Documents: Special Interest: Roses:

Catalogue Check
by Linda Tomlinson
by Linda Tomlinson


Linda Tomlinson received a diploma in Horticulture from Olds College as well as a B.ed from the University of Calgary.

She has worked in many aspects of the Horticulture in Alberta as well as a stint in a Nursery in Australia.

Linda has taught adult Ed classes in Horticulture. She has a weekly column in The Red Deer Advocate going into her third year.

January 23, 2005

Seed catalogues have been arriving in the mail for the last month and will continue to do so until mid February. If a favorite catalogue doesn’t arrive, request one.

Once a request or an order is placed with a horticultural mail company, catalogues will arrive for the next few years. Names are removed, if orders haven’t been placed for a couple of years. An alternative is to check the Internet as most seed houses have online catalogues.

Not all companies are created equal. Often the cost of a seed package reflects how many seeds are inside. Some catalogues let the consumer know how many seeds are in a package, or in a certain weight.

Instructions are also very important. Accurate instructions on the package enable the gardener to have a successful crop. Planting too early results in overgrown or dead plants. Starting seeds in the wrong temperature or light conditions can stop the seed from germinating; crop failure.

When looking through a new catalogue, look for how much information is given concerning individual plants. Are there specific germination instructions? How many seeds are in a package? Does it mention if the plant does best in sun or shade? Are the mature size and days to maturity mentioned? If the information in the catalogue is hard to understand or skimpy chances are the seed packages will not contain all the pertinent information.

The above information is also important when buying plants, bulbs or roots from a mail order source. Look for Botanical or Latin Names. Common names are often regional, and confusing which can result in buying unwanted plants. Cost is often determined by size of; pots, roots and plants.

Ask when the plants will be shipped. Most places ship to coincide with the purchaser’s weather; not their own.

Ask fellow gardeners if they have had success with specific mail order businesses. Lastly, if the deal sounds too good to be true, throw the catalogue in the garbage. There are a few unscrupulous mail houses that are still in business.

Before placing an order, look at the shipping costs. Small orders can become very expensive when shipping is included. Ordering with a friend, helps defray costs.

Ordering early has a few advantages such as free items or discounts. Early orders are filled quickly, as there isn’t a backlog. If seeds or plants are in short supply they go to the first customers.

Starting plants from seed is not always a money saver. Seed packages are often approximately the same price as a small cell package or one perennial. Add the cost of soil, light and pots to the project, and it’s cost effective to buy the plants.

On the other hand if a large number of one variety is needed, it’s less expensive to start seedlings. Also take into consideration that starting plants from seeds can be relaxing and provide great satisfaction. It also insures the gardener can obtain specific varieties.

Trees, shrubs and some perennials are more expensive to buy than seeds but they are also larger than seedlings.

With good instructions, and patience trees, shrubs and perennials are easy to start. Many of these seeds will need to be stratified, to break dormancy.

Starting plants from seed is an ideal way to start new varieties that are not available through mail order or local outlets. Each seed has its own genetic makeup, giving more variety in shape, size and color than plants propagated through vegetative means.

Variation of genetic material is also a plus when looking for winter hardy material. Planting seeds of plants rated a zone or two above the area zone often produces a couple of hardy seedlings. Plants that are started as seedlings tend to adapt to the climate better than imported plants.

Enjoy the catalogues and use them to plan this years garden.

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row