My seed catalog rant



Which leaves Susan. And I don’t even grow from seeds. As we’ve seen, though, most seed catalogs also offer plants, bulbs, and planting supplies. Here’s the one that made me smile when I saw it on my mail pile a couple weeks back: Select Seeds, a catalog that I know many of you also enjoy.

This is the one I save for a quiet hour on the couch with a glass of wine. It specializes in old-fashioned plants with quaint names; I rely on it for white heliotrope, statuesque nicotianas, eye-popping coleus, and many other of my favorite annuals. As usual, it did not disappoint, though I’ve always found the organization a bit non-intuitive and it’s even more so this year (fragrant, cottage annual, foliage, container, perennials, bulbs). I’d rather see it divided into plants and seeds, period, and alphabetical within the two categories. No matter. They’ve got the goods, and there’s a new offering I’m already very excited about: clematis “rubromarginata.” It’s from 1862, has a similar form to sweet autumn, an almond fragrance, and flowers summer to autumn.


I was also interested to see that a rudbeckia triloba variant I bought from them last year, “pairie glow,” which I’ve already raved about quite tediously (seen in my garden, above), has been recognized by the Master Gardeners Association. I’ll be ordering more, as I’m doubtful it will return. It probably self-seeded, which means I’ll be digging it out from in-between the flagstones. Still, best to make sure. Here’s a case where ordering from the website is definitely easier, as that’s where you’ll find the sensible alphabetical listing.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Eliz., you really ought to give seeds a try. It will enhance your gardening experience and you will get way more plants for the money spent on seeds than you would buying the plants. While some perennials especially can be challenging to germinate from seed, many, like the Rudbeckias, are easy to sow and grow.

  2. I got 3 clematis from Select Seeds and they’re all doing really well.

    Their catalog is less confusing this year (larger photos too), but it also seems they have less on offer. Hopefully the Web site has more than the catalog.

    You might try sweet peas in containers, eliz — they’re fragrant, and all you have to do is fill up a fairly large pot, soak the seeds overnight, put them outdoors in April, and they’ll do the rest. Semi-shade to shade is fine; they like it cool. I grew them in a northeast-facing location with about 3 hours of morning sun and they did wonderfully.

    [Off topic, but Gardener’s Supply’s new catalog has some very interesting concealed-light shelves that might work in your plant room.]

  3. I love sweet peas, and have failed once with plants. But perhaps seeds in containers would be the way to go!

    I bought some of the new fluorescents that go into regular sockets but I will check out the GS shelves. Shelves are needed in the room for visual balance, I think.

    Thanks, ff!!

  4. I was seriously considering a plant order through Select Seeds this year–mostly Dianthus and Iris. I’ve since received my Goodwin Creek Gardens catalog and now I’ve had to revise my wishlists. I’ll still order the Iris from Select Seeds because it’s easy and I get overwhelmed when I have a historic iris list that runs to hundreds of varieties instead of the handful Select Seeds offers every year.

    I’ll order the Dianthus and some other stuff through Goodwin Creek Gardens because I feel this peculiar loyalty to all the companies I buy from and provide me with good product; I skipped a year or two with Goodwin Creek and now I “owe” them an order. Sigh…it’s difficult trying to keep all these companies in business (giggle!).

    I’m glad there aren’t as many great fall bulb suppliers out there, or I’d have to place that many more orders in July.

    In a regular year I’d have ordered seeds from Select Seeds as well, but seeds require more tending, and in the case of perennials, often require that the seedlings (or just the seeds) be overwintered out of doors. I’m going to be taking a two-year hiatus from active gardening to go back to university and get (another) degree, this time at a university some 400-plus miles away from my home and my garden. I won’t have the time to deal with seeds and seedlings.

  5. Hey don’t forget many seeds can be direct sown outside. Great zinnias, larkspur, nigella, cleome, cosmos etc. They don’t have to be started early, inside or in containers. The pretend greenhouse in my bedroom costs a lot of money (containers, seed starting mix, etc.)but it lets me smell growing things in February and March and that’s a big lift for my winter spirits.

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