Seed catalogues


In the UK, at this time of year, almost every time the postman drops something through the letter box, he brings a seed catalogue. One even arrived on Christmas Eve and my husband’s reaction was, “Your Christmas present has come early”.  My older daughter’s reaction was, “Oh no. She’s going to buy even more seeds!”  She then pulled open the salad drawer of our fridge which is crammed so full that it is hard to open, and contains various opened seed packets from previous years.

The problem is that I always live in hope. I know my fruit will never be as large and perfect as the ones in the pictures, but I will get some. The flowers; if all the seeds I planted developed into plants I could replace Kew Gardens. They don’t of course, but I do get results which satisfy me. Last year I planted lots of sunflowers. The summer was so wet that although they grew tall, no flowers appeared. Then, in early October buds finally appeared. By the end of the month there were lots of bright shiny yellow and brown flower heads to brighten up dank, damp November days. The last ones fed the birds well into December and were a delight.  

One of my favourite catalogues has a much bigger range than the others – thousands of choices. There are no pictures, just lots of very lively and vivid descriptions.  One plant is described for instance as being good if you get burglars as it has a covering of stinging hairs. They get their seeds from many amateurs growers , and quite often the sender doesn’t know exactly which variety they have got – so these are packed into interesting packages of , for instance,” geraniums, mixed.” This way, you get the excitement of not knowing what you are actually going to get. They also have lots of seeds in small amounts, which are just packed together as ‘perennials’ or ‘small annuals’. The even have special butterfly mixes, pond edge mixes and a whole lot more. My favourite though is the offer of ten packs for the price of one, from the previous year’s catalogue. Yes, you do tend to get at least one packet you will never open, as when I got seeds for huge trees, but someone is bound to want them one day.

I like the serendipity of it, the unexpected pleasure.  When that box arrives I just don’t know what it will contain. Out come the reference books so that I can check how tall something is likely to grow, what colours I can expect, how wide the plant will eventually be and so on.

You may not think of yourself as a gardener, or even have a garden but anyone can enjoy a few pots on the window sill or outside the back door.  One major gardening book writer has only got a balcony in central London, but grows an amazing collection on it; fruit, vegetables and flowers.

I’m an optimist, I plant in hope, despite the fact that small animals may eat my seedlings, or they may drown in heavy rain, be battered by strong winds, or just give up the ghost for reasons I cannot always figure out. Could it be that I haven’t watered them enough?

Labels also seem to disappear or fade into invisibility – and then there is the cat who likes to sleep in the poly-tunnel, preferably on top of pots of young seedlings.   Okay, every year, I admit, I get disappointments, but also lots of joy.  

So, sorry to my family, but I am going to continue to buy seeds. Meanwhile last year’s snowdrops are now in flower and lots of other things are pushing up new green shoots.  Who knows what will pop up?

Tip! Watch this video on planting Goji berry seeds:-