succumbing to the ‘hudson valley seed library’

seed-library-packetsO K, SO I FALTERED; I BOUGHT MORE SEEDS. I am weak, but with a good excuse: The new-to-me Hudson Valley Seed Library had a display at the event I spoke at last weekend, and they have the most charming seed packets I have ever seen. So that’s my explanation: The artwork made me do it. Well, and so did the fact that they sold some things I haven’t grown in years that got me all sentimental. The damage report: Three packets, and a reminder to save my own seeds.

Hudson Valley Seed Library’s motto is “Heirloom Seeds With Local Roots,” and they specialize in heirloom seed “rooted in the history and soils of the Northeast.” The co-founders’ goal for their first-year business is to grow all their seed locally by 2014, much of it on their land in Accord, NY. Ken Greene and Doug Muller want to rekindle the knowledge and spirit of seed-saving at a local level, “to close the loop from seed to seed that is necessary for a truly local sustainable local food system,” they say.

I think it’s a great reminder for all of us, wherever we live, especially right now: We can save some of our seeds from year to year, and also share it. Fostering this kind of consciousness and engagement is what the Seed Library is excited about.

Anyone anywhere can order from their web-based catalog, and there’s a way to get more involved: Join the Seed Library, for $20 a year, which includes 10 packs of seeds (plain wrappers, not the fancy ones above), and also the chance to save and return seed for a credit toward next year’s membership. Sort of a cooperative based on a give-back-a-pack, get-back-a-pack arrangement; more details on their site. (And at this writing, there’s a Mother’s Day sale on, as if the price of membership wasn’t sweet enough already.)

Of course, I was taken that some of the seed even have local provenances, like ‘New Yorker’ tomato and ‘Catskill’ Brussels sprouts, and ‘Black Valentine’ bush bean, a New York State heirloom. (They’d all work just as well in gardens elsewhere.)

To complete the locally crafted seed story of The Hudson Valley Seed Library, Ken and Doug invited area artists to each design those lovely packets. Each “art pack,” $3.50, or the whole series of 13 at $37.50, would make a great gift for any gardener, as would a Seed Library membership.

Since I had already confessed my “entire” seed order months ago, before I met Hudson Valley Seed Library, consider this my addendum, a P.S. to the previous confessional. Last weekend I also bought:

  • ‘Black Valentine’ bush bean: A New York State heirloom whose crispy green pods hold up well to freezing, and whose dried black seeds (lest one forget to pick frequently enough) are good eating, too, cooked up as soup or refrieds.
  • ‘Dinosaur,’ or ‘Lacinato’ kale (Ken and Doug call it simply Dino, and they call their dog—whose favorite snack food this is—Kale). It’s not frilly like most kales, but linear-leaved, very dark green and super-frost hardy.
  • ‘Rat’s Tail Podding Radish’ (Raphanus caudatus), is an oddball aerial radish (as opposed to the more typical root type). A bushy plant covered with lavender-purple flowers, followed by pods that seem to jut up from the branches. Used for pickling or fresh eating, to add zest to salads or cooked in stir-fries.

Did you really expect me to resist that illustration of that big fat rat eyeing the radish plant?

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  1. boodely says:

    I understand – I got their mother’s day sale email and had to do some deep breathing and sit on my hands while visualizing the seeds I already have.

  2. Janice says:

    I’m a sucker for packaging, so I’d be right there with you. I also get drawn in by the lure of heirloom local seeds. We live in an area of town which used to be farmland at the turn of the century, and every once in a while local seed companies turn up something really neat that was thought to be lost — how can one resist when they come available?! Im really curious to see what the radishes look like.

  3. MulchMaid says:

    I’d buy the seeds for the art – I confess to buying wine that way, too. And wine labels are about the same size as seed packets. Both are miniature canvasses that can enhance our enjoyment of the contents. I love bonus packaging!

  4. Katie says:

    The seed packets really are beautiful. It was all I could do not to buy all of them.

    Wouldn’t they make a lovely gift?

  5. Tammy says:

    Margaret, I think you did very well to buy only 3. I would not have had such restraint. Thanks for sharing these beautiful seed packets.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Heidi. I couldn’t do justice with the photo, either: the packets are so clever and I am stifling my urge to get a full set to frame for over my potting bench in the barn. Thanks for your visit, and see you soon.

  6. Donna Baker says:

    Hi Margaret, I love those seed packets. Very original. After planting my vegetable garden last week, we have had days on end of rain, 8″ and standing water in my garden. I may have to buy seeds and replant all over again. Also, (this is just the way my brain works), Texas A&M has a research center for real estate. They said in the latest issue of their magazine, that farm land is the best investment in real estate. A tip for those of us gardeners so inclined.

  7. Fred from Loudonville, NY says:

    Margaret YOU temptress. I think that every photo you show, or comment you make, makes people want to RUN out and get something. I attended your lecture at the Tamarac School, and was inspired by your talk about your old lilac bush, and how you contemplated it’s fate. You decided to keep it’s 100 year old sculptural branches, versus chopping it down. When I got home, I had to now study mine, and edited the suckers that grew under it. Then came your hellebore spot. I who thought, I had planted enough plants in my four thousand square feet of beds and borders, went out, and a collection of those plants appeared, under the lilac bushes, thanks to Ward’s and WIndy Hill. So Margaret, it looks like none of us are really able to pass up on some aspect of beauty. Hope your seeds make your “landscape” beautiful, I love my new hellebore babies. I hope you show plants that I already have so my wallet will be a little fatter! Thanks a lot!

  8. Leslie says:

    I note to you all especially Rosella. I first met Dino Kale at Lee Link’s beautiful and impressive garden. There were several given prominent positions in the flower border. It is a great architectural plant! I tried it at home with some red and green mustard to keep the kale company and have repeated it for several years.

  9. Willi says:

    Oh dear. I sense another seed order coming on. Those packets are impossible to resist. Maybe I’ll “give” some to my mom on the condition that she send me the packets when she’s done.

  10. elizabeth says:

    eeeee! the rat tailed radish image i recognize as my favorite potter. a seed packet is good alternative to “yet another teapot” as my husband would put it. he might also say “yet another seed packet” though, too.

  11. Anne says:

    You’re not the only one they got. After your inspirational keynote I went to their seed saving workshop. Between their great mission and the fabulous artwork you can’t help but buy. Rat tail radishes were planted this weekend.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Anne. Glad I’m not the only weakling. :) Thanks for the nice words about the keynote lecture, and for your own confessional on Seed Library. See you soon again.

  12. ann says:

    Thanks for introducing these to me. They actually have a few seeds I’ve been looking for, but loathe to buy from Burpee, etc. I just wish they were available at a store nearby… I’m all about instant gratification!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Ann. I don’t buy from *that catalog* either. As for instant gratification, don’t think I can help you (but I will say they are worth waiting for). See you soon again.

  13. ken says:

    Margaret, thanks for your posting. Humorous, informative, and sweet as usual. And thank you all for your enthusiastic responses and seed orders! Creating our seed packs was a year long process and your comments make it all worth it. As long as we can afford it we will be commissioning more artwork for next year’s packs but right now we’re all about farming. The peas are climbing, lettuce unfurling, chervil frilling, radishes peaking and my dog, Kale, who’s featured on a pack, is waiting for his favorite snack, Dinokale, to leaf out. Stay seedy!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Ken; glad to have you join us, and I do hope that we can get seed-saving how-to when the time comes later in the year from you and become experts ourselves. I will confess that I tend to do it casually, to say the least. :) Like leaving a pumpkin on the counter till it’s next spring and time to replant, or smearing the insides of a tomato on some paper towel. I look forward to more knowledge…now get out there and *farm* with a vengeance and we will catch you at the other end of the cycle.

  14. meemsnyc says:

    I’ve been wanting to join their membership, I’ve been to Accord NY and it’s lovely there. With there rural landscapes. I’ll have to remember to join this spring!

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