Seed Dreaming


Sorry for the extended radio silence. A combination of Apprentice Weekend, followed by Fellowship Application due, followed by ice storm related power outage, followed by internet outage of indeterminate cause, followed by visitor, followed by a series of family administrative things put off because of all the previous means that I'm just now online, and my email is still down, so if you've tried to contact me, please be patient! I'm not ignoring you, just discombobulated. I apologize for the difficulties - especially if you have tried to register for the garden design class and been unable. I'll get back to you just as soon as my account lets me!

If you need something to take your mind off the fact that I haven't produced much, how about some seed catalog porn to distract you? If you haven't filled your life with catalogs full of seeds and nursery stock to dream over, here are some good ones - my bias tends towards smaller seed and nursery catalogs with a diverse and interesting stock, so here are some you might not already get!:

Fedco Co-operative Garden Seeds:
Wonderful cooperative - best prices on northeastern bulk seed, very ethical, great selection

Baker Creek Heirlooms:
Missouri seed company that maintains a huge stock of OP varieties, including many varieties brought to the US for the first time

Johnny's Selected Seeds:
Wonderful northeastern company that does a great deal of creative breeding and development, great source of tools as well.

Forest Farms:
Wonderful source of nursery stock, including many forest-gardening plants

Abundant Life Seed Foundation:
Great seed company maintaining some fascinating varieties

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:
Wonderful source of Southeast-adapted seeds

Native Seeds/SEARCH:
Brilliant source of Southwest-adapted seeds.

Seed Savers Exchange:The *big* seed exchange - unfortunately mired in a great deal of melodrama based on the divorce of the two original founders, it is still a wonderful collection and well worth maintaining - I'm hoping everyone just gets over it really soon. Don't just order from their catalog, definitely become a member!

Face of the Earth Seed Company:
A very small and creative seed company, engaged in breeding interesting new varieties - they are doing some very exciting stuff.

Hudson Valley Seed Library:
Beautiful art packs with local artists supporting open pollinated varieties from the Northeast - a favorite.

Salt Spring Seeds:
Canadian Heirloom company with many PNW adapted varieties - ship to Canada only.

St. Lawrence Nursery:
One of the very best sites for cold climate nursery stock, lovely stuff.

Horizon Herbs:
The single best source of herb seed - enormous range of plant material and great instructions for growing.

Pinetree Garden Seeds:
Charming northeastern seed company focused on small packets for small gardeners, superb container garden section.

Territorial Seed Company:
Pacific NW adapted seed and plant varieties, very good service and a good selection of overwintering varieties.

Raintree Nursery: The most astonishingly wide selection of fruit trees ever - Pacific NW, but I've had very good luck with their stock in New York.)

Badgersett Woody Agriculture:
Nursery stock of hazelnuts, chestnuts and others for perennial tree agriculture - one possible way to actually imagine feeding the world.

RH Shumway, Seedsman: Visually, the coolest Catalog on the planet, I've always wanted to paper my bathroom with its pages. Some really interesting stuff, some less interesting, but worth checking out.

Richters Herbs:
Canadian seller of wonderful herb plants and seeds - terrific healthy stock, wide selection, ships to the US.

Bountiful Gardens:
California Seed Company supporting Biointensive agriculture, excellent selection of grains, herbs and fiber plants as well as vegetables.

Sand Hill Preservation Center:
Heirlooms and flowers as well as unusual poultry breeds - wonderful midwestern place, with a very strict set of rules for ordering, fyi - but way worth it!

High Mowing Organic Seeds:
Vermont based seed company whose selection seems sadly to trend towards the conventional - still, a good ethical operation and a great source for larger quantities.

Ok, there are more out there - please feel free to put up your faves, but these are some of mine. In the meantime, dream away, folks - the garden awaits us, even under all this snow! You can never have too many seed catalogs!


More like this

Help is available from SCA (seed catalog anonymous). No one will ask any questions; everyone understands. It's the promisary nature of all the nice pictures combined with the perennial hopefulness of gardeners, so the addiction is almost certain.

I would add Botanical Interests - an excellent selection, mostly OP and delightful catalog and the most interesting seed packets in the business.

I would also review your list and eliminate all those who have not signed the Safe Seed Pledge - including, sadly, Shumway, although, I'll second your wall paper idea!

I love Johnnys and Territorial but find myself ambivalent about them; too many hybrids. I continue to order from them, but wish they would be more OP oriented.

And, though Los Angeles has a plethora of AA, CA, DA, NA OA and A's no other city has EVER heard of, we have no SCA - I am doomed to drown in seed packets I have bought (enough to plant acres for my 100 square feet garden).


Our local Mom and Pop seed company, in Bellingham, Washington, is Uprising Organics: It's run by a young couple who trained with Dr. John Navazio from Organic Seed Alliance. They are focusing on the Pacific Northwest, but seeds should be fine for any northern latitude. I was most impressed by the way Uprising Organics is doing it right, not just repackaging seed from international suppliers. They grow and select some of their own seed and have created a network of other small regional growers to supply seed for varieties that require isolation.

Even though we're supposed to use local for best results, we're ordering from Fedco from across the country because, well, everybody oughta be more like them.

Much of our garden will be from starts this year though because of some extended family travel-inducing stresses. Luckily, friends of ours two valleys over are in the business. We can trade eggs for starts. And I planted four apple trees yesterday to bring the fruit tree total to forty...

I got a chance to peruse Happy Cat Organics' catalog: before they shut it down for maintenance (supposed to be up with a complete redesign on 1/22). They have some interesting heirlooms you don't see elsewhere, especially from Amish and other traditional farmers and gardeners in SE PA. I plan to order a few seeds from them, including Amish nuttle bean and Iroquois tooth corn. Being in the Baltimore area, I'm halfway between them and Southern Exposure, so I figure I'll have my bases covered!

I second Salt Spring Seeds - have ordered from them for 5 years and the seed quality is high and shipping is really speedy. I also find that often the seed packs are more generously filled than from large seed operations.

I love, love, love Raintree- of course, I am in Washington state, but man, I love the varieties they have, the descriptions, all the information they can give you- and their class days and variety tasting days as well.

This year (so far), I've ordered from Nichol's Garden Nursery (has quite a lot of seed, actually), which carries some very good PNW adapted seeds- including some variates which I'm very excited about. I really recommend checking them out, they are really cool. I also ordered from Adaptive Seeds, they have a smaller selection, but man, some of the varieties they do have! I'm very pleased with the selection that I've ordered.

I'm going to go take a look at some of the other's you've listed, because I'd actually forgotten about a few of them.

I have ordered from Forestfarm and been very pleased. Richter's not so much - their seeds at least used to be sometimes misidentified so it's a gamble.

Now that I'm in the UK, I've been ordering from two companies, the Organic Gardening Catalogue - - from their website: "The Organic Gardening Catalogue is the official catalogue of the Garden Organic (HDRA), Europe's leading organic gardening organisation. The catalogue is run as a joint venture with Chase Organics in Hersham, Surrey, UK who have been suppliers to organic gardeners for over 80 years." The other is Nicky's Nursery - - mostly because they're local (they're in Kent due east of where I am).

I am not involved in the major vegetable garden work at the community so I haven't explored the other seed companies available. A couple have been recommended but I now can't seem to find that information. Drat! My focus has been on developing a cut flower garden but this year I'll be mixing it up by interplanting vegetables amongst the flowers. Companion planting here I come!

Kerri of AK but now in the UK

By homebrewlibrarian (not verified) on 20 Jan 2011 #permalink

UK-based folks should also consider Tamar Organics - they do both consumer and trade sales, they have a pretty good selection, and they're generally a bit cheaper than the OGC...

There's also the Heritage Seed Library, who are part of the HDRA. They don't sell seed as such (to get around EU licensing requirements) - instead you pay a membership fee and can choose up to 6 varieties a year, but there's also a lot of informal swapping between members.

In the Maritimes, try Hope Seed at or Annapolis Seeds They grow their seeds locally and have all OP varieties. I've had good experiences with both of them. I went to visit Annapolis seeds- the guy who runs it is about 19 and is doing all sorts of interesting things there.

David, I share some of your ambivalence - at the same time, I think theres's a real place for hybrids in gardening, when there's no OP that can meet needs equally. For example, there simply is no really early OP broccoli that would let me bring broccoli to market in time to compete with other growers during my CSA years. That doesn't stop me from growing OP broccoli or saving seed, I just grow later varieties. My sense is that Johnny's at least is increasingly mostly a market grower's catalog, specializing in that market. My main problem with them is that they are expensive.

I like Territorial, although I did have a bad experience once with their mislabelling something OP - and when I called to enquire (because the same variety in another catalog was listed as a hybrid) they didn't know. But otherwise, they've been good.

Dewey, not arguing with your experience, but I get a *lot* of seeds and plants from Richters, and I've never had anything mislabelled (at least that I noticed, and I generally notice).


What are y'all going to do when these seed companies are out of business? When there's no more mail delivery? What's with ordering seeds from plants grown clear across the continent? How are these supposed to be adapted to local conditions? What happened to concern about carbon footprint? What happened to emphasis on frugality & saving money? Maybe instead of purchasing seeds from retail providers who sell their mailing lists so that people are spammed with unwanted catalogs every year, it would be better to read Nancy Bubel's Seed-Starter's Handbook or Seed Saver's Handbook by the Fanton's. Read books like these and start putting into practice what you learn from them, if just taking the seeds out of the vegetables you grow & saving them to plant next year is to difficult to figure out how to do on your own.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 21 Jan 2011 #permalink

I do a *lot* of seed saving, including seeds that are difficult to grow here. I also live not just in the apocalypse, but in the present day. The reality is that I can feed myself entirely on saved seeds, but running a market farm, or even just wanting some things that I can't easily save seeds from, or to try new things in the garden is a perfectly reasonable thing. Seeds are small, dry and light and it isn't an either/or thing - you can both do backyard plant breeding and seed saving and enjoy ordering some new things to try every year.


I also live not just in the apocalypse, but in the present day.

I look around me & see the roads & parking lots, the trucks & cars, the roadkill, abandoned dogs & feral cats, the acres & acres of Russian knapweed, the sky pollution from the power plants, the cops & drunks, the overgrazed & degraded landscape, the waste, ugliness & litter, the damned & channelized rivers, the harried & preoccupied looks on peoples' faces.. and can't help think that the present day is the apocalypse.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 21 Jan 2011 #permalink

Anyone have recommendations for Rocky Mountain sources? Here in Wyoming it sometimes seems like we're in a separate horticultural world from the rest of the US.

Darwin's Dog - Geez, that's a depressing comment. And all too true. When you live in the midst of it, and it's all you know, you take it as the natural order of things. And even those of us who are beginning to know better, still are forced to live that way to some extent given how the influence of oil has permeated every facet of social structure. On the other hand, I'm alive today because of heart bypass surgery, so I'm torn by ambivalence.

I've had good luck with both Salt Spring Island Seeds (I'm pretty much in the same geographical area as them) and Richters (nothing mislabled yet). I've also had good luck with West Coast Seeds.

Does anyone know of a seed company located in the eastern Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Indiana, southern Michigan, or Illinois) that specializes in or offers heirloom or OP seed? It seems that most of the better seed sources (e.g., the ones on Sharon's list here) come from the coasts. There used to be some old, venerable seed companies in the Midwest, but most of them have been taken over by the giants. It would be great if there were some local sources for these seeds.

We do, of course, live in the apocalypse. I also live each spring in the world that renews itself, at least a little - even if the overall decline is grim. The ambiguity of the two is what's both sad and wonderful about life - I personally would choose to live only in one. Every seed that germinates, every tree I plant is renewal - not enough, but worth doing.


I would like to state to any Monsanto's lawyers (hereinafter referred to as 'the party of the first part') reading this that the reason I mention the following article is to give information that will allow consumers to purchase their favourite Monsanto products; there is no implication that these products are in any way inferior to comparable items eg such as the ones that previously grew naturally on plants for the past 500 million years or so.


..forced to live that way.. given how the influence of oil has permeated every facet of social structure.

Ain't that the truth?!?

Glad the tech's been there for the bypass, DennisP. My wife would not be alive but for high tech med. We all realize that this is a fleeting moment in human history made possible by accessible reduced carbon resources, right? A moment that won't be repeated?

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 21 Jan 2011 #permalink

Don, have you looked at Jung seed in Wisconsin? They are one of the old venerable seed companies from the Midwest, but are still family owned, I believe. They have OP and heirloom seed.

Sharon, I'd love to hear how you've taken climate change into account in your seed orders and seed breeding/saving. Any new varieties chosen for their heat tolerance, drought-to-flood adaptability, etc.?

Thanks for the seed source overview! Some intriguing new possibilities uncovered.

In Tennessee, there is Hidden Springs nursery for all sorts of permaculture plants: trees, bushes mostly but others too. Very local and family and women run. I love them!

By Sara in Alabama (not verified) on 24 Jan 2011 #permalink

@Mark N:
Yes, I have Jung's catalogue. They're in Randolph, WI. The Vermont Bean Seed Co. is also now located (despite the name) in the same city, but they have a different street address. Are they joint-owned now? Another catalogue I get is called Totally Tomatoes, which comes from the same address as Vermont Bean. It's a great catalogue for tomato lovers!

@JRB: I looked at Sand Hill Preservation Society's Web site and was impressed. I wrote them for a catalogue. It turns out they're in eastern Iowa, so their corn belt growing season climate should be somewhat similar to ours.

Has anyone dealt with Seeds of Change? ( They look impressive as source for OP and OG seed, but I can't figure out where they're located.