For garden peas harvest and show them when the pods are plump and well filled but before the seed becomes starchy. Pick snow peas when pods are large and flat, but before the seeds begin to enlarge. Snap Peas should be harvested when the pods are succulent and the seeds are small. Remove strings from along the suture of the pod before cooking or eating. Once picked, they are best stored in the refrigerator in a vented plastic bag.

Teresa: Beans, peas and other legumes can be considered either a vegetable or a protein food. They're an excellent source of protein and provide iron and zinc. They're low in fat and sodium and high in dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium and the B vitamin. Grow lagoons is an integral part of healthy eating.

Teresa: Thanks for listening to The Veggie Patch. Until next time, Nature Calls.

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Stay tuned for Hum of the Hive.

Linda: Welcome back to the Hum of the Hive, a recurring segment of Nature Calls that follows the honeybee through the four seasons. I'm your host, Linda Aydlett, a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia Greene counties and a Cornell University Master Beekeeper.

Linda: We all know that honeybees collect pollen and nectar as food sources for brood and adults alike. And in a prior segment of the Hum of the Hive, we talked about water is a critically important substance that bees also collect. Today we’ll explore a fourth substance honeybees are known to collect, propolis.

Linda:Propolis is essentially derived from small bits of sticky resin collected from the buds and bark of certain deciduous trees and plants. Some “exotic” examples of plant resins you may have heard of include amber, balsam, copal, frankincense and myrrh, a list that no doubt conjures up images of faraway places. But in more our temperate regions we’d be focusing on resins secreted from trees here in the Northeast such as cottonwood, birch, alder, poplar (aspen) and many of the conifers or cone-bearing trees. Resin is a thick, sticky liquid that’s quite pliable when collected by the foraging honeybee, especially during the warmer part of the day, when the resin is more free-flowing. She’ll gather resin in much the same way as pollen, moving the bits and globs along her forelegs, which are then compressed into a compact pellet that’s deposited into her pollen basket. As she’s collecting resin, she’ll lift herself up in the air every so often to test if she can still fly with her load. Once she gathers what she can carry, she heads back to the hive and crawls to the site within the nest where the resin is needed. Just as with pollen, our resin forager can’t unload the load of resin herself. She needs the help of a sister honeybee, called “cementing” bees, who will pull the resin off her hind legs and either put the it to immediate use or place the resin load in a storage location where it can used when needed later. If the resin is used right away, the cementing bee goes to work smoothing it into place, adding more layers of resin as needed. Once the resin is placed within the hive no matter what location, we call the substance propolis.

Linda: Typically, propolis is composed of about 50% resins, about a third waxes and fatty acids, and about 10% essential oils and aromatic compounds , including vanillin, which gives it an amazing not-too-sweet, vanilla-like odor. In the summer months, propolis is quite sticky, with a consistency much like saltwater taffy. But as the season cools into winter it becomes quite stiff and hard and breaks into shards similar to peanut brittle. Its color varies depending on the plant source, ranging from a light yellow tan to a dark brown and often has a reddish hue.

Linda: The word propolis comes from Greek, meaning "before or in front of the city", which is quite appropriate in the case of honeybees as one of the primary locations propolis is deposited is at the entrance to the nest to shape and size the opening to make it easier to defend against intruders. Linda:

Linda: Honeybees also use the sticky resinous substance elsewhere in the nest cavity to seal cracks and crevices against drafts and water, especially in autumn as the colony is preparing for the coming winter.

Linda: But perhaps more interesting, it turns out that propolis plays a critically important role in the well-being of the colony that goes well beyond just providing a convenient sealant for cracks and crevices. And it’s tied to an inherent property of the resin itself. Resins are sticky substances plants secret in response to injury, such as mechanical damage or attack by insects or pathogens. For instance, if a conifer tree is damaged or cut, it immediately secrets resin to seal and protect the injury. Just as resin plays a role in the immune defense system of plants, propolis also imparts these same powerful antimicrobial properties to help protect the colony from bacteria, viruses, mold spores, and other pathogens.

Linda: In fact, propolis is among the most powerful antimicrobial substance found in nature. According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Propolis and its extracts have numerous applications in treating various diseases due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antimycotic, antifungal, antiulcer, anticancer, and immunomodulatory properties.”

Linda: Honeybees are faced with a myriad of diseases and pathogens and can’t produce antibodies like humans do. So they turn to nature for resources such as resin to provide antimicrobial compounds for them. By bringing this substance inside the nest to provide what researchers call a “propolis envelope”, honey bees enhance the social immunity of the entire colony, which frees up energy for the bees to perform more critical tasks such as nursing, tending to the queen, comb building, and gathering resources. The cooperative use of external agents to protect a colony from disease and predation is a form of social immunity. Social immunity is found throughout nature and is an important part of many species' survival strategies.

Linda: So the next time you’re adding new plants to your landscape, maybe consider including a conifer or two, such as juniper, pine or spruce to name a few. Or perhaps a resin producing shrub or plant. The U.S Forest Service has a list of twenty-some flowering resinous plants that include willow, birch, alder, certain herbs, and sunflowers among the list.

Linda: If you do, you can be sure the honeybees will make good use of them.

Linda: And that concludes today’s Hum of the Hive, thanks for listening.

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That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We'd like to thank Sandra Linnell and Devin Connolly from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties for production support. And a special thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. You can find links to any of the topics mentioned in this episode at our website at CCEcolumbiagreene.org. Comments and suggestions for future topics may be directed to us at ColumbiagreeneMGV@cornell.edu or on the CCE Master Gardener Volunteers of Columbia and Greene County's Facebook page. For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties, visit our website at CCE Columbia green.org or visit us in Hudson or in Acra. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal programming and employment opportunities.

Last updated July 28, 2022