The Best Seed Catalogs:
Eye Candy & Hope for the Gardener

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2010_01_01_blog_baker_creek_1My Favorite Seed Catalogs

When friends ask, “So Tom, what are you reading these days?” I have to skirt the truth. I cite something I’ve read before or some nonfiction tome that brings this line of questioning to a speedy halt. Truth be told, I do read regularly; it’s just my books of choice are seed catalogs.  (Ah, there I said it.)

Who has time for Chabon, King, Christie or Crichton, when the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog is fresh from the mailbox? Am I really expected to trudge through Tolstoy, when FEDCO Co-op Garden Supplies catalog is burning a hole on my coffee table?

What’s so great about seed catalogs, you ask? (Now who’s the heathen?) For starters, whether homey, slick, sketched or art directed to death, seed and plant catalogs are aspirational and chocked full of promise, just like the seeds sold on each page. They arrive at time when every plant in my garden looks like it spent the last month in my fridge sealed up in a salad spinner. Hope springs eternal when the first of the seed catalogs clutter my counter.

From my porch, I see a large plot of land carpeted in winter weeds, screaming to be saved, to be resurrected into something beautiful, something edible and something that doesn’t have a taproot to China. (Hat tip to my favorite weed: Scotch Broom)

So should you put down Mr. Dan Brown’s latest long enough to imagine the possibilities that inch along, grow and celebrate the world outside your very door, I suggest the following editions as the vehicles to get you there.2010_01_01_blog_baker_creek_3Baker Creek Heirloom Seed: With over 1400 heirloom seeds available, and photos that I swear were taken by an out-of-work  pin-up photographer, Baker Creek tops my list of seed catalogs that make you salivate.  As much coffee table book as catalog, there is not a page portrayed that is not ripe with the passion of growing great things.2010_01_01_blog_fedcoFEDCO: For everything the Baker Creek catalog is, FEDCO is not. And therein lies its charm and power to woo you; it looks, feels and reads like some dog-eared treasure found in an a dusty attic chest. Sketches, vintage etchings, descriptions, expert advice and humor are replete on each page in a chockablock fashion that compels you to make sure you didn’t miss a thing.2010_01_01_blog_pinetreePinetree Garden Seeds: Here’s another great seed seller who gives you the opportunity to buy smaller quantities at lower prices. I like to grow a lot of varieties, so this affords me greater range in the garden and on the table. The catalog also has a seed section for Asian, French, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Latin-American vegetables as well as dyeing and medicinal herbs.

2010_01_01_Johnscheepers_seedJohn Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog is a fine little work of art with Beatrix-Potter-like paintings of vegetables suitable for framing or the warren of Peter Rabbit.  You’ll find great descriptions, fine variety and seed amounts clearly shown. And if you’re a flower fanatic, wait until fall and be blown away by their bulb catalog: Beauty from Bulbs.2010_01_21_blog_seed_catalogs 008Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit, member-supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds. They do great work and their catalog and website are first rate, offering plant diversity rarely seen in other catalogs.2010_01_21_blog_seed_catalogs 006Territorial Seeds is the mainstay of the Pacific Northwest gardener and grower, a catalog that covers an amazing array of seeds tested in a climate where cloudy skies outnumber clear.

Le Jardin du Gourmet is a seed catalog on a shoestring, but don’t let that fool you. As a loyal fan, I like their seeds because they have really cheap packets of small seed quantities. So if I want to try new varieties out, I can without breaking the bank. I mean who really needs 1,000 chard seeds. Packet prices range from 35 cents to $1.00 and they have exceptional shallot sets.2010_01_01_blog_boz_bakercreekBoz, is giving me the look, “Put down the catalog and take Gracie and me on a walk.”  I have plenty more catalog recommendations, but Boz is right; no rain, time for a walk. Besides, I don’t want to be responsible for helping you get nothing done between now and next month.

Tell me, what are your favorite seed and gardening catalogs?

What I was blogging about a year ago: Art Forged in the Everyday: Train Rails Reborn as Andirons

24 COMMENTS

  1. Favorite seed catalog in Arid zona …ah NO, we have enough cactus thank you. Now, about Boz – I seem to recall getting a look just like last night that from the big guy right after I asked him if he wanted to clean up the kitchen. LOL

  2. We’ve always picked up our heirloom seeds in local nurseries, but I will change that this year. The graphics alone are one reason to order these catalogs. My nephew just gave me a bag full of vintage French seed packets that are so beautiful. I am trying to imagine the perfect way to display them.

  3. I’ve wondered for years if it was “Scotch Broom” or “Scotch Bloom,” and because of your blog I am more informed about the most beautiful invasive shrub…weed… broom… around. Your blog makes a difference in my weed vocabulary.

  4. I’m picking up trees (a honey fig and 3 apples and a pear per your recommendation, actually, as well as several blueberries for a hedge. A medlar sounds interesting, but I don’t have much room.) from Raintree and ordering from Territorial.

    I always get lost in the seed catalogs that come during the darkest days of the year, but I like Tolstoy, too. 🙂

  5. I like seed catalog porn as much as the next person but my quest is prairie grass and native trees/understory. These seeds are less exotic and more quixotic. Native American Seed is my main source at http://www.seedsource.com however, it focuses on the southern central plains primarily Texas. As for the garden, I’ve saved back tabasco seeds for another try and maybe a better yield, the orignal seeds were obtained from the University of New Mexico who sell the largest variety of chili seeds in the worls as you can well imagine. This is Brion reporting from Texas, back to you Thom.

  6. At our house, the catalogs are known as Garden Erotica. It’s so great to know someone else who is enjoying his Fedco as much as I am. And it will thrill me no end to think of you growing seeds that started on their way to you from my neighbors here in Maine. Now I have to get me some of that Baker Creek!

    Thank you, Tom! It’s great gardening with you.

  7. I just loved this listing, Tom – thank you!! You’ve got a few here that are new to me which is very exciting. I love how you told us what’s special about each one. I just tweeted this article!

  8. Good list!

    I also like Native Seeds SEARCH (http://www.nativeseeds.org/), a great resource for southwest gardeners.

    My absolute favorite is the Seed Savers Yearbook one gets when one becomes a member. Thousands–yes THOUSANDS–of varieties that are impossible to find anywhere else suddenly become available. I read and reread the thing, forcing myself to limit my seed purchases to what is remotely possible in the space that I have. This year will be my first year listing seed that I’ve saved in the yearbook, and I’m looking forward to connecting with people through out the world as I send them something I’ve perpetuated.

  9. I am trying to get some cactus seeds, but everyone wants to sell huge bulk amounts. I am interested in some real seeds not the hybrids being shoved down my throat for my garden and yard. Does your seed saver have such treats for lost people such as I?
    God Bless you and yours
    Donnie Foster
    Kansas

  10. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction of awesome seed catalogs! I love to garden but a few years ago I received an heirloom seed catalog that was filled with hand drawn sketches! I was so inspired I had a tattoo done in morning glories! Its gorgeous! Wish I could find that catalog again. It was on manilla type paper. Until then the sketched catalog above will do for now!!!

  11. Hi Tom,
    I just received my new catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I wanted to thank you for sharing your suggestions on your favorite seed catalogs. When I opened Baker Creek’s catalog, I was very impressed with their work and what they had to offer. Definitely a gem to read!

    Tien

  12. Tom, I just came upon your blog today and your small farm and house are just beautiful. A pie baker too! I love to play with dough as well! Thanks for the info on the seed catalogues — some that I hadn’t heard of and will order a couple for this year. I did come across John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds the other day when I was looking specifically for tiny cucumbers to make cornichons this year – #2125 Parisienne Cornichon de Bourbonne Cucumbers.

    Very excited to follow yours and the pup’s adventures in the kitchen and garden. (by the way got a great laugh at “Boz’s Lazy Susan”. Thanks!
    Cindy

    • Thanks Cindy, what a nice introduction. Welcome and thanks for the kind words. I think I may grow cornichons this year though our weather is a bit too cool. Even though they say cool as a cucumber, the temp to grow them needs to be warmish. 😉

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