Scour the flower seed stock at your local big box store, and you’re sure to find the usual suspects. I’m talking about your standard golden sunflowers, your delicate lavenders, your fiery marigolds. Of course, there’s an allotment of tried-and-true perennials, like phlox and hydrangea, sure to sprout year after year. If you’re lucky, you might scrounge up something with a little more oomph, like zany zinnias or splashy dahlias.
What you won’t find? Funky, one-of-a-kind seeds and bulbs you don’t see in an average garden. The chocolate lace flower, for example, blooms in a stunning spectrum of dusty pink, maroon, and burgundy. The apricot lemonade cosmo, aptly named for its light orange petals and deep, mauve center, or the white cap peony, has edible flowers that taste as good as they look.
Co-founders Willow King and Julie Carson created Plantgem as a destination for those looking to find the unexpected. The DTC gardening company sells in-season supplies you won’t find anywhere else. Hand-curated by passionate farmer-florists and breeders from around the globe, Plantgem is a one-stop shop for the most discerning green thumbs.
“We saw an opportunity to create a really modern gardening brand, one with a curated catalog with different varieties [of flowers] that really make our heart sing,” Carson tells Well+Good. “We wanted gardening to be more inclusive and loose and funky than the more traditional offerings.”
Carson and King met more than a decade ago and quickly bonded over their shared love of flowers. But not just planting any old flowers, the ones they could only buy from their boutique florists. Purple pansies and buttery daffodils wouldn’t cut it. They wanted to grow otherworldly seeds and bulbs to rival any botanical garden.
Take peonies, for example. Everybody loves peonies, they’re stunning. But come spring when they start to bloom, drive around your neighborhood and you’ll find limited varieties of peonies in most gardens you’ll pass. But there are hundreds of different varieties of peonies that grow in a rainbow of colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes. But because the big-box retailers all source from the same, or similar, wholesalers, you’ll still find cookie-cutter peonies in yard, after yard, after yard.
“We both continue to be surprised by how many varieties are blowing our minds that you don’t see in any of those conventional channels,” said King. “I think it’s part of the movement of small flower farmers who are reviving heirloom varieties, are doing their own breeding or working closely with smaller breeders, and are moving away from the ‘big-box’ varieties into interesting color ways and habits.”
These independent breeders and local flower farmers are the lifeblood of Plantgem. Based on gardening trends, seasonality, and personal preference, Carson and King curate an assortment of seeds, bulbs, and planted roots that ready to plant. Fear not, you don’t have to be a horticulturist as every product available online is seasonal (everything you buy right now is meant to be planted in fall to bloom next spring). Planetgem provides specific, detailed care instructions for each variety.
Whether or not the seeds sprout is less important than the journey for Carson and King. “People don’t know that they can actually grow these things. But we’re not giving them anything that’s really difficult to grow,” said King. “We have plenty of master gardeners with acreage to play with who are excited to shop our varieties, but we’re also trying to reach people who are gardening on their fire escapes in Brooklyn for the very first time.”
Plantgem seeds, bulbs, and roots
The butterfly ranunculus is Carson’s personal favorite flower. It blooms with a surprise of shimmery, opalescent petals. “I planted ranunculus in my garden in Colorado and I had forgotten about them— two and a half months later, I has these little beauties.”
Buy a pack of five corms, or bulbs, to plant now for spring blooms of reds and pinks.
You’ve never seen tulips like these before. Black parrot tulips grow in a moody, dark purple-red color, swapping out smooth petals for wrinkled, ruffled petals. Plant them in fall, any time before the ground freezes (the winter cold is actually good for them) and watch them bloom come spring.
Want those white cap peonies we mentioned? Buy these live roots to set in the fall and winter to blossom in the spring (just note: in can take a few seasons to get reliable blooms. Patience!) These definitely aren’t your cookie-cutter peonies—the magenta petals offset a brilliant white center for a snazzier look.
The classic seed packets you’d find at the hardware store just got a serious upgrade. All of the brand’s seeds come in a sleek black tube with instructions on how to plant. To grow these lacey beauties, plant the seeds after your last frost in late spring. Once summer rolls around, you’ll have a burst of dusty, delicate florals that make an excellent homemade dye.
These enchanting flowers look like something out of a magical fairy garden. They’re a light lilac color that looks pretty in any summer garden. Each pack comes with 20 corms, which sprout about 20 flowers each, so expect a major bloom.
The Fritallaria is often called the “Snake Head,” thanks to its reptilian pattern on the petals. Colors range from dark purples to light pinks, all mottled with light spots. They’re super low maintenance, too—just plant in the fall and enjoy next year.
Asters are annual plants, so they’ll only bloom once a year. But don’t let that dissuade you—these bad boys flower for a long time, bursting in a pale periwinkle that looks great growing in your garden bed or clipped in a bouquet.
These amarylis bulbs produce 2-3 stalks each with multiple blooms on each stalk, so you’re sure to get your fill of flowers. You plant them indoors and they grow in a fiery orange that will standout in a sea of green of that makes up your indoor jungle.
Want to grow a string of pearls? Muscari are the next best thing. They blossom in little light pink spikes that look like the gemstone, naturalizing, or spreading out, in luscious beds as they grow. Like aster, its super resilient, so plant your bulbs and enjoy.
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