Curl up with a good gardening catalog

Jennifer E. Beaver

For those who live where winter means cold, snow and unworkable ground, garden catalogs are the tangible hope of the spring to come. While the earth slumbers under a blanket of snow, armchair gardeners are hard at work plotting their next crop.
But what value do these catalogs have for us, the year-round gardeners of southern California? Winter is one of our best seasons. We don’t need to curl up with a piece of paper to get our gardening fix. And why use paper? There’s an app for whatever we need to know.
I beg to differ. There is nothing more delicious than sitting down with a garden catalog, a pen and a cup of tea. It’s inspiring and satisfying and hopeful all at once.
Here are some of my favorite catalogs:

Annie’s Annuals & Perennials
Located in northern California, it passes my litmus test for regionally appropriate plants. Look here for unusual and cottage garden flowers and vegetables that are colorful, sometimes drought-tolerant, and easy to grow.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Want to avoid genetically modified seeds? This is a good place to start. The company offers 1,400 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs– the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the U.S. Founded in Missouri, they also have a store in Petaluma, California.

Botanical Interests
Quality seeds with detailed instructions, great growing tips and recipes. Many organics and heirlooms.

High Country Gardens
This catalog is absolutely bursting with ideas for low-water gardens. The problem is not what to order, but what NOT to order. A little pricey but very thought-provoking. If you’re struggling with what to do with your hellstrip– that little border between sidewalk and street– take a look here.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Johnny’s is located in Maine, so you know the growing conditions are a bit different from ours. I appreciate it for its wide range of products and concise, clear descriptions.

Nichols Garden Nursery
This nursery is owned by the Rosemary Marie Nichols McGee, coauthor of Bountiful Container– one of my favorite books. This Oregon-based nursery offers common and unusual seeds in small and large quantities. The catalog is available free online and for $1 (with a $2 credit on future orders) in paper.

Peaceful Valley
Another California-based vendor, Peaceful Valley specializes in organic products. Great prices and selection.

Territorial Seed Company
Another Oregon-based company with non-treated seeds, Territorial offers an outstanding selection at great prices. Helpful, detailed planting information.

Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California and Edible Gardening for California.

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