Evolution of the Seed & Gift Store
The original purpose of the Seed Store, now The Seed and Gift Store, was to package and sell seed from plants grown in the seed fields of Jennie Butchart’s garden. Jennie opened the Seedhouse in 1920, with the first Benvenuto Seed Catalogue being issued at that time. Back then, seeds were only available by mail order.
“The Clipper” was purchased for $50 in 1929
You may have noticed the field to your left when you’re arriving and approaching the admission gates, or the left when you are driving out. This large lawn area between the entrance and exit roads was called the “Seed Field”, where seeds were collected, dried and then seeds and finer chaff were separated by “The Clipper”. The machine, pictured above, tumbled the seeds through a screen of varying mesh depending on the size of the seed. It separated the chaff by the agitation of tiny paddles then deposited it to the bottom box for disposal.
It was a time-consuming process of hand packaging, so a “Ballard Seed Packaging Machine” was purchased in 1975 from Concord, Massachusetts. It turned out to be a short-lived experiment as it was difficult to calibrate. The process using a high powered machine was quite daunting and the ladies in the Seed & Gift Shop went back to utilizing their tables in the store during the off season to hand sort and package seeds.
By the late 1970’s it became difficult to collect pure seed as other homes and gardens were built around Benvenuto and pollinating insects often mixed the varieties, however the long history of a mail order Seed Catalogue continued with much of the seed being purchased in bulk. The seeds were used for both the gardens and packaged to sell by the Seed & Gift Shop.
This hand-packaging tradition continues today, not only for nostalgic reasons, but also because it allows us to control the quality of the seed packs. This is integral in obtaining clearance for many of our seeds to enter the United States via land and air. Today, we sell over 140 different packets, most USDA approved for import into the USA, and available not only in The Seed and Gift Store but online as well.
To this day we carry on Mrs. Butchart’s tradition of packaging seeds and selling them via mail order. A few specific varieties grown in isolated areas of the Butchart Gardens are still collected and used in our greenhouses, however the popular Blue Poppy is the only seed collected at The Gardens, and sold here.
*Hint: if our online store lists the Blue Poppy seeds “in stock”, that means they are available both in store and online.
We sell approximately 100 different seeds and seed combinations. New Mixes for 2018 include: Deer Resistant, Fragrant, Edible, Shade Mix, Bird Lovers, Honey Bee, Low Growing, Western Pollinator, Monarch Butterfly.
Our two best selling seeds are the Blue Poppy and our Anniversary Blend and are available in store or online.