Amana from heaven: Emma Townshend reveals her favourites from the spring seed catalogues

 

So my aunty was on Facebook last night going on about how Sarah Raven had sucked her in and taken all her money again. OK, you think this might be an exaggeration. But what she actually said was, "Oh Sarah Raven, how you tempt me with your plant porn. In goes a big seed'n'bulb order. Yes." (As a fully paid-up and practising member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, she – Ms Judy Astley – can get away with this kind of saucy stuff.)

It is the time of year to ponder the gardening catalogues, and all of them are basically after our money, though most of them are distinctly less lush than Sarah Raven's. But each tempting tome has its own special qualities: Thompson & Morgan is the first I open and heavens above, here's news to be toasted! T&M has finally bred something that looks remarkably like the celebrated "Patty's Plum", a soft-skirted, dreamily perfect pink poppy you could formerly buy only as an eyebrow-raisingly pricey plant, because it didn't come true from seed.

"Plum Pudding", the T&M novelty, comes with a "How We Did It" story that details the eight or so years of interim plant-breeding – and, science aside, the result is pretty enough to make the cover of the catalogue with those very desirable frilled tutu edges and a detailed purple centre. Forty seeds come in at £1.99 – or order 12 spring plugs for a tenner (thompson-morgan.com).

Suttons, on the other hand, has gone for a rather elegant Victoriana feel to its 2014 catalogue, in a deep encaustic blue with black and gold trim that looks as smart as it sounds. Though it's not all old-fashioned: if you hate to fill the house with paper, Suttons has a completely online version that can be browsed on screen, working particularly well with computer tablets. The highlight for me is a double-page spread of historic varieties, with images of the seed packets of yore; 1925's pin-up "Miss Jekyll" is good value even today, at 750 seeds for £1.99 (suttons.co.uk), and this Nigella damascena will give good rewards even to incompetent gardeners, managing to flower in blue, spiky elegance even when simply scattered on bare earth.

Elsewhere, Dobies of Devon's 2014 list suggests it's more than happy to continue to aim for the "Morrisons supermarket" niche among seed-growers, promising good quality at significantly lower prices than everyone else. It sells a thoroughly cottage-y set of flowers such as Larkspur and Canterbury Bells – there's a Larkspur "Paignton Rock" in a splashy Barbie pink which is properly tempting. Sown early in March, these should flower come summer (400 seeds for £2.55). Also among its selection is a swift Sweet William, "Scalliwag", which can also bloom the first year it's grown if you start early (£2.05 for 500 seeds, dobies.co.uk).

And finally it's back to Sarah Raven, whose narrow and highly considered selection often seems easier to pick from than the proliferating pages of the more conventional seed catalogues. (Less is more, I guess, on occasion.) From Raven's spring picks, I'm going for Fritillaria hermonis "Amana". Most gardeners will have met the snakeshead fritillary, but the other equally beautiful, muted members of this family have similar appeal, spinning seductive variations on the same burgundy and leaf green coloration. She's selling five bulbs of "Amana" for £6.95, (sarahraven.com). It's tasteful, it's muted, it's utterly irresistible. Sarah Raven, I'm sold. Take my money now!

Four more spring delights to look out for

Suttons Forget- Me-Not Royal Blue

This 1920s forget-me-not has all the cheeky appeal of a Great Gatsby flapper. 400 seeds, £1.99, suttons.co.uk

Wallflower Sunset Red F1

A fantastic deep-velvet red to trumpet the spring return of the sun, with great perfume to match on still-cold days. 30 seeds, £1.79, dobies.co.uk

Ipomoea 'Grandpa Ott'

A Morning Glory as bluey-purple as a medieval prayer-book sky. Heirloom Bavarian seed sent by a small family business in Ireland. 75 seeds, £1.25, seedaholic.com

Gladiolus nanus 'Robinetta'

An absolutely tiny Gladioli, with gigantic crimson firepower, flowering May to July. 20 bulbs £5.95, sarahraven.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Mario Balotelli posed for this selfie during AC Milan's 5-1 defeat to Manchester City
sport
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Sport
sport
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

M&E Construction Planner Solihull

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

Senior Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

Chemistry Teacher

£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried