November 9th, 2006
Thompson & Morgan Seed Catalog 2007

Catalog Review: Thompsan & Morgan Seed Catalog 2007

Thompson & Morgan Seed Catalog 2007 is the first catalog to arrive this season. Joy! If it weren’t 88F degrees outside, I’d curl up next to a fire and lose myself in dreams of spring.

My batting average for growing things from seed is pretty low. The last few years I’ve been content to let those things that I had luck with self-sow and then transplant the seedlings where I wanted them. Yet in gardening all things run in cycles and now I feel the itch of curiousity again, the desire to explore and experiment.

A cheery British optimism runs through its pages. Seedsmen who would include ginkgo and wisteria (5 seeds/$4.95 for either) assume a certain respect for their customer base. As purveyors of “Quality English Seeds Since 1855” they must be onto something. Reading these pages I always feel like I’m scanning the garden forum seed exchange notices. And I’m fond of the understated tone common to British companies. “Some of the varieties featured in this catalog are so rare that we have secured the world’s supply–please order today to avoid disappointment.”

The catalog’s is small (9×5 1/2″) on glossy paper with full color photographs. The plant descriptions terse but informative. Botanical names? Natch. A coding system is used to pack as much information into a small space as possible. This is a seed catalog that I can use as a reference book. My favorite feature is the suggested temperature ranges for germination in Fahrenheit. Another feature I like is that they indicate how many seeds are in a packet rather than sell by weight.

Seeds are gathered from all over the world, shipped to England where they are cleaned and packed, and then sent to New Jersey for distribution in the USA and Canada. Since September 2001, new regulations have made it difficult to buy or exchange seeds from overseas. As a member of the RHS, I used to participate in their seed exchange, once free but now too expensive for me to play around with. So I appreciate Thompson & Morgan for a peek into what’s popular abroad.

T&M states that they will “not knowingly offer endangered species from the wild.” And because of the backlash against genetically modified seeds in the UK and the EU they state in bold print on the inside cover, “We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that none of our seeds have been genetically modified and never will be.”

Wish List
* Lathyrus grandiflorus: ‘Elegant Ladies’ sweetpeas. I do have a weakness for sweetpeas even though I’ve really only had success with the heirloom ‘Cupani’.

* Nigella damascena: Love-in-a-Mist. My ‘Persian Jewels’ continue to self-sow but each year the flowers get smaller and their colors muddier. Maybe the very dark ‘Oxford Blue’ to celebrate AJM’s alma mater. Not like I need another blue flower in the spring meadow garden though.

* Nicotiana sylvestris: ornamental tobacco. I’ve been meaning to try this fragant white southern flower forever and still haven’t gotten around to it.

* Viola: I’ve always preferred the diminuitve violas to their cousins the pansies. Of course I’m drawn to the blue Sorbet hybrid ‘Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow’. I didn’t have luck growing violas from seed before so I’ll probably just by some six-packs from the big box store.

* Tomatos: T&M offers both hybrids and heirlooms. I’ll have to compare these against Hanna’s descriptions and against other seed catalogs. My standby tomato is ‘Sungold’–it’s the one I’ve had the most luck with over the years and I love it’s bright citrusy flavor. However, I’m always up for trying a new variety, even if I’m forced to grow them between the roses now just to find a spot of sunlight.

by M Sinclair Stevens

5 Responses to post “Thompson & Morgan Seed Catalog 2007”

  1. From Kathy (New York):

    The T&M catalog has always been the earliest to arrive, and I think it’s getting earlier. Mine came almost 2 weeks ago, I think. The 2007 catalog in October of 2006? It might make sense to send it that early to Texas gardeners, but I won’t be looking at seed catalogs till after New Years. With a last frost date of May 31 or sometimes later, I don’t start sowing until March at the earliest.

    I did flip through it and might get some of those pink peony poppies, if I can find something else to flesh out my order.

    Inspired by Katherine White and Michael Pollan, I’ve meant to do more reviews of seed catalogs for several years. I’m especially interested in other gardeners’ experiences with different companies and what they value in a catalog. As an extension to the forums, garden blogs seems like the perfect outlet for comparison. Plus I trust the garden bloggers I read regularly. They’re old friends. On the forums, I never developed the same feeling of trust–the signal-to-noise ratio was too low. — mss

  2. From M2 (Austin):

    There’s something delightful in seed catalogs for me, even, and I don’t grow from seeds. A cross between daydreaming, Christmas, and the earthy connection of hunter-gatherer. Plus the marvelous names!

    I love anything (hardware stores, notion shops, art supply companies and stationers) filled with a promise of what we can do, if only we set ourselves to do it. Seed catalogs are the same, I think.

    As for names, my all time favorite is “Phlox of Sheep”–a T&M original. — mss

  3. From Rantor:

    I’ve fallen off the T&M mailing list (time to get back on), but this outfit used to offer seeds for houseplants. Among other types, I grew several very beautiful varieties of asparagus fern (the seeds took forever to germinate, but maybe that’s only my recommendation). The plants that resulted were very beautiful varieties, different from any seen elsewhere. I had some for years and years and those to whom they’d been given had them even longer. Those were the days when I lived in a house with very thick walls and very broad windowsills, ideal for growing things from seed started in cardboard egg cartons.

    I don’t see asparagus fern in this catalog–I did grow some from seeds given to me by Valeria at Larvalbug. They look like ordinary asparagus fern, though. Another thing I like about this catalog (which I should have mentioned in the review) is the “Green Fingers Guide” which rates seeds both on ease of germination and ease of aftercare. Probably the only ones I should order are the ones with the happy face indicating “Easy to grow plants–ideal for children.” — mss

  4. From Craig:

    Thompson & Morgan continually has one of the nicest catalogs from a seed company. Beautiful pictures, high quality paper stock, and an eclectic mixture of plants have always sucked me in. And here comes my But…They do not have the extensive listings as in the past. There used to be pages filled with Begonias, Campanulas, Primulas, and Violas, for example, and the current selections are paltry. And even less pleasing is poor germination. I have extensive experience sowing and growing many different types of plants from seeds and am usually disappointed by T&M’s rotten germ rates. I don’t believe my expectation of a 50 per cent rate is unreasonable (the industry standard for bedding plants is over 95) but T&M frequently misses it. I still enjoy the pretty pictures but have given up on their seeds.

    There used to be an organization in the UK called the The Seed Guild and in their words offered, “Seeds from Botanic Gardens and sources worldwide.” Membership entitled me to a set number of seed packets annually. This was in the late 1990s but they are no longer around. My Primula polyneura still brightens in spring with its luridly bright fuchsia flowers on a ridiculously small plant.

    I agree with you regarding ‘Sungold’, it has always been my favorite tomato. I’e stopped growing it here because it doesn’t have the same intense flavor and sweetness as it did in California.

    I’e been compiling and reviewing catalogs of many different seed companies. If you are ready to explore new or alternative seed sources, I suggest the following four:


    Ginny Hunt is the dynamo behind this seed company. An excellent and well edited listing of so many unusual plants that I invariably have to dig through my references to try to keep up. Many are progeny from her hybridizing efforts and a great deal of her listings are collected from her garden. Outstanding collection of Salvias and companion plants. Special treats are her Restios, extraordinary grass-like plants that take on the aspects of living sculpture. All of you Zone 9ers and West Coast gardeners should make a beeline for them. (The plant on the current face page is a Streptanthus but I don’t know which species.)

    Jim and Jenny Archibald

    Jim and Jenny Archibald are renown throughout the world for disseminating seeds from their extensive collection of plants wild-collected throughout the world. So many new introductions to horticulture plus reintroductions and differing clones of known plants. From their website:

    “We specialize in supplying seeds from wild species of non-woody plants of potential garden-value to the most advanced amateur and professional growers throughout the cool-temperate and continental climatic regions of the world.”

    Plant World Seeds

    . Ray Brown is the head of Plant World Seeds. He offers an eclectic and fascinating assemblage of mostly perennial seeds. Ray has a keen eye and has introduced many plants to horticulture. On-going breeding programs such as Aquilegias and extensive selections of Dieramas, hardy Geraniums, Digitalis, and Meconopsis are just some of what he’s been up to. Add to them seeds collected around the world to make a tantalizing catalog. Best of all: superior germination from fresh seed.

    Secret Seeds

    . Secret Seeds out of Devon should not be such a secret. I was hooked after seeing their Lathyrus page with so many species I never knew existed. Heirloom garden sweet peas can be found on the Climbers page. Spotlighted listings of Aquilegias, Campanulas, Lupines, Primulas, plus many others make for fun browsing. Organic vegetable and herb seeds round out their inventory. Many of their stock plants are from wild-collected seeds and the photography is from their gardens.

    Wow! I hope you write this up on your blog so it gets more widely disseminated. I always seem to wind up with more seeds than I ever get around to planting. Interesting note about T&M’s germination rates. Unlike you I’m not very good at starting things from seed so I always attribute any failure to my inexperience. I’ve never done any kind of comparison because usually if I fail with one plant I move on to something new. — mss

  5. From alfiesaden:

    hi there – is it just me !! can any one explain why when i type in the firefox browser “” i get a different site yet whe i type it in google its ok? could this be a bug in my system or is any one else having same probs ?
    alf saden