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Seeds



Despite the heirloom boom starting at the end of last century, a number of tomato types and other edibles I've mentioned will not be available from garden centres, even as seed. A garden centre typically stocks a few varieties guaranteed to sell. Growers of rare and unusual plants are a niche market, typically catered to by a few seed specialists that carry a very wide range, and plant lovers who trade at seed exchanges. The specialists can only really turn a profit if they reach a wide enough customer base, and I suspect that said heirloom boom was made possible mostly by the increasing number of internet users. Therefore, pretty much all seed sellers listed have a website. They will be listed by country, since, although seeds can be shipped around the world these days, different countries have their own peculiarities when it comes to importing and exporting seeds. I haven't done business with all of them; some I've bought seeds from, others I've included for their interesting range of seeds.


The Netherlands

Why not start with the home base? Although the seed sellers listed use Dutch and don't always translate to English, they can be useful sources. Selling rare seeds in the Netherlands is a thankless task because most of the Dutch population is well suited to the garden centre approach, being terrified of making their garden look too different from the neighbour's. To enlighten these horticultural ignorami, I've listed three amateurs (in the sense of: "dedicated hobbyists") who offer, in small quantities and for a token amount of money, seeds ranging from the ordinary to "so rare even the specialists don't have it". The Netherlands is fairly laid-back about importing and exporting seeds, since there is no fragile ecosystem here to protect from invasive species. In the Netherlands and any other EU country, payment is best done by bank transfer; the less secure methods of PayPal and credit card are also current.


Vreeken's Zaden

This is the Dutch answer to Chiltern Seeds, although, being in the Netherlands, it works together with Thompson & Morgan and sells seeds from British, German and even Russian seed companies - especially tomato seeds often come in German and Russian packets. It also sells seeds from Cruydt-hoeck, a small Dutch company inspired by Chiltern Seeds, which used to have its own catalogue (now treasured by me; this company introduced me to my first heirloom tomato) but no longer sells directly, instead using specialty shops like Vreeken's for distribution. Whatever seed didn't come in packets is put by the owner and his crew into self-printed, laminated (to keep the seeds viable) paper packets with a picture on the front and instructions on the back. The webshop carries mostly seeds, but also tubers (especially many types of potato), bulbs, a small but choice collection of plants (mostly fruit and/or herbs, especially many types of strawberry and grape) selected to do well in the Dutch soil and climate, growing sets for various mushrooms, gardening supplies, and books. Having discovered that the real shop is close to where I used to live, I preferred to go straight to the physical location, which is smallish and yet chock full of different seeds, divided into annuals, biennials/perennials, vegetables (as many heirlooms as the shop owner can find), and smaller categories like conservatory plants and herbs, the latter occupying its own little seed rack next to the shelves of cocopeat bricks that I stock up on regularly. The shop owner has a soft spot for pumpkins and squashes - there are more different types of pumpkin/squash seeds than of any other vegetable - and though he mostly buys his seeds, he also finds time to grow and improve strains himself. There may be another shop like this in the Netherlands, but if so, I don't know about it.


JWP's Bloemzaden

This Friesian one-man seed company is strictly Dutch and doesn't have a webshop, just an information page that formerly linked to a PDF seed catalogue. Write to the address at the top of the webpage to request a catalogue: the small, but quirky list of seeds and descriptions (like a slimmed-down version of the Cruydt-hoeck catalogue) contains an order form and, for regular customers, is sent at the beginning of every year. No PayPal or credit card required: payment is by bank transfer or by sending bills in an envelope. (I've had news, though, that seed cannot be sold to buyers outside the EU.) The seeds, packed in ziplock bags and mailed in a jiffy envelope, are not very expensive, and there is a discount for buying 30 or 50 seed packets at a time. The seller grows most of his seeds himself, and takes a dry, no-nonsense approach: where the descriptions in most seed catalogues extol the plant concerned, if a plant is weedy, or the flowers too small, he will honestly say so, sometimes adding things like "maybe it would do better in different soil" or "will die if left out in the sun". JWP's Bloemzaden is famous within the small circle of Dutch plant connoisseurs, but virtually unknown elsewhere, and sales are declining as this circle decreases, so here's a plug for Dutch-speaking plant lovers. The seed list is different each year and has included rarities like white soapwort; a perennial much-branched sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus); Lathyrus sativus var. albo-azureus, a chickling pea with white-blue flowers; a Welsh poppy with a picotee edge (which sadly didn't come up as Welsh poppies never germinate for me); and things that can usually be found only in British seed shops, like yellow chamomile and poached egg plant. As he takes his seed orders before the harvest begins, he asks that customers indicate plenty of alternatives for any seeds he can't deliver, but I've been pretty lucky so far in getting what I ordered.

On hiatus as of November 2013 due to health reasons; seed selling may continue on a very small scale, but there will be no further catalogues. Former customers are advised to try Seedhunt.com.


Bakker

The complete opposite of the previous entry, this is a mail order company only, offering hardly any seeds, its catalogues filled with luscious, too-flattering illustrations of a mostly unchanging selection, give or take a few new introductions, of plants and bulbs chosen to appeal to a garden-centre public. I ordered some fruit trees suitable for small gardens, which were sent as practically bare-root plants, and a number of rare bulbs, with a small toolbox as extra gift. Within the same year, I was spammed by five more catalogues in various formats, one of them offering me a free digital camera if I "order now". Maybe it's these free gifts that makes the plants and bulbs themselves so overpriced. I appreciate Bakker for its lovely website and easy-to-order plants, and its attempt to civilize the garden-centre crowd with introductions like the rarely grown honeyberry (Lonicera edulis), and I have fond childhood memories of leafing through its catalogues. But five catalogues in six months is too much, and most of what's on offer can be bought more cheaply elsewhere.


De Bolderik Wilde Bloemzaden

I've never ordered from this company, but looked it up as possible alternative when Cruydt-hoeck stopped selling to end customers. At the time it was just called De Bolderik and offered organically grown flower and vegetable seeds. These days, the selection has shrunk down to Dutch wildflowers and wildflower mixes, where the mixes sometimes include species not offered separately. Included for anyone specifically looking for wildflower seeds.


Cruydt-hoeck

Cruydt-hoeck is back in business and online! Once a paper catalogue, then a bulk seed distributor, it is now a website selling to both private buyers and companies. The link above goes not to the main page (click on "home" to go there), which has four languages (Dutch, English, German, French) to choose from, but to the seed list for private gardeners, as the site is a bit confusing to navigate. I do hope it fills up quickly with all the seeds the old catalogue used to contain, as many are still missing in the webshop and, of the webshop entries, some lack descriptions, and not every item can be ordered yet. The site generally has little things to fix, like the confirmation mail for my account (anyone who shops here must make an account, though it's possible to leave the password empty) fusing the email address and the field "Password" together. The seeds are at or slightly above the prices at Vreeken, and there are some very exclusive species. Any order under 50 euro has 7.50 euro added for shipping in the Netherlands; I don't know what the international rates are, or if there are any countries they can't ship to (Thompson & Morgan, for instance, has a long list of countries they can't ship to). Payment is by iDEAL (Dutch telebanking system) or bank transfer. Seeds are promptly delivered in either "commercial" jackets (picture, description, some germination info) or a labelled standard Cruydt-hoeck packet with a pen-and-ink drawing of plants on the front, inside a corrugated cardboard envelope, with invoice and cards offering subscriptions to gardening magazines.


Wereldzaden.nl

I was undecided whether to put this on the seed sellers page or in the list of interesting sites on the next page, but it does sell seeds, however few (clearly, I've been spoiled by all these exclusive seed sites, because it offers enough kinds of seed to please the average Dutch gardener) and mainly of exotics. However: its strength lies in sowing and gardening accessories. This is the first Dutch seller I've found of woven plastic planters and flower pouches in several shapes and sizes. I ordered with my usual lack of restraint, and paid by bank transfer, the other two options being iDEAL (a Dutch system for payment through telebanking) and PayPal. Delivery was very prompt, and as the seller was just having a sale, I got a pruning knife as a gift. This is also the place to go to for personalized gifts like seed packets with your own text printed on them.


Diana's mooie moestuin (Diana's beautiful vegetable patch)

This is the second hobbyist page I've ordered seeds from (the first being Emmy's Garden, which went on hiatus as of 2011, and has since disappeared), and, as the title implies, its scope is wider: edibles make up two-thirds of the seed list, which is divided into flowering plants, tomatoes and their relatives, and other crop plants. Even the flowering list contains a plant or two that is strictly speaking a crop plant. Samples from each section: a wildly splashed and bicoloured snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus "Torbay Rock"); tomato "Gogoshari Striped" (although she grows far more peppers than tomatoes) and a white beet, Beta vulgaris "Albina Ice". Pricing is 50 eurocents per seed packet and variable shipping (as of 2009, subject to change) and seeds are in ziplock bags with small printed labels. As this website owner's second hobby is cooking, the website has information both on sowing seeds and on growing and preparing vegetables.

This site may go on hiatus, or have a significantly reduced offer, as of 2013. Seed-collecting is taking time which the site owner would rather spend on adding info to the website, so this site, too, will stay up for its cultivation information. (Nevertheless, there were still many interesting seeds on the list for 2013.)


Belevenissen van een tuinkabouter (Garden Gnome's adventures)

The third and most elaborate hobbyist page, with a garden diary, tips & tricks and a separate webshop with as many categories as Vreeken: this website owner takes her mission to spread the gardening gospel very seriously. Samples of the seeds she offers: Passiflora edulis "Albinia", Rubus erytrocaldus, Jacaranda mimosifolia, Podreana ricasoleana, Coccinia grandis, Lactuca sativa var. crispa "Limestone bibb", Lycopersicum lycopersicon "Pink cherry", Cosmos sulphureus "Firework mix", Iris sanguinea "Kamayama". Although the informative part of the website has separate Dutch and English pages, the webshop is bilingual. Seeds are 25 eurocents per packet plus variable shipping (as of 2013: 35 eurocents per packet), and the packet might be very small, maybe two seeds if the seeds are big, but the seeds are in a folded little cellophane envelope taped to a piece of paper on which is printed a picture of the plant and some information, so I know what to do with the seed when it arrives. That there are few seeds as compared to the huge packets bought in seed shops isn't a problem to me, as these are "sample" quantities, enough to see if I can even get a particular plant to grow, and said huge packets are often far too big for Dutch gardens and leave me with a lot of surplus seed moping in the packet while slowly losing its viability - what a waste! I went on such a shopping spree that the webshop balked, but fortunately I'd collected the plant names I wanted in a text file, and was able to mail the list directly to the website owner. Payment is by PayPal if ordering through the webshop, by bank transfer otherwise. Shoppers are urged to read the instructions first.


123zaden
(There is an English site, too.)

This Dutch webshop was one of the search results for the obscure tomato variety "Orange Rose Quartz". As yet small but aiming to bring more diversity to the Dutch seed market at very reasonable prices, it offers a surprising range of tomatoes. That the site owners are pepper enthusiasts is clear from the categorization: vegetables, herbs, peppers, annuals, biennials, perennials, flower mixes, exotics, sowing/gardening accessories; and a list of seeds suited to square foot gardening. Helpfully, every catalogue entry includes cultivation instructions. Delivery aims to be very fast but is only to a number of countries in Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK; payment is by bank transfer, different online banking solutions like the Dutch iDeal, PayPal, or credit card. Seeds are delivered in ziplock bags, or paper bags with the ziplock bag inside, with a picture, the packaging date and brief cultivation instructions printed on them in a small font. A nice touch: seed companies may add free seeds to an order, but in this case, the ordering page let me know I was entitled to one free pack of seeds and let me choose from a little drop-down list.


The United Kingdom

Strictly speaking: England. Gardening is very serious business in England, and the English are prepared to fork out for their hobby. Hence, seeds are more expensive in the UK, but much more different varieties are available to cater to many more tastes. The English don't grow "snapdragons, mixed"; they grow tall snapdragons, compact snapdragons, red snapdragons, snapdragons in pastel shades, splashed and spotted snapdragons, chocolate-leaved snapdragons, and they will actually take cuttings from snapdragon plants. So, English seed companies are magnets to avid gardeners. Fortunately seeds are readily shipped abroad (although plant plugs are not); England is less happy about seed and plant imports. Payment can be a bother; credit cards are fine, but because the UK does not use the euro, bank transfers to this EU country (ie. legally, there should be no transfer costs) end up getting transfer costs charged to the payer or the receiver or both, so the only options left are PayPal or sending money in an envelope. Fortunately, both Chiltern Seeds and Secret Seeds accepted the former.

Since the English are such committed gardeners, some collect and sell rare seeds on eBay: a search there will turn up real treasures. I can recommend the following sellers, although there are many others:
twilightgardenseeds, who sells various mixes containing rare cultivars.
bobtodd1, for its large assortment of rare seeds. Full sowing instructions included.
willow8spike_seedaholic, not only for their rare flower seeds but also for the illustrated printed instruction sheets that they include. And delivery time was amazingly short.
seedy_needs: more rare flower seeds, again with illustrated instruction sheets.
nutsncones, another source of rare flower seeds, and has a nice webshop.
23ng23: yet more rare seeds, sowing instructions printed together on one sheet of paper.
premier_seeds_direct carries many seeds that ChilternSeeds does, in the same generous packets, at a lower price, for when money is tight. (Of course, they don't have all the really exclusive kinds.)
grow_your_secret_garden has especially many desert rose (Adenium obesum) varieties, from whitish yellow to black. Detailed sowing instructions have to be copied and pasted from the eBay pages themselves.
botanyseeds_com: seeds of edible berry bushes from all around the world, in small packets with succinct sowing instructions, for the permaculture enthusiast.
And although they don't belong here as they sell plants, not seeds, but plants in amazing colours: petersperennials (hardy perennials in striking colours), futureprimitiveshop (more plants in striking colours) rodennursery (fuchsias in many shades, 6plug packs), woodcotenursery (bare-rooted hemerocallis hybrids in very many shades, sadly "Ming Porcelain" was sold out).


Chiltern Seeds

Known for its text-only catalogue where glowing descriptions take the place of pictures, this seed company has a huge collection: Aquilegias alone cover several pages. Included are run-of-the-mill seeds like the usual delphiniums, hollyhocks, sweet peas & whatnot, and species from all continents; one catalogue, I think in 2008, specifically featured a "Chili collection", and there is a large section on all the different types of eucalyptus categorized by hardiness. These days, there is a webshop adding illustrations to the descriptions. Most seeds by far are of decorative plants: flowers, shrubs, trees, of which some of course may have edible parts; but there is a separate section for herbs and vegetables which is similarly extensive, containing more kinds of basil than you can shake a stick at, yet still they manage to add a basil to the decorative plants section. The vegs and herbs section is now in a separate catalogue because people kept missing it, stuck as it was at a booklet too full of pages to finish reading in one day. A great favourite with customers are the lottery mixes: last year's seeds mixed together and put in packets for people who like surprises. Chiltern Seeds will accept whatever form of payment is possible for UK residents - forms which, due to currency matters, are impossible or impractical for residents of other EU countries - and also credit cards and PayPal, and puts its seeds in plain white paper packets (very environmentally friendly!) on which is printed the plant name and sometimes (as for seeds which need to be sown immediately on arrival) sowing instructions. Seeds requiring extra protection are folded into cellophane or bubble-wrap, and the packets together are wrapped in plastic bags and shipped in cardboard boxes. This was the first UK-based company I've ever ordered seeds from, but now that I've tried some others, I must say Chiltern Seeds gives me a lot of seeds for my money, and puts a warning in the catalogue for any seeds too scarce to give more than a pinch of. "Generous packets" is what they call it, and that's no exaggeration.

Ordering through the website usually goes without problems, but I did run into a hitch - something to do with a cookie expiry time, I think - when I went absolutely bananas and ordered enough seeds to provide a small continent with plants, and ended up having to split the order in three. Deleting all cookies and starting over would probably have been the right thing to do, but instead I mailed the company asking them to merge the three orders, which they did.


Secret Seeds
Offline in 2015, see Plant World Seeds.

To quote the website: "We offer an ever changing selection of rare and unusual plants to keen gardeners and nurseries all over the world - there are now well over 1,300 species to choose from. With the exception of a few exotics, most of our seeds are produced from our own organically grown stock plants." The illustrated online catalogue replaces the printed one, which was, the last time I received it, much smaller than Chiltern's, but also had much rarer plants. Their range seems to have expanded (hard to say beause it's already so much bigger than I'm used to) but the essential difference remains that their main rival has the widest selection and they have the plants that are hardest to get: for instance (but this one was always sold out when I looked) a white variety (pale yellow, really) of the common dandelion. They do have herbs and vegetables, but more to offer a complete range of seeds for garden and veggie patch, because the edibles are not so special. (Note: their range of vegetable seeds has greatly expanded since I wrote this.) As an extra, they have gardening books from authors like Karen Platt. Instead of lottery mixes, they have clearance sales at the end of the year, and bulk discounts. Needless to say, I've spent heaps of money on either company. Seeds are sometimes in ziplock bags, but mostly in folded cellophane envelopes, with stickers showing the plant's name and when to sow it, and the whole order is mailed in a jiffy envelope. As above, they accept credit cards and PayPal from unfortunate non-UK residents like me.

This is another webshop I've managed to lock up in an ordering frenzy, although the webshop has been redesigned since then. It would help not to order 60+ seeds in one session...


Thompson & Morgan (UK customers)
Thompson & Morgan worldwide (non-UK customers)

My first experience with this company was purchasing two of its luscious-looking, good-enough-to-eat catalogues from Vreeken, who also carries most of their seeds and will place orders for any others on the customer's behalf. Real flowers look dull and boring beside the photographs that these catalogues are filled with. Offering a (compared to the two companies above) restricted range of seeds, plants and tubers for both flowering plants and vegetables, as well as all kinds of garden gadgets like the flower pouches, Thompson & Morgan is the much superior UK equivalent of Bakker. Its customers, being much more committed than those of Bakker, not only play the role of consumer but also put something back into the company when they send seeds of whatever interesting mutation pops up in their garden; a number of T&M introductions, like the green-flowered poppy, came from customers.

Wanting to order a few rarities, I found that T&M doesn't accept PayPal and only accepts cheques or credit card. The seeds were sent in big packets wrapped in an envelope with a huge computer printout of my order. I also found that non-UK customers cannot order via the UK page, which contains some items (notably plants) that are not shipped abroad, hence the second URL.


Plants of Distinction

How long this company has been around I don't know, but Google turned up, one day, what seemed to be a rival of Secret Seeds offering an even smaller range of even more exclusive plants - and note that "smaller range" still means much, much more than what's commercially available where I live. Where Secret Seeds goes for rarities, though, Plants of Distinction goes for the superior cottage garden flower: I am guessing its selection criteria to be "would this look right in a T&M catalogue?" Some highlights: a green-flowered alstroemeria; a salmon-coloured zinnia; a marigold with white petals, red underneath. I haven't bought seed from this company yet, but can tell from browsing the webshop that distinction comes at a price.

One niggle, though; this company, Thompson & Morgan, and even Vreeken offer "patriotic" seeds: orange for the Dutch, red-white-blue (found in the flags of many other countries, by the way) for the Dutch and British. Not only does the chauvinist, war-enabling concept of "patriotism" irk me, but the mix offered in the 2011 catalogue ("Sweet Pea Rule Brittannia") doesn't even cover it: the red-white-blue sweet pea mix is in fact magenta-white-purple - as is T&M's "Flying the Flag" mix. Hm.


Seeds-by-size

Possibly in an attempt to be cheaper than the average English seed company, but certainly attempting to waste less seed (generous packets are wonderful, but sometimes only very little seed is needed) is this no-frills mail-order company with an all-text website offering seeds of a dazzling number of species both decorative and edible, either per weight or per number of seeds. That I ended up paying 2 pounds for a packet of 5 tomato seeds (but: of the rarely found "Czech's Excellent Yellow") shows that even allowing orders in small quantities doesn't bring the price down very much, but the assortment is so comprehensive that this is a good place to shop for any rare variety, and I bought hard-to-find cucumber seed here before Solana Seeds started accepting PayPal. Seed is packed in stiff paper folded and taped together and labelled with pen, and sent in an envelope; the packets are so small and flat that I don't worry about them being damaged in transit. Payment is by bank transfer or foreign draft, no credit cards. The seller accepts PayPal; the site explains how to order when using PayPal.

This site seems to be undergoing an overhaul, with most links being dead, which is unsurprising as they refer to seed lists from 1998.


The Real Seed Catalogue

This is a non-profit labour of love. As it states:

We are a bit different from other places you might get seed from. We also grow these veg for our own use at home, so we really know how they grow & how they taste.

And we only offer what we know is really good, rather than listing lots of different varieties just for the sake of it. But most importantly, everything here has been chosen - from hundreds of trials - for a particular reason , which we try to explain in the description.

And that sums it up! The number of varieties offered may seem meagre, but each and every variety is a gem, and often, the kind of variety not found elsewhere. Since EU regulations - but wait, they say it better:

In the EU, there is now a list of 'official' vegetable varieties. Seed that is not on the list cannot be 'sold' to the 'public' (even though it is perfectly legal to grow it!). To keep something on the list costs thousands of pounds each year, so it's only worthwhile to 'keep listed' varieties that sell in bulk to farmers, who have very different needs to home growers - a farmer wants their plants to respond to precise chemical inputs, fruit all at once and be tough to stand up to transport and packaging. You on the other hand, want tender vegetables produced over a long season, even during variable years.

Hundreds of thousands of old heirloom varieties (the results of about eleven thousand years of plant breeding by our ancestors) are being lost forever, due to some rather poorly drafted EU legislation. This seems a little foolish. To us, what is important is that more people get to grow these plants (which otherwise would become extinct). So. . . . (and this is the small print) when you request seed, you are also requesting membership of our seed club: 1p of your order pays for a years membership of The Real Seed Club. We then deal with your seed request as a member - so we are not dealing with the 'public'.

So, buying seed involves becoming a "member", although membership is more than a mere formality: members are informed of new varieties and their input is welcomed. Moreover, buyers are encouraged to save their own seeds, although asked to please not hand over these seeds to commercial seed-growers because of "biopiracy": large companies patenting a variety to get exclusive selling rights. As well as tried-and-true heirlooms, the site owners offer new varieties they've developed or discovered on their own, like an extraordinarily prolific "white volunteer" courgette; and when someone gives them an almost-forgotten heirloom, like the outdoor cucumber "Tamra", they add it to the catalogue to ensure its survival. Despite there being few varieties, I still found myself placing a hefty order, which, as the postal service on the European continent (ie. not just the Netherlands) can be slow and lose stuff, was sent by registered mail. Payment by credit card is accepted, and seeds are mailed in brown paper bags with description and cultivation/seed-saving instructions printed on them. Seeds are mailed only within the EU and countries that have customs agreements with the EU, and emphatically NOT TO THE USA, but the site lists three alternative seed sites for countries it can't send seeds to.


Nicky's Nursery

This is a site I found while surfing for tomato variety "Venus", which Thompson & Morgan had dropped for that year, and also to check whether all the tumbling pot tomatoes are F1 hybrids or not, since there seemed to be some confusion on the matter. Nicky's has seeds of Venus, as well as Tumbler, Tumbling Junior Yellow, Little Sun, Losetto, and three varieties of Sweet'n'Neat - all are F1 - as well as a mini-courgette for pots, various basil varieties (especially the newer ones) and basically an extended version of T&M's catalogue, at slightly lower prices. I haven't tried ordering there yet, but can report that payment is by Paypal, any of the well-known credit cards, or cash in an envelope (certified mail). Due to import restrictions, the seller can't ship to the USA and South Africa.


Plant World Seeds

I ran into this site, which sells seeds of plants from around the world to buyers from around the world, when websurfing for rare tomatoes. And they do have a nice selection, including their own hybrid of a Banana Legs crossed with a currant tomato, but they carry a wide range of flower, tree/shrub, tropical and vegetable seeds, with many rare alpines and quite a number of salvias. In fact, their seed range, which includes the lupin hybrid Plummy-Blue, so reminded me of Secret Seeds that I looked up its website, which I hadn't visited in a few years, only to find the website gone!

This site, which has pictures, short descriptions and sowing instructions for all its plants, displays prices (and they are steep-ish, although there are discounts) in British pounds, Euro and US dollar, and can be translated into various languages using Google Translate. The sellers accept credit card and Paypal, and promise fast, cheap delivery, with free shipping on orders over 50 pounds. But those lucky enough to live in Britain, especially near Devon, can simply buy the plants at their garden centre.


Rest of EU

The rest of the European Union (countries that are legally bound to accept bank transfers without charging transfer costs) would be, in my case, Germany, France and, when Les Délices du Potager still had a webstore on eBay, Belgium. The EU, whose policies are, after all, shaped by business interests, is cracking down on heirloom varieties, with both France and Germany taking legal action against, or putting legal constraints on, the sale of tomato seeds. (Les Délices du Potager, a seller of heirloom vegetable seeds, is still in business as far as I know, but no longer online. To anyone living in Belgium who has the address, I recommend it.) Like the Netherlands, the EU is fairly relaxed about seed import and export, especially between member countries, as long as it doesn't hurt agro-industrial interests.

Non-UK seed sellers on eBay tend to sell edible stuff. The Dutch (but located in Spain) seller exoticaseeds has a limited but important selection: this is the only place I know of to get fresh acerola seed, and the latest Spanish tomato discoveries. The German (but located in Greece) seller griechische_pflanzen*samen sells seed of various cucurbits, tomatoes and peppers, including sweet pepper "Hungarian Black Heart" and tomato "Braune Pflaume". Other German sellers with worthwhile listings are hhpe, who sells heirloom tomato seeds (including the hard-to-find Czech's Excellent) specifically to preserve rare varieties, mediterranepflanzen and caprona, for more rare heirloom tomato seeds and other vegetables, and exoticseeds2010, who offers fresh seed of many tropicals.


fesaja-versand: exotische Saatgut-Raritäten & Pflanzen aus aller Welt

I used to know this seller as Cofusi's Saatgut on eBay before the webstore was closed and the new webshop was opened. What did I buy here: tomato seeds, related seeds (tomatillo, small tree tomato) and a bag of perlite. The webshop sells "warm weather" plants, which covers both exotics and the many tomato types listed, and supplies for these plants, like perlite to germinate seeds in, growlamps, and heating mats. At the time, I hung drooling over its tomato listing, each name accompanied by a picture of at least one whole tomato and one cut in two lying against a ruler to show the size. Later, I also surfed through the pepper (hot types only) and exotics lists. This is the site where I first ran into the ridiculous rule that tomato types without a certain seal of approval can only be sold as "grow for decoration only". But, as the seller warned: prolonged exposure to these tomatoes can lead to dissatisfaction with supermarket tomatoes! Nudge nudge, wink wink. This, in its eBay webstore days, was the closest-to-home source of tomato seed before I discovered Vreeken's Zaden and Tomatenhahm. Seeds are sent in stickered ziplock bags with cultivation instructions, payment is by bank transfer, PayPal or any other alternative that doesn't cost the seller. The site is completely in German and includes a FAQ on how to germinate seeds of various exotics.


Magic Garden Seeds

A bilingual German/English website. Quoting its own description: "Magic Garden Seeds is a small company based in Bavaria Germany, specialized in ethnobotanical seeds, rare and unusual plants. We deliver seed worldwide. We sell only open-pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties (heirloom seeds). That means, you can save the seeds year after year." Not terribly many seeds, an heirloom tomato or two, but wat better place to buy mandrake, belladonna and all the stuff witches used to smoke? It also offers all the seeds you need for a simple yet interesting vegetable patch, such as pignut, wild rocket, purple carrot and welsh onion. Seeds are sent in ziplock bags big enough for the label plus instructions to fit inside. Credit cards are accepted, sending money by mail is an option.


Reinhards Tomaten

This site used to be hosted by Lycos before moving to new, almost ad-free (ads appear when licking a dead link) webspace. The direct link to the subsidiary list of available tomatoes and other vegetables, handled by Manfred Hahm-Hartmann and known as "Tomatenhahm", is now here. When I first ran into these two combined sites, the number of tomato varieties listed on Tomatenhahm was 600; four years later, it was 1000. Reinhard Kraft, passionate tomato grower, seed collector and breeder of new or improved varieties, is known on either side of the Atlantic, and just as he grows the newest strains developed by Brad Gates, so his own "Reinhard's Goldkirsche" is popping up in American webshops. On the side, he grows grapes and unusual and/or heirloom cucurbits, carrots, potatoes, pulses, and relatives of the tomato like eggplants, hot and sweet peppers, and the many different types and varieties of physalis and garden huckleberry. He must have acres and acres of greenhouses and fields to grow all these crops in. His website is huge, because it has a photo gallery of all tomato varieties he grows plus a number of his other crops. The site is completely in German: the links section has links to German tomato pages and other sites that sell heirloom seeds. To order anything from Tomatenhahm, send an email (in German) to Manfred Hahm-Hartmann listing the seeds you want, and he will mail back shipping costs and payment details. Living in the country right next door, I paid by bank transfer. Like the Dutch hobbyist pages above (but then, isn't this a monstrously out-of-hand hobby?) seeds are 50 cents per small packet. The packets are folded squares of paper taped to a letter and sent in an envelope, they really are little seed samples.


B&T World Seeds

Based in France, this site that sells seeds from literally all over the world is in English, French, German and Spanish. I haven't bought anything here, I've just browsed the beyond-unbelievable selection. The master list is broken up into lists per environment ("Arctic Native Plant Seed List") and per plant family ("Araucariaceae"), of which the site honestly states that not all seeds are available, or would be viable and come true to form. The seeds are expensive and the online catalogue is all text, but that's because there are just so many seeds; by now, separate pages of photographs have been added to various sub-lists to give an idea of the plants without cluttering up the lists themselves. The site accepts all form of payment, to quote: "Credit-card, PayPal, cheques, bank transfers". As said, I haven't bought anything here yet, but surely that's just a matter of time.


Tomatsidan

I had to include this Swedish site, which sells mostly tomato seed and some other herbs and vegetables, but only the tomato page has an English version, because all tomatoes are grown outside (yes, in Sweden) without artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Hence, this is a good site to check for suitable outdoor varieties in cooler climates. The seller accepts only money by mail.


Jelitto

This originally German seed growing company has offices in Germany, the UK, the US and Japan, and a website in German and English. It carries only perennials and introduces a few new varieties every year. The site, although a bit annoying to navigate sometimes, breathes a professionality that is almost intimidating. Although I haven't bought anything there and may not do so for a while, it has some very exclusive cultivars, and, probably because of its US branch, is well acquainted with the Phytosanitary Certificate.


www.rareplants.de

I ran into this multilingual (English, German, French, Spanish) site just as it was having a sale - certain varieties for 99 eurocents each - and had a ball. Normal prices are steeper: generally 3.99 euro and upwards. The site owner must be living in a warm country, because the plants listed are tropicals, subtropicals, xerophytes, Australian plants, South African plants, plants of the Canary Isles, cold-weather palms etc., you get the picture. When I think of the tropics I think of fruits, and sure enough there were three Annona species and several guavas. The selection is really quite large and includes plants for cooler climates. The site accepts credit card, PayPal, bank transfer or, if all else fails, money in an envelope. The site states: "There is no minimum order value, however orders below E 20.00 (excl. packing and shipping costs) are charged with a E 5.00 markup for small-volume purchases." Seeds can be sent by normal or registered mail. What I got was square cellophane packets, covered with big paper labels giving the plant's Latin name and genus, taped shut with Scotch, containing unlabeled (ergo, easily reused) ziplock bags with seeds, the packets themselves bundled into big ziplock bags for added protection, and the whole order in a jiffy envelope with the invoice and a few plant postcards. Possibly because it was a sale and the seller was presumably cleaning out old supplies, each packet contained more seeds than the label said.


InganaShop

This site, specializing in rare vegetables, has a bit of everything; exotics, wildflowers, leaf vegetables, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes (including rare ones) and let's not forget basils, like the ornamental Magical Michael, once offered by Chiltern Seeds and then never seen again. The site is completely in German and accepts PayPal or "Vorkasse", ie. paying into their bank account, which is free of bank transfer costs for EU residents. The seeds are sent in large packets, all with the same "vegetable garden" print on the front, in a jiffy envelope.


KräuterReich-Exotic

Formerly (and possibly still) the eBay seller schildmolly from whom I bought tomato varieties Iris' Rose and Iris' Magic, bred by the seller herself, she now has her own webshop for tomatoes, peppers and exotics, mostly herbs, and many from Asia; including Schizonepeta tenuifolia var japonica, known as Jing Jie locally and as Japanese catnip to foreigners. Unlike the eBay webshop which accepted PayPal, payment here is "Zur Rechnung", so I expected to see bank account information as soon as I'd finalized the order; instead, I was mailed a notification that the real order confirmation would follow in up to two days, presumably in case not all seeds were available. The confirmation, with total amount and bank account info, was mailed the same evening, and the mail "your order has shipped" came a few days later; the seeds arrived in about a week, in square ziplock bags containing a tiny printout of cultivation instructions, packed together in a paper envelope with a thin foam pad for protection.


United States

The United States of America is the country of mail-order. It is also the country of crazy. This means that while buying seeds online is the natural thing to do, and shipping out of the country is generally OK, any seed shipment into the US, or even from one state to another, is treated like an envelope of anthrax, and the buyer may well receive, instead of seeds, a letter stating that the goods were confiscated for lack of a Phytosanitary Certificate. This applies even to tomato seeds, because we all know that tomatoes are dangerously invasive man-eating weeds that spread deadly diseases through their seeds.

(A few years after making this page I found that two of the seed companies listed below don't accept international orders, so shipping out is no longer OK either. Although, to be fair, that is probably due to the crazy import attitudes of other countries.)

What this means is that US buyers who order from abroad and don't want to pay extra for a fancy piece of paper are screwed. Small amounts of seed in innocent-looking envelopes usually slip through. US-based seed companies generally don't take responsibility for confiscated seeds, and I can't blame them. They will tend to put a warning on their site about the states they can and can't send seeds to. Seed companies outside the US that know about its seed paranoia may put up similar warnings.

The US is also credit card country: a credit card or a PayPal account is highly recommended.


TomatoFest Organic Heirloom Tomato Seeds

I bookmarked this site of tomato seed growers/sellers for the fact that their seeds are ecologically grown. They carry less tomato varieties than Tomatenhahm, which is still an awful lot of varieties, and will welcome anything new, say, another cold-resistant high producer from Eastern Europe or an old heirloom newly discovered on a farm somewhere, to share the bounty with their customers. For offline browsing, they have a PDF catalogue. Seed costs on average 2 to 3 dollars the packet, more for rare varieties, and is sent in large labelled packets in a jiffy envelope. They accept credit cards and PayPal.

Note: the last time I bought seeds, the seed packets were pressed flat together and split over several normal letter envelopes, to avoid unwanted attention from customs. The trick worked; the seeds arrived safely, but it's sad that seed sellers are having to disguise their goods to avoid random confiscations.


Seedman.com - seeds from around the world

I'm listing this site because it now incorporates Rachel's seed supplies, a site for tomato and pepper seeds that I loved to browse when I was still wrapping my head around the huge numbers of heirloom tomatoes available and trying to learn all the names. The larger site sells all sorts of seeds. Although I haven't bought anything from them, the site is large and interesting enough to list. Accepts credit cards and PayPal. However (I don't know if this is a recent change), it only ships to the USA and Canada.


Trade Winds Fruit

This webshop specializes in tropical fruits and is based in California, where growers have a sporting chance of getting their tropicals to fruit. It includes fruiting plants for temperate zones, various vegs including several types of quinoa, and a nice collection of wild and heirloom tomatoes, some of which are novelties or rarities not found elsewhere. With a description and photograph of all plants it sells seeds of, it is highly educational, not to mention that browsing it makes me hungry. If you're looking for rose apple, breadfruit or mangosteen, this is the site to visit, but of course they also have many different palms, passion fruits and bananas. Accepts credit cards, PayPal, money orders and cheques or money by mail. Seeds are sent in stickered ziplock bags or large printed paper packets, in jiffy envelopes.


Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

What a find! Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is to the USA what The Real Seed Catalogue is to the UK, only with a wide range of seeds on order: 1400+ varieties, according to the website. An online catalogue review tells me that they've been in business for some 8 years now (that means, at least since the turn of the century) and have the most beautifully illustrated seed-order-inspiring catalogue ever. Hm. I've since downloaded the catalogue in PDF form and although it does have a mouthwatering list, with piccies, of garden fruit and veggies, it also has people posing with said fruit and veggies, usually in cowboy outfit but one in a striped prison suit ...? In true American style - I remember something similarly silly being done with the boxes of the otherwise excellent "Celestial Seasonings" herbal teas - the catalogue makers seem to think they should add an inspirational quote every few pages, like a line from Benjamin Franklin or something on the Christian way of life. Off-putting. But the first time I saw the site, I didn't know about any catalogue and was just overwhelmed with, notably, the hard-to-find varieties of courgettes. I ordered with my usual lack of restraint, paid presumably by credit card (I can't find any page about forms of payment accepted, and don't remember what option I chose on the checkout page) and received an envelope with large, prettily printed seed packets.

What makes this site like The Real Seed Catalogue is its emphatic commitment to biodiversity, preserving heirlooms, and rejecting genetically manipulated seeds. But where The Real Seed Catalogue is the work of a small group of people, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has a blog and a forum and holds several big heirloom-related events a year, complete with country band, that sound vaguely like nationalist rallies ("Come, proud Americans, save your heirlooms"). Fortunately, all the yippee-ya-hoo doesn't mean hostility to anything "un-American": the news page proudly announced some new tomato introductions from the former Soviet Union. And it does have rare seeds. Very rare seeds. Of heirlooms that are as good as, or even better than, F1 hybrids.


Amishland Heirloom Rare Veggie & Fruits Seeds

I had doubts on whether to include this site, since it sang of the magnificent heirloom heritage of America, and anything that even hints at nationalism sets my teeth on edge. (And there are US seed-seller websites that assume every websurfer is a true-blue Stetson-wearing American about to burst into "The Star-Spangled Banner". I've never seen that attitude on Europe-based websites.) Fortunately, it's more enthusiasm for rare seed varieties than an attempt to make random visitors salute the American flag, and that same enthusiasm is extended to valuable varieties from as far away as Japan. Why it deserves a place here: i. all seeds are certified organic simply because the site owner grows them personally; ii. varieties vary from rare-ish to very, very rare; iii. the site owner includes as much information and history about each variety as possible. The site offers mainly tomato seeds, but also peppers, other vegs, and easy-to-grow flowers. The seeds have a fixed price, and PayPal is accepted - in fact, when I placed my order, all I had to do was log into PayPal and pay the invoice, generated as automatically as on eBay. My order arrived as seed packaged in plastic bags wrapped around coloured cardboard rectangles with the company's address and URL printed on it, in a big jiffy envelope. The site is clearly popular, as varieties can get sold out very quickly.


Seven Acre Seeds

Looking for a rare tomato that I'd managed to kill all the seedlings of again, I ran into yet another site dedicated to selling non-GMO, non-F1 heirloom seeds. One of its products is a seed-saving kit! The site owners grow as many herbs and vegetables, plus a few flowers for decoration, as they can fit on their seven acres of land. Don't expect the astronomical range of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but this is where I found a turnip grown for its leaves, some bean varieties that I'd never heard of and the stars of the site, the tomatoes: Osburn Oxheart, anyone? Tartar from Mongolstan? Goccia di Lemoine? The site even offers what looks like "Oranje van Goeijenbier", a famously prolific Dutch cherry tomato. An interesting site to surf. Unfortunately surf it is all I can do, since due to hassles at Customs over seeds, they sell only within US territory (which includes part of Samoa), Canada and Mexico. For the lucky residents of these countries: PayPal and credit card accepted.


Tomatobob - Rare and Interesting Heirlooms

Despite the name, this site lists not only tomatoes but also vegetables, herbs and some flowers, all open-pollinated. Shipping cost is reasonable, as shipped goods are not tracked by default, there is a drop-down box of countries shipped to which includes the UK and the Netherlands, and payment is by credit card, bank transfer or PayPal. Seeds are in ziplock bags in a jiffy envelope including a page of cultivation tips, which reveals that Tomatobob is connected with Seven Acre Seeds - no wonder I found the same heirloom tomatoes there.


The Sample Seed Shop

The website, which looks like a combination of blog and small webshop, offers, in its own words, "Great Seeds in Inexpensive Sample Size Packets". Possibly because of its hybrid format, or the fact that it has a very amateur feel to it - but in a good sense: the kind of small backyard gardener that keeps heirlooms alive - the main page starts with recommendations to set the prospective buyer's mind at ease. The page of tomato seeds also sets my mind at ease by specifying that these are home-produced, non-GMO, open-pollinated seeds. The link above opens the tomato page; other pages can be reached from the column of links to the right.

My main interest was the tomatoes, and some unique toms are to be found here, but peppers, squash, other vegetables and flowers are also on offer. I paid $1.25 a packet for Cherokee Green Grape, Chyornyi Prince (the original Black Prince from Russia) and Rozovyi Flamingo. The site accepts credit cards, PayPal and money orders, and says this upfront on the blog-like site, so I don't have to - as on some sites - go through a mock checkout process just to see what kinds of payment are asked for.


Reimer Seeds

As always, I found this site looking for rare tomatoes. It boasts over 700 kinds of tomato in its online catalog, but over 2100 kinds of hot pepper! So many ways to burn one's mouth... Seriously, though, this site has all a veggie garden could need, and I used it to order some Japanese cucumbers, carrots etc. The seeds are non-GMO, and for the extra environment-conscious, are offered treated or untreated. Payment by PayPal, credit card, cheque, money order or Western Union Transfer; redeemable loyalty points for frequent buyers; and only the more expensive forms of shipping, presumably so seed doesn't get lost in transit. The seeds I ordered arrived in big printed paper packets in a plain brown envelope. The site is as informative as possible, offering not only cultivation and container gardening instructions but even a world database to show the countries of origin for its hot pepper collection.


Seedhunt.com

This site was recommended to me as a source of rare seeds, requiring no minimum order. It's a bit bare-bones, being a small site that specializes in rare plants that do well in the Californian climate, but there are pictures. The main seed list is in alphabetic order, and there are smaller subsections, like the list of Salvias. Seeds are not cheap, ranging from $3.00 to $4.50, but these are, after all, rarities. Payment is by check, money order, credit card (Visa/Mastercard) or PayPal.


Heritage Tomato Seed

A site selling tomato seed from around the world, both heirlooms and newly developed varieties, including such previously unheard-of names as Barlow Japanese, Benissoinante and Tsarskiy Podarok. International orders are accepted, although the seeds will be sent in normal envelopes to avoid hassles with customs and the seller urges potential customers to beware of import regulations and sticky-fingered deliverers, and payment is by PayPal. A pretty online catalogue of wildly diverse tomatoes sorted by colour, for very reasonable prices.


Knapp's Fresh Vegies
and its tomato index

The main page keeps coming up blank in Firefox 3.6, hence the extra link. There are other vegetable seeds, but of course my interest was the tomato pages. The site is a little messy - in the tomato list, some varieties have their own page and others link to the page of a particular growing year - but that makes digging up the gems all the more rewarding. Here I found not only obscure varieties, but old hybrids that were carried for a while by the big seed sellers and then dropped. That certain varieties are called "F1" on one seed website and not on another confused me, but this site cleared it up for me: the tomatoes marketed as hybrids (to crank up the price a bit) are either not hybrids, or hybrid crosses that come fairly true from seed. The "F1" varieties grown by this seller are open-pollinated. There are different seed pack sizes, starting at "mini" (10 or more seeds for $1.25). Payment is by Paypal and seeds are shipped internationally in a jiffy envelope. Many hobby seed sellers and heirloom seed companies throw in an extra sample, but this time I received both extra seeds and a discount code for the next purchase. In all, a webshop worth a visit.


Gleckler Seedmen

Back in business again after a hiatus, this site is for heirloom solanums, primarily tomatoes, but cucurbits (cucumbers, melons) are being added. Tomatoes are on average $2 per packet, and PayPal is accepted. Probably ships internationally; at least, the site doesn't say otherwise.


Sustainable Seed Co.

A certified organic heirloom seed seller (though also carrying conventional seeds to cater to a wider market) with a large, informative site made to answer all questions before placing an order, such as: "Do you ship internationally? What payment do you accept? How likely is it that my seeds will be nabbed by customs?" so that I have little to add except that payment is by all conventional means (PayPal/credit card/cheque/money order) and yes, Europeans can order too. A dizzying selection: vegetables (including tomatoes, of course), herbs, all types of crop plants and flowers. Prices are on the steep side, but the site quotes market prices that are even steeper.


Tomato Growers Supply Company

A Florida-based seed company offering around 500 varieties of tomatoes and other members of the Solanum family, both heirlooms and hybrids, as well as books and growing supplies, to avid gardeners and tomato enthusiasts. Shipping outside North America has a flat fee of $12.00, and the site states explicitly that the sellers are not responsible for seeds confiscated by customs outside the US. However, I can't find anything on the site about what forms of payment are accepted.


J. L. Hudson, Seedsman

Not a regular seed seller, but more a conservationist of nature and biodiversity who makes seeds available to the public. It was on this site that I first read a rant about the paranoia against "invasive" plants (not restricted to the US, unfortunately) resulting in the outlawing of even native species and the misapplication of herbicides, and the greater part of it is essays and lectures. The seed catalogue is only a small part of the site, but contains rare items, and has a separate "out of stock" page that buyers can check before placing an order. Clicking on "How To Request Seeds" brings up pages of instructions for buyers both in and outside North America, and, especially for international customers, PayPal is accepted.


Canada

There's little to say about Canada except that it uses Canadian dollars and is slightly less crazy about imports than the US. That's to say, I haven't heard of seed being confiscated at the border. But when, late last century, I sent a chocolate letter E to someone in Canada, it arrived looking like an F because some customs officials had a jolly time chipping bits off it to test for diseases transmitted through dairy products. So there is a certain paranoia about imports. Luckily for non-Canadians, there's no restriction on exports.


Seeds of Diversity

This one goes right at the top, because it's not a seed selling site, but a directory of seed sellers. In fact, it is "a Canadian volunteer organization that conserves the biodiversity and traditional knowledge of food crops and garden plants". That said, it lists heirloom seed companies in (as of 2014) Canada, the USA and France, and also lets you search all sellers of a particular vegetable variety. Take heed: not all of these sellers have handy-dandy one-click-order webshops!


Solana Seeds

A bilingual French/English Canadian webshop that sells mainly vegetable heirlooms - including four pages of tomatoes - and some flowers, herbs and exotics. For warm-climate plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and melons, it says which varieties are most likely to succeed in cool wet summers, and it carries the tomato varieties ending in "-bec" (Canabec, Rosabec) bred specifically for the Quebec climate. This is the first shop I found to sell the three kinds of round cucumber - Lemon, Crystal Apple and Richmond Green Apple - and get the names right. At the time, unfortunately, Solana Seeds didn't accept PayPal. It does now, so I had a whale of a time ordering mostly cucumbers and tomatoes. Prices are around two dollars (Canadian!) for most tomatoes and three dollars for "high purity" seeds (flowers were bagged to prevent cross-pollination). Seeds are sent in small ochre paper envelopes (the seed inside the envelope may be in a ziplock bag for further protection) put in big jiffy envelopes.


VanDusen Seed Collectors

A botanical garden that sells its seeds to finance its maintenance. To quote the site: "The VanDusen Volunteer Seed Collectors have been collecting, cleaning, packaging and selling their seeds for more than two decades and as new harvest roll in the store is constantly updated with new items." Despite being harvested by volunteers, the seeds are quite expensive, but it offers a fairly wide range, and I enjoyed browsing the site. Not having bought anything there, and not seeing this information anywhere on the site, I don't know what forms of payment they accept. The site is in French and English.

Due to US import regulations, VanDusen reluctantly no longer sells to US customers.


Tatiana's TOMATObase

A wiki about heirloom vegetables and especially tomatoes. A bit slow to load sometimes, but, like those tomato information sites, great for looking up obscure varieties. It has a page for ordering seeds, which is why I'm not listing it with the tomato information sites on the next page. It has links to other seed sellers and informative sites.


Richters Seeds

To quote the site: "Herb plants, seeds, books, dried herbs and more - Richters is your best source for everything herbal!" Richters offers seeds, but also bulbs and plants - I found the site through a search for botanical roses - but sadly only within Canada and the USA. So for everyone outside that area, it will be irrelevant that Richters accepts payment by cheque, money order or credit card, or that it has a wide range of basils (but no tomatoes) and a special SeedZoo section for rare seeds collected from all around the world.


Greta's Organic Garden

A seed seller based in Ontario, this is the only one of the few seed sources I checked out via Seeds of Diversity that had a webshop; the other sources insisted on a mailed order form, and since they were all Canadian, I assume this is the standard for Canadian heirloom seed sellers. There are all sorts of vegetables on this site, but tomatoes are the stars, and ooooh the yummy pictures of both heirlooms and what I thought to be F1 hybrids, like Venus, which was "Certified by Ecocert Canada" (whatever that means) and the Tumbling Toms. The seed packets are expensive but large, 20 seeds and upwards. As the site, despite linking to PDF catalogues in both French and English, has virtually no information on the requirements for ordering, and does have the rare tomato "Farthest North", I simply closed my eyes and took the plunge.

The first thing I had to do was make an account. No account, no order. The site tells me that I can use this account to both send seeds as a gift to someone else (by entering a different delivery address) and check on the status of my order, which turned out to be superfluous, as the seller conscientiously reports every stage of the process by email. Then I filled out the order, which was a bit tricky, as the site has no search field. The tomatoes are categorized by their colours and by a last category "cherries" which is also subdivided into colours, so if I'm looking for a red cherry, I won't find it under the main category "tomatoes - red". Next came the mock checkout which turned into a real checkout when I saw to my delight that yes, the seller shipped to my country and, moreover, charged the very reasonable "Table Rate" of $5 (Canadian) for three packets. Payment is by credit card, money order or cheque.

The seeds arrived (surprisingly quickly, in my case) in a jiffy envelope further protected by a stiff piece of cardboard. The seeds themselves were in stiff brown packets of very recycled-looking (I mean that in a "good for the environment" way) paper, with descriptions printed on the outside.


Casey's Heirloom Tomatoes of Airdrie

Another tomato seed source found via Seeds of Diversity, with a modest but interesting assortment. The seller spares no effort to make sure the seeds of his heirlooms breed true and says this reflects in the seed price, which is a still reasonable $3 (CAD) per packet of 15-20+ seeds. Payment is by PayPal or cheque. The site doesn't say whether seeds are shipped internationally.





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