Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Gardener's List of Seed and Plant Resources

Someone recently said to me,"You must have stacks and stacks of seed and plant catalogues." Well–this may come as a bit of a surprise– no I don't. There are a maybe couple of catalogues cluttering up my desk and that's it. I've always had access to a number of really good, local nurseries with more seeds and plants than I could ever possibly afford. In the last year or so however, things have shifted. I have now reached a point where I am willing to go further afield to find the more unusual seeds and bulbs I'd love to grow. The only problem now is determining where to shop.

What initially got me thinking about building a resource list was working on the post about Marnie Wright's shade garden. Marnie had so many interesting and unusual shade plants– many of which, I hadn't seen before. It was inspiring.

Where did Marnie find all these gems? The list of mail order sources she gave me got me wondering what else was out there. So I asked a few other exceptional gardeners, bloggers and garden book authors the same question.

The result is the resource list you'll find at the end of this post.

You can read the post on Marnie's shade garden here.

You can read the post on sunny main garden here and here.

But let's start with Marnie's plant and seed sources.

Marnie lists," William Dam Seeds for flower and vegetable seeds. Lindenberg Seeds for flowers, vegetables, plants and bulbs. Stokes for some varieties of seed (but not every year). Botanus for bulbs. Renee's Garden for seeds. Fraser's Thimble Farm for rare plants. Gardens North for unusual seed varieties."

Just to give you a few examples, I picked three random things from Garden's North. This first is Penstemon mensarum which is native to Colorado (I didn't even know that there were blue Penstemon!). In the centre is Arisaema amurense. Finally, on the right, is Iliamna remota, which is rare and native to Illinois. 

Next we'll move on to the mail order suggestions of a number of authors.

Nancy J. Ondra is the author of more than a dozen books on gardening including most recently Perennial Partners: Create Amazing Combinations with your Favourite Perennials and Container Theme Gardens. Nan can also be found blogging at Nan tells me:

"For out-of-the-ordinary seeds, I depend on Plant World Seeds . And for uncommon annuals–particularly heirloom and fragrant kinds– I can always count on Select Seeds to have something tempting."

Margaret Roach is the author of a number of books including The Backyard Parables.  She has a full list of seed and plant resources on her very popular blog A Way to Garden. I asked Margaret to tell me about a favourite seed source.

Group picture of Turtle Tree Seeds staff.

Margaret writes, "I love winter squash, but not just in winter. I've grown all the oddballs and rarities, and adore each crazy-looking one, but then there is my go-to standard...'Butternut'...but a version that comes from a very special seed strain.

One that really produces lots of big fruits, resists squash bugs, is sweet and dark-orange and (maybe best of all) it lasts even just stashed away in my pantry until the following spring(!!!) is the 'Butternut' from Turtle Tree Seed, the nation's largest biodynamic seed company and located right near me.

They have been selecting their seed strain of 'Butternut' for decades for the quality of lastingness–of being a good "keeper"– and large fruits (most of mine are 5 or 6 pounds a piece) can, as I say, last until May in good and delicious condition. Amazing.

And of course making it all extra sweet: Turtle Tree Seed is part of Camphill Village, a community that's home to special-needs adults, who are treated with respect. They live in family-like units with service volunteers; they each have a job (some work at the seed company); they live rich and productive lives. I love supporting that place."

Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz have a new book out this spring: Gardening with Foliage First (more about this book in an upcoming post). Here are two of Karen's recommendations:

"I like to add a few deer-resistant, fast-growing annuals to my summer borders to fill those awkward gaps between maturing shrubs. Renee's Garden Seeds has a terrific selection– their heirloom Nicotiana was stunning last year and scented the evening air with its jasmine-like fragrance...

... I also love the super-sweet white Avalon corn and the Fortex runner beans that Territorial Seed Co. offers. They have become mainstays in my veggie garden– the quality and the yield are always reliable."

Author Lorraine Johnson began gardening with native plants and writing about it long before it became fashionable to do so. This spring an updated third edition of her classic book 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants was published. Not surprisingly then, Lorraine has two native plant nurseries to suggest:

"For easy-to-grow native seed mixes tailored for various conditions–e.g., pollinator gardens or semi-shade gardens– check out St Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre. And for drought tolerant, low-maintenance alternative to regular grass seed, you can't beat Wildflower Farm's Eco-Lawn."

Just what is an Eco-lawn? It's a blend of six carefully selected fescue grasses that produce a thick, green lawn that is drought tolerant once established. On average it only needs to be mown about once a month. Deep roots means that the lawn stays green once established– even in drought. An Eco-lawn can be grown in most soil conditions and thrives in sun, part-shade and even shade.

Two items that caught my eye from the Wildflower Farms website. Ironweed, Vernonia (left) and Wild Quinine (right). Wild Quinine is clump-forming perennial with a long bloom time. It likes full sun or part-shade and makes a great cut flower.

This is my friend Donna's garden out on the east coast of Canada. I aspire to have a garden half so lovely one day! What's Donna's favourite source for interesting and unusual plants? It just so happens that the nursery she favours is on the opposite side of the country in British Columbia.

Donna says,"Fraser's Thimble Farms is my favourite mail order nursery. Their catalogue can be overwhelming, but it makes great winter reading. So many treasures not available elsewhere; corydalis, hellebores, erythronium, trilliums, primula and arisaema just to name a few... 

...White Japanese Wood Poppy, Glaucidium palmatum leucanthum is on my wish list for this year. It has a hefty price tag, but our garden is chock-a-block full, so I am planning to order just this one treasure.
I co-ordinate both a spring and fall order with like-minded plantaholics and share the shipping costs. We have been ordering from them for ten years. Our order always arrives on the date requested. The plants are packed carefully and are always healthy. It's like Christmas when the box arrives."

In building this resource list, I felt I should include another garden bloggers besides myself. I decided to ask Tammy Schmitt. Tammy's always funny and entertaining blog is called Casa Mariposa.

Tammy tells me,"If you go to the "So Seedy" page on my blog, you can see all the companies I work with. I love them all or I wouldn't bother to shop with them. :o) I'd give Botanical Interests a big shout out because they're a yearly Fling sponsor, but I also love Outside Pride too. Swallowtail Seeds and Select Seeds are terrific for their diversity."

My turn! For bulbs, I pretty much rely on Botanus (they have lots of other temptations as well). For daylilies, I turn to Vivaces Nordiques in Quebec. They're selection is superb and the plants that arrive in the mail are a generous size. For herbs, Richters. They have a little over 25 different types of thyme for example. 

From Vivaces Nordiques: Baie-de-Gaspe (left) Ballerina-Beautiful (middle) and Barbie's Favourite (right).

I hope to order a white Hellebore from Frazer's Thimble Farms...and maybe a peony like the one I admired in Marnie Wright's garden.

So now it's your turn! What mail order companies would you recommend to fellow gardeners? Please share in the comment section.

Here's the full resource list that has been updated to include my reader's recommendations:

Botanical Interests is a family-owned company that sells high quality, organic, untreated vegetable, flower and herb seeds. 90% are open-pollinated and are non-GMO. You can review their catalogue online or request a copy. (USA orders only)

Botanus  have unusual bulbs, begonias, dahlias, gladiolus, gloxinias, lilies, fruit and veggies, roses, shrubs, vines and climbers, perennials, ferns and grasses. They have a print catalog, which you can request, and a weekly garden club video airing every Thursday during the gardening season. (shipping within Canada)

Chiltern Seeds is a U.K. seed company that specializes in unusual flower, vegetable and herb, wildflower, tree, shrubs and climbers seeds. 

Floret Flowers  is a family run flower farm in the Washington's Skagit Valley that has become well known for its unique and heirloom flowers. They sell a curated collection of seeds, bulbs, dahlias as well as gifts and paper goods (shipping worldwide).

Fraser's Thimble Farms is a rare and unusual plant nursery in British Columbia. They offer a wide range of hellebores, bulbs, Japanese hepaticas, ferns, hardy orchids an A-Z list of unusual perennials, peonies, deciduous vines, shrubs and conifers/evergreens. (shipping within Canada & the USA only)

Gardens North began as a small business run from a dining room table and now ships seeds to over 50 countries. Their catalogue is online only. They specialize in hardy native and exotic seeds, both herbaceous and woody.

Heritage Harvest Seed is a Canadian heirloom/heritage seed company that specializes in rare and endangered heirloom varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs. (shipping within Canada only)

Lindenberg Seeds have both an online and a print catalogue that you can order. They offer flower and vegetable seeds, perennials, bulbs and roots as well as gardening supplies. (shipping within Canada only)

Northland Rosarium sell roses that are container grown on their own roots (shipping in the USA only).

Outside Pride offers over 1000 flower, herb and groundcover seeds. (USA only).

Plant World Seeds offers 3000 varieties of seeds in total. They include flower, vegetable, grass, vines and climbers, trees and shrubs seeds. (shipping worldwide).

Renee's Garden Seeds features Renee Shepard's personal selection certified organic, non-GMO vegetable, herb and flower seeds. The seed packets have wonderful illustrations making them a nice gift. Renne's also carry three cookbooks and a collection of "scatter gardens" seed canisters. (Canada and the USA only)

Richters have herb seeds and plants, gourmet vegetables, everlastings, oils, gardening books and tools. They offer a print catalog that you can request. (shipping worldwide) 

Select Seeds has a print catalog that they will ship within the USA and Canada.They also have an interactive online digital catalogue. Select Seeds specializes in old-fashioned fragrant flowers, pollinated annuals, bee-friendly flowers, vegetables and herbs, flowering vines, rare annuals and perennials.

St Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre  are focused on native plants, native seed mixes and specialty seedlings. (shipping within Canada only).

Swallowtail Seeds  has annual and perennial flower seeds, flowering vine seeds, vegetable and herb seeds. (shipping worldwide)

Territorial Seed Company  is a family-owned business that offers vegetable seeds and plants, flowers and herbs, fruit and vines, garlic and tomatoes, heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable plants and seeds as well as garden supplies. ( shipping within the USA only)

Turtle Tree Seeds  is a small non-profit seed company that sells 100% open-pollinated vegetable, flower and herb seeds. Their seeds are non-GMO, non-hybrid, never treated and grown without the use of chemicals. (shipping within the USA only)

Vivaces Nordiques is located in Quebec, Canada. Their specialty is daylilies or hemerocallis. Minimum $50 order. (shipping within Canada only).

West Coast Seeds is located in Vancouver, B.C.. They specialize in heirloom, organic, non-GMO vegetable, herb and flower seeds. (shipping internationally)

Wildflower Farm is a great source for organically grown, non-GMO, native North American wildflower seeds, native grasses and wildflower seed mixes. (ships within Canada and the USA)

William Dam Seeds carry vegetable, herb, flower, climbers and vines, ornamental grass seeds, root stock and bulbs, and garden supplies. (shipping within Canada only)


  1. Jennifer-Thank you for this very informative post! I enjoyed the photos of all the beautiful gardens as well. This is an excellent resource for all of us to go to.

  2. So lovely pictures and an interesting post too! Love the last photo...
    Have a great sunday!

  3. I will explore these resources!! Thanks Jennifer.


  4. Beautiful pictures.
    I loved meeting you.
    Janicce Brazil / RS

  5. I always get my seeds from chiltern seeds. I wonder if an eco lawn is dog hardy?
    I love that wood poppy, how gorgeous. You just can't beat plants arriving in the post. It's better than

    1. Thanks for sharing your favourite seed source Snowbird. I don't remember any mention in the information on the Wildflower Farms website about the Eco-Lawn resisting the abuse dogs can dish out. Dogs can certainly be hard on a regular lawn!

  6. Bookmarking this for sure. Thanks, Jennifer. I just discovered this lovely site ... Their limited flower seed selection is the best of the best. I alway buy my roses from ... You won't get better service or healthier roses.

    1. Thanks for these two suggestions Annie. I plan to update the list after all the suggestions are made. I am familiar with Floret Flowers. Her flower farm is amazing! I was thinking of adding them in, but the post was already long. Thanks for suggesting them and your favourite source for roses.

  7. I mostly order from Swallowtail seeds. Fine selection of annual and perennial seeds. When I have my own veggie garden I plan on ordering tons of vegetable seeds from West Coast Seeds and Heritage Harvest seeds(they have an amazing selection of dry beans and unique corn!!)

    1. Thanks for these suggestions. I am going to update the post and add them to the list.


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