Seed Catalogs


Gardening friends, are you up for a re-run?

My article, below, orginally appeared on the Atlanta Gardening Forum. The website, run by a terrific gardener named Diane Cox, has just been revamped. It’s a great place to connect online and share your gardening questions, tips, stories, and photos. Check it out–there’s no charge to join.

After you do that—hope you enjoy these thoughts about seed catalogs:

“I used to think the first sign of spring was a yellow crocus sticking its nose up out of the thawing earth, or maybe a robin, bobbing for worms in a lawn made soggy by April rain. But spring really comes much earlier than that. For me, spring arrives on the morning I reach into my mailbox and find the first seed catalog of the season.

Even on the day after Christmas, a seed catalog is a welcome sight. As soon as I pack up the red holiday bows and chop up our evergreen branches for mulch, I’m winter-weary. I comb the local discount stores for signs of hope: a few leftover bulbs, still fat with promise for a late planting, or a tray of raggedgy-faced pansies to pot up for the porch. There’s not much else available, not much to hold me until I get my hands in the dirt again.

So I dream over seed catalogs instead, making lists like a child writing to Santa. The sum of my wants always alarms me, and I have to go back over my order, crossing out here and there. It’s tough to choose! Will it be new varieties of peas or petunias this spring? A feast for the plate or the eyes?

When the seeds arrive, I’ll take them to the basement. My husband’s rigged a grow lamp there, and I’ve saved disposable cups for seed beds. I shake the seeds out of their paper envelopes, some as fine as dust, and press them into the potting mix. A little water, a little sunlight in a warm corner of the kitchen, and ahhh–spring in a paper cup, promise in a pie pan.

I love seed catalogs, because they bring out the best in us as gardeners. And they bring out the best in us as human beings, because they give us hope. They let us believe in ourselves, and in our abilities, again.

When I plant each spring, I picture morning glories tangled on the fence and rows of corn marching military-straight across the back yard. By summer’s end, I usually find more tomato worms than tomatoes–and more zucchini than anything.

The best I can do then is sit down in the shade and take gardening philosophically. Real gardens aren’t perfect, seed catalogs notwithstanding. So I prop my hoe against a tree and settle for a nap in the hammock.

But I’m a gardener at heart, so I don’t take setbacks too seriously, or for too long. The seasons will turn again. One winter morning, I’ll hear the clunk of the mailbox door as another seed catalog arrives. Then I’ll plan again. And plant again. The seed sellers’ wish for us is that one summer evening, if we can straighten up long enough from our pile of just-pulled crabgrass, we’ll see one perfect, white moonflower unfurling its parasol blossom. Then, even if we never understand the how of gardening, we will understand the why.”

Copyright 2012 Lynn Coulter

Sweet Peas for Your Sweetheart

'Heirloom Cupid' Windowbox Sweet Peas, from Renee's Garden.

Gardening friends, my first order of seeds for 2012 just arrived in the mail. These are from Renee’s Garden, a California-based company.

Renee Shepherd, the gardener behind the company, sells heirloom and gourmet vegetables, aromatic herbs, and cottage garden-style flowers. I’ve never been disappointed in any of her seeds, which you can find at some retail stores, or order online (she doesn’t offer a mail-order catalog).

Unfortunately, Renee’s site doesn’t list which retailers carry her seeds. That’s probably because it’s too hard to keep that kind of information updated. But you can email her, at, to try to locate a nearby source. Or simply order online, which is what I do.

Renee’s site is packed with great info, like recipes, gardening tips, info on making herbal teas and vinegars, and much more. There are also links to magazines and newspapers that have interviewed Renee about gardening. After reading this New York Times piece on growing alpine strawberries, in which the writer describes picking the tiny, fresh berries and eating them with cereal and milk, I can hardly wait to try them.

Most of the seeds I ordered should be planted in April or later, because they’re frost-tender. But I did buy a variety of sweet peas called Heirloom Cupid.’ I’m going to try growing them, even though our weather usually warms up fast in the spring, and sweet peas prefer cool temps (they can even handle light frost).

The picture on the sweet peas packet charmed me into buying it. All of Renee’s packets started out as commissioned, original watercolors, and I love these flowers, which look heart-shaped and have a sweet perfume. This variety is also small enough to grow in window boxes or containers. Can’t you see giving a bouquet to your sweetie for Valentine’s Day?

Of course, I have to be realistic, even though beautiful flowers get me carried away. Sweet peas can be started in the fall, but I missed that planting season. They can also be sown starting in February, but that means mine won’t be in bloom by Feb. 14.

That’s okay. I’ll enjoy growing them and giving them to someone special anyway. I’ll let you know how they grow for me!

A Devotional Booklet for Your Bible Study, Retreat, or Quiet Time

A big, big thanks to Kay Marks and the ladies of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arvada, Colorado, who created a lovely devotional booklet I can share with you! Here’s the cover:



Kay contacted me awhile ago, to ask if it was okay to reprint some of my gardening tips and devotional thoughts from a calendar we created to go with my first book, Gardening with Heirloom Seeds. I was happy to say yes! I love these kinds of booklets, and Kay is kindly allowing me to share the finished product with anyone who would like to use it for personal use (that is, group or individual use is okay, but it must be not-for-profit).

You can’t really appreciate the colors and artwork in the booklet from this picture, because my scanner let the colors bleed through (boo, crummy old scanner). But if you’d like a copy, please leave me a comment or email me lynn(at) Then you can reproduce as many copies as you’d like. I’d recommend using a slightly heavier paper than ordinary office stuff, so the colors don’t show through. (Or use a good scanner/copier, LOL.)

The complete booklet is about 12 pages. We’re happy to share this with you, especially at Thanskgiving!

Lynn and Miss Paws


Nasty as You Wanna Be

I read once that you should be nasty to nasturtiums.  Unfortunately, I can no longer put my grubby little gardener’s hands on the article that said this, and I haven’t seen exactly the same advice anywhere else.

Turns out you shouldn’t be downright mean to these pretty flowers with lily-pad shaped leaves. They don’t like to be transplanted, so it’s best to sow their seeds directly into the garden or containers, or in hanging baskets, as I’ve done this year. They need regular water and prefer lots of sun.

So I think the notion of treating them badly probably got started simply because they can grow just fine in poor to ordinary garden soil. If you give them extra nitrogen, you’ll wind up with more foliage than flowers–so okay, you can be stingy when it comes to feeding them.

I haven’t had great luck with nasturtiums in the past, and maybe it’s because I planted them late, and when the hot, humid weather set in, they turned up their toes and died on me. This year, I started the seeds in March, and so far they haven’t minded a few cold snaps and cloudy days. I’m hoping I get some nice hanging baskets filled with trailing vines and lipstick-red flowers to enjoy.

And hey–if I get tired of looking at my nasturtiums, I can just eat ’em! Nasturtiums, as long as you don’t treat them with any chemicals, are edible and the colorful blooms are snazzy looking in green salads. The blossoms have a peppery bite that I’m not overly fond of, but you can tone down the taste by mixing in some of the buttery, milder lettuces.

I’m growing a variety called Cherries Jubilee this year, but I sure wish I could grow the nasturtiums that Swedish taxonomist Carl Linaeus reportedly saw growing in the late 1880s. Linnaeus (if the name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the one who gave us our Latin system of botanical names) claimed to have  seen a nasturtium that flashed and sparkled under certain atmospheric conditions. He wasn’t the only one seeing sparks. There’s a report in an 1887 dictionary of gardening published by George Nicholson, too, that says, “The whole (nasturtium) leaf seemed to twinkle with points of light.”

Awesome, yes?

Sadly, nasturtiums like that aren’t around anymore. That’s why we should grow heirlooms, to keep the old varieties going.

If you’re looking for nasturtiums to grow this year, better get started soon if you’re in the South, or wait until fall returns. You can plant then and expect your nasturtiums to flower the following spring.

Try this site Renees Garden for a great selection of nasturtiums. ‘Empress of India’ is a gorgeous heirloom with bright red flowers.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

I’m really looking forward to this year’s International Flower and Garden Festival, which will be held at Epcot in Orlando, FL.

I’ll be there as a speaker for Epcot’s Great American Gardener series.  The park’s horiculturists are already planning to “grow out” many of the beautiful heirloom veggies and flowers I’ll discuss (and I’ll appreciate having the plants already set up around the speaker’s stage. Can you imagine trying to travel with a pot of petunias or zinnias?  If you can’t make it through security with more than an ounce of, say, mouthwash, I don’t think I’d make it onto the plane with a bag of delicious Italian frying peppers or a box of heirloom tomatoes).

Hope you can join me at Epcot on March 19-21.  I’ll speak twice daily, at noon and three pm.  Think spring!

Seed catalogs in the mailbox

January 8th, 2009

The catalogs, that is. In January, my mailbox is always stuffed with gardening offers, and today brought a fantastic catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I’m still shaking my head at how expensive it must have been to produce and mail, because it’s oversized, with glossy, magazine-type pages. It’s packed with so many intriguing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, it made me want to run straight to the garden and start growing something–anything!

Here are a few things I’m putting on my list to order:

  • Mississippi Silver Hull peas, a runner type that produces very well here in the South. The beans are large and tan and delicious.
  • D’Alger melons. I’ve never eaten this kind of melon, but it sounds great. The catalog says it’s a “colorful, ancient, French cantaloupe (possibly from Africa)…(T)he flesh is highly perfumed and very smooth and creamy.” The photo shows a dark green-black rind with silvery splashes.
  • Sugar Snap peas. These are for my hubby, who loves to eat them sauteed or raw in salads. I like that they’re produced on bushy vines that don’t need staking.

There are lots more things I want to grow, but Thai Long purple eggplants won’t make my list. We grew them last year and they were way too skinny and bland.

If you’ve visited my blog before, you might remember that I’m the official “Master Blogger” for the 2009 Southeastern Flower Show, which opens in Atlanta on Jan. 28 through Feb. 1. This year, the show has several cooking demonstrations planned with wonderful chefs you’ll talk about “Cooking from the Garden.” For more information, please visit my blog at Flower Show Blog

When you visit the show, be sure to bring your questions for these knowledgeable cooks. I’ll also be there, signing copies of my book, Gardening with Heirloom Seeds, and my new book, Mustard Seeds: Thoughts on the Nature of God and Faith, on Sat., Jan. 31, at noon. Hope to see you there!