Thanks for your interest in The Desert Northwest Mail Order. This page covers:

Ordering & Payment

Please pay by check or money order, payable to The Desert Northwest; or use SquareCash (see below). We ask that you enclose payment with order, unless previously arranged otherwise.

If paying by check or money order, please fill out the order form completely. (It doesn't matter which you use; they are all the same.) Please provide your e-mail address on your order form, in case we have a question concerning your order. If you opt to be excluded from my e-mail newsletters, we will honor this, and your privacy is assured.

We strongly encourage listing alternatives/substitutions in case an item you requested is out of stock. If you would prefer a credit, please say so. If you do not, we shall choose an alternative(s) we hope you will like, according to your other selections.

We accept and ship orders throughout the year on the West Coast, weather permitting. Occasionally we may opt to delay shipping at our discretion if the weather is very cold or hot, either here or where the plants are going. Mostly we try to avoid shipping to the East Coast during the coldest part of winter, but it depends what you are ordering. Late March through most of November is generally safe for most plants and destinations.

Although we ship year-round, we suggest late summer/fall as a great time of year to place an order for the best selection, as many plants that are small and undeveloped in the spring may be ready then. Also, as we all know, fall is a great time to plant!

On a rare occasion we may be away from the nursery for a long period of time. Thanks for your understanding if there is a delay in our reply to your question, or in shipping your order, during such times.

Payment with SquareCash

SquareCash is an easy and convenient way to pay for your order using a debit card if you prefer to do things electronically! Although we still don't have an online shopping cart feature, this may be even better as you can't beat it for simplicity. It is free to use and entirely secure. Here's how it works.

  • E-mail us and let us know what plants you want & quantities of each, and tell us you'll be paying with SquareCash. Add up the total price (no additional shipping charges apply - see below).
  • Then go to https://square.com/cash
    Put in your email address and get your $1 for trying it. Check your email. Follow the directions to deposit your $1 providing your debit card information. You now have a SquareCash account.
  • Draft an email like this:
            "To:" mail@desertnorthwest.com
            "Cc:" cash@square.com
            "Subject:" $45.00 (or whatever the total value of your order is. This is an example.)
    These directions are also found here.
  • We then magically collect your payment. Doesn't that sound like fun? Give it a try! Just don't forget to let us know what plants you want!!

Minimum Orders and Shipping

Big changes to this section for Fall 2016!

  • A minimum order of $40 applies.
  • All prices include shipping to anywhere in the USA! That means once you add up your total for the plants, that is your grand total! There is no shipping charge beyond that. (This may sound redundant; I just thought I'd be extra clear.)
  • For Washington state residents, all prices include Washington state and local sales taxes.

The purpose of these changes is to make things less complicated for you, the customer. This blog post documents the reasons for these changes in more detail.
(As of 10/19/16 I haven't written this blog post. But I will soon.)

Plants are shipped only within the United States. (We do not ship to Hawaii.) We generally ship via USPS. We find that their flat rate boxes work well for the size of plants we offer. However, we occasionally use other types of boxes as needed, especially for shipments to Washington and Oregon.

Most plants are shipped with most or all of their soil, but no pots, and wrapped in newspaper and/or plastic to protect the roots and keep them moist. For certain plants with more delicate root systems (including all Proteaceae), the pots are left on to ensure the root system is undisturbed. Please be prepared to pot up the plants into containers, or plant them in a well-prepared bed, immediately upon receipt of your order.

We guarantee all plants to be healthy, robust, and well-rooted when we send them, and carefully packed. If they arrive in poor condition, please let us know right away. Please don't refuse a damaged box that may contain perfectly healthy plants.

Plant Sizes

How big are the plants we ship? Everyone wants to know. Well, as the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." So here is what our mail-order plants look like:

The standard mail-order size we send may be any of the sizes pictured above. Basically it's anything smaller than a 1 gallon pot. We try to ensure that the plants are full and sturdy with well-developed root systems before we send them. It's impossible to generalize about the dimensions of the plants themselves, since this factor is dictated by the natural growth habit of each species.

We also ship some "1 gallon" plants. Above are two examples of what those plants look like. We use both "square gallons" and "round gallons." (It should be noted that what are called "1 gallon" pots or "#1 pots" in vernacular usage are in reality somewhat less than a true gallon.)

Again, we ship most plants without pots as described above.

Notes on the Mail-Order Catalog

  • Some plants are listed with a collection number, for example, "IB244" or "SBH6286". These numbers refer to a particular collection (responsibly collected as seed or cuttings usually from the wild) of a species made by a particular person at a particular place and time. These numbers should be retained if you are keeping records for your garden, as they frequently represent a specific distinct form of a species with unique characteristics.

  • Names of registered plant cultivars are given in single quotes, as is standard practice in the field of horticulture. Names in brackets, such as Arctostaphylos x media [Mt. Walker], are not actual registered cultivars, but they still indicate a particular distinct form or collection of a plant. Like collection numbers, these names should be retained for gardeners concerned with accurate record keeping.

  • At any time, plants may be removed from the catalog in the event that they sell out, and added again once a new crop is ready to sell. However, it is not guaranteed that everything on the list is always available, as certain plants may sell out abruptly, unforseen disasters may occur, or we may not have a chance to update the list as promptly as we would like. For that reason, we encourage you to list at least a couple of substitutions when placing your order.

Drought Resistance Codes

We have now added drought resistance codes to each plant description, which may provide you with a rough idea of how much drought each plant can comfortably tolerate. Their use can be compared to the way plant hardiness zones are intended to function, in that they can be applied both to plants and to locations. The code operates on a scale of 0 to about 6 or 7, 0 being the least droughty, where (on average) enough rain falls to sustain plant growth at any time of the year temperatures are warm enough; and 6 or higher generally being considered a desert-type climate.

This system, believe it or not, is not something we just made up; nor are we the first to use it to assess plant adaptability in the context of gardening. It is based on the method of determining hydric deficit developed by French plant geographer Henri Gaussen; and has been used in at least one book, The Dry Gardening Handbook by Olivier Filippi. It is calculated as the number of months for which the average temperature (calculated as the average of daily high and low temperatures, not just the average high) in degrees Celsius exceeds half the average precipitation in millimeters. We are incorporating it here because we think it has the potential to be very helpful for assessing plant water needs, and deserves much wider use.

In the future we hope to provide more details about how the system works, including helpful graphics and maps to see what hydric deficit "zone" you are in. For the present we have only made these calculations for a few select locations, and so a brief summary will have to do. If you're in the greater Seattle or Portland area, your hydric deficit zone is probably 2. Not until you get to about Eugene do you go up to 3, and Medford is 4. In the Olympic Rainshadow, Port Townsend and Port Angeles, and probably much of the San Juan Islands, are in zone 3; Sequim is barely within 4. East of the Cascades, Spokane has a hydric deficit factor of 4 and Wenatchee is 6. Looking farther afield, the system becomes somewhat less useful outside of Mediterranean climates, but it is safe to say that anywhere from about east Texas on up to the entire Atlantic seaboard has a hydric deficit factor of 0 because of the relatively even distribution of rainfall throughout the year. Of course, the system is based only on averages and does not take into account exceptional droughts that occur rarely. Even in Forks, which gets a rating of 0 based on averages, summers can be dry some years, and gardeners may wish to plant based on a hydric deficit factor of 1.

Use of the drought resistance codes assumes no supplemental irrigation beyond natural rainfall is provided. It also assumes plants are established: we all know that plants generally still need to be watered to some degree until they are well established. Even so, results will vary based on growing conditions; particularly, the amount of sun vs. shade the plant receives, and the ability of the soil it is growing in to retain moisture. If you are planting in a dry and difficult "hell strip" or have exceptionally sharply draining soil; or wet, heavy soil; you may wish to "adjust" (for gardening purposes: not that you are climate truly changes) your hydric deficit factor up or down accordingly (but probably not by more than one zone). Another consideration is that gardeners will have differing standards for what they consider to be "resisting" or "tolerating" drought for a given plant. If a plant continues to survive, grow and flower but at a reduced rate from what it would do under moister conditions, is it drought tolerant? This is a subjective question; but, in general, we find it best to consider how much drought a plant can tolerate "comfortably," that is, without substantial setback in growth or performance, but allowing a little wiggle room for varying conditions from one garden to the next. Finally, we are not always entirely certain just how much drought some of the plants we offer can or cannot take in stride. We acknowledge that our drought resistance ratings are often based on educated guesswork, and we welcome your feedback regarding their accuracy. For this reason we suggest using these ratings as a general guide only - but, hey, it's a place to start!

  "So you concocted an elaborate ruse to bring me here. Why?"          -Patrick Stewart