The Artists in the Garden

Burpee 1919 Front Cover
Like seed packets, seed catalogs, too, have a long history of featuring highly detailed art. (Source: Burpee on

My mother, like my grandmother before her, kept over 100 postcards belonging to my grandfather and received prior to his entry in WWI. Last month–as mentioned here on Valentine’s Day, I became the keeper of this collection. It documents not only a few years in my grandfather’s life but also contemporary interest in photography and botanicals as a means of expressing emotional sentiment.

Thumbing through them of late, I’m reminded again that these small, often heavily decorated pieces of paper were tiny, accessible art works. And, looking around our own world today, it occurred to me that those postcards were the flimsy, analog precursors to iPads–wee, hand-held things through which we express ourselves and seek to connect through word and image.

Carrot Carnival Blend
Not only are the seed packet illustrations useful for identifying when a veg is ready for harvest, they can induce cravings, too. (Source: Botanical Interests on

Meditating along these lines I sat about to Andrew Keys‘ (@oakleafgreen) latest Radio Garden podcast (Episode 3: “A Thousand Words”) from late last week. For the ‘cast, Andrew interviewed three seed package illustrators, a group of artists who have as much in common with early 20th century postcard artists as contemporary medical illustrators and scientists. (They also all work for Botanical Interests, the top-notch seed company.) Their work is both meticulously detailed and highly accessible, utilitarian art and science for the common person.

I love that idea. And I love this particular podcast. If you’ve got some time–and a personal or professional interest in the intersection of art, science and the Information Age, then do yourself a favor and go have a listen.

Explore More:
Botanical Interests
Botanical Illustration: A Brief History from the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists

• Ever wonder how seeds get in the packet? Jodi Torpey explains all over at


Gardening Tip o’ The Week:
The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a terrific resource for understanding average weather conditions in your area. For instance, if you’re planning to start seeds for spring, you can use the Almanac’s Best Planting Dates information to decide when to begin them either indoor or in the ground. (Missed the ideal date for a particular type of plant? You can still try them or simply opt for starts.)

This being the Information Age and all, the Almanac is on Facebook now as well as Twitter.

Red, White & Grew promotes the victory garden revival and other simple, earth-friendly endeavors as bi-partisan acts in an age of uncertainty. Interact with us on Twitter and Facebook.