The Jelitto seed catalog is a marvel. A fat full color catalogue bursting with a vast total of three thousand, five hundred and seventy five (that's…3,575) perennials. Yes, just perennials (well, that includes over 200 herbs). Eighteen echinaceas, thirty two hardy geraniums, thirty four hellebores, seventy four different delphiniums and one hundred and ninety six grasses and sedges – the list goes on and on… In fact it goes on for two hundred and eight large format pages. Jelitto supply many of the nurseries from whom we all buy our plants and wised-up home gardeners order their perennial seeds from Jelitto as well.
Headquartered in Germany, Jelitto also has offices in Kentucky, where the super-efficient Mary Vaananen is in charge (her mail replies fly back in seconds) alongside perennial expert Allen Bush (yes, he’s a perennial expert as well as an expert on perennials – old joke, sorry). In Cambridgeshire in England, plantsman Richard Oliver runs things and an office opened in Japan in 2007.
The incredible range is one attraction. But, unlike many seed companies, Jelitto also produce a large proportion of the seed they sell themselves, either on their own production fields or under contract in the right climates around the world and they’re able to keep a constant eye on the quality of the seed crop.
They also raise and introduce their own varieties like Iberis ‘Snow Cushion’, Knautia ‘Mars Midget’ and Chrysanthemum ‘Snowdrift’ and work with other breeders to introduce plants like Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ and ‘Doubledecker’, Salvia lyrata ‘Purple Knockout’ and the Lady Series of hellebores. Of their six new introductions for this year, Echinacea purpurea ‘Lucky Star and the blushed white Stachys macrantha ‘Morning Blush’ look outstanding. Both are from their own breeding.
OK… that all sounds like a bit of a eulogy – what are the problems? Well, some growers mention germination problems, almost always with the more obscure plants. The catalog features many plants which are unimproved wild species and sometimes germination can, indeed, be slow or unpredictable. It’s the nature of the beasts: these are not marigolds, after all. (Actually, they do sell one marigold… for the eradication of soil eelworms). Their alternative cultivar names are sometimes, shall we say, unexpected: Achillea filipendulina ‘Parkers Varietät’ is not the same as ‘Cloth of Gold’ – they’re two different plants.
Oh, and the website – it’s constructed in such a way that it’s impossible to bookmark individual varieties or for me to provide you with links to them. There’s a vast amount of good information there but, once you’ve found it, you can’t bookmark the page for next time. But they tell me that, as I write, a complete revamp is in progress.
There’s a minimum order charge of 25€/c$31, so you don’t want order just a couple of small packets. And you won’t get your order the day after you place it, each order is packed individually in Germany and sent (insured) from there. But they’ll sell you a 2€/c$2.55 packet for your home garden or they’ll sell you half a kilo to grow field full of cut flowers.
You probably already grow quite a few Jelitto plants, whether you know it or not. I suggest nurseries take another look at the vast Jelitto range and home gardeners try starting some from seed themselves. And if you've tried seed from Jelitto, please post a comment and tell me how you got on.