Seed Catalog Roundup 2011, Part I


A photo of Lawrence Davis-HollanderI have always loved the arrival of seed and garden catalog season beginning just after Christmas. (Didn’t you know it’s a separate season?) Nowadays some catalogs arrive in early December, and some companies have dispensed with paper catalogs both to save money and reduce paper consumption. Could there be a time they all go electronic? I hope not because to me and many others it is a cherished tradition. For the smaller “mom and pop” seed companies, (there are some great ones out there), the costs of production and mailing aren’t worth it.

I can’t wait to pour through the pages of descriptions, ogling over the perfect full color tomato photographs, rows and rows of impossible flowers, the new releases and their wondrous resistance to an army of plant diseases. I was first inspired by Burpee’s, probably the only seed catalog we received in our suburban New York home, with its enticing offer of hard cash for developing the first white marigold.

I imagine the flavors and the smells at harvest time, planning which old friends I will grow, which new ones I’ll sample, where they will live in the garden. I go over this planning and dreaming in my mind, expanding and contracting with myriad garden ideas, until finally at some point I settle in to some semblance of realism, and place a few orders. If I’m really rigorous I’ll see what seeds I’ve got from the last couple of years that can be planted this year or unbridled frivolity will find me ordering more than can fit into my small garden.

A few disclaimers: I have no interest in any seed company nor gain anything by promoting them. I do know or have talked to some of the people involved in these seed companies. Generally I prefer heirloom and open pollinated varieties and I also grow hybrids. I have ordered seed from most of these companies. While I have grown a couple of thousand varieties I am not familiar with everything in these seed catalogs. I have grown, harvested, processed, and sold seeds in the past. 

I am not intending a comprehensive survey or review, and will try to cover some of the major “home” seed catalogs, and especially the heirloom and open pollinated print catalogs that I favor. As time allows I will review some on-line only sources.

I’m starting with a few non-glossy seed catalogs—catalogs that don’t have lots of full color photographs, and are, in theory somewhat more environmentally friendly because of this.

Nebraska Dave
2/11/2011 7:20:22 PM

Lawrence, thanks for the wonderful summary of places to get the best seeds. I definitely am going to order from a good reputable company this year. Last year I just thought that seeds are seeds, right? I bought mine from the big box store down the street and couldn't get a single seed to sprout. I even tried all combinations of the moist paper towel in the bag and even once with a heat mat. Nothing. The only thing that grew were the cucumbers and they looked nothing like the picture on the package. I was greatly disappointed just to save a few bucks. This year I am hoping to do better in the seed category. Have a great growing season in 2011.

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