In Fran Sorin’s March 4, 2009 post ‘Favorite Seed and Plant Mail Order Sources: From our GGW Contributors’ Steve Silk and I both mentioned Cottage Garden in southwestern Illinois as a ‘favorite’ mail order resource for their vast range of unique plants. Fortunately, I live about 45 minutes from Cottage Garden. My visits there are always informative and inspirational. I feel a more detailed post is appropriate.
For over twenty years, Chris Kelley and her husband Bill have worked to create a popular destination nursery just outside Saint Louis, Missouri. They specialize in plants that really work in our hot and humid summer climate with cold winters. Their selection of tropical plants is impressive (including over 100 new tropicals for ’09), all of which are trial tested in containers (another specialty) and display beds throughout the nursery.
Chris says, ‘one of the greatest advantages of growing tropicals is their ability to adapt to container culture’. I couldn’t agree more! This spring I found several unique items for client’s containers including:
- Agave attenuata ‘Raea’s Gold’- bright yellow to chartreuse foliage depending on the light intensity, to 2′ tall at maturity.
- Ribbon plant (Homalocladium platycladum)- flat ribbons of arching, acid green foliage; ‘looking like a mass of strange green tapeworms’.
- Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Giant’)- cultivar with significantly larger, fleshy, iridescent purple leaves.
- Elephant ear (Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii’)- heart shaped, olive green leaves with deep red venation and stems.
- Yellow bells (Tecoma stans ‘Gold Star’)- a favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Image courtesy Cottage Garden.
- Bulbine frutescens ‘Hallmark’
- Lion’s ear (Leonotis leonurus)
Cottage Garden has a large selection of sun and shade perennials, hosta, vines, shrubs and grasses too. Several of which caught my eye, including: hummingbird mint (Agastache x ‘Tutti Frutti’), Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Pink Elephant’, narrow-leaf ironweed (Veronia lettermanni ‘Iron Butterfly’), Hosta ‘Faith’, Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ and chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus ‘Abbeville Blue’).
The Kelley’s grow on and finish all plant material on site. Perennials are grown outside, therefore they do not require acclimatization when you receive them. Annuals and tropicals are greenhouse grown, although they are acclimated to somewhat cooler temperatures before shipping in spring.
They are one of the few nurseries who have succeeded in juggling a retail walk-in business with a shipping department.
With such a diversified plant palette that never seems to stop growing, Chris is not ashamed to admit she is among the ‘horticulturally addicted’. She loves the ‘color, texture and architecture in her plants’.