Tag Archives | Seeds

50 Best Seed Merchants and Catalogues

Since I put this list together 7 years ago but I have now started to favour Kings Seeds (Suffolk Herbs) for my vegetables. I also get many more seeds from clubs and organisations rather than merchants.

Seed catalogues


My Regular Suppliers

Thompson-Morgan have 2206 different packets of seeds. Their catalogue is one of the most colourful and once on their list you get regular offers. They are a good partner to Gardeners Tips and if you buy via our link we get a small commission that helps with our costs – Searchable T&M site.

Wallis Seeds have a new web site and are based in   Chelmsford Essex . I like buying by weight for some varieties that I can scatter willy-nilly so 15 gms of Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty’ and ‘Art Shades’ are on the way .

Chiltern Seeds of Ulverston Cumbria   www.chilternseeds.co.uk have  a 220 page densely packed catalogue.  They are good for providing Latin names and  flowery comments on each variety.

Vegetables Seed Suppliers

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Thrifty Gardening

Gardening is an area where there are many ways of saving money or reducing costs. A thrifty approach to gardening is not only possible it is highly desirable particularly in the early stages of gardening. It would be easy to buy the most expensive and decorative plants in the garden centre only to find that you didn’t know what you were letting yourself in for. The plant may die or fail in some other way because you didn’t understand its needs and the care required to look after it. So ask for advice.

Pelargonium grandiflorum

Extra Plants for Free

  1. Increase your own stock by collecting seeds from annuals and plants you like. Leave a few vegetables to ‘run to seed’ e.g. peas and beans are good examples – at the end of the season let them grow until the seed pod is mature then collect and separate to dry the beans or peas and sow them again in spring.
  2. Increase your own stock by taking cuttings. Don’t worry about the occasional failure but take enough cuttings to cover losses.
  3. Increase stock by dividing up large clumps of plants. Many plants like Iris need this division treatment to remain healthy.
  4. Local horticultural and gardening clubs, neighbours, church fairs, friends, and family are good sources of cuttings, seeds and cheap but healthy plants.
  5. Look in your own garden for self sown plants I had some great cowslips in the garden when I arrived probably from seeds dropped by birds.
  6. Seeds or cuttings collected from positions where they are not needed to maintain the environment. (That is not to encourage theft from gardens or damage to the environment but there are many occasions when an opportunity won’t cause any problem)

Save on Consumables and Equipment

  1. Water is costly when metered so mulch rather than water. Water key plants individually and deeply. Collect rainwater in a barrel.
  2. Make your own seed pots from old packaging, margarine tubs, yoghurt pots or paper towel roll ends.
  3. If you have several old marked labels clean then in a jar of bleach to be able to reuse.
  4. Use organic slug control methods which tend to be free or cheap.

Top Gardeners Tip
Grow what gives you pleasure but if you can eat it or use it instead of buying something, like a bunch of flowers or present then you will get double value & pleasure.


Early Seed Sowing

Victorian gardeners seem to have coped very well with the winter conditions and were able to get seeds off to an early start. The climate was not too different 150 years ago to that which we endure today so how did Victorians cope. Seed was often sown earlier than we do now and the varieties of seed were no different except for some of our softer hybrids. ‘The answer lies in the soil’ and copious amounts of compost.

Soil Condition
Great quantities of manure, ashes, soot and household waste were added to the soil. This made the soil blacker and prone to absorb what heat there was making it warmer.
Ground was deep dug in a methodical and extensive manner and potentially this broke down the frozen soil quicker than on our compacted soils.
Bell cloches walled areas and other protective measures were taken. We could make more use of the cheap cloches now available to us, using lights and cold frames is more in tune with Victorian methods..
Some beds were dressed with straw that heats as it rots away making a fermenting hot bed to get seeds started.
The sweat of the gardeners brow also contributes to a warm garden, the more effort the more you are likely to succeed.

Hotbed Structure
Building a hotbed structure to protect delicate plants involves a lot of fresh manure, details of one method are found on Gardeners Calender


Seed Collecting in Autumn

Seed collecting can be addictive. You may quickly discover you are surrounded by drying stems and paper bags but all you need is enough seeds for your immediate needs.

Shrubs may take a couple of years to develop into larger plants but you have an opportunity to increase your stock and potentially get a new cross.
Collect when the stem moves from green through yellow to brown when the seed is mature and ready. Cut the heads or stems and take inside a greenhouse, shed or garage to finally dry out hung over a sheet of paper. If seeds do not drop out naturally shake them into a paper bag. If collecting seed from berries clean away the flesh and dry the seed.

Popular Seeds
Poppy seedheads traditionally yield thousands of small black seeds from the saltshaker type head. Catch them when dry and the seed head rattles. Cut the heads and empty into a paper bag or envelope.
Foxgloves ripen progressively up the stem so to maximise seeds you may want to collect individual seed capsules. However they produce so many seeds that you may be content with taking all that are open and discarding the rest.
Some plants have ballistic mechanisms to fire seeds away from the mother plant like Pansys, Geraniums, Aquilegia and Acanthus. They need collecting and keeping in paper bags to catch the seed.
Calendula and sunflower have large seeds and are fun for kids to collect. I like Antirrhinums and plant seeds that bare a bit different or uncommon.
Not all seeds will grow true to the parent plant. Pick natural species if you want them to come true like Salvia pratensis, Lyichnis chalcedonia or Lythrum salicaria.

Mechanics of Seed Collecting

Clean the husks and plant debris away before storing the seed.
Mark the container with the variety, date collected and any notes you want to keep.
The colder and dryer, you keep the seed, the better.
Put some silica gel crystals in a lidded tupperware box with your seeds and keep them in the fridge.
Some seeds deteriorate quickly so sow by the following spring

Uses of Seeds and Seedheads

  • Poppy, Bean, Dill and Sunflower seeds are popular to eat.
  • Many other seeds feed birds through the winter so do not collect all the seed just for the sake of it.
  • Some empty seedheads look good in flower arrangements like Honesty (Lunaria) and Alliums
  • Giving excess seed away to friends or garden clubs can help other gardeners. Give them your advice as well.
  • Guerrilla gardening involves the spreading of seed in otherwise desolate places like dumping grounds and uncared for plots but only do it with care

Seeds For Children to Grow With

Where are the next Generation of Gardeners?

  • Children will grow with the knowledge they acquire from sowing and cultivating seeds.
  • If they take care the plants will also grow
  • Pea and bean seeds are popular as they are easy to handle and germinate quite quickly. Nasturtiums and sweetpeas are popular flowers.Bulbs and tubers can be great buy get the children to handle them gently and plant the right way up
  • Thompson & Morgan have a good choice of Seeds with a selection for kids.Book Cover

Some of the other varieties good for growing with kids include:

  • Kit for growing Cress – Cress is perhaps the easiest plant to grow, you don’t even need soil; just a small tray and a bit of light
  • Nasturtium – Jeepers Creepers – another fast growing colourful variety – needs little care.
  • Antirhinnum. (and give a prize if they can learn how to spell it correctly.)

Lemon Scented Petunias

A good idea that failed in my garden this summer involved Petunias. Rather than plant the brash coloured Petunias I thought I would go for some scent and colour coordinated schemes. So I opted for these Lemon F1 plants I bought as seedlings. The idea was to grow Lemon Verbena and Geranium Lemon crispum alongside the petunias for the leaf scent. The weather was not kind to the petunias and they suffered badly in the ground. Those in pots fared better but still did not excel and had no scented plants with them. I like the idea and will try again next year probably with a different combination.

Self Colours

  • F1 varieties allow us to select single colour Petunias and a new series from Chilterns comes in Lady Purple, Lady  Blue, and Lady Cherry.
  • Thompson Morgan have Mirage Midnight a dark blue and Cascade Blue (double) which I think is purple.
  • Prism Sunshine F1 is another yellow grandiflora as are Baby Duck and Madness.
  • EasyWave™  is another series with self colours in Red, Blue and White
  • Single colour with white frills may be cheating but I like Pirouette Purple, Pirouette Red and Plum Crystal.

Petunia from Thompson & Morgan
Also read Help Growing Petunias

Starting Types of Petunias

  • I find the seeds too fine and hard to germinate consistently. Being a lazy gardener I like ‘kinder plants’ and plug plants to get me started.
  • Petunia ‘Citrus Spritzer’ is a Mini Petunia also called Calibrachoa. Withmasses of flower power producing in excess of 500 blooms per basket, mini Petunia ‘Citrus Spritzer Mixed’ are simply made for hanging baskets. Free flowering and easy to grow, these astonishing calibrachoas make a spectacular summer display. Height and spread is 30cm (12”).
  • Surfinia’ petunias are still the most loved and reliable petunias, producing hundreds of beautifully coloured, trumpet shaped flowers. Support Petunia ‘Surfinia’ on a climbing frame and it will rapidly climb up to 2m/6ft high to create a non-stop tower of colour. These petunia flower from June right through to the first frosts of winter.
  • Fill your patio containers with the wide, citrus yellow, bell shaped flowers of Petunia ‘Fanfare Yellow’ shown below
  • Petunia ‘Waves Mixed’ F1 were a version of the earliest petunias.
  • The ‘most weather resistant’ is claimed to be Petunia miniflora ‘Mini Bella Picotee Mixed with the appearance of stripped flowers.
  • Spreading petunias are only about six inches tall, but spread so rapidly that they cover a huge area in one growing season provided they’re watered and fertilized frequently.
  • If I am lucky enough to get a good crop of seedlings it is usually from a small selection and I miss out on the variety.



Growing Hellebore in 2016


Hellebores are doing very well this year. The combination of the last cold winter, warm spring and now wet winter again has brought out the flowers in profusion. The Niger or Christmas rose is one of the earliest white flowers but many hybrids are now available.

Tips on Growing Hellebore

  • Buy plants in flower so you know what colour you are getting. Hellebore is very promiscuous and plants grown from seed may be crossed with other less suitable plants.
  • Try grow plants in a raised area so you can look up at the flowers which tend to have droopy flowerheads. Continue Reading →

Growing Ghosts – Eryngium giganteum

Mrs Willmott a formidable gardener is said to have secretly sown seeds in other peoples garden, an idea that appeals to me as a guerrilla gardener. Growing Eryngiums that look spooky in the moonlight is how they got the name Mrs Willmott’s ghost plants.

Growing Tips

  • Sea Holly or Eryngium giganteum is an odd looking perennial with prickly, silvery-grey bracts under steel-blue cones.
  • Wonderful for dried arrangements, especially at Christmas.
  • Happy in sandy dry soils this draught tolerant plant has spikey growth can deter unwanted visitors! I have a few scars this year to prove it. Suitable for exposed coastal planting
  • An architectural plant that attracts wildlife to feed or nest.
  • Suitable for container growing; – ideal as a ‘stand out’ plant.

Raising Plants

  • Surface sow and just cover with vermiculite. Do not exclude light. Germination can be slow.
  • Sow in February to get a bit of frost or place in a refrigerator (not freezer) for 3-6 weeks.
  • Transplant to a cold frame then grow on in full sun
  • Prefers a rich, light, well drained soil.

Chiltern Seeds have 18 different varieties of seed or try Eryingyum from Thompson & Morgan

Honesty seed heads look a bit ghostly once the seeds have gone and the coin shaped, white paper disc is left to reflect low winter light. If you want a ‘ghost of Christmas past’ combine these two in a dry flower arrangement.

Read Plants for dry gardens


Growing Sprouting Seeds for Salads and Stir Fry

Seeds that have germinated and grown roots (radicles) and sprouts (plumules) can add flavour and texture to your meals. They do not take up space in your garden and can be grown all year round.

Bean sprouts in Chinese restaurants are crispy additions to the flavours and textures of your meal. The trick to growing long crisp sprouts is to grow them under pressure. In a dark, free draining container put a half inch layer of bean seeds, cover with a damp cloth and put a one pound weight on top. Rinse daily under a tap and 4-5 days later they will be ready to eat.

Open sprouting can be done like our childhood mustard and cress on a foam base covered with layers of paper towels or on moist cotton wool. Cover with tin foil to exclude the light and germinate in a warm spot.  Method 2 Put some seeds in the bottom of ajar and cover with water to soak for twelve hours. The seeds will expand a lot as they grow. Half to one inch (1cm – 2cm) of dried seeds will usually fill a jar. It varies between seeds – radish expand more than sunflowers.
After twelve hours rinse the seeds in room temperature water then drain the water leaving seeds damp. Repeat every 12 hours for 3-4 days until ready to eat.

There is a wide variety of seeds that can be eaten as sprouts or seedlings but do not eat legumes to excess. Legumes, particularly  Broad beans and French beans are  slightly toxic. Corriander, Leeks and Onions can be eaten as seedlings. Cereals are only eaten as very small sprouts. All Brassicas can be eaten as seedlings.  Buy from health food shops or specialist suppliers and keep seed cool and dry until ready to use. Below is a table of some suitable plants for sprouting.

Common Name Days to Sprout Length when edible
Lima beans 3-5 12-25 mm
Mung Beans 3-5 12- 75 mm
Fenugreek 3-5 12-50 mm
Lentil 2-4 6-20 mm
Alfalfa 1-4 very tiny
Clover 2-5 very tiny
Buckwheat 3-5 tiny
Radish 2-4 12-25 mm
Barley & Rye 3-5 very tiny
Sunflower 1-3 12-38 mm
Sweet Corn 1-3 6-12 mm



Seed Tips and Succesful Seeds

Sowing the Seeds of Success

All good gardeners know that seeds are on your side they want to grow and thrive. Apart for some weedy exceptions that I will save until the end of this article seeds can be coaxed into blooming excess with only a little know how.

Help From the Seeds.

Every seed tells a story and you can learn to read that story by considering the parent plant and the seed itself. To set seed most plants need to be pollinated male to female and many plants are self-fertile. Having taken a deal of trouble to attract pollinators or pollination most plants package up the seeds and plan how to distribute them.

Berries and fruit have a soft or pithy outer case to help. Birds ingest elderberries and deposit the seed where they will.

Poppies have a pepperpot shaker type seed head that allows some ripe seed to be sprinkled each day over several days or weeks.

Aquilegia seed pods contort and twist to ping out seeds in a squirting motion so they travel a distance.

Dandelion seeds have feathery tufts to allow the wind to blow them where you don’t want them (but I said I would save these comments to the end)

So from these examples you can see seed pods protect and help distribution of the seed.

Seed Size and Features

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