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Seed catalogs spark mid-winter gardening excitement

Browsing seed catalogs in mid-winter helps plan the upcoming gardening season. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 3
Gardening catalogs contain valuable information and are useful reference guides. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 3
Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist for The Forum Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 3

It's the moment we've all been waiting for. No, it's not an announcement from Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. It's the arrival of seed catalogs in mid-winter. You might say it's the official kick-off of the 2018 gardening season.

But proceed with caution: it's impossible to browse the colorful pages of mouth-watering vegetables and bright flowers without catching a serious case of gardening fever. Seed catalogs have been satisfying the gardening itch since the first one was published in 1784 by Philadelphia's Landseth Seed Company.

In our own region, 150-year-old Gurney Seed and Nursery's catalogs were found on the kitchen tables of most area farms and towns since pioneer days. In fact, the red rhubarb plants growing in our garden are divisions of plants my grandmother ordered from Gurney's in the 1930s. Gurney's is still operating, and our rhubarb is still producing.

Although most catalogs are available online, there's magic in the printed versions that can be studied, dog-eared and check-marked with our wished-for selections.

Catalogs are filled with gardening tips, so they're worth keeping as reference literature.

Company websites are easily located by an internet search, and catalog copies ordered online.

In addition to flower and vegetable seeds, many of the catalogs feature bulbs, perennial divisions, fruits and landscape trees and shrubs. Some companies have specialties.

The following mail-order companies are popular with area gardeners:

  • Burpee: The catalog of one of America's most visible gardening companies offers a colorful assortment of both vegetable and flower seeds, plus perennial plants, although I've found some products are expensive for what you get.
  • Gurney's Seed and Nursery: Historically, they've probably served more gardeners in the Upper Midwest than any other mail-order company. Prices are reasonable. The plant material you receive, such as perennials, trees, shrubs and fruit plants might be smaller size than you anticipate.
  • Johnny's Selected Seeds: Located in Maine, the company is a great source of vegetable varieties suited to northern climates. One of the better vegetable seed catalogs.
  • Territorial Seed Company: Another great source of vegetable seeds with a decent offering of flower seeds.
  • Jung Seed and Plants: A long-established company with an extensive listing of vegetable and flower seeds, plus bare-root trees, shrubs, berries, perennials and bulbs.
  • Twilley: One of my personal favorites for vegetable, melon and flower seeds.
  • Totally Tomatoes: It's worth ordering the catalog just for the sake of perusing thousands of tomato varieties listed and pictured.
  • Park Seed: Complete array of flowers and vegetables seed.
  • Jackson & Perkins: Unquestionably the best rose catalog published, and photos are awe-inspiring. Their prices aren't cheap, but the heavy-caned roses are highest quality.
  • Oakes Daylilies: Large listing of quality bare-root daylilies in a well-organized colorful catalog.
  • Gilbert H. Wild: A popular source for peonies, iris, hosta, lilies and other perennials.
  • Wayside Gardens: The beautiful catalog contains many tree, shrub and groundcover types that aren't winter-hardy for our region, but the expansive perennial flower section is excellent, if a bit expensive. Great photos help in selecting types, making it a good reference.
  • White Flower Farm: Extensive offering of perennials and bulbs.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com.

He also blogs at growingtogether.areavoices.com.

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