(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 26, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond promptly to new questions or comments.)
The mail is heavy with them,
Burpees, Pinetree, Johnny’s,
Gurneys, Farmer’s, Harris,
Thompson and Morgan, Seeds of Change
Territorial, Select, Baker Creek,
clones following, piling on the counters,
layer after layer of temptation.
I sort them: a pile to go, two piles to stay,
comparison shop - price per seed,
species, varitey, cultivar.
Have I purchased here before?
Do I really need that many colors,
this many sizes, all of the flavors?
Is there any room left in the yard?
The air is full of snowflakes and so cold that the rhododendron leaves outside the window have folded in on themselves. I sit at the dining room table as dusk draws in with a pile of seed catalogs at my elbow and a cup of vanilla tea to hand.
The pile is smaller than some years. I have done the unthinkable and thrown catalogs away before they were barely in the back door, some because I have no interest in their products, some because they aren’t as reliable as they once were, some because I have one, or two or possibly three already lying around in various rooms.
These catalogs entice me to excess. I have already been through some of my favorites, Select Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds, Baker Creek and Cook’s Garden and underlined, outlined, circled, placed florescent exclamation marks, hi-lighted several things. Some I know will never survive in my zone five garden. Some I order every year and will again this year. Some are “NEW” and I am seduced by the idea of having them this one first year. I know that soon I will be filling out order forms and will be amazed and slightly embarrassed by the size of the checks I am forced write.
It is an annual exercise in conscientious consumerism, shaded with the rosy glow of doing good in my little plot of the earth. All of the seeds I order come with the intention of bringing green, growing things to a world in need of replanting. I try to pay attention to the possibilities of invasiveness, I order seeds and plants that are descendants of plants native to my continent and region. Those that are immigrants, I treat with care and caution, keeping them in check if they look to get carried away. I plant a small vegetable garden so that I can sit down to dinner with my family and know that the food was grown with love and minimal chemical input. I raise herbs and plants that bring hummingbirds and hummingbird moths to my garden, butterflies and bees and ladybugs. I blush with the knowledge that I am working in my small way to keep the earth fertile and viable.
But we all know, in spite of the fact that there will be good come from it, that it is January that puts the power of persuasion and the impetus of purchase in the cover of Burpees with the gorgeous red tomatoes rolling out of a full harvest basket and the blooms of sweet peas and old-fashioned morning glories trailing around the pages of Select Seed. It is the five long months before planting season and the empty grow table in the back room waiting for the first padded envelopes to come in the door with small, dry treasures that makes writing those embarrassingly large checks easy and essential to my well being.