Sunday, February 22, 2009

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows...

are in the seeds of today.” (Proverbs)
Is it time to bring back a Victory Garden? I live in New Jersey, indeed the Garden State (despite what those of you in the other 49 may call us), and we do have gardens around the house and shop…floral and veggie. Every day several seed catalogs come in the mail, and, of course, with them, the promise of beauty and bounty. I managed to find some old seed catalogs at a flea market, and it lead me to this week’s entry.

Today we can access seeds through the internet, grocery stores, dollar stores as well as the mail ordercatalogs. Imagine the excitement of the 18th century household when their seed catalog arrived.
In 1784, Englishman David Landreth established the first mail order seed catalog, and his company still exists today. They introduced the zinnia in 1798, the first white potato in 1811, and the tomato in 1820. David and his son went on to help found the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 1828.
Joseph Breck of Boston established Joseph Breck & Co. in 1818. His 1840 seed catalog was packed with information as well as a treasure trove of seeds to be ordered. The catalog below has similar features.
The D. Landreth Seed Co. and others were key participants in what is known as the Columbian Exchange. Based on my research, it was responsible for putting the West in contact with the East, sending chocolate to Switzerland, paprika to Hungary, tomatoes to Italy, and potatoes to Ireland.
Cotton, sugarcane, and most vegetables other than squashes are introductions to the New World. Seedsmen, as they are still sometimes known, imported seeds from Europe and sold them to settlers, as well as providing seeds from the newly explored territories for expeditions to Asia and the North Pole.

Seed catalogs and mail order marketing of seeds played an important role in American and world history. Without potatoes from the New World crossing back to the Old World, there would be no Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and hence fewer Irish immigrants to North America.

Now, in our move to return to the past, heirloom seeds are in vogue again…and I have read where seed catalogs are once again garnering attention. So, maybe it will put folks back in touch with their earth...their roots...good can come from depression if you let it!
“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson


Cottage Flair said...

Great seed packets and catalogs. I love the vintage images. Great post.

Patricia said...

Terrific post! Just when the seed catalogs have become my favorite reading material of the moment. That was some information about the potato famine. I never knew that they had imported potatoes. Just assumed they had always been in Ireland. I always learn something here.
Patricia Rose-A Potpourri of Fabric, Fragrance and Findings

Carolee Crafts said...

Love the vintage seed catalogues and the information thank you for sharing

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the great info. I have always enjoyed looking through those catalogs but did not know much of the history you shared.


Carolyn Kocman said...

now, see...i could spend an entire day just reading and looking at those catalogs. i do it with the new ones, but the old ones would be awesome. thanks for sharing. the pics of your zinnias.

gail said...

Hi Susan,,,once again you inspire us! :) I love this post. I think seed packets are a work of art on their own. I hope you enjoy your week... ((())gail

Rachelle said...

Susan, Another great article! One of the things on my "to-do" list is to order seeds...oh the possibilities! I just love your shop!

Dawn-Hydrangea Home said...

Love the old seed packets. You have inspired me to order some for the spring! Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

Susan -
Perfect timing for a topic that is so close to my heart! Can't waitto get into the herb garden and distill my lavender and rosemary for my soaps! Don't you just love the art work in the vintage catalogues - makes me want to buy a few and frame them!

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

Oh how I love to look at those catalogues. I only wish I had a green thumb!
Great post my friend. As always.
bunny hugs,

Just a bed of roses said...

they just dont make seed packages like they use to! arent they so beautiful! My dad and husband love gardens and seeds, its nice to think that 3 more months they can plant their gardens. thanks for your valuable information.

Janet L Christian said...

I just love all those seed packets and of course terra cotta pots

Eileen & Karen said...

Your seed cataloges are so cool! What a great find! I always enjoy your posts Susan!

Anonymous said...

Susan, Thanks for posting such an uplifting topic. Funny I never thought quite about the history of the seeds I love to plant. Just gotta have those flowers and veggies every year though.

Huggs, Nancy

Deb said...

Hi Susan.....I just love seed packets and catalogs...old and new. It's about that time of year to start thinking about planting again too. :)

Pink hugs,

Pam said...

Wonderful post! I think Victory gardens and home gardens should come back a bit more anyway. With food and gas prices soaring, every little bit helps.

Alas, I have 2 black thumbs:(.

Unknown said...

Hi Susan!

Awesome information! I love flowers and love gardening,but unfortunately never seem to have time.But someday I will! Great photos Susan. It's always a pleasure to visit you.
Janet's Creative Pillows

Cindy - Angel Wings Cottage said...

Hi Susan - - Your post really makes you start thinking about spring! Thanks so much for visiting me and your comment about my pretty new spring items.

Pink hugs - Cindy O.

Meadow Street said...

Oh, this brings back memories! My dear nana and her seed catalogues in Canada.