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January 2008

Sweet peas - where to buy seed in Britain and North America

Sweetpeagwendolinefsw Sweet peas are favorite flowers on both sides of the Atlantic and I'm often asked where to buy seed. So here are some lists of seed companies who only sell sweet peas and other seed companies with a good range - for both sides of the Atlantic - with some wholesalers at the end.

I hope I've not missed out anyone, or made any slips - if I have, please post a comment below and I'll update this page.

Can I also remind me about my book on sweet peas - The Sweet Pea Book - which is packed with beautiful pictures and great information, including a guide to growing them in different parts of the United States as well as in Britain.

Order it in North America here

Order it in Britain here

And you can find out even more about sweet peas at my sweet peas website.

Specialist sweet pea stockists

Enchanting Sweet Peas 244 Florence Avenue, Sebastopol, CA 95472.
Fragrant Garden Nursery P.O. Box 4246, Brookings, OR 97415.
Sweet Pea Gardens 614 Surry Road, Surry, ME 04684.

Other stockists with a good range of sweet peas
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 2278 Baker Creek Rd. Mansfield, MI 65704.
Florabunda Seeds Box 3, Indian River, ON Canada. K0L 2B0, Canada
Hume Seeds PO Box 1450, Kent, WA 98035.
Renee's Garden (Online only)
Select Seeds 180 Stickney Hill Rd., Union, CT 06076. .
Swallowtail Garden Seeds 122 Calistoga Road, #178 Santa Rosa, CA 95409.
Thompson & Morgan Seeds PO Box 1308, Jackson, NJ 08527.

Specialist sweet pea stockists

Cooltonagh Irish Sweet Peas (Online only)
Eagle Sweet Peas Broadmoor Lane, Stowe-by-Chartley, Stafford, ST18 0LD.
Peter Grayson 34 Glenthorne Close, Brampton, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40 3AR (No website. Tel: 01246 278503)
King's Seeds Monks Farm, Kelvedon, Colchester, Essex, CO5 9PG
Kerton Sweet Peas North Farm Cottage, 14 Bristol Road, Pawlett, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 4RT.
Matthewman's Sweet Peas 14 Chariot Way, Thorpe Audlin, Pomntefract, West Yorkshire, WF8 3EZ
Owls Acre Sweet Peas Owl's Acre, Kellett Gate, Low Fulney, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE12 6EJ.
The Plantsmiths  Midway Nurseries, Penybont, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, Wales, LD1 5SY
Roger Parsons Sweet Peas, Primrose Cottage, Clayton Lane, Bracklesham Bay, Chichester, PO20 8JQ
Seeds-by-Size 45 Crouchfield, Boxmoor. Hemel Hempstead. Hertfordshire, HP1 1PA.
Simply Sweet Peas (online only) Sweet pea plants only.
The Sweet Pea Company, Gazeley Road, Newmarket, CB8 7QB (No website. Tel: 0845 166 2511)
Unwins Seeds Alconbury Hill, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE28 4HY.
F. A. Woodcock Lawn Road Nurseries, Walmer, Deal, Kent, CT14 7ND

Other stockists with a good range of sweet peas
Chiltern Seeds Bortee Stile, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 7PB.
Dobies Seeds Long Road, Paignton, Devon, TQ4 7SX.
DT Brown Bury Road, Newmarket, CB8 7PQ
Mr Fothergill's Seeds, Gazeley Road, Kentford, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7QB.
Nicky's Seeds (Online only)
Plants of Distinction Abacus House, Station Yard, Needham Market, Suffolk, IP6 8AS.
Suttons Seeds Woodview Road, Paignton, Devon, TQ4 7NG.
Thompson & Morgan Seeds Poplar Lane, Ipswich, IP8 3BU.

For the benefit of nurseries and retail seed companies wishing to buy sweet pea seed in large quantities, these seed breeders and wholesalers specialize in sweet peas.
Flower Seed World Malindi, Wood Norton Road, Stibbard, Norfolk, NR21 0EX, UK
Bodger, Inc 1800 Tyler Avenue, South El Monte, CA 91733-3618 USA
Owls Acre Sweet Peas Owl's Acre, Kellett Gate, Low Fulney, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE12 6EJ., UK
Lake Valley Seed 5717 Arapahoe, Boulder, CO 80303, USA
Evironmental Seed Producers P.O. Box 2709, Lompoc CA 93438-2709


Bergeniasolarflare500 This is just to day that you can read my article on bergenias in today's Daily Telegraph. The Daily Telegraph is one of Britain's best-selling daily newspapers. Read it here.

You can also read my earlier piece for them on winter flowering pansies here.

And another piece, on growing your own mistletoe, here.

Gardening videos on the BBC

Bbcgswscreenshot Well, I said I was going to report on the BBC gardening videos from the website devoted to their Gardeners’ World TV show. Hmmm.

Well, on my Mac at least, they're disappointing: not the content, but the presentation. They have individual segments from the show which are streamed separately – not whole shows. But the picture is ridiculously small, the screen size is just 2.5in x 1.5in – what’s the point of that? Then, if you work out how to make the change (Control-Click on the image on the Mac), the alternative is “full screen” – which is so enormous that the definition is so bad it’s not worth watching. So the picture is either clear but too small to see properly or it’s enormous and blurred! Shame... there’s some good stuff there – and it’s technically good in terms of both the horticulture and production.

Come on guys, get a grip.

Anyway, take a look here.  See if it works better for you. Just click on Watch again. If you're as unhappy with the result as I am - at least there's plenty of other good stuff to look at.

Trilliums on YouTube - and the GardenTime TV show

Trillium_ovatum_roy_elliott_23 I just came across this piece about trilliums on YouTube. I thought you'd like to take a look - the only trillium video on YouTube, I think.

It's actually a segment from a TV show called GardenTime. It won't take me to point out a few problems with this video... It starts with an interesting technical question about flowers changing color after pollination - but what about the basic stuff? How many species are there? Where do they grow? What's their garden value? And thy talk about them as if they spread like hardy geraniums! It's not great horticulture and, frankly, it's not great TV.

But, rightly or wrongly, these shows are made on the thinnest of shoestrings so it's tough for everyone involved. I remember doing some shows in England where two half hour shows were shot in one day! When the budget is miniscule "Get it right first time" has to be the rule and the crew often lives by "Get it right enough". So when, you're watching, just remember how tough it is to make really good shows on a budget that hardly pays for the coffee. Big budget, bad show - then get ready to fling rotten tomatoes at the TV.

But there's one very odd thing about his video - and the show's website: They don't tell us where we can watch the TV show? At the end of the video we're told that GardenTime airs on Saturday mornings on FOX-12, KEVY and KWVT. Well... where?!  Minneapolis, Maine, Missouri...? They just don't say.

Go to the GardenTime TV show's website and - apart from the silly cartoon home page which makes the program look like a kids' show - they don't tell you where and when to watch the show their either! Just that it's returning in March. In fact - well, I got fed up trailing through page after page of the site trying to find out exactly where it airs. I finally found an interview with Tracy DiSabato-Aust in which the host (we're not told who he is, either) mentions in passing that they're in Portland, OR.

It's great that having made the show they've put the segments up, one-by-one, on YouTube. There are over two hundred here. But they really need to do themselves a favor and tell us when we can watch, and where - and who the hosts are!

Finally, on the Press page, I found an ad they'd made for use in magazines. No information about theGardentimetvad_2 show or its presenters, just pictures. The ad tells me the name of the hosts - William McClenathan and Judy Alleruzzo - and that the show airs at 9an on FOX12 in Oregon (no mention of KEVY and KWVT). Memo to webmaster: Put it on your own front page!

Next time... segments from BBC TV shows from England.

Great new plants for shade gardens

Great news for shade gardeners. Three superb new evergreen epimediums bred in Britain and launched there last year are now available in the US for the first time – from Wayside Gardens. Believe me, they’re gorgeous – they really impressed me when I saw them in England last spring - and they’re tough too, hardy to zone 5. The pictures, I'm afarid, do not reveal how amazingly prolific they are. They, and more newcomers, are also available in Britain this spring from Wildside Nursery (by mail order) and Foxgrove Plants (for callers to the nursery and at RHS and Alpine Garden Society flower shows).

Bred by Robin White of Blackthorn Nursery, who created the Party Dress double hellebores, all are hybrids between evergreen species introduced from China relatively recently and chosen from thousands of seedlings resulting from carefully controlled pollinations.

EpimediumamberqueenwaysideAll three have been chosen because they hold their flowers well clear of the foliage, they have an extended flowering season so that if the first flowers are frosted you’ll still get a good display, and all three also have attractively coloured spring leaves. They were originally created in the early 1990s and have proved their worth over many years before finally being introduced.

‘Amber Queen’ (above left), in amber peach and yellow, is a hybrid between 'Caramel', a form of E. wushanense collected in China by the celebrated Japanese botanist Mikinori Ogisu, and another of his finds, E. flavum. The result is a clump-forming plant with exquisite flowers carried in great numbers. ‘Amber Queen’ is available from Wayside Gardens in the US, and from Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants in the UK.

‘Fire Dragon’, in yellow and purple, is a prolific hybrid between E. davidii,Epimediumfiredragonwayside introduced in 1985 by British botanist Martyn Rix, and E. leptorrhizum, another of Mikinori Ogisu’s introductions. ‘Fire Dragon’ is available from Wayside Gardens in the US, and from Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants in the UK.

‘Pink Elf’, in pink and purple, is an impressively prolific and strongly spreading ground covering hybrid between E. leptorrhizum and probably E. pubescens, another introduction by Mikinori Ogisu. ‘Pink Elf’is available from Wayside Gardens in the US, and from Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants in the UK.

Epimediumpinkelfwayside They may look delicate but these exquisite shade lovers are tough – just be sure they’re never parched and never waterlogged. I’m really looking forward to trying them here in my ever expanding Pennsylvania shade garden.

In Britain, Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants will also have stock of three new introductions from Robin White and these should be available in North America later this year. I’ll let you know when.

Nurseries without websites

Sedummarchantsbestredrhs I've just been noting that some US nurseries are going totally digital and no longer publishing printed catalogs at all, or are ceasing to do so soon. But some of the best nurseries in Britain - like Marchants Hardy Plants whose Sedum 'Marchants Best Red' (left) was such a star in the recent RHS sedum trial - are in the opposite position: they don’t have websites (though two do have email).

Personally, I’m sure they’re missing out on good business and also, of course, continuing to use natural resources unnecessarily. These nurseries are some of the best in the country, with well-chosen, well-grown, correctly named plants, But in general small nurseries are not thriving in Britain – and it’s hard for any small business, perhaps run by just one or two people, to spend time and resources on making such a change when business is not booming.

So let’s hear it for these four fine nurseries, all run by very small but dedicated teams. Please buy their excellent plants! (Though they don’t, I’m afraid, send plants to North America.)

Goldbrook Plants – hosta specialists
Hoxne, Eye, Suffolk, IP21 5AN
Tel/Fax: 01379 668770
Full details in the RHS Nursery Finder here

Marchants Hardy Plants – snowdrops and choice perennials including grasses
2 Marchants Cottages, Mill Lane, Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6AJ
Tel/Fax: 01323 811737
Full details in the RHS Nursery Finder here

Phoenix Perennial Plants – perennials, especially late flowering types, including grasses
Paice Lane, Medstead, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 5PR
Tel: 01420 560695
Fax: 01420 563640
Full details in the RHS Nursery Finder here

Wildside Nursery – woodland plants and especially epimediums
Green Lane, Buckland Monachorum, Nr Yelverton, Devon, PL20 7NP
Tel: 01822 855755
Full details in the RHS Nursery Finder here

Another great nursery abandons print and goes electronic

Primulasenecastar_2 In my last post I mentioned a couple of US nurseries which no longer produce a print catalog. Well, I forgot to mention that for Seneca Hill Perennials their 2008 catalog, being mailed in the middle of this month, will be their last printed version.

Nursery owner Ellen Hornig says on the front of the Seneca Hill Perennials website: “Global warming forces us to examine our resource use, and this is one arena in which it can be cut. We will be redesigning the website somewhat to compensate for the lack of a catalog, including adding… an archive wherein inactive entries can be kept for reference purposes.” Fine by me, just send me an email whenever the site is updated so I can take a look.

There are over 130 new additions to the catalog this year including a lovely new form of one of the best of all shade lovers, Primula sieboldii. Selected at the nursery, ‘Seneca Star’ (left) has huge, prettily dissected deep pink flowers with a white central star. Looks gorgeous. You can see all this year's newcomers here.

But don’t let one little thing that Ellen says about going totally electronic pass you by, it’s important: she’ll be adding a web archive of plants she no longer sells. This is great news! – not only for gardeners who bought plants from her years ago and need to check up on what she says about them. But for researchers, plant historians, horticultural botanists, other nurseries who might now be selling the plants - and for garden writers like me - this will develop into an invaluable resource. I wish other nurseries, especially those who introduce new and rare plants, would do the same. Thanks Ellen.

Note to British nurseries: Seneca Hill Perennials have raised and introduced some excellent new plants but most are not yet available in Britain. They would welcome the opportunity to exchange new plants with similar British nurseries.

Transatlantic nursery news

Four pieces of interesting nursery news – two from North America and two from Britain.

Primulaearlygirl400 Rick Lupp’s Mount Tahoma nursery in Washington State has announced the end of print catalogs. This is one of the country’s little treasures featuring thoughtfully chosen rock plants and woodlanders with, in particular, a huge range of primulas of all kinds, including the superb ’Early Girl’ (left), an increasing range of epimediums and some species from China never seen in gardens before – including a creeping honeysuckle.

So from now on the website does it all. This will bring a saving to Rick in terms of time and cost – and of course it will save paper too. The 2008 list has just gone live. You can find Rick Lupp’s Mt Tahoma Nursery website here.

Altogether more glitzy and more dramatic in its look (and launching recently with a website and no print catalog), features mainly new and recent introductions – of all kinds from vines to ferns. With respectedDaylilyspiritualcorridor breeders and growers TerraNova Nurseries and Walters Gardens in the background, they list 46 daylilies (including ’Spiritual Corridor’, right), 39 hibiscus, 13 echinaceas, two lovely new brunneras and lots more. Take a look at the website.

Meanwhile, back in Britain…

Blackthorn Nursery has announced that after this coming spring season it will be closing to retail sales. This is the nursery that created ‘Party Dress’, the first double hellebores in a host of colours, and has bred superb new daphnes and epimediums, phygelius and other plants. After 32 years running the nursery Robin and Sue White just want a quieter life and to concentrate on the garden and breeding new plants.

Bergeniasolarflare500 And finally a not-quite-brand-new nursery in the English Cotswolds – FuturePrimitive Plants. I only came across this nursery recently but I’ll be stopping by this year. Concentrating on new and recent introductions, hardy orchids and a range of aspidistras to grow outside are special features – along with the new orange ‘Tiki Torch’ echinacea and variegated Bergenia ‘Solar Flare’ (left). You’ll find the FuturePrimitive Plants website here.