“Twas the week after Christmas, and all through the mail,
The catalogs started arriving, on schedule, without fail…
Nah…I could go there but I won’t. Though I must admit, I am always amazed by how consistent the seed companies are in sending their catalogs out at just the right time. I’d say the day after Christmas is pretty good timing.
Alas, we check the mail and find a stack of brand new catalogs from our favorite seeds companies, as well as from some companies we’ve never heard of before. But no matter, we stop whatever else we were doing, grab a seat in our favorite chair and began to fan the pages.
Not just another pretty face
Beyond the entertainment value of the alluring photographs and beautiful artwork, there is plenty of useful information for beginners and experts alike. It’s one of the main reasons I hang on to them for so long. Here are some examples of the treasures you’ll find between the pages:
New varieties: If you’re a seasoned gardener or a veteran catalog shopper, you are likely looking for the newest varieties. Catalog companies usually feature their latest additions either on the cover or in prominent locations within the pages.
Gardeners are always on the lookout for improved, disease resistant varieties or plants that may exhibit a more compact form. Other high-demand introductions include flowers with improved colors or vegetables that exhibit superior flavor or growth habit or tougher hardiness.
Better selection: Catalogs offer vastly superior selections of seed varieties from which to choose. Although local garden centers and nurseries usually stock the most popular seeds for their growing region, there is only so much floor space to devote to selling seeds. Consequently, fewer choices are available when shopping in person.
In contrast, catalogue seed companies distinguish themselves partly by offering what you can’t get locally. Some offer many choices from annuals and perennials to vegetables. Park Seed Company and Burpee are two of the best known for their wide variety.
Specialty seeds: Other companies have carved out a special niche rather than attempting to offer it all. They may focus on a narrow category such as tomatoes, herbs or succulents. Other companies offer only certified organic seeds such as Seeds of Change while others may offer only heirlooms. The best know company for this is Seed Savers Exchange.
Timing: The dead of winter is the perfect time to receive catalogues. Not only is it a good diversion for our minds, it is the ideal opportunity to plan our spring and summer gardens.
With a little down time combined with our desire to get planting again, we attack the pages, making our lists and attaching sticky notes to countless pages.
Convenience: Catalogs (and their websites) offer the most convenient way to shop. In fact, if you’re looking for anything outside of the basic vanilla flavor, they’re the only way to go.
Expert Advice: Any quality catalog company has knowledgeable staff that can answer your questions and provide advice. Many seeds that are available for sale have been trialed in their test gardens for several seasons before being offered. They have experience and keep detailed information. Someone there should be able to answer your questions.
However, as much as I enjoy the catalog experience, there are some caveats that you should know about. I cover a few of the most common mistakes and provide some tips on how to shop wisely in a separate article. In the mean time, gather up those catalogs, get acquainted and dream about your best garden yet!