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The Best Garden Seed Catalogs

The Best Heirloom Garden Seed Catalogs


Seed Packs As Stocking Stuffers

The proverb, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime” applies to gardeners too. While you can give several houseplants for the holidays, giving a gardener (or potential gardener) a pack of seeds can lead them down a path of self-exploration, garden activism, an understanding of their role as stewards of heirloom plants in the garden, and within their community. Seed packs make great stocking stuffers because they are relatively inexpensive. There are a few seed companies that really produce seed packs that can capture the imagination and inspire a gardener to get their hands in the dirt. Below are four examples of seed companies that create exceptional seed packs that you can stuff a gardener’s stocking with this Christmas.

Heirloom Seeds as Stocking Stuffers


Houseplants to Grow or Give on the Holidays

Houseplants are great any time of the year, but the holiday season gives us an opportunity to buy a plant to decorate a corner of the home or office. Commercial plant growers and garden retailers realize that the allure of a green or flowering plant this time of year is too much to resist. A handful of houseplants make popular gift ideas for gardeners and party hosts, because they're affordable and considered disposable after the holidays. With some knowledge you can select a good houseplant for yourself or one you can give as a gift to a gardener. Below are some of the more popular holiday houseplant options and some information on how to grow and care for them.

Norfolk Island Pine


Radical Gardening and #OccupyGardens

Once while riding in a car I saw a ‘Keep Your Laws Off My Body” bumper sticker and inside my head I shouted back “Keep Your Politics Out Of My Garden!” I surprised myself because in my youth I’d been anything but apolitical. I’d participated in rallies, marches, protests, voter registration drives and volunteered on a political campaign before I was old enough to vote myself.  Perhaps I was burnt-out on politics after being immersed in it at an early age. The last place I thought politics belonged was in the garden.

Recently I came across a mention of the book Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism & Rebellion in the Garden by George McKay. Intrigued by the title and cover I sent off a request to the publisher for a review copy which they granted me. After reading this book I’ve come to the realization that my opinion that gardening should be free of the political is myopic to say the least. Gardens and the gardened landscapes are deeply rooted (ugh) in the political. George McKay uses historical examples to illustrate an "intimate relationship between politics, social change and landscape or garden" many of which mirror those taking place today.

Radical Gardening


"Christmas Cactus" Blooms, Care and Identification

November is the time of year we start to complain about how early Christmas music and decorations show up all around us. In the indoor garden it is the time when gardener's thoughts turn to Christmas & "Thanksgiving Cactus" blooms, or why your Holiday Cactus is not blooming. If your "Christmas Cactus" is setting buds or blooms right now, you may not have a true "Christmas Cactus" at all. So, how do you know which of the Schlumbergera you're growing? How do you make your "Christmas Cactus" bloom? And Can you grow more plants from cuttings of your "Christmas Cactus?"

Blooming Christmas Cactus


Smart Pots for Smart Container Gardening

As a frugal urban gardener who often creates container gardens from buckets and other items I have a hard time recommending gardeners buy pots because they're so expensive at garden centers and nurseries. But after trying some Smart Pots in the balcony garden this year I've discovered some pots I'm happy to recommend. I met one of the men behind Smart Pots this past winter at the Mid-America Horticultural Trade Show who convinced me to try some Smart Pots after I told him I didn't believe in buying pots. When I saw him again this summer at the Independent Garden Center Show and he inquired about the Smart Pot samples he gave me, I had to admit he was right. Smart Pots are a smart solution to container gardening.

Smart Pots for Urban Gardening, Urban Farming


Fairy Gardening is Bringing Miniature Plants Back

In investments and information technology circles the 90's will be remembered for the dot-com bubble burst, but that same decade another bubble burst that I didn't think many people noticed. In the late 90's I was at the height of my fascination with all things bonsai. My interest in bonsai lay primarily with shohin and mame bonsai. Because of their miniature status it is hard to find accent plants that help sell the illusion of their size. So along with a bonsai obsession I also developed one for miniature plants. Miniature plants that the recent fairy gardening trend is helping bring back into popularity.

Fairy Garden in Chicago


What Would Luther Burbank Do?

The Smithsonian Institution maintains an online collection of vintage seed catalogs of about 10,000 seed and nursery catalogs dating from 1830s in their archives. Many of the catalogs were part of the Burpee Collection donated to the Horticulture Services Division by Mrs. David Burpee in 1982. The impressive collection maintained by The Smithsonian includes seed catalogs from Burpee its competitors and smaller companies like those of Miss C.H. Lippincott.

Vintage Seed Company catalogs
Vintage seed catalog examples from the Smithsonian Libraries.


The Art of Instruction, Plant and Animal Anatomy Prints

Wall charts were first introduced in primary schools and would quickly find their way into high schools and universities. These wall charts became important teaching aids as populations increased and the numbers of students increased with it making circulating picture books, loose engravings and biological specimens impractical. According to Katrien Van der Schueren, author of The Art of Instruction, these educational wall charts originated in Germany around 1820. During the decade between 1990 and 1890 German printers alone published more than twenty thousand distinct charts that were sold and distributed around the world.
Sundew Illustration, The Art of Instruction


Transplanting Oriental Lily Bulbs

A few years ago I planted two bags of Oriental lily bulbs in my garden after I found the bulbs on sale and couldn't pass up a discount. Over two years the bulbs established themselves, grew taller and produced more blooms per stem. One evening while the clumps where at their peak a stranger walking past the garden stopped and asked me what I had sprayed in the garden to get it to smell so good. Then a day later a family member asked me the same question. Both of them where referring to the scent emanating from the lily blooms that is downright enchanting on a humid summer day. When another family member asked me to help start a garden the first plant I thought to share where some of my Oriental lilies. So I set about transplanting Oriental lily bulbs from my garden to this new garden.


Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Layering Propagation.

Propagating your ornamental sweet potato vine to expand your plant collection, or to overwinter your plant to grow again next year is really easy. You can take cuttings of your ornamental sweet potato vines and root the cutting in water. But using a simple layering method or (tip layering) is just as easy and saves you the repotting step of rooting in water because the vine will root in a pot with potting soil as it grows.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine propagation


Mobile Garden on the CTA

For the past couple of years I've been following Joe Baldwin's dream of installing a flatbed garden on a CTA train that would traverse the city for a month. His idea is rather simple. Build a raised bed that's attached to a Chicago Transit Authority train and plant it with native plants and let the train carry the garden throughout various Chicago neighborhoods. You'd think such an idea would be either really easy to implement or impossible to given the bureaucracy of a big government agency. The truth is that his dream is almost on track and the only thing holding him back is money. The CTA and the USDA have given the idea their blessing, all he needs is a big corporate sponsor to underwrite it. But for five hours in August of 2010 he gave Chicago a glimpse of what a mobile garden would look like during Art on Track.


OSU Blue Tomato

Over the winter Colleen from In the Garden Online offered me OSU Blue tomato seeds. Having never heard of this tomato variety and seeing how cool the fruits looked I figured I’d give them a try. Yes, there is a blue tomato and it is as unusual a tomato as you imagine and will see below. My first experience with these tomatoes was trying to get the seeds to germinate, a task that seemed so daunting I was about to throw them away before I noticed the seeds had sprouted. This blue tomato was developed by Jim Myers, OSU's Baggett Frazier professor of vegetable breeding and graduate students Carl M. Jones and Peter Mes. The first thing you should understand about the OSU Blue tomato is that it wasn't developed using genetic engineering, but using traditional plant breeding techniques.

OSU Blue tomato, black tomatoes
Garden helper holding OSU Blue Tomatoes.


Urban Farms Are a Threat To Garden Hegemony

If you read some gardening blogs you may come away with the impression that the biggest gardening trend is vertical gardening or removing lawns and creating garden designs that are more sustainable.  Open a newspaper and you’ll read about how vegetable gardening continues to rise in popularity in 2011 due in large part to a fallow economy and our feelings of uncertainty. Stories of cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Decatur, Ga., embracing the trend of urban agriculture and rewriting laws to encourage and protect community gardens and urban farming are as common as orange daylilies.  People want to grow their own food and they want to grow it close to home; in their front yards and their backyards, side-by-side with their neighbors. Yet there’s this segment of the population that sees this progress and is deciding to double-down and fight back against the tide by legislating away expressions of urban agriculture.

The most famous example this year is that of Julie Bass of Michigan whose plight was made popular after Colleen Vanderlinden wrote about it for TreeHugger and the internet descended on the story forcing lawmakers to backdown. For this trailer park homesteader the possibility of the property manager ending up on the six o’clock news was enough to allow her to keep her garden going.

Urban farm Adam Guerrero
Photos Adam Guerrero's Facebook page.


'Coconut Ice' Sunflower

Like with most other plants I like my sunflowers to be on the usual side. The ones I've previously grown have been either sunflowers with dark petals like 'Cinnamon Sun' or they're giant sunflowers like 'Titan' and 'Mammoth.' This year I was offered 'Coconut Ice' seeds by Burpee and really liked the pictures I saw of this sunflower on the Internet, even if it wasn't so weird, so I decided to give it a try. The petals start off a creamy yellow fading to a nice white with a black center. In the promotional picture for this annual the effect of the dark center and white petals is quite striking.


Cucumber 'White Wonder' From Burpee Seeds

When selecting vegetables to grow in my container garden the first thing I always consider is the color. While flavor and productivity should be the most important I can't help but to be drawn to the unusual, be it color or shape and texture, fruits and vegetables. That's how I came to grow Burpee Seeds' 'White Wonder' cucumber this year. In the 2011 seed catalog there was an offer for a free pack of these seeds with an order. 'Long White' and 'Albino' are synonyms for 'White Wonder' which Burpee introduced in 1893 after receiving the seeds from a customer in western New York.

Cucumber 'White Wonder' Burpee Seeds


Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea: Past, Present, and Future.

The following is a guest post by Proven Winners Color Choice Shrubs. They've answered my call for donations to the Garfield Park Conservatory repair efforts. In exchange for the donation to help repair the storm damage to the Garfield Park Conservatory, I've invited them to write about the history of 'Invincible Spirit' and how this garden shrub is helping raise money for a cure for breast cancer. 

Imagine a plant breeder – what comes to mind? Some nervous, bespectacled individual wearing a white coat in a gleaming laboratory, surrounded by beakers and flasks and the flowers of some obscure genus? Plant breeding is less mad scientist than you might think. Luckily for us, most plant breeders are plant lovers themselves, gardeners in their own fashion who are acutely aware of what types of plants are missing from the gardener’s palette and dedicated to using their time, passion, and know-how to filling those gaps. It was that kind of plant breeder that developed Invincibelle Spirit, the first pink ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea:

Invinvibelle Spirit
'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangea photo courtesy Proven Winners Color Choice 


Salvia 'Black and Blue'

As a gardener who is always seeking out dark flowers and plants I can’t believe that salvia ‘Black and Blue’ has escaped my notice all these years. The salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ cultivar is remarkable for the bright blue flowers, dark stems and almost black calyx. Unfortunately, ‘Black and Blue’ is hardy USDA Zones 8-11, and here in Chicago it would be grown as an annual. I encountered it by accident after brushing against the leaves of the plant growing in a public planter and released the most wonderful scent and discovered why one of the common names is ‘Anise Sage.’

Salvia guarnitica 'Black and Blue'


Seed Lab at Ball Horticultural Company

Even though the average home gardener, like myself, isn’t a direct customer of the Ball Horticultural Company many of the packaged seeds and plants we buy at garden centers and nurseries were developed by Ball Hort. An example being petunia ‘Black Cat’ which is the world’s first black petunia. Recently, I was invited on a tour of the gardens at Ball in West Chicago, Illinois., which include container gardens, a seed lab, example gardens for vegetable and shade gardening, and a trial garden where Ball Hort plants are grown alongside competitor’s plants. If you’ve read this garden blog with any regularity you may have noticed that seeds are regular topics so I jumped at the chance of touring a seed lab. Below are a couple of pictures from the seed lab that I thought other seed-obsessed gardeners may find interesting.

Seed Coating Ball Horticultural Seed Lab


Lettuce 'Sea of Red'

Up until recently I'd never been the kind of gardener who thought of vegetables as beautiful. Sure, I believe that vegetable gardens as a whole can be beautiful, but taken individually the plants in vegetable gardens never struck me as beautiful. Does it even matter if your vegetables, fruits and herbs are beautiful? Don't they all end up looking the same after they've served their purpose? When I knew I would be growing petunia 'Black Cat' in my container garden this year I went in search of other things, primarily vegetables and herbs, I could grow around it that would compliment the dark hues of 'Black Cat.' Lettuce 'Sea of Red' is one of those vegetables with style.

Lettuce Sea of Red, dark lettuce variety


Pollinating Cucumber Flowers

Cucumber plants are usually monoecious meaning the plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The same is true for their relatives, squash, cantaloupes, and watermelons. The flowers on cucumbers are usually pollinated by insects, but in their absence you can hand-pollinate the female cucumber flowers yourself. In the illustrated guide below I'll show you how to identify the female cucumber flower and pollinate cucumber plants in your own garden.

Female Cucumber Flower


Petunia 'Black Cat' The World's First Black Petunia

I have loved black plants since I discovered gardening. More time has been spent day dreaming of being a Victorian or Edwardian gardener than I care to admit. If last year you had given me access to a TARDIS and allowed me to go back in time and experience gardening then- I would have jumped at the chance. It's a good thing that nobody showed up with a TARDIS last year because I would've missed out on the opportunity to grow petunia 'Black Cat,' billed as "the world's very first black petunia" by W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Black Cat Petunias by Burpee Seed Company


What's the Benefit of Having Spiders in the Garden?

What is the benefit of having spiders in the garden? That is a rhetorical question, I am not really asking. As a gardener, I know the benefits of having a predator live in my garden. Making the garden hospitable to spiders, and allowing them to biologically control garden pests, is all part of gardening chemical free and being as natural as possible. I am not a hippy or anything like that; I wanted to have bugs in my garden to photograph so I decided I would stop using bug sprays, and just let nature take its course. For the most part, it has worked out fabulously and I have no regrets. Although, nothing challenges my commitment to natural methods of pest control more than seeing the garden covered in spider webs during the summer. Spider webs like this one I took in the garden recently. If you have a fear of spiders close your eyes for a second and think of England as you scroll down past this picture of a spider and its web.

Spiders in the garden. Good or Bad?


Self-Watering Window Box Planter

A few years ago I met the people behind the Lechuza company at the Independent Garden Center Show. Lechuza makes self-water (sub irrigation planters) that are really stylish and modern. These containers work the same way as the Grow Box from Clean Air Gardening and the Garden Patch Grow Box, but are a lot more fashion-forward. This year, Lechuza sent me two of their self-watering planters for free to try in my container garden. So far I've tested Cubico Cottage window box planter in my porch garden.

self-watering window box planter subirrigation planter


Garfield Park Conservatory Storm Damage and How You Can Help

Late last week during what seemed like an average summer storm for Chicago we were hit with a hailstorm that sent many of us running for cover. The next day we awoke to the damage caused by the storm. Many personal and community gardens were damaged in the storm, but one of the crown jewels of the Chicago Park District was severely affected. The Garfield Park Conservatory is unique place, not just because of the plant collection held here, but because of its history and what it means to the community.

Garfield Park Conservatory


Eco-Seed Starter From Burpee Seeds

If you've read this blog before you probably have noticed that I blog quite a bit about starting seeds and especially about frugal ways people can start seeds at home. You can start seeds in plastic shoe boxes that are pretty inexpensive, empty plastic bottles makes great seed starters and even plastic sandwich bags can be used for germinating seeds. Since the day I dawned on me that so many seed starting kits and seed starting bio domes were unnecessary I haven't purchased a product like this seed starter kit from Burpee. In fact, my track record remains because it was sent to me for free by a representative of Burpee to review in my garden. So, what made me change my mind and give one of these commercial seed starters a try? I was intrigued by the manufacturing of the product. It is one of the new eco-seed starter kits that are made from biodegradable plastic.

Eco-seed starter Burpee Seed Company


Chitting Seed Potatoes Before Planting

Potatoes are usually grown from what is called "seed potatoes," seed potatoes are not true seeds. They're potatoes that are meant to be grown to produce more potatoes. Seed potatoes are dormant, like any other tuberous garden plant, when you buy them. Chitting is a method used to sprout seed potatoes before planting. Last year I grew my potatoes in a bucket on the porch and had great success, even though I never chitting involved. This year I decided to give chitting a try.

Planting seed potatoes


Caring For Tulips After Blooming

Once the tulips stop blooming in the garden caring for tulips after they bloom is rather simple. Aside from properly disposing of any tulips that may have diseases there's isn't much to do besides cleaning up the foliage and planning what to plant in their place for the summer.

Tulip Time Holland, Michigan
Tulip Farm. during Holland Michigan's 'Tulip Time' Festival. 


Seed Starting Bio-Dome From Plastic Bin

While you can easily make a bio-dome from plastic bottles for starting seeds and you can even buy a bio-dome from sources like Park's Seeds and seed growing kits from Burpee, there are a lot of options you can explore. You can make your own bio-dome from any plastic container that has a cover. Recently I found myself in a hardware store where these plastic bins were on sale and purchased one to use as a seed starting bio-dome.


Transplanting Poppy Seedlings

Poppies are probably my favorite annual to grow in my garden because they're dependable flowers, attract bees, and grow in poor soil. I've blogged about how I sow poppy seeds in the garden, but they're prolific self-seeders too. Poppy seeds remain for years in the ground and will sprout when the soil is turned over and they're exposed to sunlight. While I save poppy seeds from my garden, I let most fall to the ground and self-sow. The one downside of self-seeding poppies is that they'll germinate in clumps which grow weaker poppies, but I've found transplanting poppy seedlings into other areas of the garden to be pretty easy after some observation and experimentation.

Transplanting poppy seedlings


Seed Scarification, Seed Stratification & Seed Soaking

Maybe it's just me, but I had the darnedest time trying to remember what seed scarification and seed stratification meant, and which seeds needed which treatment before planting them, when I first started gardening. Seed scarification and seed stratification were the seed starting equivalent of its and it's. You may see its and it's misused here on this garden blog from time to time. Fortunately for my garden I've pretty much mastered scarification and stratification.

Seed Scarification
Seed Scarification, Seed Starting


Direct Sowing Purple Coneflower Seeds

Growing plants from seeds is probably my favorite part of gardening. My second favorite part of being a gardener is finding ways to make gardening easier for myself and spending less money. While I spend a lot of time growing seeds in plastic baggies, and making homemade biodomes, I find direct sowing seeds to be the best method for perennials. Take, for example, this purple coneflower seed head I direct sowed in the garden last fall. Purple coneflowers are so inexpensive at garden centers and nurseries, but they're even cheaper to grow from seed, especially if you direct sow your purple coneflower seeds in the fall.

how to plant purple coneflower seeds


Garden Pots From Recycled Tires

Planters from discarded tires aren't anything knew in the gardening world. When I was a kid my best friend’s mom had a container garden in the parkway, hell strip for those of you gardening outside Chicago, made from old car tires. They were there for years before I paid any attention to them aside from thinking they were ugly or the occasional attempts to tip them over. One Earth Day we had a presentation at school on recycling and the speaker showed us how flat tires are repurposed and kept out of landfills by gardeners who turned them into container gardens. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in my head and I started noticing garden pots from recycled tires all over the place. The planters didn't seem to ugly to me after that.

Pots from recycled tires, recycled pots


Colored Plant Labels Make Planting Easier

One of the downsides, if it can be called that, about gardening is the obsession that can result from growing a single flower. For example, when I grew Zinnia ‘Green Envy’ I thought it would be the only Zinnia I would ever need. I quickly discovered that it would not be the case and every year I try a couple of new Zinnias, just to see. ‘Green Envy’ is still my first Zinnia love, but sometimes a gardener has to see what options are available to him. The problem arises when you try growing several cultivars and while planting them in the garden you discover that you forget which one is which. When plants are at the seedling stage, it can be rather difficult to tell them apart. I encountered this problem last year when I planned to sow seeds for Zinnia elegans “Green Envy,’ ‘Polar Bear and ‘California Giant.’ I did not want to create many homemade plant labels and spend an hour writing out the names. One afternoon while playing with the nephew it hit me: make color-coded plant labels and use them to keep track of the cultivars I was growing.

Homemade colored plant labels


Make a Seed Organizer to Store Your Seed Collection

Like many gardeners I have a seed collection scattered among drawers, boxes, envelopes, seed banks. Sometimes I come across seeds I forgot I had and oftentimes I find them after the seed sowing window has closed for the gardening season. This year I’ve decided to try to be more thoughtful about what I plant and have made myself a seed organizer to file away my seed packs. With this seed organizer I know where the seeds are when I’m looking for them, I’ve categorized them in a way that makes sense to me, and when I’m done I can just place the seed packs back in the organizer until I need them again. The best part is that the seed organizer cost me $2.00 to make.

Make a seed organizer like the Seed Keeper to organize seed collection


Testing Soil Quality by Growing Radishes

Have you ever heard of the phrase "canary in a coalmine?” Coal miners used to take canaries into coal mines where they acted as early-warning signals for toxic gases or fumes. If the birds became sick, or died, miners would have  quality of the air they were breathing.  You can do something similar to test the quality of your garden’s soil by growing radishes. While growing radishes to test your garden soil will not give you any insight into toxins located in soil, this experiment can give you insight into what is lacking in your garden’s soil thus saving you time, money and a lot of heartache before you begin planting.

Testing garden soil by growing radishes


Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito'

I believe the first time I saw Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito' was at the Independent Garden Center Show in the booth my Hort Couture Plants a couple of years ago. Since then I've seen it at the Mid-America Horticultural Trade Show and most recently being sold by the Duth bulb sellers at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Perhaps it was the lighting, setting or maybe the growing conditions the plant had been endured, but I wasn't ever really impressed by 'Mojito.' Elephant ear plants are interesting and beautiful in their own right and I didn't really see what this new elephant ear plant had to offer to the average home gardener that grows these to provide a tropical flair to the garden.

Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito' Elephant ear plant


Macy's Flower Show Bromeliads & Succulents

Macy's Flower Show opens in Chicago this weekend. I've written a post for my Chicago Garden blog that has all the pictures of the preview of  "Towers of Flowers," the show's 2011 theme. I thought I'd save a few pictures to show you all who don't read that blog. Every year the cacti & succulent display garden is my favorite along with the smattering of bromeliads. Besides just being a collection of some of the most interesting indoor plants, they're always displayed so nicely. My ideal indoor garden consists of a large south facing window with a collection of cacti & succulents arranged like this.
Cactus Garden, Macy's Chicago Flower Show


LED Gardening Hat

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show ended this past weekend and while there wasn't much to see for an average gardener like myself, I did like this hat. I've been calling it a gardening hat, but it really is a piece of art designed by Janette Gerber that is TRON meets the Red Hat Society. It is sculpted out of fiberglass and programed LED lighting to change colors. Starting seeds with LED lights is a big trend right now, especially among younger gardeners, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see garden clothing and tools embedded with LED lights.

LED Gardening Botanical Hat


Testing Older Seed Germination

Before tossing away old seed or ordering new seeds from your favorite seed catalog you should test the older seeds you have to save you a bit of time and money. Testing older seed germination rates can save you from wasting time, seed starting soil and supplies on seeds that may not sprout. A seed germination test is really simple and can be done by any home gardener with items you already have around the home. Do this seed viability test at home before planting your older seeds.

How to test seed germination rates


Algae in Marimo Aquarium

Maybe aquarium is too lavish a word to describe where my Marimo lives, but he doesn’t seem to know or care about that. Maximus, as I’ve named him, was living rather contently in his little jar on my desk until late last spring. That’s when the position of the sun shifted in the sky and the morning sun began to shine through the window and hit the desk on the other side of the room. Because I was busy with the Amaryllis bulbs and seed starting I didn’t really pay attention to my Japanese “moss ball” and where it was sitting in relation to the sun. If you’ve ever kept an aquarium you know where this is going, right? Algae!

Marimo algae


How to Organize a Seed Swap

Organizing a seed swap is a great way to engage the gardening community where you live and give gardeners, new and old alike, a chance to mingle and get to know each other, exchange garden information, seed history and experiences. Gardeners who participate in seed swaps have the chance to try small amounts of new to them seeds, unload personal seed stashes or seeds from personal seed banks, garden groups and seed savers can use the opportunity of a seed swap to distribute seeds from their seed library. Below are some tips on how to organize a seed swap that I have picked up attending and organizing in-person seed swaps.

How to organize a seed swap


How to Start a Seed Library in Your Community

A seed library operates just like your local library, but instead of stocking books it carries vegetable, annual and perennial seeds. The idea behind them is to encourage seed saving, the exchange of seed history, nurture new gardeners, exchange gardening information and build communities through seeds. Seed libraries are also great ways to acquire heirloom and open pollinated seeds. The biggest benefit though of a seed library, in my opinion, is how it can help foster a feeling of community among people who may have little else in common.


Amaryllis 'Lemon Lime' Hippeastrum

Hippeastrum, say it out loud, Hippeastrum. What an ugly name for an Amaryllis, right? Hippeastrum is a genus in the Amaryllidaceae family. Depending on the source Hippeastrum means either "horseman's star," "knight's star" or "horse's Star". Why? Nobody really knows. What the experts, fancy gardeners and botanists know is that Amaryllis isn't the proper name for these bulbs, and yet we persist on using the name. Maybe it is because the word sounds as beautiful as the blooms look. 'Lemon Lime' is my latest Amaryllis to bloom and it looks remarkably like my 'Mont Blanc,' but greener. 'Lemon Lime' is one of the "green" hybrid Amaryllis bulbs, the coloration and shape of the bloom can vary from bulb to bulb.

Amaryllis Lemon Lime Hippeastrum


Meeting "The King of Roses" Tom Carruth

This week I attended the Mid-America Horticultural Trade Show and saw number of really cool garden products and plants. The highlight of the event was the garden writers luncheon hosted by Proven Winners and Spring Meadow Nursery with a presentation by Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses. If you're a rosarian Tom probably doesn't need an introduction. For those gardeners, like me, for whom roses aren't an obsession, Tom Carruth has been described as "King of the roses" for creating more All-America roses than any other living hybridizer. I should note here that hybrids in the rose world don’t have the same stigma as they do in the annual and vegetable world. Hybrid roses make rose growing possible for people who live in areas that aren’t ideal living conditions for roses. These roses are usually heartier, bloom more prolifically, and are less prone to diseases.

Tom Carruth, Weeks Roses, Rose Hybridizer


Amaryllis 'Charisma' Hippeastrum

I find the tropical bulbs commonly referred to as Amaryllis to be almost the perfect houseplant for any indoor gardener. I can't sing the praises of the Amaryllis enough. Well, technically of the Hippeastrum, but Amaryllis just sounds so much nicer. The inflorescence-flower stalk-emerges from a bulb and puts on a showy display of exotic, colorful flowers. If pollinated, the blooms can produce seeds pods, otherwise the flowers wither and die and are replaced by strappy green leaves. Once you've observed that first bloom, of even the most common Amaryllis bulb, you'll be left wanting more. Over the past few years I've collected several bulbs and my latest is "Charisma."

Amaryllis 'Charisma' Hippeastrum