The Seed Catalogue

Words for winter dreams! Sweet anticipation in front of the log-burner, colourful lists scribbled with deep personal promises - a winter festival of mind-gardening. The big seed catalogue has arrived in the post!

I'm taken delightfully by surprise, my spirits are lifted, and my mind's garden is filled with wall-to-wall colours of spring and summer. Quickly - there's no time to lose. A pen, a list, fill in the order form and yippee! A plan? Oops!

 A pretty mixture of pink, blue, and white.
Annual Forget-Me-Nots

How to Plan a Seed Purchase from a Catalogue

There are several ways to do this. The most robust will use statistical reasoning, the silliest will just be an uncontrolled spending spree. The number of seed packets chosen varies with each method.

1. The Totally Random Sample
Just flick through the pages, with an arbitrary time limit of, say, two minutes. Half squint the eyes and carefully stab at pages with pen. And do try to be unpredictable!
2. The Stratified Random Sample
The seed catalogue is already sensibly divided into four sections - Flowers, Sunflowers, Organics and General Vegetables. Think of a number between two and ten. Then randomly choose this many seed varieties from each section. If sunflowers are not your thing, give away as birthday presents (checking use-by date first).
3. The Systemic Sample
This one's easy. Give every seed packet a number. Choose your first purchase off the first page - the squint and stab method should do nicely. Then tick every tenth packet from here on, writing it quickly on the order form. Extreme garden dreamers could tick every second or third...
4. The Budget Random Sample
This one is really sad! Use mathematical calculator to randomly generate ten page numbers from catalogue. Eyes wide open! Choose the best packet on each designated page. You may have to settle for floral gumboots or soothing herbal oil with this method. Be brave!

This winter-spring I'm going to take my annual seed-raising vows seriously, for once! I'll write them out, now, for others who are in need of enlightenment.

 The usual Coreopsis flowers are yellow.
Mahogany Coreopsis Flowers

Seed Raising Vows

Do you, ---------------- (insert gardener's name), take these pansies, aquilegias, lavateras, salvias and cornflowers, not to mention these foxgloves, lettuces, and nicotianas, and promise to nurture, check on every day, water but not over-water, prick out when ready, and grow on without neglect in an atmosphere of love...? Finally to plant properly, at leisure, in a most suitable garden place which has been chosen thoughtfully...?

And if you have too many lettuces, do you promise faithfully to not throw them on the glass-house floor but give them to your friends? And do you promise to label everything with an indelible pen, and not get bored at any stage of their fragile lives?

Hmm... I do... But I say this every year!

 One of my aquilegias which was raised from seed.
Yellow Aquilegia


The seed catalogue which has caused so much fresh inspiration and intense resolution is Kings Seeds. For reasons of bio-security New Zealand gardeners can't order in any old seeds from overseas catalogues. So we tend not to look at the lovely seed catalogues produced in other countries.