I noticed today that for the past three years Burpee seeds I find at garden centers and nurseries end up being blogged about. So, I guess this is the 4th Annual Burpee Seeds post, which probably makes this more of a Burpee Seed Watch by now. In last year’s Burpee Seeds at Home Depot post I pointed out how the Cypress Vine labeled Burpee seeds were what most people call Cardinal Climber. I’ve never grown Cardinal Climber, but I have grown Cypress Vine and it is my absolute favorite climbing vine to grow in the garden. The first time I saw what I know to be Cypress Vine labeled as Cardinal Climber by Burpee I thought it had to be an error, then I thought; “Who am I to question a seed giant like Burpee?” But then I came across these two seed packets at Menards and I was again left scratching my head.
I purchased these two packets of Burpee seeds at Menards. The one on the right is packaged as an heirloom and the one on the left is just a regular packet. They're both the same weight and price and seem to use the same photograph. The "heirloom" packet lists Cypress Vine and Cardinal Climber as the common name. I know that common names vary from region to region and from person to person. A Google search for "Cypress Vine" will result in page after pages of results discussing (or picturing) the Cypress Vine I grow. Similarly, a search of Ipomoea quamoclit, the botanical name listed on the heirloom package, will return results for Cypress Vine. Do a search for Cardinal Climber or Ipomoea stoleri or Ipomoea x multifida and you’ll get results for Cardinal Climber, the plant pictured on these two seed packs. Park Seeds sells the vine pictured in these two seed packets as Cardinal Climber Ipomoea x multifida. So, what is up with the Cypress Vine sold by Burpee? Was there a name change that I haven’t been able to find or is this an error on Burpee’s part? I don’t think an error like this would’ve gone unnoticed by gardeners who are sticklers for properly identified plants. To most gardeners this probably doesn’t matter but I’m a seed nerd who likes to know what he’s buying and things like this keep me up at night.
Most of my seed purchases are done in local big box garden centers and nurseries since they’re what are conveniently available. Being far more familiar with Home Depot, Menards, WalMart, Kmart and Lowe’s than I usually care to admit, I know there are differences in prices for just about everything. The same can be said for seed packets and if you look, you can save yourself a few cents.
Here are two Burpee seeds packets, both for Cosmos Seashells Mix. The seed packet on the right was purchased at Menards where all the seeds were on sale. After the “sale” price was taken into account it came out to $1.07 before taxes. The seed package on the left came from Walmart’s garden center and retailed for $1.00 before taxes. What makes the Cosmos seed packet from Menards more expensive? The bilingual labeling? The pricing was the same at Kmart with Walmart beating both retailers even taken into consideration their "sales." It isn’t just the pricing; the size of the selection varies at these garden centers and nurseries. Kmart’s Burpee seed display is downright pitiful. Home Depot didn’t have their Burpee display out but it is usually a small island. The selection seemed to be larger at Walmart with Menards coming in a second.
When I discovered I had an interest in gardening the first seed company I became aware of was Burpee. I’m not sure if I made the connection myself or if it was as a result of knowing older gardeners at the time who were from generations of Burpee seed buyers. I came into gardening wanting to be a Burpee costumer. The first seed catalog I ever requested, 12 years ago now, was a Burpee seed catalog. Over the years I’ve requested one off and on. The odd thing is that the darn seed catalog never comes. I don’t know if I have mailman stealing my seed catalogs or if I’m on the seed catalog equivalent of a “No-Fly” list. In January one Email led to another and I ended up exchanging Emails with Kristin Grilli, who is in charge of public relations at Burpee. She couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating, even offering me the opportunity to speak with George Ball, Chairman of Burpee. In the same Email she informed me that she was going to have a Burpee and Cook’s Garden seed catalog sent out to me and that I would have it by the next week. I know I’m late for the Golden Age of Burpee’s seed catalog, but I wouldn’t be honest if my heart didn’t flutter at the thought of holding a seed catalog that I’ve longed for since I was in my late teens & early twenties.
I didn’t take Ms. Grilli up on her offer to interview Mr. Ball because wanted to look through the catalog and do some research first. Every day since that Email I’ve walked out to the mailbox like an old spinster thinking this would be the day a letter from the one that got away would arrive. I even checked the mailbox on Sundays because you never know with Chicago mailmen. It has now been over a month and no sign of the Burpee seed catalog, I’ve waiting 12 years I’m not sure how much more of this I can take. I’m now convinced that I’m on some kind of list for bad gardeners.
Seed Starting Tips.
Read these previous posts if you're looking for seed starting information and tips.
Seed starting in plastic soda bottles
Seed starting in plastic baggies
Seed starter pots from news paper
Home made seed pots
Paper tube seed pot holders
The morning after I published this post I received a call from Ms Grilli who was calling me to make sure she had my address correct because she was going to overnight me the catalogs that hadn't arrived. Thanks for going through the trouble Ms. Grilli, like I said it wasn't necessary, but I do appreciate it.
Here is what came this morning. The Burpee seed catalog, which is more awesome & wet than I could imagine thanks to lazy postal workers, the Cook's Garden seed catalog, a nice catalog with an interesting selection of fruits, veggies and herbs. Finally, The Heronswood catalog which seemed to escape the water/snow damage caused by the mailman throwing the package onto the snowy stairs. On the cover of the Heronswood catalog is a black hellebore ('Onyx Odyssey') that is out of this world. I've been on the Heronswood site before but haven't really paid it much attention, but looking through the catalog I can see I'm going to have to change that. I can't stop drooling over the Heronswood catalog while I wait for the other two to dry out.
In the comment of the post Nathan gave his theory as to why the seeds with the Walmart label (above) were less expensive than the ones bought at Menards.
He got me curious so I opened the packets of seeds to compare them. Do you see a difference in the quality of the seeds?