I just bought a little piece of gardening history. The best thing about it is that I didn’t know how interesting it was when I bought it. It’s the Ryder’s Vegetable and Flower Seed Book for 1948. That’s a seed catalogue to you and I. Beautiful ain’t it?
I just love the faded colour in the illustrations and the typography used in the logo. What a find?
I didn’t really think much about the date on the cover ‘1948’ when I bought it. I just thought, oh that’s a nice vintage seed catalogue. But when I read the welcome message on the opening page I realised that, of course, it’s only three year’s after the second world war and gardeners are still ‘digging to live’.
Here’s what it said:
“On the 6th August, 1947, the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. C. R. Attlee, pronounced in the House of Commons… ‘We must produce a great deal more of our food at home to replace imports which we can no longer afford to buy….’
Subsequent events have given added prominence to this warning, and the sorry fact exists that in this 1948 season, running into three years after the cessation of the second world war, we of these old and historic islands must literally ‘DIG to LIVE’.
Everything that can be won from the soil must be of value to the Nation and none more valuable at such a time than fresh vegetable foodstuffs.”
This is pretty cool in itself but then I did some err… digging around to see if Ryder’s seed merchants still exist. I don’t think they do because I found a house for sale in St Albans on ‘Ryder Seeds Mews, built on the former site of Ryder’s seed merchants’.
But, I did find some information on Samuel Ryder, the guy who founded Ryder’s seeds in the 1890’s. He has a wikipedia entry and it turns out that he was the first person to start selling ‘garden seeds in penny packets’. Apparently he built a successful business on the concept and became very rich. Later, he developed an interest in golf and started a little golfing tournament called… wait for it… The Ryder Cup.
I know! Crazy. What a fascinating story? I must say, I’m hooked. I think collecting vintage seed catalogues is my new mini-obsession. Alongside vegetable gardening of course.