Catalogs: Read Between the Lines | Almanac.com

Catalogs: Read Between the Lines

Photo Credit
Robin Sweetser
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Between the cold weather and the football games on television, I have had lots of time to pore over the seed catalogs.

Many offer special enticements if you order early but we are still working to finalize our orders.

Some of the catalogs we receive should win awards for fiction; the glowing descriptions can not possibly be true. Do watermelons really grow on trees?


The artwork also borders on fantasy, depicting plants that are far removed from reality. Read closely and you'll find that the plant shown as an immense cluster of blooms actually has flowers that are only 3/8 of an inch across. These little blossoms have been gathered up into one big bunch for effect. Often the photos are take so close-up, with nothing to relate the size to, it is easy to think the vegetables or flowers are huge.


I'm reminded of those Victorian postcards showing one giant tomato in a wagon or a colossal strawberry in a wheelbarrow. Sometimes it is exactly the opposite.


A tree shown as a dwarf will have a person bending over it to pick the fruit. Having seen some of these so-called dwarf trees in real life, I think the man in the picture must be about thirty feet tall! When perusing the catalogs, read between the lines and you may find a description that is closer to the truth.

"Beautiful foliage" means that the flowers are pitiful.

"Delicate flowers" are invisible to the naked eye.

"Late to emerge" means you'll have given up and planted something else in its place.

"Vigorous" means a plant that is bent on world domination.

Blue flowers are very rarely true blue and black flowers, with some exceptions, are usually just dark purple.

If a tomato's description only raves about its color, texture, earliness, and strong vines, chances are it has all the flavor of wet cardboard.

Be a discerning reader and you will lessen the chances of any unpleasant surprises or disappointments.