Home Columns & Editorials Iva's Input I also love seed catalogs!

I also love seed catalogs!


I also love seed catalogs.  They’re coming in now and probably will continue until Memorial Day; Hope springs eternal!

I used to get lots more.  That was before somebody apparently tipped off Burpee’s Seeds and Plants,  Stark Bros, Gurney’s, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Park Seeds, et al. that I had a particularly virulent “black thumb”.  Yes, sadly, for green things large and small, I am a chlorophylliate “kiss-of-death”.  Once-upon-a-time, single-handed, I caused the demise of an air fern.  Jungle Girl, I am not.

Seed catalogs are so hopeful.  One gets the feeling–planted by those wily horticulturists–that if the sun will just come up on a regular basis, fruits and vegetables will overflow all of the containers available for them and the neighbors can rely on your largesse for regular infusions of Vitamins A, B–all of them–C, D and probably E and K.

It’s all reminiscent of the early days of settlement in Freedom Township:  The proprietors of large tracts of land wished to sell much of it at a profit, so they put it about that this acreage out in the wilds of the Western Reserve was a veritable Eden of the West, where crops would grow with amazing abundance and rapidity.  When planting, the sower would have to be nimble about dropping seeds in the ground, lest they spring up and deliver a sharp rap on the chin to anyone lingering to observe them in the ground.  These early real estate entrepreneurs neglected to mention the “Great Swamp” in the middle of Portage County (Not connected, but not unlike the Great Black Swamp over in western Ohio which slowed “Mad” Anthony Wayne on his way to the Battle of Fallen Timbers but encouraged the growing of just about every kind of agriculture once the place had been mostly drained.).  One lady who had trekked all the way out from Massachusetts expecting to find Paradise; when she got here and saw what she saw, she wrote back to her sister, “If this be the Land of Freedom, I would like to know what the Land of Bondage will be.”

Anyway, the same people who come up with the titles for the little sample cards in the paint selection department work on the side coming up with names for new varieties of plants.  “Snow Sweet”, “Dwarf Wonderblue”, “Pinky Winky” (It’s a hydrangea),”Serendipity”, “Sugar Daddy”, “Buttercrunch”.  Do they sound luscious or what?  Then there’s “Green Arrow”(green peas), “Mucho Nacho Hybrid”(jalapeno), “Mammoth Sandwich Island” (Salsify…whatever that is), “Kong(as in ‘King’) Hybrid Sunflower”(12 feet).  One of my favorites is the “Firewitch Dianthus”, another is “Incrediball Hydrangea”.  Where do they get these things?  Great stuff!

Somehow, I got on a mailing list for Growers Supply–a division of FarmTek.  These folks obviously don’t know who they’re dealing with.  They’re peddling complete hydroponic systems, Solar Star Greenhouses, E-Z Haul wagons and carts, seedling heat mats and Tex-R Geodiscs for weed control.  Whoops!  They’re touting all of this wonderful stuff to someone who’s got beavers chewing down the last, remaining   semi-dwarf-gone-berserk apple tree in the backyard.  Tough sell.

Still, I usually fall for at least one of their blandishments and attempt to make some new green thing grow someplace.  Bob the Landscaper Dude will tell you that I will give it the old school try, but  our nemesis is shade.  I have lots.  All of the bright, colorful plants–perennials, I have no truck with namby-pamby vegetation that can’t survive on its own–come with directions to plant them in “full sun”.  Not much of that around here.

The other siren song that I often fall for is the “heritage” label.  Makes me think of our orchard at home. Lots of old, old varieties of fruit–Yellow Transparent I remember.  Maybe Baldwins?  A little yellow plum, about the size of a Bing cherry– sweet, sweet, sweet–grafted onto a larger plum tree.  Birds always got the cherries before any of us could.  Calves and chickens and pigs and sheep scarfed up anything that hit the ground.

I do hope that somewhere in a seed bank( Like the one up in Norway on the island of Spitzbergen, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault) or world-wide gene bank all of these “old timers” are just waiting to be rediscovered, re-used, re-purposed and appear again to be enjoyed.  Plants need a “Noah’s Ark” too, to protect against a loss of diversity, whether by accident or natural disaster or disease.  When we get down to just a few varieties–all of our eggs in one basket, if you will–we’re just tempting Fate, setting ourselves up for some really hungry times.  Funny, isn’t it, that perhaps the survival of the vast majority of our food crops may depend on a storage vault 810 mi. from the North Pole, chosen for its lack of tectonic/seismic activity and its permafrost–the place is kept at 0 degrees.

Clarence Birdseye would be proud.