My 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.Baker 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.FEDCO: 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.Pinetree 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.
John 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.Seed 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.Territorial 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.Boz, 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