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Have you ever taken a peek behind the scenes? If you have, you know it reveals so much that you never knew. In the past, I’ve had a look of what goes on in the background in a variety of places including a Kentucky bourbon factory, the Lawry Spice Company, the Wheel of Fortune game show, local television news programs, U.S. Mint, to name a few.

Well, now I can add a visit to a seed company – ‘Botanical Interests’ to be precise.

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Botanical Interests is most recognized for the beautiful drawings of plants on individual seed packets. But, they are so much more than that.

AZ-Plant-Lady

AZ Plant Lady (me) and friend/fellow blogger, Teresa Odle of “Gardening in a Drought.”

Last month, I toured gardens in the greater Denver area where Botanical Interests also is. We had the unique opportunity to visit their facility and learn all that goes into getting high-quality seeds into hands of gardeners throughout the U.S.

The first floor consists of a large warehouse with floor to ceiling shelves filled with the 600 different varieties of seed. The seed they carry include heirlooms, organics, and open-pollinated flowers, and vegetables.

Imagine a seed warehouse filled with 80 garden bloggers, and you have a pretty good idea of our vision of heaven! I admit it was hard to keep up with the tour as I wanted to read each package of seed we passed by.

Our tour was led by the owner of Botanical Interests herself, Judy Seaborn. She is warm, funny, and passionate. I am so impressed with her attention to detail. From the artistic seed packets to how the seeds are packaged as ‘gifts.’

Here are what the seeds are kept in before they are put into individual packets. Seeds like to be kept in a cold, dry area. Not surprisingly, Denver is the perfect location for a seed company.

Seed quality is essential as you want it all to be viable. Unlike many seed companies who have their seed tested by outside companies, Botanical Interests do their own testing to ensure that the seed is up to their high standards.

Can you guess what this is? It is a special machine from Germany with a micro-doser and seed counter. It makes sure that the exact amount of seeds make it into each packet.

Here is a little known fact – many seed companies have a ‘vault’ where they keep expensive seed to keep it at its peak.

Judy tells the story of when a delivery of seed came in via FedEx. The driver didn’t understand why the owner of the company had to sign for the delivery. That was until she told him the small bag of rare tomato seed was worth $10,000.

I love pretty things, which is why I enjoy the beautiful (realistic) artwork that adorns each packet of seeds.

Upstairs is an entire art department made up of several artists who are responsible for the drawings on each packet.

I have a confession to make – I wish that I could create drawings like this. My siblings and I are artistic, but display it in different forms. My sister is good at watercolors, my youngest sister is a sought-after professional photographer, and I show my creative talent in designing gardens.

Our tour wrapped up too quickly, but we each carried a gift of seeds to take home to our gardens.

I buy seed from Botanical Interests and have done so for years. I encourage you to do so as well as you will have a garden full of beautiful plants.

You can order a free catalog from them to see all that they have to offer.

 

 

 

One of the many blessings of living in the desert Southwest is the ability to grow vegetables out in the garden all year long. Today, I thought that I would give you a peek into my winter vegetable garden.

Over the past couple years, my vegetable garden had become slightly messy with a mixture of herbs, vegetables, and flowers growing in disorganized masses. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a perfectionist – far from it. But, I realized that I am more likely to maintain and harvest my vegetables when they are neatly laid out in rows. 

So in August, I ripped out everything from the garden except for a new Spanish lavender plant.

Once September arrived, my husband helped me to replace a few of the wood sides that had gradually rotted. I was happy to note that they had lasted over five years.

We then amended the soil with 2 parts of mushroom compost and 1 part aged steer manure. This was my first time using mushroom compost. I wish I could say that it was because I had read about how good it was, but the truth is that the store was out of my favorite brand of compost, and mushroom was what was available. So, we used it.

Blood and bone meal were then sprinkled to provide organic sources of nitrogen and phosphorus.

A new irrigation system was installed in the form of micro-soaker hoses. We bought a kit from our local big box store, which was easy to install. 

Now for the fun part, sowing seeds!

The folks at Botanical Interests provided me with seeds, free of charge, to try out in my garden. I’ve used their seed for years, and they have a large selection of flowers, herbs, and vegetable seed that is of the highest quality.

My favorite cool-season crops are leaf lettuce and kale. I’ve had great luck growing kale, with the same plants lasting for over two winter seasons.

The earliest crop that I’ve harvested were bush beans that I planted in September from seed. Botanical Interests suggested I grow ‘Jade’ and ‘Royal Burgundy’ varieties. Both were delicious, and I discovered that the purple color fades when roasted.

The mild winter has my basil thriving. A client gave me this unique variety of basil called, Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil. It is an heirloom variety, and it is growing beautifully.

Three-inch little heads of cauliflower are just beginning to form. For some reason, I don’t have much luck growing broccoli, but I do grow a mean cauliflower.

While I did reduce the number of flowers in the vegetable garden, I grew a brand-new variety of marigold from seed called ‘Moonsong Marigold Deep Orange.’

My strawberry plants are beginning to flower and produce tiny fruits.

My avoidance of bagged salad greens is still in place as the garden is still producing plenty of leafy greens.

Finally, a peek into the future, with carrots growing vigorously. 

Do you grow vegetables? I highly recommend it. Even with the busyness of life and the stresses that it brings, it just melts away as I take a few minutes to walk through the garden observing new growth, some welcome surprises, and most importantly, the delicious flavors that it adds to our favorite dishes.

Disclosure: I was provided seed from the folks at Botanical Interests free of charge for my use and honest opinion.