I have to confess to having been on a bit of a 'go-slow' in the Veg Patch this last week. The weather has not been so conducive to being outside (chill winds, drizzle and cold evenings) and this, combined with a painful shoulder (caused by 3 ribs out of alignment and bad posture at the computer, according to my osteopath friend), has led to me getting a bit behind. The next stage involves lugging bags of compost over to fill another raised bed and digging a trench in heavy soil before planting out my peas. This because, according to a little book I own, peas do extremely well if planted into a trench lined with rabbit/guinea pig straw and their droppings. (What have I got to lose?)
However, it's not all gloom - in the days before it rained, I spotted a tiny package which had been left among the empty flowerpots. Tucked into a biscuit wrapper from 2004 (love the repurposing!), over a dozen packets of (vintage) flower seeds.
I had to smile when I saw what it was as I'd been reading several blog accounts of seed packets being left unopened and unsowed beyond the sell-by date. It would appear that the anonymous donor of my seeds had an unproductive year in 1984, although there is also a packet of Suttons Calendula from 1973 and Cornflowers from 1979!
The Suttons and Fothergill's packets are no different to the ones found in garden centres today, although I suspect the wording may have changed - here it's delightfully old-fashioned: "This accommodating plant will flourish in the poorest soils, but does appreciate a sunny spot" is the charming advice for Calendula.
I have Nasturtium and Candytuft from Hurst Garden Pride ('A Riot of Bloom at Little Cost'), a firm which established in Essex in 1894 but had disappeared by 1999. They held the royal warrant as seedsmen to H.M. the Queen and donations from seed sales went to The London Children's Flower Society.
For pure nostalgia, though, how about the Cottage Garden mix above and Night-Scented Stock, below, from Cuthbert? The drawings evoke the kind of seed marketing used from 1930s until replaced by photos in the swinging sixties. (These days, though, as Carly Simon would sing: "Coming around again…") Cuthbert have this to say of the seeds below: 'No garden is complete without a patch of Night Scented Stock. It is a universal favourite.' Slightly bossy, but how to resist?
Cuthbert is another company now sadly lost to the nation after 200 years of trading. James Cuthbert walked (as legend would have it) from Scotland to London in 1797, seeking his fortune and settling in Southgate - then just a village outside London, now the site of Southgate tube station. If the logo seems familiar, it's because Cuthbert seeds were sold exclusively on the high-street through branches of Woolworths since 1937, back then costing tuppence a packet. I like to think that some of the original York Rise gardeners might have used this brand - in fact, it's highly likely as there used to be a Woollies nearby in Kentish Town. (Now, as with so many shops, a supermarket.)
So, the question remains - will the seeds still germinate after 35 years? Heartened by news of a 2,000 year old palm tree seed germinating in Israel, I'm prepared to give it a go!