Botanical Illustration is Alive and Well
At this time of year, I actually have time to look through the seed catalogs that I have stacked up. I automatically throw away any miscellaneous catalogs that come to my mailbox, but still keep the seed catalogs. I much prefer to order seeds from a print catalog than on-line. The tactile experience of leafing through the beautiful pages of a seed catalog is not the same as ordering on the computer. I get to see what is featured brand new in the front of the catalog, and visit old friends in the later pages. And some of the art work that is done with botanical illustrations is outstanding and should be framed!
Botanical illustration fortunately is not a lost art. It is still being pursued today and you can see great examples at Renee’s Gardens, Hudson Valley Seed Library, and Botanical Interests.
Renee’s Garden Seeds
According to Renee’s Garden Seeds website, her seed line is a “personal selection of new, exciting and unusual seed choices of time-tested heirlooms, certified organic seeds, the best international hybrids and fine open-pollinated varieties”. Her seed packets are water color illustrated with personally written descriptions, growing tips, planting charts, harvesting information, and cooking ideas. It is a company run by gardeners, for gardeners. Organic for over 25 years, Renee Shepherd has several cookbooks filled with garden fresh vegetable and herb recipes to use up all those fresh veggies.
Hudson Valley Seed Library
Hudson Valley Seed Library commissions artwork for their pack covers. Over 300 artists applied to be pack cover artists last year, and 24 new varieties were added to their collection of art packs with heirloom seeds. Their blog claims that the seeds are art packs – heirloom seeds and contemporary art, all in one pack. You can plant the seeds, then frame the art!
Starting out in their spare bedroom in 1995, Curtis and Judy wanted to make sure that gardeners were getting the information they needed to be successful from their seed packets. As a result, they have created a unique seed packet that is beautiful as well as informative.
Botanical Interest‘s seed packets are like mini-encyclopedias, full of information to help out the inexperienced as well as the experienced gardener. I love their collections, like the “Baby Vegetables”, or the “Bee Happy” collection. The colors and detail on all their seed packets are extraordinary.
Early Seed Growers
Commercial growers of seeds and nursery plants played an important role in the development of horticulture in America. Many early seed growers and nursery owners were horticultural experimenters and botanical enthusiasts, and were largely responsible for the introduction and spread of new garden species in the United States, and the development and popularization of new plant varieties for the American garden.
Landreth Seeds is one of those early companies and the past Landreth seed catalogs are chock full of original vintage seed packet illustrations that are extraordinary. Complete descriptions are included on growing the plants. Landreth’s seed catalog carries only heirloom varieties, and it also contains full color photographs of all the flower and vegetable varieties in the centerfold.
The Landreth Seed Company is the fifth oldest corporation in American today. The company claims to have sold seeds to every president from George Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The founding fathers were very interested in gardening and landscaping which is not very well-known today. Can you imagine one of our current presidents espousing a love of horticulture? It was radical when First Lady Michelle Obama put in the White House Garden! See my post American Grown-the Story of the White House Kitchen Garden. But in reality, the history of the United States has a rich agricultural and horticultural heritage.
William D. Burt Seed
Another seed company, the William D. Burt Seed Company in New York, which is no longer in business, has an interesting story. A few years ago when the William D. Burt Seed Company in Dalton, New York was torn down, the bulldozer that was clearing away the debris accidentally uncovered a hidden trap door that led to a forgotten cellar. In the cellar were boxes covered with wax full of unused seed packets from 1917. The seed packets retained their original vivid colors because they were preserved from light and air. The art work on the seed packets was hand lithographed by artists. In recent years, seed packets from the 20th century have been recognized as an art form and are collected. Historically, many of these flower and vegetable varieties are extinct today. These packets are sold today as framed works of art.
Vintage Seed Packets
Some of the old seed packets show a sense of humor!
Some other favorites: