In 2004, the Red Deer River Naturalists funded a small study of the seeds contained in some readily available seed packets at popular stores and nurseries. We recorded the species claimed to be in the packets, planted the seeds according to the package instructions, and identified the plants which grew. The growing pots were separated from other pots and were located away from other gardens.
Our observations for one summer are tabulated below.
No attempt was made to keep windblown, or other seeds, out of the pots.
We admit that this is not a fully controlled scientific study, but that was not our objective. We simply wanted to see what the average gardener might expect from the planting of seeds from the packets we chose.
The packets are identified only with letters. We cannot release the names of the companies that package or market the seeds.
In general we found that the labels on the packets:
- are cleverly designed to “hook” the customer into a sale
- often do not list either common or Latin names for the species contained in the packet
- are totally inadequate when dealing with germination conditions. They assume that all seeds germinate under the same conditions
- never list the locations where the seeds were collected
- are misleading by using terms like “Rocky Mountain Wildflower Mix”, and “Native Wildflower Mix”
- seldom record when the seeds were collected or packaged
- never list an expiration date on the packets
Repeating the test in 2005 produced almost identical results.