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Greatest Hits 2023: Specialty Seed Catalogs, 7 Favorites


Greatest Hits 2023: Specialty Seed Catalogs, 7 Favorites

December 25, 2023

For this last week of 2023, we’re republishing the year’s top-performing posts on Gardenista. Enjoy this crowd-pleaser, first published January 2, all over again.

One of the things I look forward to each January is diving into seed catalogs. I imagine all kinds of plant combinations I’ll put together, bouquets I’ll arrange, multi-course meals I’ll make with the bounty of vegetables I grow. My eyes are almost always bigger than my garden. But, hey, a gal can dream, right? I first look at my old standbys like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden Seeds, Hudson Valley Seed Company for tried-and-true varieties. And then I explore specialty catalogs. Here are my favorites.

Seed packets ready to get started.
Above: Seed packets ready to get started.

Kitazawa Seeds

I’ve been ordering from Kitazawa Seeds for years. Founded in 1917, they offer hundreds of varieties of Asian vegetables and herbs. Every year I stock up on shishito and fushimi peppers, multiple varieties of Japanese cucumbers, and herbs like mizuna and shiso. They always produce and are always delicious.

Floret Flowers

Founded by floral farmer Erin Benzakein, Floret Flowers is my go-to source for beautiful, unusual blooms, including a dreamy array of fragrant sweet peas and cheerful zinnias. Benzakein and her team do extensive trials on each plant before making the seeds available, so you know the varieties have been tested. In addition to growing advice, they offer information on how to harvest and vase life for all those budding florists out there. Seeds tend to sell out quickly so keep checking to see when new varieties become available.

Row 7 Seeds

Row 7 Seeds is a joint venture between chefs and growers. Started by Chef Dan Barber and vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek, the company has expanded into a growing network of chefs, farmers, and plant breeders. They are on the quest for deliciousness over commodification, and are producing future heirlooms like Robin’s koginut squash and badger flame beets.

Above: Tomato and pepper seedlings just beginning to sprout. I start seeds in cow pots, made from composted cow manure. You can plant them directly into the soil when the plants are ready.

Select Seeds

Select Seeds specializes in heirloom and old-fashioned fragrant flowers. You can find varieties like fragrant ‘Fairy Trumpet’ four o’clocks, which seem to glow in the evening the air and clove-scented cheddar pinks. They also sell seedlings, such as Parma violets and scented geranium, if you want a head start.

Truelove Seeds

Based in Philadelphia, Truelove Seeds works with more than 50 farmers growing on small urban and rural plots “committed to community food sovereignty, cultural preservation, and sustainable agriculture.” They offer open-pollinated varieties, including a mix of African diaspora, Syrian, and Italian seed collections. They share profits with the farmers who grow the seeds.

Seed Savers Exchange

The OG for heirloom vegetables and flowers, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization with the mission of protecting “culturally diverse and endangered garden and food crop legacy for present and future generations.” Founded in 1975, they collect and store varieties in Svalbard Global Seed bank, and also offer varieties for sale or exchange, including pages of tomatoes in a range of colors, shapes, and flavors.

Theordore Payne Foundation

Theodore Payne Foundation Store is the place to learn about California native plants. Their seed catalog showcases an extensive selection of native varieties that will enhance your garden and support wildlife and pollinators. You can search by special features like varieties that will attract hummingbirds or those that will help control erosion.

Above: Vegetable seeds all grown up!

For more on seeds, see:

N.B.: This post was first published January 2, 2023.

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