Shopping like it's 1931

I ordered a special garden catalog a few weeks ago, one that would take me to a place and time I'd never been before - 1931.

You can turn to any page in this catalog,"Dreer's Garden Book 1931", and discover something that has long been forgotten and right next to it will be something quite familiar.

With seeds for flowers and vegetables, plus tools, books, plants, and fertilizers, Dreer's must have been some place back in the day.  And with 224 pages, Dreer's has ever right to call their catalog a book

I was delighted to see that my Dreer's book came with a blank order form complete with an application for a postal money order and an envelope.

I opened the catalog and started my shopping.

I was pleased to see that they offered 'Bountiful' green beans.
I've grown 'Bountiful' for several years and can recommend it to others.  

I noticed that they sell seeds for "white olive radish".
I didn't order any white radishes this year, but now I want some.

I did a brief Internet search for "orchid-flowering sweet peas" after seeing these in Dreer's.
I didn't find any online, but that's okay because I already have five or six packets of sweet pea flowers for my garden this year. That's plenty for my little surburban paradise.   But if I found some sweet peas that were called "orchid-flowered", I would be tempted to get more.

I was impressed that they offered four varieties of Mignonette (Reseda odorata).
In case you can't read the description, Dreer's notes that "no garden is complete without a bed of Mignonette".   How is is that until this winter I had never heard of Mignonette?   

Dreer's even included a picture of Mignonette, even though it is grown more for fragrance than looks.
Please let me know if you ever find seeds for Red Goliath Mignonette, pictured here. I have found seeds for 'Machet' and ordered enough for me to try it in my garden, plus a few extra packets that I've given away to other gardeners who have agreed to grow it this year and report back to me about how it did.  But I haven't found any seeds for 'Red Goliath'

Goodness, they had a whole page listing books on "Horticultural and Kindred Subjects".
Thanks to the Internet and people who sell used gardening books in good condition, three of the books listed by Dreer's are on their way to me now.

Tools? Yes, Dreer's has all kinds of interesting tools for sale including this assortment of hoes.
I don't think I have any in my hoe collection that are like no. 1 and no. 4. I need to keep an eye out for them "wherever old hoes are sold".

There's much more to explore in Dreer's and the companion catalog "Dreer's Midsummer List".

I am just getting started on their perennial section.

Dreer's wrote, "The growing popularity of the Old-Fashioned Hardy Garden Flowers, the inhabitants of the perennial garden, is not at all surprising when we consider the many varied and pleasant changes which take place throughout the entire growing season in a well-arranged hardy border, in which every week - yes, every day - brings forth something fresh and new to interest and delight even the most critical."

Perfect. Isn't that what a garden, and a gardener's life, is all about? Daily, we find "something fresh and new to interest and delight even the most critical".

Many thanks to all those gardeners who shared "something new to interest and delight" in their gardens in February for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  I hope that your gardens continue to delight you and that you continue to share them with others often, online and in person.


  1. Have you tried searching for the varieties listed under Orchid-Flowered sweet peas? It seems to me the Orchid moniker refers to a type, and we might not call them by that type anymore, even though the varieties themselves might still be sold.

  2. That number 4 hoe looks like one Alan Titchmarch used in one of the old videos I've been using to while away the dark evenings. You are doing a good job at saving old gardening books!

  3. There's still wisdom in those old books and catalogs! When you see varieties not easily found, you can totally understand why people are trying to save heirlooms.

  4. The old garden books are amongst my favourites. Enjoyed your visit to 1931.

  5. I think I have a number 4.....

  6. Well that is certainly not a dreary catalog. Who knew there were actual cultivated varieties of mignonette. You are time traveling...a good thing to do in February.

  7. Well, considering that 1931 was only a few years after the Great Depression, I find it somehow apt that this catalogue appeals to us in 2013...

    Still, the thirties was a glamorous decade, and I think that also applied to many of the great gardens of the time. But we can be glamorous too, right? Sort of, as we are ankles-deep in mud, pulling weeds out of the borders ourselves, rather than letting our team of gardeners do it...

  8. Sounds like you have a good start on a gardening museum. There's a gardening museum in London, so I nominate you to be in charge state side. Is there a second?

  9. There is a small (and growing) museum of garden tools at the wonderful Reford Gardens in Metis, Quebec. I took a photo when I was there last summer but can't find it now -- cataloguing photos isn't my strong suit! Anyway, it takes forever to get to Metis, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, about four hours drive from Quebec Ctiy, but the gardens and the garden festival there make the journey well worth the time and effot.

  10. What a wonderful find! Where did you get it? Did you know about it beforehand or just happen on it? I love the writing in these older sources. Often there is a lot more personality in them. The same is true for older cook books. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  11. I love those old fashioned catalogs.

  12. I am embarrassed to write that until now I've never heard of Dreer's. So glad you introduced me to it. What a wonderful post Carol. Shopping like it's 1931. ~~Dee


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