Seed catalogs bring hope for summer

Published 9:00 am Sunday, January 11, 2015

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

Every day the mailbox is filled with those wonderful wish books, better known to us gardeners as seed catalogs. Do you remember when you were a child and the Sears, Wards and Penney catalogs arrived for all of us to make our wish lists from? Those poor catalogs were nearly threadbare by Christmas as we folded down a page, drew a circle around our favorite items or made notes on pieces of paper so our folks knew just what we wanted for Christmas. Well, that is how we gardeners feel when our seed catalogs begin arriving.

Lang said pansies make her heart want to shout out for joy that spring is just a few months away while she looks through the seed catalogs making her “wish list” for 2015. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Lang said pansies make her heart want to shout out for joy that spring is just a few months away while she looks through the seed catalogs making her “wish list” for 2015. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Looking through the pages at all of the colorful fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers just about makes me giddy. I start making notes on the pages about which ones I want to add to my “wish list” for the next growing season. Some of the catalogs are filled with information on growing and what the requirements are for that particular item. Over the years I have saved several catalogs because they contained so much information that was useful. If you need to understand when a clematis should be pruned, they usually have that information in the catalog next to the clematis, so I will cut it out and save it in my gardening journal.

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My lists tend to be long and then gradually I pare it down to what I can really afford and also have room to grow. It’s probably a good thing this comes right after Christmas when all of my money has already been spent and the thought about taxes coming due in April, or I would probably order the whole darn catalog — never mind that I wouldn’t have room in the gardens for all of it.

When I first started gardening I would often order plants from the cheapest catalogs and sometimes the plants would survive and often they would be very lackluster. Now I have my favorite places to purchase plants from very reputable growers and if I pay a bit more for the plant I know they will stand behind it if there is a problem. Last year I ordered comfrey from a place out East and I have never had such wonderful customer service before. The day I called to inquire about whether they indeed had the item I was looking for I caught the owner and he was not in a place to take my order and asked if I could call back in about 10 minutes.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

After 10 minutes I called back and Stan was ready to not only take my order, but to discuss these plants with me. He then referred me to their website so that I could see more photos of the comfrey growing in their display beds. Because my two plants didn’t meet the minimum order I chose a small hosta to complete the order. A couple of days later a confirmation arrived as well as a phone call from one of the workers to thank me for the order. I was again called before the plants were shipped to verify my shipping address and again was thanked for the order. The day after the plants arrived another phone call to me verifying that indeed I had received my order and was it alright? All of this was way beyond what I had expected in the way of customer service. You can be sure I will be ordering more hostas from this company.

Customer service is a big deal to me and I have some very good companies that I have dealt with over the years. Having worked in retail myself for over 25 years and then having dealt with many customer service people when I worked at my last job, it can make or break a company. In this age of technology, sometimes the personal side of customer service seems to have gone by the wayside.

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth.” — Edward Giobbi


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at