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Seed catalog season is winding down, but there's still time to check out these unusual offerings

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: January 27, 2017
  • Published January 27, 2017

Daisy and Andy Christiansen sit with their entry in the junior’s competition on Aug. 29, 2014. If you want to try your hand at giant vegetables this year — or cold hardy roses or heirloom varieties — our columnist can recommend a few sites to check out. (Marc Lester / ADN archive 2014)

OK, this is the last full column on websites and catalogs for starting seeds and ordering plants. You really should be spending a bit of time looking at a few seed catalogs. This is one of the best ways to learn how to garden and to improve on what you already know.

One of the sites I visit on a regular basis is from David Austin Roses. This is an English rose breeding company with facilities in the United States for our domestic sales. They regularly attend the Garden Writers annual convention and I have been lusting after their fare for quite some time. What I like about the site, in addition to the pictures that practically give off rose fragrances, is the useful information. Want to know the correct way to plant a bare root rose? This is the place.

Of course, we require hardy roses up here unless you are going to treat yours like annuals. David Austin has a number of great looking ones. So does The Antique Rose Emporium and High Country Roses.

This is the time to start onions and leeks for transplanting outdoors later this spring. If you want particular varieties, seed catalogs and their sites are often the only way you can get them. Check out the offerings from Baker Creek and Territorial Seeds or Burpee Seeds. Note that you can also buy plants or "sets" of bulbs and that local nurseries carry several varieties as well.

How about trying your hand at some giant veggies? Check out the radish at P an P Seed's site. If you are only interested in pumpkins, go to Giant's Garden. To see a variety of things that go "mammoth," take a look at the giant offerings at has some other really weird things to look at, in addition to the normal giant fare. And for looking, you can't beat the strange and beautiful offerings at Smart Seeds. Wow. They correctly use the word "exotic" to describe their offerings.

Heirlooms are what we should all be growing. These are open pollinated plants so that when a great fruit or flower appears, you can keep the seed and grow the plant again next season. If you keep the earliest tomato plant seeds every year, for example, you will end up with your own early fruiting "heirloom." Start by checking out the granddaddy of them all, the nonprofit Seed Savers Exchange. I have always liked High Mowing Seeds and they have some really neat stuff to grow. 

Terra Nova Nurseries does not sell directly to the public. Still, their site is useful and instructive. Do check it out. Kitazawa Seed Co. sells Asian vegetable seeds.

Finally, the 2017 seed racks are appearing. You will find them at local nurseries, supermarkets and box stores. They are dangerous tempters so be careful. Still, it is worth spending time checking them out, reading the packages to glean useful information and, of course, to dream of a time when there won't be snow and ice and the weather is warm enough to plant those seeds.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Workshop: Ice Candles and Luminarias: Alaska Botanical Garden, Feb. 11, 1-3 p.m. Class size is limited so reserve at

Leeks and onions: Time to start seeds, though you can buy sets (small bulbets) in a couple of months from local nurseries.