Are you new into the world of gardening? Are you tired of shopping from the big box store seed displays? Are you looking to source plants that are hard to find around you?
Or—and this happens to so many!—have you purchased seeds on Etsy, Amazon, or eBay and found out your seeds produced plants that were completely different than what was advertised?
When I first started our flower farm, I requested a catalog from every company I ran across. I saved catalogs that were randomly mailed to me, too. I scanned the seed displays at big box stores and my local grocery store. It was rather overwhelming.
But, as I listened to others in my Flower Farmers Facebook group, talked with other growers, tried out products, and did a little bit of my own research, I began to see what seed and plant companies stand out above the rest. And now I’d like to share this info with you!
In this article, I’ll share some of our favorite seed, perennial, and bulb companies that I source our flowers and vegetables from for our flower farm and homestead.
Fall is a great time to request catalogs from companies or browse their online stores. Most catalogs don’t cost a thing, and they’re such a delight to flip through as the weather descends into chilly desolation. So don’t be afraid to check these companies out now!
Our Favorite Seed and Bulb Sources
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds, www.johnnyseeds.com
Johnny’s was one of the first seed companies that I bought from, mostly because I liked that they offer tools, growing resources, and a beautiful catalog. They also were recommended during a Beginning Farmer course that I took through my local extension office.
It was the Johnny’s catalog that helped me learn all of the flower names when I was first beginning my journey as a flower farmer. Having the plant name and picture right next to it is an awesome way to get started when you’re wanting to learn about plants!
I’ve found that shipping is pretty quick with these guys! They know what they’re doing, and they produce quality products. Johnny’s sells flowers, herbs, and vegetable seeds. They also sell bulbs now, and in the back of the catalog they have supplies like propagation trays and tools for the garden. They sell cover crop seed in bulk, too.
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, www.rareseeds.com
Baker Creek’s claim to fame is their distinctively unique or heirloom varieties of vegetables and flowers. And they’re catalog—the catalog!—is truly beautiful. They take such great pride in their catalog that they even have a version for sale that’s chock full of information about the varieties (like the history) as well as recipes!
What’s an heirloom variety, you ask? To learn more, skip ahead by clicking here.
If you’re looking for a vegetable or flower with strange color or form, then Baker Creek is for you! My personal favorite flower from them is the ‘Variegated Cockscomb’, which has both bright pink and yellow variegation to the fuzzy “comb” of the flower.
I also have liked growing plants from them that I never thought to eat. I grew a variety of mustard from them, and I really liked adding those mustard leaves to my salads! Their catalog also shares how their veggies and herbs can be used or prepared, which piques my curiosity every time.
- John Scheepers, www.johnscheepers.com
I like to buy all of my double tulip bulbs (or really any type of bulb) from Van Engelen, which is the wholesale sister company to John Scheepers. I’m buying bulbs in 100 count batches, so for smaller purchases, consider John Scheepers.
I’ve been really pleased with the quality of product from this company. I’ve sourced fancy daffodils, tulips, muscari, allium, paperwhites, anemones, and ranunculus from this company and have had no qualms thus far.
If you’re not afraid to fork out some change for a stunning Spring display, consider purchasing from Van Engelen. You usually have to buy bulbs in 50 or 100 count there, but they offer mixes. Van Engelen’s catalog is pretty plain, so I head to the John Scheepers catalog or Google to search for what the varieties look like before deciding to write them down on my order form.
Pro tip: Purchase bulbs in July or August so you can beat the bulb rush and know you’ll have the colors and varieties you want for your garden. Most bulbs need to be planted in the Fall to receive the appropriate amount of chilling hours to break dormancy. Bulb companies will ship bulbs out at the appropriate time for planting in your zone.
- GeoSeed, www.geoseed.com
GeoSeed is hands down my top pick if you’re looking to grow almost any kind of flower there is from seed. You will be amazed at what varieties you can find in this catalog. They’re like the Amazon of seed companies. Can’t find something? Amazon usually has it, and that’s how it is with GeoSeed (I feel anyway).
Their downfall? Their catalog is very plain-Jane. They have zero pictures.
But the price is unbeatable! I can get so much more seed for my money from GeoSeed, which is great for my flower farm. Sometimes I’ll pick out varieties I want to grow from another seed company’s catalog, then I’ll flip over to the GeoSeed catalog and purchase from them instead because I can get seed packets with more seeds in them for less money.
GeoSeed is primarily for the gardener looking for ornamental plants and some herbs. There are a few vegetables in the catalog, too, but they’re mainly ornamental peppers, etc. So, I would say GeoSeed is great if you’re looking to be a DIY-er gardener by starting your own flower seeds or if you’re looking to get into commercial production of ornamental bedding plants or cut flowers.
- Perennial Plant Co-op, www.perennialplantcoop.com
I found the Perennial Plant Co-op through my Flower Farmers Facebook group. They started out as a private members only group, but now have an online portal you can order from. You must be a member to have access to the portal, but you can find out how to become a member by visiting their website.
The co-op functions as a middle man so that small growers can have access to products that typically require large wholesale purchases. Maybe you only need 5 ‘Phenomenal’ lavender shrubs instead of 25! That’s why this group is so great.
I have purchased seeds, shrubs, divisions, and bulbs/corms through this group. This past year I purchased my garlic through them, as well as my anemones, ranunculus, hellebores, and peony roots. Great quality and service!
- Seed Savers Exchange, www.seedsavers.org
I purchased most of my vegetable seeds from Seed Savers Exchange last year (2021) and I loved everything I received from them!
Seed Savers Exchange proudly sources heirloom seeds for all their flowers and vegetables. I love that they share the history of the varieties, and they have quite the selection.
A Note on Heirloom Varieties
If you don’t know what an heirloom variety is, then I’ll fill you in here:
Heirloom vegetable and flower varieties are typically open-pollinated (so basically, not hybrid) cultivated varieties that are known to have been grown for a long time. Sometimes they’re well-known varieties that have been sold in seed catalogs for years, while others have been passed down in families for generations before seeds have been lovingly shared with the public through seed exchanges or working with an heirloom seed company.
Heirlooms are most of the time considered to have more flavor or have a unique color or form. Some may just be very dependable varieties as well. The downside to heirlooms is that they may not have certain disease resistance or shelf-life, which may make them unfit for commercial production.
An example of this would be heirloom tomatoes. I have thoroughly enjoyed the heirloom tomato varieties I have grown (namely, ‘Mortgage Lifter’ and ‘Ukrainian Purple’), but I’ve found their skin cracks easily. Whereas a hybrid tomato has usually been bred for that thick, blemish-free skin that holds up well during harvest and transport to grocery stores. Unfortunately, sometimes–but not always—hybrids may lack the flavor desired, because breeding efforts weren’t necessarily focused on flavor.
Hybrids aren’t bad—they have their purposes. The downside is that because the parent plants of the hybrids are so individually unique, oftentimes any seed saved from a hybrid plant will not produce progeny that look alike whatsoever. This is because of the genetic diversity within that hybrid plant.
Open-pollinated seeds typically produce true-to-type seeds. When you plant tomato seeds from an open-pollinated tomato, those new plants will likely look and taste just like the tomato you collected seeds from.
Plant genetics is complicated, so don’t get too hung up on it right now unless you’re looking to save your own seed.
If you do want to save your own seed, you can check out our blog post here about collecting and saving your own seeds!
- Select Seeds, www.selectseeds.com
Select Seeds is another seed company that has a beautiful catalog, but what I really love is their descriptions about the varieties! They share little tidbits about the variety’s history, which really makes the shopping experience great in my opinion.
Select Seeds sells heirloom flower seeds and starts. I’ve purchased seeds from them before and also a few plant starts.
If you’re looking for something unique for your plant pots, try ordering one of their scented geranium varieties! They are one of the few companies I’ve found that sell scented geraniums. I love scented geraniums because they smell so delicious, and they’re easy to take cuttings from if you wish to propagate your own plants. They come in different scents, like mint, chocolate, attar of roses, apple, sweet mimosa, and more!
- Bluestone Perennials, www.bluestoneperennials.com
Bluestone Perennials has been my go-to for shrubs or perennials that I can’t find easily. They have an outstanding selection!
I have purchased chrysanthemums (to use as cut flowers), lavender, and a few other perennial plants from them. They ship their plants in compostable pots made of coconut coir (if I remember right), which is pretty neat! I do believe our plastic consumption and waste is a huge issue, so I appreciate that Bluestone Perennials is trying to reduce plastic waste.
What I also like about Bluestone Perennials is that you can source perennials that are already 1 to 3 years old, so they take off once planted in your garden compared to starting your own perennials from seed. They also grow patented varieties that must be propagated by a licensed grower, but I like that they have some varieties that I’ve found are hard to source from local areas.
I am a firm believer you should purchase from local nurseries, but when you’re a young mom like me it’s hard to get out of the house with 3 little kids in tow. Also, many nurseries or big box stores just don’t have a great selection to choose from. I’ve found the Bluestone website really easy to navigate, and they’ll send you a catalog as well!
When it comes to sourcing your seeds, bulbs, and plants, the list above showcases our go-to sources here on the homestead and flower farm. I have been thoroughly pleased with all the products I’ve received and used from these companies!
What about you? Do you have a favorite seed company or perennial source? Drop a comment below to fill us in. We’d love to check them out!
Another seed source that we didn’t mention above is Botanical Interests. I have purchased seed from them before via the Missouri Botanical Garden Gift Shop, and I feel they are a quality company. But, I don’t purchase from them regularly because I love the above resources too much (especially GeoSeed), and it’s not cost effective for my flower farm because I need A LOT of seed each year.
However, what I absolutely love about Botanical Interests is their packaging and their wildflower mixes. If you’re going to give someone a gift, I would highly recommend purchasing from Botanical Interests. Quality seed, unique varieties and mixes, and charming packaging makes their product pretty great!
We are an affiliate of Botanical Interests, so if you’d like to make a purchase from them and support Bluff Bottom (at no cost to you), you can use our affiliate link by clicking here.
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