Seeds aren’t just found in garden centers anymore. I’ve seen displays of Burpee seeds at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot and other shops. It seems like you can pick up all the seeds you need to grow a garden at most any store. Why would anyone bother ordering seeds from a catalog?
If you take the time to look at the seed displays at all of these stores, you’ll soon realize that they’re all the same. Each display has the same varieties of vegetables and flowers for sale. This makes sense – Burpee has a standard seed rack that it markets to all the stores in the area.
The reason I don’t buy many seeds from these racks is because the choices are very limited. There might be five varieties of tomato, two kinds of beets, four lettuce choices and six different zinnias. This might seem like a lot of choices but when you open a seed catalog, you realize that there so many more varieties from which to choose. Johnny’s lists 72 tomato varieties (not counting those for the greenhouse), Territorial Seeds has 13 different beets, Harris Seeds sells 24 kinds of lettuce and Burpee’s catalog lists 17 zinnia varieties.
I love the descriptions of the different varieties of flowers and vegetables found in seed catalogs. I will admit that I read these with a slightly cynical eye – the glowing descriptions make use of too many adjectives like “superior”, “outstanding” and “wonderful” to be completely trusted! But the descriptions do point out the differences between the varieties.
I like having choices. Over the years I’ve learned that I don’t want to grow generic green beans; green filet beans taste so much better and can only be found in a catalog. I don’t grow any tomato; I grow saladette tomatoes. Seeds for these tomatoes are never in the rack of seeds at the grocery store. I like cactus flowering zinnias; I have to go to a catalog to find them. And while 13 kinds of beets might seem like overkill, to a beet-lover like me, I like to try different varieties to discover which ones I like best.
I do buy some seeds from those ubiquitous racks. The prices are good, the seeds are high quality and they’re readily available. But if I’m looking for a specific variety of flower or vegetable seed, I know that the seeds catalogs are the place to find them. That’s one reason why I love seed catalogs!