Look at the catalogues, and dream of summer

On winter days when the wind blows snow across the garden it is good to sit in a comfortable chair and plan next years garden. One of the most useful tools is the time honored, seed catalogue.

On winter days when the wind blows snow across the garden it is good to sit in a comfortable chair and plan next years garden. One of the most useful tools is the time honored, seed catalogue.

A good catalogue will contain enticing pictures and valuable cultural information about the plant itself.

Knowing the size of the plant, color of the flowers, preference to sun or shade, soil type as well as the number of days until maturity enable consumers to make informed decisions.

Some of the oldest seed houses still have the best information: Stokes Seeds 1 800 396 9236, www.stokesseeds.com Dominion Seed House, 1.800.784.3037, www.dominion-seed-house.com/en-CA/ Vessey Seeds, 1-800-363-7333 www.veseys.com

Treat all seed catalogues like salesmen. It would be hard for most to duplicate the flowers and pictures because they always use the best of the best and they have many to choose from.

Still these catalogues are a way to see what is new and available which allows encourages you to dream of summer.

There are still many of the traditional seed catalogues available but some have expanded to sell small plants that are grown in plugs.

There are also many that sell to specific markets which include: native seeds and plants, prairie grown items, heritage seeds and herbs.

Beware of native seed mixes as many of them are not native to the area. Good mixes will list what varieties of seeds are in the mix.

Perennial seeds in the mix as can be difficult to germinate as each variety of seeds will have specific germination requirements that might not be met by broadcasting seeds on the ground.

Often it is better to purchase small plants or plugs rather than seeds.

Plants that are native to the area are hardy and usually low maintenance. Attractive ones make a great addition to the garden.

ALCLA Native Plants ships out of Bearspaw just west of Calgary have a selection of native seeds, plants, and seed mixes.

They do list some woody native shrubs but the majority of their plants are perennials or grasses. ALCLA Native Plants, 3208 Bearspaw Dr NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2L 1T2 www.alclanativeplants.com

Bowpoint Nursery which is also west of Calgary specializes in native trees and shrubs. All plants are grown on site. Bow Point Nursery Ltd, 244034 Range Rd 32 Calgary, Alberta T3Z 2E3 www.bowpointnursery.com

Heritage seeds are seeds that have been handed down from one generation to the next without selective breeding or genetic modifications.

Many of the varieties came with the pioneers as they left the Old Country. These plants and seeds are important as they contain a diverse gene pool.

Heritage plants are often interesting unique plants.

In the last decade heritage plants have made a comeback. While they are not practical for large scale growers they are add interest to home gardens.

Seeds of Diversity is a non-profit group that works to protect plant diversity.

Members share information and seeds. They keep an up-to-date list of heritage seeds that are available which corresponds to a list of seed houses that sell them.

For those looking for heritage seeds this is a great place to start. Seeds of Diversity, P.O. Box 36, Stn Q, Toronto ON M4T 2L71-866-509-SEED www.seeds.ca

Most seed catalogues contain a selection of herbs but none compare to Richters Herbs.

Richters’ catalogue has more varieties of herbs than any other in Canada. They ship out seeds and small plants to all provinces and the United States. RICHTERS HERBS, 357 Highway 47, Goodwood, ON, L0C 1A0 Tel. 1.905.640.6677 www.richters.com

Take time this winter to look at some of the niche garden catalogues to add unique plants to the yard this season.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com.