11 October 2016

It’s Fall – Time to Garden – What Seeds Might Our Ancestors Have Planted?

It’s Fall – Time to Garden – What Seeds Might Our Ancestors Have Planted?

Cooler air and a crispness to the air tell me that we are in fall.  Fall is always another opportunity to plant some later blooming flowers, a winter garden, or otherwise, prepare our gardens for winter.

Most of us don’t live in the house where our ancestors did, though we probably have visited other historic homes.  Even with that, most of us have no idea, beyond certain staple plants, what gardens of long ago might have contained.

We can now gain a bit more insight through a new digitized collection from the Smithsonian Libraries, Seed Catalogs.  The collection includes 258 catalogs represented by over 500 images. 

The physical collection, housed at the National Museum of American History Library (NMAH) is massive …

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries have a unique trade catalog collection that includes about 10,000 seed and nursery catalogs dating from 1830 to the present. Many of the trade catalogs were part of the Burpee Collection donated to the Horticulture Services Division by Mrs. David Burpee in 1982. The collection includes both Burpee and their competitors' catalogs.

Just looking at the images, gives us some sense of the popular products of the time period.  The collection also gives us a sense of what companies they might have purchased from.

Of course, I couldn’t stop with the Smithsonian.  I was intrigued – are there other seed catalog collections and are some of these catalogs online?  And yes, there are many seed catalogs that you can access online.

·        Iowa Seed Catalogs
·        Nursery and Seed Catalogs (NYBG)
·        Henry G. Gilbert Nursey and Seed Trade Catalog Collection (USDA National Agricultural Library) [can also access via Internet Archive]
·        Seed & Nursey Catalogs (Biodiversity Heritage Library) [can also access via Internet Archive]

If I had more a green thumb, I might be inspired to actual acquire some heirloom seeds and maybe step back in time …

What plants did your ancestors grow?

What was your ancestor's favorite seed company?

What type of garden and/or farm did your ancestors have?

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