Archive for the ‘Seed Catalogs’ Category

Winter Dreams & Seed Catalogs

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Dreaming over seed catalogs helps gardeners survive January and February when it is too cold outside to garden. Here are some of my favorite seed companies — please post a ‘comment’ if I am forgetting one of your faves and I will add it to the list.

The most beautiful seed catalog ever is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Baker Creek is fantastic source of heirloom seeds collected from all over the world by founder Jere Gettle and his wife Emilee. They carry some truly unusual seeds — including 49 varieties of eggplant and separate sections on American, Asian, and European melons.


Comstock Seeds is New England’s oldest seedhouse, dating back to around 1811. It has a colorful history which you can read about in the catalog (for example, they were the first to package seeds in paper packets the way we buy most of our seeds today). The company is in the process of being restored to its former glory and the catalog has over 250 heirloom varieties which were offered by Comstock Ferre over the years.


Seeds from Italy is the U.S. mail order distributor for Franchi Sementi of Bergamo, Italy — Italian seedsmen since 1783 and the oldest family-run seed company in the world. They specialize in traditional heirloom Italian varieties, selected over the years for good taste & productivity. The majority of Franchi’s vegetable seeds are still commissioned and continue to be produced in their home regions. Specialty seeds from Southern Italy are supplied by a small company in Andria, Bari. Their online catalog also contains recipes to help you “think like an Italian cook.”


Johnny’s Selected Seeds, based in Winslow Maine, is an employee-owned company with a huge catalog of vegetables, fruits, flowers, farm seed, herbs and very nice tools & supplies (they even have Eliot Coleman designed tools). They specialize in “organic” seeds and plant breeding (they developed Bright Lights Chard). Johnny’s was founded by Rob Johnston in 1973. Rob called his company Johnny Apple Seeds until he discovered that another company had copyrighted the name. Many SWQV Gardeners order seeds from Johnny’s.

Burpee Gardening is perhaps America’s most famous garden catalog. Founded in Philadelphia in 1876 by W. Atlee Burpee, who later bought Fordhook, a farm in Doylestown, and transformed it into a world-famous plant breeding facility. I look to Burpee for new varieties and hybrids (like the fabulous Brandy Boy tomato), although it is fun to think that many of Burpee’s “new” varieties have now become heirlooms — like their Fordhook Giant Chard, introduced in 1934 & now sold by both Burpee and by Seed Saver’s Exchange.

Seed Saver’s Exchange in Iowa is also an excellent organization with a great seed catalog! Heirloom seeds from around the world. They grow out most of what is in the catalog and if you become a member you have access to seed savers and their treasures from around the globe. Very cool! [recommended by Gwyn]

– Barbara Mc