Favorite Seed & Bulb Sources

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 11 Mar 2003 10:44:20 PST
Since this has expanded to seed sources, I'll add some comments to my
previous remarks.

Regarding bulbs, do check out Potterton & Martin -- their bulbs are
excellent and prices are reasonable. Also in England, Monocot Nursery has
both bulbs and seeds, including many North African species not otherwise
available; however, be aware that the names often reflect "splitting"
preferences at odds with other experts' current views. My orders from
Monocot tend to arrive late in the fall, but I haven't lost many plants as
a result, though I do coddle them a bit more.

Do NOT avoid seed exchanges. True, you get some mislabeled seeds, but they
are very cheap! The safest to order from now is the NARGS seed exchange,
because they list the donors of seed (except when more than 3 donors send
in the same species). You therefore can check the included list of numbered
donors and see who sent in the seed in which you are interested. If it is
someone whose judgment you trust, you will feel more confident in ordering.
The new computerized system they are using even lists the donor names on
the packets themselves; my order this year read like a "who's who" of the
bulb world and I felt privileged as I sowed the seeds. Also, check through
the "wild-collected" sections of the exchanges, where you will find many
plants identified only to genus. By looking at place, collector, and genus,
you can sometimes deduce which may be interesting items.

And just as important, DONATE to seed exchanges. Once in a while, grit your
teeth and send in something you'd rather keep for your 5 best friends.
True, it may end up in the hands of a complete idiot who will kill it, but
just as likely it may end up in the hands of a terrific grower who is just
building a collection and doesn't have a wide acquaintance in the gardening
world yet. We all have to start somewhere. 

Remember (as I used to write in the NARGS seedlist), this isn't broccoli
seed. If some of it doesn't germinate, that is to be expected and accepted.
If state-sponsored gambling is a "stupidity tax," then seed growing
includes a "cupidity tax." The seed collectors and growers are mostly doing
their utmost for us, and we can't expect every seed to germinate. 

Some botanic gardens have excellent seed lists, but some are miserable,
full of weeds and garbage processed by naive volunteers. Almost all of them
deserve our financial and volunteer support, though. Sending wild-collected
seed of unusual plants, especially from little-visited regions, to overseas
BG's can sometimes get you on a select list, but inquire first whether they
want the seed.

I agree that Euroseeds and Karmic Exotix are excellent eastern European
sources (KE is actually in Canada, so no problems with payment), and would
add Josef Halda and Josef Jurasek (haven't seen the latter's list lately)
to this top rank. Another is CKS, not quite of equal quality but I've
received a few good things from him. Aleksandra Berkutenko in Siberia sells
seed, too, mostly from Sakhalin Island. With all these suppliers, remember
that the nomenclature reflects Soviet-era floras that use some different
genus names, so that familiar plants may be listed under unfamiliar names.

The Archibalds' list, from which I almost always order and get many good
items, includes both wild-collected and garden-grown seed, the latter
marked with an asterisk. So far I haven't noticed much confusion or likely
hybridization in the latter.

Well, the sun is out, so have to quite typing.

Jane McGary
NW Oregon

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