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Spring Has Sprung HOORAY!!!

And has gone straight on to summer, at least here in south eastern Pennsylvania. 84 fahrenheit degrees in April?!?! Crazy!!!

Maybe the warm weather has got you thinking about gardening, I know I am. I love looking at all the seed catalogs that show up in the mailbox. And at the racks of flower and veggie seeds at the garden center.

In the back of the Needlecraft Magazine from February 1921 there are two pages devoted to mail order seed and flower companies.


Out of the 22 ads, it seems that two of the companies still exist 96 years later!

One, the Dingee & Conard Co./Conard & Jones Co./Conard-Pyle of West Grove, PA was the developer of Conard Star Roses, the Peace rose and more recently the very popular line of Knock Out Roses. In 2015, they were acquired by Ball Horticultural Company and the division is now known as Star Roses and Plants.

Unless you are a bit of a garden geek or rose aficionado you probably are not familiar with Star Roses. However, the other company perhaps you have heard of. It has been a fixture in the Philadelphia area since 1878. Yes, we are talking about W. Atlee Burpee & Company.

Washington Atlee Burpee started in business selling mail order poultry but soon opened a store in Philadelphia and added feed corn and vegetable seeds to the inventory.

By 1888 the Burpee family had moved to Fordhook Farm in Doylestown, PA. There, they established gardens to trial new seed varieties and produce seed for the mail order business.

The farm is still there! It is still part of the Burpee Company! There are still seed trials going on! And there are beautiful display gardens as well!

I had the great good fortune to do a summer internship at Fordhook Farm several years ago. It was fun and a lot of hard work and I learned a lot!!! I was in charge of gathering data in the squash trial gardens. That included summer squash like zucchini, cucumbers, melons and winter squash like pumpkins.

Several times a week, I headed out to the field to record data on all of these varieties that were being considered for inclusion in the Burpee catalog. Starting with how long it took the seeds to germinate and get their first set of true leaves to number of flower buds and when the flowers opened, I spent hours taking notes!

Then there were the bugs and diseases. Which varieties were able to stand up best against these attacks? Finally the fun part, the fruit of all the labor. Recording the number and size of cucumbers, squash and melons and harvesting them for taste tests in the barn.

Other people were working in the other trial gardens testing everything from tomatoes to peppers to yard long beans to hundreds of different flower varieties. Never a dull moment!

Make the time to go visit! The farm is open to the public several times during the year as part of the Garden Conservancy Open Days program. Check the schedule here:

I hope all of this veggie talk has inspired you to give gardening a try, as this blog post was inspired by an ad in an almost 100 year old magazine. There are still printed catalogs making their way through snail mail, but isn’t it fun to shop on line? Check it out,

here is a squash that made the cut from trial garden to catalog star!

Here is an article from Happy DIY Home titled the Ultimate Guide to Growing Squash

If you feel like you need guidance to begin your garden adventure, a good place to check out is Margaret Roach’s site A Way to Garden. Here is everything you need to know about getting those seeds started!

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