I got caught up in a complicated garden debate about buying plants by mail order the other day. “Where shall I get them and will they be any good?” was the common question suspiciously voiced. Fifteen years ago I would have told everyone not to buy anything by mail order. However the Internet has revolutionised plant buying with sites like Crocus (tel 0844 557 2233/www.crocus.co.uk) selling well-grown plants online. Some of the best specialist nurseries in Britain also supply high quality, home-grown plants and their websites are very informative. It’s possible to buy several of the same plant, and their prices are much lower than those of the garden centres.

When it comes to mail order I have several personal favourites I use regularly — probably too regularly. Hardy’s Cottage Plants (01256 896533/www.hardys-plants.co.uk) and Beth Chatto’s Nursery (01206 822007/wwwbethchattoshop.co.uk) are my choice for perennials. I use Long Acre Plants for woodlanders and shade lovers (01963 32802/www.longacreplants.co.uk) and Claire Austin for irises, peonies and herbaceous plants (01939 251173/ www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk). For clematis I go to Thorncroft Nursery (01953 850 407/ www.thorncroftclematis.co.uk) and for roses I usually head for Peter Beales (0845 4810277/www.classicroses.co.uk). When it comes to mail order fruit trees I use Blackmoor Nursery (01420 477978/ www.blackmoor.co.uk). Experience has taught me that they supply excellent plants well packed.

Despite this advice on online buying, the gaggle of gardeners all said the same thing. “I want to look at a plant catalogue too!” They asked me which ones I admired. The one I love most is from a Suffolk nursery called Woottens of Wenhaston. This nursery lies along narrow sand-blown lanes close to Southwold, but I don’t get there very often so their lavishly illustrated book (rather than catalogue) is a delight to look at. It costs £5.80 (including postage and packing) and I have saved mine over the years. Specialities include auriculas, irises, stylish herbaceous and classy pelargoniums. The close-up pictures are taken in the nursery.

The iris pictured, ‘Dutch Chocolate’, is a remontant chocolate-red Tall Bearded Iris. It’s one of 78 Tall Beardeds pictured and one of more than 300 Tall Beardeds listed. There are also Intermediate, Dwarf, Siberian and Spuria irises listed too and sections on how to grow them. Woottens also has an excellent range of hemerocallis, or day lilies, especially the spidery forms. Woottens was founded by Michael Loftus in 1991 and the nursery opens every day of the year, so there are no lazy winter days. The range of plants on offer grows year on year and Michael Loftus has an eye for a good plant that performs well in the garden. His display garden is open from April 1 until September 30. There is an auricula day on Easter Sunday (April 24) and 300 varieties can be seen and bought.

The iris field is open from May 29, and the hemerocallis collection can be seen on the second and third weekends of July. Woottens of Wenhaston — tel 01502 478 258/ www.wootttensplants.co.uk