Exchange seeds and preserve heritage

As gardening has grown more popular, many gardeners have relied on annuals and imported plants to provide lush colour and texture. But some amateur gardeners have taken a different approach, and turned their gardens into a way to preserve Canada’s botanical history.

Many have been helped along the way by Seeds of Diversity, formerly the Heritage Seed Program. Seeds of Diversity is a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to the conservation, documentation and use of public-domain non-hybrid plants.

The organization meets its objectives through various programmes.  They publish Seeds of Diversity magazine three times a year.  The publication presents articles on everything from science and genetics to practical gardening tips.  They also produce several handbooks including How to Save Your Own Vegetable Seeds in both English and French, and lead seminars and presentations for community groups.

One of the most interesting programmes that Seeds of Diversity coordinates is the annual seed exchange. Members exchange seeds with each other at very little cost – only the postage. This gives growers access to seed for over 1500 distinct varieties of vegetables, fruit, grains, and ornamental plants.  New members do not have to have seeds to exchange to get started. Membership is a reasonable $25.00 per year and includes a subscription to Seeds of Diversity magazine.

Why bother?
There are many advantages to using native and heritage plants in your garden.  They are usually better adapted to the soil and and so are lower-maintance than imported varieties.  They also are often better suited to attracting wildlife such as pollinators or butterflies and birds. And quite often heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables are said to be more flavourful than the more commonly grown varieties.

Seeds of Diversity also documents public-domain heritage varieties of seeds.  This enbales farmers and gardeners to find which seeds are appropriate for their particular region and purpose.  This information is available at no charge through their website at:

Other links of interest:
Cultivating Canadian Gardens: A history of gardening in Canada:
North American Native Plant Society:
Canadian Garden Museum: