Hartley Magazine

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Pick ‘n’ Mix – When seed catalogues start diving through the door

When the seed catalogues start diving through the letterbox you know spring is nearly here. For the avid gardener and plantaholic there is nothing nicer than settling into a comfy chair surrounded by seed catalogues, botanical reference books and a drink of something special, hot chocolate is a good winter choice!

Many gardeners have a favourite supplier chosen perhaps for value for money, familiarity or just because they have always used that company. But when you want something really special, maybe something for the secret plant hunter within, you need to spread the net a bit wider.

The internet today enables gardeners to source seed from across the world, but many seed companies already do this for us and some actually commission growers around the world to sow and harvest seed from obscure botanical delights for our delectation.

Seed catalogues are like a fabulous tray of chocolates, or an exclusive range of pick ‘n’ mix, once you delve in you just can’t help yourself and when you have a greenhouse there’s very little on offer that you can’t grow. No matter how big your greenhouse, it soon fills up in spring with germinating seedlings and hundreds of young plants. It’s an exciting time and it gets better by the day.

A good seed catalogue transports you from your chair into a dream world of gardens, full of promises of what will grow and vistas of colour, taste and intrigue. And one of the best things is that each packet of seed costs less than a pint and sometimes even less than a half. Compare the enjoyment you get from one packet of seed to the momentary delight of a swift half down the pub; the seeds win it every time for me, not that I touch alcohol of course.

This year, try something different, grow something radical and enjoy the challenge. Take a look at the Chiltern Seeds Catalogue; it’s so full of intrigue, story and delight you could read it on a train with a smile on your face. Never mind the Kindle or any other electronic device, give me a good book or a good seed catalogue any day, you can fold over the pages, write in the margins and generally flick forward and back forever. The Chilterns catalogue is a labour of love and for readers often a real botanical challenge. After almost every few pages I am wracking my brain for an image or common name of the plant described. It’s great revision and a brilliant way to familiarise yourself with less common plants. And I’ll admit I’ve been tempted. The margins in my catalogue are daubed in pen all over and I know I must go back and prune that wish list. At first it was one asterisk beside what I was going to order. Then a double asterisk meant definite and now I have to edit even those.

But the prose is a delight and how can we resist. Here’s one on my list, the description is divine and I am weak with anticipation of the first flower. I’ll leave it to you to find it yourselves, I don’t want it selling out even before I’ve got my order in!

“You’ll love this plant! It’s one to cheer up the saddest soul even on dull summer days. Not one to hang around, it quickly produces mounds of deliciously aromatic, silvery foliage and bears from June until the furnace is damped down for the winter in early autumn copious flames of brilliant light orange flowers. The bees love them, your flower arranger will illuminate shady corners of the parlour with them and all this in the first year from seed.”

Wow how can you resist. I can’t and it’s just one of dozens that will be sown under glass in my greenhouse this spring, well if there’s any of them left.