Favorite Seed Companies
First written in June, 2015, but I will try to keep it updated.
Here I have compiled a list of the seed companies I do, or have done business with. Many of these are tried and true, and some are newer. When I first
began working with most of these companies, it was long before I had a computer, in fact, even before many of them had computers, or
at least before the company was fully computerized. Being online has of course opened new doors as to what's out there that
I might not have known about before. Looking for particular seeds which are no longer carried by my regular companies has been the main reason I've
found new companies. The cool thing about this is, each company has its strong and weak points. Over the years, I've come to know what company to
go to first to find each particular seed I need. I will attempt to get it all organized here to give you essential information on choosing the seed companies that
that best suit your needs. I'm going to keep this page handy on my desktop so I can update it on a regular basis.
One other point I want to make: I tend to avoid buying seeds in stores for numerous reasons, the main ones being quality and selection. Buying from seed
catalogues is often more expensive, especially the shipping which has become outrageous for certain companies. But when you order directly from a company
either by phone or online, you get to know them as people. Catalogues provide a wealth of information on their varieties, and of course, the number of varieties
available is vast. Between Totally Tomatoes, Tomato Growers, and Tomato Fest, along with other companies that don't specialize in tomatoes, I probably have
access to over a thousand varieties of tomatoes. Some people grow the same old same old each year, but I'm not one of them. I like to experiment along with
growing favorites each year.
Rather than providing addresses and phone numbers, I will supply only the website associated with the company. If you wish
to order other than online, the website itself will provide other contact information. As of Spring, 2015, only one company here
does not have a website which enables you to place orders. (Twilley Seed--but you can call them and place your order.)
And of course, none of these companies carry GMOs, and most of them have taken the "Safe Seed Pledge." In this day and age of "screw the
people and make the money, " I find this fact heartening. These are companies, which, for the most part, are run by people that have a passion for planting.
Having said all that, I hope this list proves useful.
The Top Five
This company may not be for everyone, especially if you have a tiny garden, but it is at the top of the list for me. I just love everything about them.
I started buying from them when a little old lady would write an order down by hand and knew every stock number, ( and this is not too long ago). I'm
glad they entered the computer age! Located in Poolville, Texas, they specialize in open pollinated varieties (varieties that are not hybrids and most certainly not
GMO). These are old-fashioned basic vegetables, like Waltham Butternut Squash, Lemon Cucumbers, and Grey Zucchini, to name a few of the seeds I have ordered
from them for years. They specialize in watermelon, and every catalogue I can remember features a watermelon and usually a small child. This year (2015) it is a baby lying
in a hollowed-out watermelon, and unfortunately, it is on the back cover, so you can't see it on the front page of their site. They also have great basic herb seed like
sweet basil, parsley, dill, arugula, and evergreen bunching onions which I keep perennially in a big tub outside my greenhouse. They have a very interesting
section of Indian (as in India) vegetables, many of which I've grown and liked, such as green Harabegan Eggplant. There is a nice selection of greens and Oriental vegetables
too. I have always said that Willhite seeds are the longest living seeds I have ever grown. There have been years when I've dug down into the bottom of my
box and found an old, old, opened packet, planted the contents, and they grew. This year it was Clemson Spineless Okra. The seeds are packaged in a generic, plastic
pouch with a loose, heavy paper label overlapped and stapled. It can be folded over and stapled again to safely store unused seed. Many of their seeds are also
the most inexpensive you will find anywhere
Jung Seeds & Plants
This is another company I have known and loved for years and years. A number of years ago, they bought out R. H. Shumway Seedsman, another company
I really liked which in turn owned several other favorite companies, which all came along in the deal when Jung bought out Shumway. So now they're all
one big happy company--sort of, because they have still, thankfully retained their uniqueness. Only one has been discontinued and that is Seymour Seeds, which
specialized in rare and ususual flowers, sold in small inexpensive packets so you could sample many for a small price. They also own a few other companies that
I have not done business with at this point simply because I do not need their products at this time. They are headquartered in Randolph, Wisconsin. Jung
itself was founded in 1907, is family owned and operated, and is NOT affiliated with a company called Jung Seed Genetics, owned by Monsanto. Jung does not sell
GMOs. They supply an article of explanation and clarification on their website
Here is a page which lists the
companies currently owned by Jung.
I will discuss four of them.
As for the parent company, Jung itself, they have the widest range of products of all their other companies. They sell plants, trees, shrubs, fruiting plants, bulbs, all kinds
of seed, newest varieties and old favorites, in different sized packets for a great price and low shipping. They put out a spring and fall catalogue,
the fall being mostly bulbs and other plants which need to be planted at that time of the year. Gosh, they're just all around good, no matter what level of
gardening or farming you do. Their packets are plain paper generic (without images), which have a sticky flap that can be folded over to save from year to year.
Here are the other Jung companies in which I do or have done business:
R. H. Shumway's
This company, founded in 1870, is the oldest of the next three, I believe, and formerly owned them. When Jung bought them, the others came along for the ride.
I used to buy lots from Shumway, but have not lately only because, with all these other companies under the same umbrella, I can usually find the same items
in another catalogue for just a little cheaper, though Shumway's seeds are still inexpensive. Still, they have some rare and antique seeds that can't be found elsewhere, like the different colored cushaws. Like Jung,
they carry a wide variety of plants, seeds, and farm/garden products. The unique and charming aspect of Shumway is that they still use their original, now antique,
catalogue design, a tall publication, about the size of an old Ladies' Home Journal with hand-illustrated (well, they may be computerized now to look hand drawn
but I wouldn't count on it). You may view this lovely
from their website.
What would I do without Totally Tomatoes? Oh, my. They carry over 300 varieties of tomato seed, about half that many peppers, a few eggplants, and a growing variety of cucumbers,
along with a smattering of other seeds and garden products. Since they have been bought out, I have been unable to find anything on the history of the company,
but I do know that they originated in Torquay, England. They are my first choice for tomato seed, period. Their prices can't be beat, and there has rarely been issues of
quality. And, as in the other Jung companies, they do not knowingly sell any GMO seed.
Vermont Bean Seed Company
If you are looking for rare and fancy beans, both fresh and soup types, (those you typically dry), look no further. I have grown many of these, like Vermont Appaloosa
and Calypso—ever hear of those? Didn't think so. Some of them are quite pricey, but can be found nowhere else. In recent years, VBSC has diversified
much more than before it was bought out by Jung, carrying many other types of seeds and making one-stop shopping easier for those who only order from
one or two companies.
HPS (Horticultural Products and Services Div.)
This one is mostly for farmers. They sell seed in very large quantities—even their smallest packets are large. But the packets are of heavily insulated paper, and, folded over
and stapled can keep the seeds safe and healthy for several years. There are very few years go by that I do not order from them, especailly seeds that I grow in greater
quantities, like cucumbers, nasturtiums, and other basics, that sometimes come cheaper in bulk, but not always. Their paper catalogue is big and thick, and enjoyable to browse.
The majority of their products are flowers, including the newest varieties. The problem with them is that they are aimed at commercial growers who often want the
newest seeds that will potentially bring the greatest profit, so favorite varieties tend to come and go. However, those can usually can be found in one of the other Jung companies
usually Jung itself.
This is my second favorite tomato seed company, which I use to obtain that which I cannot find at Totally Tomatoes. They are a little pricier, but have many more
heirloom and unusual varieties, over 400 in all, plus about 150 peppers, and a great variety of eggplant seed. Located in Fort Myers, Florida, I have done business
with them for years and without issues, ever. Their seed is high quality and lasts for years. The generic packets have a stcky flap, and seed keeps for years. They
also clearly state no GMOs.
Otis S. Twilley Seed Co., Inc.
This great company is a relative newcomer to my list. I've done business with them for only about eight or nine years, but they quickly became a favorite.
They're a family-owned company (no GMOs) located in Hodges, South Carolina, and, alas, still have not quite made it fully into the computer age. At
least their catalogue is online, but to order, you have to send, call, or email. Call them, because that way you'll know if a variety is out of stock. And when
I say "family company," I really mean that, sort of like Willhite. This year, (2015), I learned from the sweet lady who took my order that everybody's kids had the flu
so she was just filling in, and oops, her finger hit the wrong key, could I please repeat that number. I also learned that she had a boxer who didn't
obey her commands, but what really stunned me was that she spoke like a Northerner. I am used to getting this thick, lovely southern accent when I call Twilley's,
and it stunned me so much that when she answered the phone, after a pause on my end, the first thing I said was "You sound just like me!"
It had been a couple years since I ordered from this company, the reason being that they've dropped the very varieties I have been used to buying from them.
The lady I spoke with this year confirmed what I already suspected, and this applies to not only Twilley, but all other companies who rely on outside growers to supply seed.
Seminis, one of the top seed suppliers, who is not GMO, was bought out by Monsanto in 2005, which I knew. It is my understanding that they are STILL not
GMO, however, (and I would be ready to bet my bottom dollar), it is likely Monsanto's decision that long-time favorite varieties are being dropped. I began to notice this
several years ago, and this year, thankfully, I am discovering many companies online that do their own seed production who still carry these beloved varieties.
They include Cream of the Crop Squash, Rosalind Broccoli, Poona Kheera Cucumber, Yellow Submarine Cucumber, Cool Breeze French Cornichon—(OMG, how
could they possibly drop this variety??). Others haven't fared so well, at least that I can find. Topping the list is Sunglo Squash, the best, hands down,
yellow summer squash ever. I am trying a new one from Twilley this year called Gentry. In many cases, a favorite variety is replaced by another variety which
can even be superior, such as Muncher Cucumber, which replaced Munchmore. We shall see how this all turns out, but my educated hunch is that
Monsanto is going down the tube as more and more companies and countries ban their poison.
Pinetree Garden Seeds
With slight hesitation I include this company. I have had some bad experiences with them over the long haul, and in fact, they have gone through a rough time.
Sometimes their seed quality isn't so good, and one gets strange plants growing in with the correct ones. But there is good to be said here, too. They sell their seeds
in small, very inexpensive packets, so you can sample many varieties for a low price. They have a vast variety of products, including many books,
of which I own quite a few. If I am searching to find a particular variety, I can often find it here. And for the past few years, I have seen a great
improvement in this company, especially as far as customer service and prompt shipping goes. In fact, I order from them nearly every year now, and, except for
the funky varieties that sometimes show up, I have been pleased with their seeds.
Less Frequent Favorites
The main reason these companies are less frequent is not for quality or service, but price, including outrageously high shipping.
(Shipping is expensive for most mail order seed companies, but is easier to justify when the seed order is large.) Most of the varieties they carry can be bought elsewhere, but
there are some varieties which are unique to certain companies, so I usually break down here and there, grit my teeth and pay the shipping for three or four
seed packets. Also, now that most everyone is online, which wasn't the case a few years back, the companies you do business with will notify
you by email when there are sales, special offers, and free-shipping. Some also have web-only varieties. This year, (2015), I just had to replenish Chadwick Cherry Tomato, the best red cherry, period,
carried only by Seeds of Change (and, I just discovered, by The Cook's Garden). While I was there, I also
got another great tomato which I haven't grown in a while—Red House Free-Standing, which grows on a stocky, thick bush and doesn't require staking. The
tomatoes are large, red, and firm-fleshed. I also found a Platinum Cucumber; (I am still attempting to replace the no-longer-available Pearl). It is those seeds which
form the background image to this page, incidentally.
Seeds of Change
This company is the ultimate on what the ideal seed supplier should be. They are 100% organic, and were before organic was the "in" thing. It goes without saying
but I'll say it anyways, they are non-GMO. They grow their own seed on their own research facilities and other family farms. They used to be based in New Mexico, but
now are in Rancho Dominguez, CA. Quality is the name of the game here, with everything they do. Even their seeds packets are above the rest—a
zip-type reclosable one, which bears a colorful photo of the exact variety it contains. WOW! You don't see that very often. In addirion to all kinds of seeds,
plants, and other earth-friendly supplies, they also have a line of organic prepared foods.
I've done business with Park Seed for decades. They were founded in 1868 by the 15-year-old George W. Park, and have been prospering ever since.
And with good reason. They sell wonderful seeds and product, many organic and no GMOs. Actually, their prices, while higher than some are not too bad. I was lucky to happen on their
website during a huge 30% off sale, plus I found Four- O'Clocks, which aren't that readily available any more. I didn't have any last year and missed them
terribly. I also found some other goodies from them as I usually do. Their seed packets are small foil-coated paper which protect the seeds for a few years
when folded over and stapled. Park Seed is located in Greenwood, South Carolina.
Though they now sell a smattering of vegetable seed, this company is known for their rare, antique, heirloom flowers, and many of these can be found
almost nowhere else. They clearly state: "Non-GMO, Untreated, Open-Pollinated, and Bee-Friendly." This is a more modern, private and community-based company
doing it all the right way to work with, not against, our precious Mother Earth. I fell in love with them for their gorgeous opium poppies, especially Lauren's
Grape. (Opium poppies come up all over the place once they're allowed to seed, so I always have surprises.) This year I tried a new one simply called
"Heirloom" with serrated petals like Danish Flag, which according to the photo is in a variety of gorgeous grape, raspberry, and wine colored hues. I also found
a black peony poppy, multicolored ageratum (now THAT is really hard to find), two other Four O'Clocks, including Salmon Sunset, which has got to be stunning.
I also found bronze leaf fennel, another very difficult-to-find gem. This is a great company to explore. They are located in Union, Connecticut.
John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
When Renee Shepherd sold her company, Shepherd's Seeds, to White Flower Farm, I quit doing business with them, and they basically disappeared
(a terrible shame for such an awesome company). She has another company called Renee's Seeds, but I have never found anything there to interest me.
I discovered this one, however, which is very similar Shepherd's, and also similar to The Cook's Garden.
Again as in many of these smaller companies, the seeds are quite expensive, but when you find a gem, you pay for it because seeds—well, they grow into many
wonderful plants which produce many wonderful foods or flowers, and keeping that in mind, the price doesn't seem so bad. With this company, I will pay the
price for Mentoponto Full-Hearted Escarole, the best escarole you can grow, and mine is happily growing in its special tub outside my greenhouse. Unfortunately
they have discontinued the best basil, Purple Ararat. Fortunately I have been miserly with my little packet of seeds, but the last of them were planted this year, and
as of this spring, 2015 writing, they are ready to eat, the earliest I have ever had basil available. (I have since discovered other sources for this seed.) In any case,
Scheeper's offers a nice variety of herbs, vegetables, and edible and ornamental flowers. The gorgeous morning glories I've had in my greenhouse the last few years
came from this company. They have four very cool "habitat" collections for 2015: Butterfly Habitat; Hummingbird Habitat; Bumblebee Habitat; and Songbird
Habitat, each which contain from 50,000 to 100,000 seeds, for large area sowing. Their seed packets are decorated with colorful and charming
illustrations of the plant whose seeds they contain. Non-GMO.
The Cook's Garden
I used to buy much more frequently from this company, but I haven't found anything here I couldn't find elsewhere. Until this year, when
I discovered my beloved Yellow Submarine Cucumber. I also discovered that they, like Seeds of Change, carry Chadwich Cherry Tomato. Like
Scheeper's, they specialize in "gourmet, culinary" vegetables and herbs, and also carry flowers, supplies, etc. Amazingly, I searched their site, and
cannot find any statement that says they do not carry GMOs. I would be extremely surprised if they did, but lately, that is one point which most of these other
companies want to communicate to their customers, since there is so much raging hatred toward Monsanto. Hmmm. . .
Johnny's Selected Seeds
This is hands down one of the best companies out there, not only for seed quality and safety (Non-GMO, of course), but for sustainable gardening/farming
and community service. They are an employee-owned company that supports community gardening, located in Winslow, Maine. Their
network of farmers do much of their own breeding, as they state, using the "old-fashioned" slow method to produce new varieties. And it
has paid off. It's a huge compnay, putting out both a home gardening and commercial grower catalogue.They're just all-around
good, doing things the right way. Again, their seeds are rather pricey, but, if you watch for bargains, you will reap the rewards. Several years ago,
they had a free shipping deal for trying out their fancy pumpkins, many which were more "squashy" than "pumpkiny." I just used up the last of those seeds
this year. My favorite was a deep orange-fleshed Musque de Provence, and I hope I have a great harvest this year. For farmers, they also sell cover crops,
grains, and green manure crops. Check out their great web site.
It has been a few years since I've ordered from Stoke's, from no reason of being dissatisfied, but simply because I tend to stock up on seed,
then order a great many every few years. Founded in 1881 and located in Thorold, Ontario, Canada, they have a special division for U.S. customers.
They are Non-GMO, and also have some untreated seed. They carry many open-pollinated varieties, at very reasonable prices, and tend to be perhaps more oriented to larger growers,
although their seeds are also offered in smaller packets, too. They have a huge catalogue with a great variety of many products. I have found wonderful
gems from them over the years.
This has always been one of my favorite companies. They carry some very cool and unusual seeds, and some of them
are downright funky— a truly huge selection of a little bit of everything
They put out both a spring and fall catalogue, and have by far the largest selection of garlic anywhere. That I usually do order from them. Like all the other companies
on this list, they do not sell GMOs, and, like most of the companies here, growing food and selling seed is not a job but a vocation and contribution to
the health of the planet and its people. As they state on the front of their website, they're a family owned business, a relatively young one, founded in 1979 and located
in Cottage Grove, Oregon. They also have an artist/illustrator who creates the lovely catalogue covers and seed packets, which picture the plant of the
seeds they contain.
Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co.
This was one of the first companies I started with, long before the internet and before other companies flooded me with their catalogues.
Gosh, it's been so long since I've ordered from them, and I almost feel guilty. As for seed, they carry what other companies can provide just a bit cheaper,
so for me Gurney's kind of fell by the wayside. But now, getting on their site, I see they have a sale, and a variety of squash I haven't seen for a number of years
so maybe I'll check them out again. But with Gurneys, it was always their plants I loved best. Big plants, as in trees. When I was growing up, the five acres of
land between my house and the road was an open field. Now it is a woods, thanks to Gurney's. One of the first seeds I bought from them, oh, probably
27 years ago, was an interesting plant called gopher purge. It's roots (and leaves) contain a noxious, milky substance that repels gophers in the west (Gurney's
is located in Indiana now, but used to be in South Dakota, or someplace out west.) In any case, gopher purge also works here in the east to repel moles.
and once planted, it comes up everywhere. I love it! And as with all these companies, Gurney's has taken the "Safe Seed Pledge." No GMOs.
Gosh, what can I say about this company? They are so well known, have been around so long—since 1876 in fact, and of course, are Non-GMO.
They are known for so many varieties developed through them, which later, after the patent expired, were able to be sold by other companies. For instance,
the "Boy" and "Girl" tomatoes—Lemon Boy, Big Boy, Early Girl—yep, I've grown 'em. What a contribution this fine company has made to
the world of home gardening!
Here is another company I've neglected for a while, and I need to change that. I never bought a lot from them, but always found interesting
seed here and there that I had to have. Like Stokes, they are located in Canada, (Prince Edward Island), but have a U.S. division. Founded
in 1939 "on a shoe-string," they are now a thriving business. No GMO seed, and they are licensed as a shipper/handler of certified organic seed.
They carry a wide variety of all kind of seeds.
This Texas-based company sells seeds for wildflowers in large quantities. (Even their small quantities are large.) The idea here is
to beautify the planet with flowers that grow natural and come back year after year. Some of these are really wildflowers,
like Crimson Clover and New England Aster, and lots of wild versions of cultivated flowers, like lupine, daisies, larkspur, coreopsis—
you get the idea. They also have three wonderful collections of non-wild flowers: cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers, plus native grasses and some herbs.
Each plant is pictured by a map in their catalogue which shows the area where it is comfortable growing, whether it is a perennial, self-seeding
annual, etc. and a picture of the plant while it is tiny— very helpful so you know what is weed and what is plant. I have grown tons of their stuff,
in fact I have some Mexican Hats out in the greenhouse ready to transplant. They've been around for 32 years.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
I have ordered only once from this company. They produce their own organic seeds, so they are not slaves to Monsanto, and have a vast number of really cool
and rare varieties. The only slight issue I have with them is that the germination rates on their seeds were not so good, at least for me. However, having said
that, I have noticed poorer germination rates with all seeds, and seed life is shortening, too. My belief is that GMOs and toxic fallout from chemtrail
spraying is having devastating effects on seeds and plants in general. I would definitely check this company out, and I will order from them again.
High Mowing Organic Seeds
This is another company that produces their own seeds, and like the one above, has a great many interesting varieties. The added bonus here is that their
shipping is free.
Thompson & Morgan (U.S.)
This company, based in Englang, used to have a thick catalogue with the most awesome collection of unusual flowers I have ever seen.
The last catalogue I received from them was in 2010, and I still have it. Apparently they have drastically reduced what they sell to the
U.S. and Canada. (They had a U.S. base in Indiana.) I hope at some point, they once again offer their huge variety to us in the states. Their number
of sweet peas alone was mind-boggling. Until then, here is the link to the U.K. site for you to browse and drool.
Thompson & Morgan (U.K.)
I had ordered from this company once, and was generally pleased with their vast variety of tomato seeds. So last year (2016), I attempted to order
from them again. It appeared that I couldn't get my order to go through, but I wasn't sure. Therefore, it left me with not knowing if the money had been taken out
of my checking account. I tried emailing them, and got no response. They cannot be reached by phone. This happened on May 17, 2016. I emailed again, all
this time not knowing if my order went through. Finally on the 23 of May, I got this response:
FYI. We do have 2 email links back to me from our website.
We have been in the fields planting tomatoes for a week and will complete planting on
thurs 5/26 and return to the office to take care of this for you.
Meanwhile, I had looked up their SNAIL MAIL address, and wrote them a long irate letter with the address provided. Weeks later, it was returned:
address, no such number. (This was the address listed on their site, which I see now, in May 2017, has finally been updated.) In any case, they never did get back
with me. So screw these people. Stay away from them. Nobody needs that baloney. And I have found most of their tomato varieties from other sources.
So there you have it. I hope you can give some of these great companies your attention, or at least browse their gorgeous websites to see what is available
in the world of plants. I will continue to update this page as more current information comes along, and as I add new companies to my ever-expanding list.
And don't forget to check out the products I have for sale during the summer here at Cosmic Dream Farm.
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