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The Seedy Side Of Independent Garden Center Show '09

Earlier in the week I attended the Independent Garden Center Show 2009 here in Chicago on the same site as the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Over on Chicago Garden the first post is Independent Garden Center Show 2009. Followed by the post on products for gardening in small spaces, garden pots and planters, garden tools and plants and my favorite the Obama head planter. While the Independent Garden Center Show isn't open to the public I hope my posts give you an idea of what was on display and you may catch in garden centers in your area next year.

Renees Garden seed booth at Independent Garden Center Show 2009

I was hoping that I'd get a chance to see a lot of new plants at the IGC Show but that wasn't the case. My disappointment didn't last long because there were a lot of garden seed vendors at the show and I got to meet a couple of them. Renee's Garden was there and they were promoting her new varieties for Renee's Garden seed line in 2010 and the Cornucopia (website coming soon) line of seeds. Of the new varieties they have I'm most excited about the Spanish Padron pepper. The second night of the IGC Show I was treated to dinner by Renee and had a great time talking about the seed business, garden bloggers and much more. Meeting Renee, who is so nice and friendly to garden bloggers, and her team was the highlight of the show for me. Yesterday I got an Email from Renee's Community Garden, a social networking site by Renee's Garden for gardeners who grow from seed, that they were having a 30% off sale to clear out the warehouse and make room for those new introductions I mentioned. Enter sale09 as your Coupon Code at checkout between now and September 8, 2009.

Thompson & Morgan seed booth, Independent Garden Center Show 2009Thompson & Morgan also had a booth and I stopped by because of the sign that read "The Kew Collection." I was really geeked about it because I'm a big fan of Kew, even though I've never been and have only seen it on television-- I'm going to make the pilgramage one day. I figured that if I can't get up and go to Kew gardens, I could at least grow something from Kew gardens. This line of seeds by Thompson & Morgan isn't of plants introduced or developed by Kew, they're just given the stamp of approval by Kew.

Maybe it is just me, but I'd be more inclined to buy these seeds if the connection to Kew was more than them just getting royalties for loaning out their name. On the other hand, I think their Taste of Italy line of garden seeds is pure genius. I'm told that these seeds can't be kept in stock on Long Island, you know, on account of all those Italians that live there. They also do well here in Chicago where we have a large population of people of Italian heritage. How cool would it be to be able to go to a garden center and pick up a whole gardens' worth of seeds based on the country you ancestors came to America from?

I'd buy that for a dollar!

Botanical Interests seed booth at Independent Garden Center Show 2009Also at the show was Botanical Interests who is another seed company, who besides selling awesome seeds, has been showing garden bloggers a lot of love and respect. They were there to promote the The Botanic Garden Series they developed in conjunction with the Denver Botanic Garden. The aim of the line is to sell seeds from plants that are endangered in the hopes that they will be kept around for future generations by home gardeners like you and I. What a great idea that; 1. protects endangered plants from being lost 2. shows that companies can do good while making money.

Backer Creek Heirloom Seeds Company Independent Garden Center Show 2009I was drawn to the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Company booth by the funny costumes but I stuck around to look at the heirloom seeds, many varieties I'd never seen for sale before, and meet Jere. The seed company was started by Jere Gettle when he was 17 years old and his catalog consisted of one photocopied page that he sent out. Now he owns an heirloom seed business, has an heirloom seed store in Petaluma, California, a magazine devoted to gardening with heirlooms and a pioneer village. I wish I would have that kind of drive at his age. That's Jere in the picture talking to me and Garden Girl about heirloom tomatoes.

Update: In the comments CandidWines points out that the seeds for ChicaoTomato Fest, which I'd forgotten about.

Metal seed packet organizers Burgon & Ball, Independent Garden Center Show 2009If you're one of the gardeners that has been feeling down about the loss of Smith & Hawken I've got good news. I've seen the future and it is Burgon & Ball--ok so they've been around since 1730--but, OMG is their stuff awesome. They bill themselves as "tools for serious gardeners" but they sure look like the kind of company a seed nerd could fall in love with. The metal box above is a garden seed organizer, you open it up and it has compartments organized by months, to keep track of sowing times. Check out their website for a glimpse of what else you serious gardeners could spend your car payment on.


  1. Wow. Now I know what I'm doing today-- checking out all these websites. I linked this entry over to My Folia, where seed buying is a religion. Thanks.


  2. I'm totally impressed with Jere, his entrepreneurial spirit, and Baker Creek. Now I want to go there and see his impressive complex.

    My grandparents' farm was in the Ozarks near Poplar Bluff, and I'd like to try to find it again (it's probably a resort now.) I may talk my mom into a road trip. She hasn't been back to the area in many years. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from the beautiful Ozark Mountains.

    I've been going through Baker Creek's amazing catalog, and am awestruck.

    Jere and the other two gentlemen working Baker Creek's booth were very generous with their time answering all our questions, and generous with samples. Visiting their booth was the highlight of the show for me, as well as visiting with Renee and Co., and Botanical Interests. Such fine human beings, impressive accomplishments, and vendors I'm proud to patronize.

  3. Glad to see Baker Creek. They are the source for all the TomatoFest plants over the last two years.

  4. Mr BT, you have stoked the seed greed in me and compel me to click on those link. And I'm pretty bad at growing things from seeds!

  5. @Xan, Thanks for the link. There was actually three or four more seed companies there but I only stopped at these three booths. Next year I plan on doing all of them.

    @GardenGirl, I want to visit that town and the seed store so bad after meeting them at the show.

    @CandidWines, That's funny. I had forgotten about that. I remember now because you showed me the list. Funny thing is that I was talking to him about Chicago TomatoFest and there he was, the source of the seeds. lol. I have an idea for next year that I'll Email you about.

    @Nikkipolani, I hope you do shop Renee's or BI or Baker Creek, they're really nice people. Imagine the seed greed in me after seeing them all there in person.

  6. Dinner with Renee? My my. You're kind of a big deal on the internet!

  7. @ Katie, LOL. Yeah, I'm famous in my backyard. :0)

  8. Great post! Thanks for sharing the info and links!

  9. That sounded like a great event. I love the Renee's garden seeds and plan to get some more. I went to Kew a few years back and even bought some of their "approved" seed packets at the garden's gift shop, but yes, it would be nice if they sold seed actually developed there.

  10. Ooooh, wish I'd been there. With you and Garden Girl, too! Thanks for the rundown. I took a look around Burgon & Ball and liked what I saw. All my best tools are from Smith & Hawken and while I don't expect to have to replace them anytime soon, it's nice to know there is somewhere comparable where I could.

  11. Hi MBT, this is a wonderful review of the show's seed stalls. I love Renee's and Baker Creek too. I bought several unusual seeds from BC and will give them more of my business next year. T and M gets most of my seed dollars for the wide variety of perennials and their quick search seed index online. Theirs is the site that will tell how to sow nearly every kind of seed. I have tried several of the Kew seeds and all have done well. I thought they were grown at Kew though, disappointing. Thanks for the tip about Burgon & Ball, will check them out!

  12. I love all those seeds. Is that Renee herself in the photo?!?!? I also love Botanical Interests and heirloom seeds (love their outfits; great idea) and I've sown the Kew seeds, too. I wish I had been there, I can tell you!

  13. Forgot to mention, I just ordered seeds from BI including the DenverBot series--I love the DenverBot. Next time I visit my niece in CO I'm going to see if I can get a tour of the BI facility.

  14. @ Alan,

    No problem. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I was just at your blog. Good stuff.

    @ Gardenista, Glad you agree. I'm a big sucker for plants with history and I'd buy some like that.

    @ Kylee,

    I heard a rumor they were moving the show followed by a rebuke of the rumor. But if they do have the show again here next year you should come down, we'll make a couple of days of it.

    @ Frances, Thanks for stopping by. You just reminded me. When I was active on GardenWeb there was a website that people shopped at because the seeds were really cheap. It was rumored to be the outlet store for T&M and I've looked for the site but now I can't remember it. Anyone reading this who knows what I'm talking about feel free to leave a comment.

    @ Monica, Yeah that's Renee herself. I took a pic of their team but did so my camera phone and it didn't look so good.

  15. The seed site you're referring to is Value Seeds.

  16. @ Kylee, You're right that is it. Thanks, been trying to find it for two years.

  17. You should have asked me sooner! LOLOLOL!

  18. I planted Padron peppers for the first time this year. We like them a lot - sauteed plain or stuffed with cheese.

    Now I'm headed off to Renee's to do some shopping with the discount - thanks for the tip! And Value Seeds (thanks to Kylee too!)

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Ramon, thanks for the kind shout-out. We had a lot of fun talking with you and we always appreciate and welcome your insights concerning the world of garden blogs.

    Linda, it was great to meet you. I had pole beans (Renee's Musica variety) for lunch here at the Renee's Garden Seeds headquarters in California and thought of you feeding your dog fresh beans straight out of the garden.

  21. I grew up with T&M so I still order its seeds. It does offer a lot of tomato varieties, including heritage/heirlooms. I agree about the Kew series though; I've got the exact same seeds in both Kew and regular T&M packaging.

  22. Entangled, Hope you got some good seeds.

    Nellie, It was nice meeting you too. See you next year? :0)

    Penny, I love that about branded seeds. You can usually find the same seeds packaged by the same company and for a little bit less.

  23. Blue_Hydrangea12:49 PM

    Burgon & Ball - looks like another version of Smith & Hawken. Is the latter gone for good?

    Yeah, I'm a rockstar in my own backyard. Neighborhood kids remark: "Oh look, it's the plant lady, again?" Sigh...a bad connatation like the bag or cat lady. Sooo sad.

  24. Blue_Hydrangea,

    I think it is pretty much gone for good. Although, I did spot some Smith & Hawken stuff in the holiday section of Target the other day.

    Glad you got the joke about being famous in my back yard. I mean that literally and not figuratively.

  25. yes branding is interesting, I am trying to chose a line of seeds for my garden centre next year.

  26. @ Sandra,

    I recommend either Renee's Garden, Botanical Interest or Baker Creek mentioned in this post. I've had good luck with their seeds and the seed selection is pretty interesting.

  27. Anonymous9:05 AM

    hank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I was just at your blog



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