Winter may be time off from actively gardening but it’s a great time of year for gardeners! When the seed catalogs start arriving in the mail I feel like a kid all over again, drooling over the holiday “Sears Wishbook”. Each catalog holds the promise of the ‘best garden ever’ if I can just pick the right seeds to grow. This is gardening with my imagination which is far more exuberant than my real-world life!
This year it’s especially exciting as I have access to a REAL greenhouse to grow veggie and perennial starts! However, I’ve managed to grow quite a number of plants over the years without any sort of fancy set up. Seeds are magical little bits of promise and such a great way to teach our kids about the miracle of nature. What’s the worst that can happen if they don’t grow? You’re out a few bucks and some time? You’ve got so little to lose that it’s worth attempting home seed starting. Over the coming months I will profile several ways that you can save money and grow your landscape at the same time.
Today’s post is just about my ‘go to’ sources for seeds. These are all places that I have personal experience with over the last 15 years. I have not been paid in any way for these endorsements- they’re just places I like! I have also listed them in no particular order.
Packets are perfect for homeowners and it’s a very affordable option. Shipping is low but selection is high. I buy most of my veggie seeds from them. This year I am really excited to grow their popular cut-and-come-again lettuce mix. Unlike most lettuce mixes, this one only has the sweet varieties that are super yummy in salads. They have a huge listing of other interesting varieties too- including rainbow colors of carrots that alternately fascinate and repel me at the same time- love the look but eating a purple carrot seems weird! I totally want to try it! Pinetree also has listings for flowers (as do most of the veggie-centric catalogs) but food crops are where this catalog shines!
Territorial has a HUGE selection of seed- especially interesting vegetable varieties. Some of the offerings come with rather interesting names too- such as the lettuce called “Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed” – that’s worth growing just so you can announce the name of the salad a at summer BBQ. Territorial is more expensive than some (prices are okay, it’s the shipping that pains me) but worth the extra expense.
It’s worth ordering from Baker Creek just to get the artwork on the catalog and the beautiful seed packets. However, the seeds they offer are all heirloom varieties which means the contents of the packets have not been genetically modified via scientific means- though they will certainly attempt to create new varieties using Mother Nature’s methods. Heirloom vegetables have become more than just a good way to get seeds, it’s a lifestyle. The company is owned by a young couple, the Gettles, who have recently written a book called “The Heirloom Life” that sounds interesting to me- wonder if it’s on Kindle?
Totally awesome! They have heirlooms and hybrids both and offer an incredible selection of peppers and tomatoes. They sell my personal favorite tomato ‘Kellogg’s Breakfast’ which is an orange-color beefsteak tomato with a high acid content. If you prefer sweeter tomatoes, they’ve got many that fit that bill. I am a tomato freak so the bigger the selection, the better.
T&M is a British seed company with offices in the US as well. Their catalog is exactly what you’d expect from a UK seed house- packed with all sorts of goodies! I’ve ordered from T&M almost annually since the early 1990’s. In the years since, the offerings in their US catalog have shrunk from the amazing array originally offered but it’s still substantial. Prices are a little high but nothing outrageous. They strive to introduce new varieties each year and with so much of the new plant development market heading toward tissue culture, getting good NEW plants from seed is becoming increasingly difficult as growers realize much higher profits with plants than seeds.
2. Jellito Seed
If you want a huge selection of unique offerings, the good news is that Jellito (a German company) has you covered. The bad news is that it will cost you! Still, there are few places where you can choose between 77 varieties of Campanula. Jellito is the top source, in my opinion, for perennial seed. I only order from them occasionally but I know that many nursery growers use them as a major source for seed. I typically order from them every few years and make it a rather hefty order when I do. The catalog is in Euros and the prices are high but you get A LOT of seeds for the expenditure. A good online catalog that will send your brain into overdrive!
3. Select Seeds
If you’re into interesting annual flowers, Select Seeds is a great source. They specialize in antique and unusual annual flowers. I have only ordered from them once as I don’t really do a lot with annuals but I had a great experience. If you want something a little different than the petunias all the other gardens are sporting, you can’t go wrong with Select Seeds. If you want to risk a run in with the law, check out their selection of Bread Seed Poppies- but don’t tell the cops I told you to try them, I will disavow all knowledge! Okay, seriously, try the flowers not the seeds (though they are supposedly edible).
Visually, this catalog is not one you’d pick up over it’s brightly colored counterparts. However, the premise of this catalog is that you already know what you want, how it looks and the botanical name. If you know those things, you’ll find a HUGE selection of seed at excellent prices with the pages. They also have a bare-bones online catalog. If you don’t know botanical names, it’s not a problem- just google the name as you know it then find the botanical name that way. Use Google images to get a good idea of what the individual plants look like. Great US source for excellent seed at low prices.