If you read my article “Seed Catalog Time – An Annual Ritual of Avarice and Glee“, you know that my love of the seed catalog is real and perhaps unholy in its ferocity. I love them for many reasons. They are pure escapism tied perfectly to practical need.
While I am open to reading most seed catalogs and may even order from them, I have a few which are my personal favorites and I welcome them to my home like old friends year in and year out.
“Today, the D. Landreth Seed Company is the fifth oldest corporation in America. Among its many historic claims is the fact that the company sold seed to every American president from George Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Landreth story is the story of an American family business which was born near the time of America’s birth and grew with America over three centuries. It is a story of strong minded men and women of principle, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters who pursued a path of innovation and exploration with the pioneering spirit that will always be the essence of what makes this country great.” – From the D. Landreth website
Landreth is the company that introduced the Zinnia to the US. And the tomato. And bred and sold seed for the first yellow tomato. And introduced Bloomsdale Spinach (one of the most popular vegetables ever grown). D. Landreth Seed Company is new on my list of favorites in 2012. To be honest, I had never heard of them until mid-2011, when I read a post on that social networking site so many of us use but I won’t name here. The story said that the oldest seed house in the US was in danger of going out of business, and that they were trying to save the business by selling copies of their 2012 seed catalog for $5 each. You will note that this is the only catalog on my list for which I have to pay. I can honestly say that I don’t mind paying for it at all, and look forward to doing so for years and years.
As a side note, I ordered my catalog early – as soon as I read they were selling them to help stay in business, in fact. So, months passed before the catalogs were printed and shipped. When I heard that catalogs were shipping, I waited for mine. After a few weeks of it not arriving (not realizing that they were shipping them in small batches, by hand, themselves), I sent them a politely worded email asking if they could please check on the shipping of my catalog. The next day, the catalog I had ordered and they had shipped a week earlier arrived. Two days later, a priority mail envelope arrived at my door with a “replacement” copy of the catalog and an apology for the delay. That second catalog was promptly given to a friend who will now order from them as well. Please support this business and their commitment to quality customer service and “just doing things right”.
D. Landreth Seed Company
60 East High Street, Bldg #4
New Freedom, Pennsylvania 17349
“Seed Savers Exchange is a memebr-supported non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Since 1975, our members have been passing on our garden heritage by collecting and distributing thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.” – From the Seed Savers Exchange website.
Seed Savers Exchange is my first true love of the seed world. When I requested my very first seed catalog ever, it was from Seed Savers Exchange. They never fail to delight with their gorgeous photography, intriguing varieties, informative and entertaining descriptions, and brief stories of life at their headquarters at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Their catalogs are free, full, and beautiful. If you can only contend with one seed catalog any given year, go with either Seed Savers Exchange, D. Landreth, or Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
Seed Savers Exchange
3094 North Winn Road
Decorah, Iowa 52101
Since started in 1998, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has grown to offer 1300 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs from 70 countries, brought to you in a nearly 200-page catalog. Over the last several years, founders Jere Gettle and his wife Emilee have branched out into other related projects as well, including the nationally distributed Heirloom Gardener magazine, which is now in its eighth year of publication and represents a series of happy moments throughout my year that keeps me going long after seed catalog time has come and gone. They also work extensively to supply free seeds to many of the world’s poorest countries, as well as here at home in school gardens and other educational projects.
I love the Baker Creek catalog and its stories of life at the headquarters near Springfield, Missouri. And as a Missouri transplant, this catalog feels like a postcard from home. If you only have room for one seed catalog this year, I recommend Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, D. Landreth, or the Seed Savers Exchange.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
2278 Baker Creek Road
Mansfield, Missouri 65704
High Mowing Organic Seeds began in 1996 with just 28 varieties. After tilling up a portion of his backyard and turning his shed into a seed packing area, founder Tom Stearns had no trouble selling the seed he grew that first year. Suddenly, what had started as a hobby became a practical business pursuit, as Tom realized the growing and unmet demand for organic seed. This demand allowed Tom to expand the business beyond his backyard, renting parcels of land to produce the seed he was selling through a hand-made catalog. By 2001, business had grown to such an extent that Tom began to contract with other local farms to grow seed, in addition to continuing to produce seed himself on High Mowing’s own 5 acres.
High Mowing Organic Seeds has grown exponentially, and what started as a one-man operation is now a thriving business making available to home gardeners and commercial growers over 600 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seed.
High Mowing Organic Seeds
76 Quarry Road
Wolcott, Vermont 05680
Sand Hill Preservation Center
This is not a large operation, their catalog’s only picture is a black and white ink drawing (this year’s apparently done by a Katie Weets), and they don’t have a huge selection of plants. What they lack in number of varieties, they make up for in, well, variety of varieties? I mean, they sell cardoon seeds. Most people don’t even know what a cardoon is and certainly wouldn’t know what to do if confronted by one in the middle of the night. They actually sell seeds for it and encourage you to grow it yourself!
But, to be honest, I have never ordered seeds from Sand Hill Preservation Center. Every year, I get this catalog because of the other thing it sells…poultry. They have an impressive selection of heirloom and heritage breed poultry, and sell eggs and chicks by mail. I do not yet have chickens, but I have been promised that, now that we have moved to the new house, this is the year. And when the time to order those cheeping little balls of fuzz comes around, I know where to get them. And now, you do too.
Maybe I’ll even try growing cardoons this year. Anyone know if they can grow in Alaska?
Sand Hill Preservation Center
1878 230th Street
Calamus, Iowa 52729
- Gathering: A Life Spent Saving Our Seeds From Extinction (eatdrinkbetter.com)
- Shop Till You Crop (promenadeplantings.com)
- It’s Time To Start Those Seeds Indoors! (shantara.wordpress.com)
- Seed Catalog Time – An Annual Ritual of Avarice and Glee (alaskakitchenandgarden.wordpress.com)