Purchasing bulbs through mailorder

Sometimes you just don't have enough time to get to a retail store or you want a particular variety of bulb that's not commonly found in your local garden center or home supply store. This is where buying from a mail-order supplier can be a real advantage.

Here are the perks of sending away for your bulbs:

1 Quality: Mail-order bulbs are frequently bigger and fresher. Every step of the way, from climate-controlled storage to the cushioned box they arrive at your door in, mail-order bulbs get premium treatment.

i Selection: Catalogs and Web sites devoted especially to bulbs are impressive: You can browse beautiful bulbs you've never seen at your local garden center. The selection of cutting-edge varieties also comes into play, because bulb merchants often work directly with Dutch growers to get the new and improved bulb varieties that sometimes aren't produced in enough quantity to be distributed by mass merchants.

Take a look at the disadvantages:

i Wait time: There's a lag between the time you place your order and the day you receive your bulbs.

When you order the bulbs matters. If you order bulbs in spring or summer to be sent the coming fall, you may wait many weeks. It you order them in the fall, delivery usually just takes a few weeks, sometime less. Wait time also depends on the supplier. If the seller has the bulbs in his or her warehouse in the U.S., the bulbs are usually shipped faster than if they have to be sent to you directly from Holland.

1 Inability to inspect the merchandise: You can't handle or inspect your bulbs until they arrive. However, all reputable mail-order suppliers guarantee their wares and will replace bulbs or refund your money if the bulbs don't meet your expectations. Find and read the guarantee and return policies, just in case you have to use them.

Check out the resources in the Appendix at the back of this book if you'd like a list of some mail-order companies to consider. And look for deals — larger quantities and mixes are often discounted.

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