The Pleasure of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Catalog

The sun is shining, my front beds are cleaned out and I have settled down with a nice, new seed catalog that has just come in the mail — the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog.   It is a delightful pleasure.

I have written a few times about seed catalogs, be it the paper they use to the times they are mailed. Few people realize what complicated things catalogs are.

In many respects , catalogs are like magazines. The intent is similar in that the maker of the catalog has collected a large amount of information and needs to keep the reader interested enough to keep turning the pages and also create a few items that spark enough attention that you stop and ponder it for a few minutes.

Catalogs do not have the benefit of advertising to support it though.   That is because the catalog is the advertisement. Which can be hard. How do you keep a reader interested when all you are trying to do is sell them things?

Catalogs have figured this out a long time ago, but for the benefit oh you readers who have not been through Direct Marketing 101, I am going to phase over to TV to get my point across because the concept is easier to understand there as it is more blatant.

Most TV media is entertainment (even if you are watching PBS or Discover, it is ultimately entertainment. Admit it, you could have picked up a book) supported by advertising. There is a clear line (although TV commercials are getting almost more entertaining than the TV itself, but I digress). But there is television that is not entertainment.

Yeah, I see you out there Mr. and Mrs. Smarty Pants. You are thinking to yourself you know what that is.   It is the SnuggieSlap ChopOxiCleanShamwow type TV that I am talking about. And in a way, you are right.   This is very blatant extended advertising. But the very best advertising is so good, you are only vaguely  aware it is advertising. How many of you watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition?  Watch carefully the next time you see it, because the only difference between the ShamWow guy and Ty Pennington is that I know Ty Pennington’s name. It is certainly not that one is less annoying than the other.

Didn’t know that Extreme Makeover Home Edition was an infomercial? Yeah, I am sure Sears does all of that for free. Yes, it is an infomercial — but it is funny (if you are halfway into a 6-pack), it tugs at the heart strings and, hey, who doesn’t love to see desperate people exploited for money? Oh, don’t look guilty.   Face it, it is a car accident with a happy ending and a generous Ford representative standing by.   We like that.

So let’s apply what we know to catalogs. Your Park Seed and Gurney’s catalogs are your ShamWow guy. Cheap paper, flat images — but, wait there’s more — buy 2 plants today and you will get a 3rd for only $9.99. There is a need for these catalogs, but they are what they are.

But then you have the seed catalogs that transcend their catalog nature and manage to sell while still being a true pleasure (and *bonus* avoid involving Ty Pennington levels of annoyance). Your Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog is rich paper, stunning plant photography, amusing or wise gardening quotes and fact and filled with botanical rarities that would make any gardener drool.

And so, after enjoying the sun and soil, I can sit down with a glass of wine and enjoy savoring the pages of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog.

14 thoughts on “The Pleasure of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Catalog
  1. I just became acquainted with the Baker’s Seed Catalog this year and I have to say you are absolutely right- it is at least the Marie Claire of seed catalogs if not the Vogue (altho that distinction may belong to The cook’s garden). It is beautifully done and a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing this!

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  2. i always love the “subtle” placement of the Coke or Pepsi can…and the “fish are friends, not food” statements that we get from movies like “finding nemo.” i will have to look into the heirloom seed catty as i put a note in my 2010 calender last year, after you talked about the Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatos you talked about last year, i think my girlfriend will love them. Thanks!

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  3. Jenny on

    Yes, Baker Creek’s catalog contains a wealth of info, but I’d rather they put more of it on the actual seed packets.

    Unless Baker Creek has changed their seed packets in the two years since I bought their seeds, the only data on the seed envelope is Plant Name and Variety.

    Sad to say, I’m getting old. I can’t remember planting specifics for every type, especially for the more unusual or older heritage type I have no experience with, and rely on the seed packages at planting time to remind me of planting depth, spacing, harvest times, etc.

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  4. Melissa on

    Thanks for sharing this! I will have to check out the Baker Creek Heirlooms Seed Catalog. I love my Seed Savers catalog but would love to have a few catalogs to leaf through–they are truly my “magazine” of choice!

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  5. Kristina on

    I have also had the pleasure of getting my first Baker Creek Catalog after stumbling upon them while internet browsing for seeds last year. The timing of this catalog was perfect, and I studied it for weeks while making my order list. Wonderfully enough, Baker Creek opened its new site in California just an hour from my home. I had the pleasure of seeing how they set up their seed sales in an old beautiful bank building. Good thing I took the time to study the catalog! I could see how many people could become completely overwhelmed walking in there not knowing what they want… There are so many options! My order had already arrived, but I still purchased a couple more packets. I do agree with the other responder, having the variety info on the packet would be helpful (just means I have to keep that garden journal going); but their packaging is so beautiful as it is! Love them!

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  6. I have to agree with their catalog being such eye candy. I look forward to getting it every year. In our house we like to call it “Seed P*rn” as we “ooooo” and “ahhhh” over it.

    Jenny, just a quick message, some of their packets do indeed contain the needed info now. Their newer varieties don’t yet though.

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  7. Hi Hannah,

    I enjoyed your article. You definitely have to be discerning in taste on your catalog reading material. I enjoy and recommend another called “The Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds” by J.L.Hudson. Its not super glossy at all. No photographs, but the odd drawing here and there. It makes for fascinating reading and drives home the point that seeds are remarkable and precious.

    Love your blog, Michaela the Urban Dirt Girl

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  8. My Baker Creek seeds arrived today, only about a week after I ordered, which makes me enjoy their catalog even more! The seed packets are more descriptive than just name and variety, so maybe they have changed their packets recently.

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  9. “… the only difference between the ShamWow guy and Ty Pennington is that I know Ty Pennington’s name. It is certainly not that one is less annoying than the other.”

    I lol’d.

    Glad you’re back.

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  10. Hello, I wandered in willing the weather to change this cold and blustery Utah morning. Thank you for the Baker Creek Heirloom link!

    -Jay

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  11. I, too, received my first Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog (actually my first seed catalog ever) this year. The catalog arrived after I had bought seeds from their online store already.

    It’s definitely a very enticing catalog, but I do agree with Jenny about having more details in it, but for the benefit of newbie gardeners like myself! Great blog, by the way!

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  12. I’m a huge fan of Baker Creek – they have more interesting varieties than Burpee or Gurney’s and much better prices than Seeds of Change. And it’s true, that catalog is beautiful!
    Nice blog – great info for a fellow Ohio gardener!

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  13. Apparently the Park Seed peeps aren’t so brilliant–they’ve filed for bankruptcy this year (Jackson and Perkins is also part of their huge company).
    Maybe Baker has the garden porn leg up on the competition after all!

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  14. Bippy on

    The Baker Creek Heirloom catalog is indeed amazing, delicious, and I got a dozen guys who live in apartments to ooh and ahhh over the melons- the blue hubbard is DAMN impressive.

    I have to say that when I get a yard, I’m probably going to get the southern seeds mega jar and order a few things I Really Do Want to fill in the gaps, because otherwise I will spend More Than Hubs Will Be Pleased With on seeds.

    Having to hide how much you spend on seeds from the ones you love is a sure sign of addiction. 😀

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