March 16, 2012
People often ask me what makes a plant an heirloom. Good question. The answer is it depends on who you ask. A good general definition is a plant that was commonly grown in earlier periods of human history, has never been grown on a large agricultural scale and has been around for at least 60 years. Many will also say plants must be open pollinated to qualify.
All this aside, what I really want to talk about today is the Heirloom Plant Database at yourgardenshow.com. If you want to include more heirlooms, or new, interesting heirlooms, in your garden the database is a great place to get ideas. They have wonderful fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers from around the world and from right here at home. And as a plus, many of the heirlooms are great for the edible/ornamental garden like the Moonshadow Hyacinth Bean which has a wonderful purple pod.
If you are looking for places to buy heirloom seeds I recommend Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seeds Trust. There is a plethora of information on the Seeds Trust web site including good information about heirloom, open pollinated and hybrid seeds. (Go to their home page and click Know Thy Seeds then Definitions.)
As for Baker Creek, their web site is good but their free catalog, which can be ordered on the web site, is better than a $30 gardening book you would buy at a store. It is packed with information on the history and care of the plants they sell and interesting quotes from gardeners throughout history.