An expert’s guide to the best places to buy seeds and bulbs

Here’s a handy reference guide for the busy seed-sowing months ahead

Some people get their kicks from designer labels, others from rummaging through flea shops, or collecting obscure Japanese comics, vintage tractors, handbags, dolls, beer-mats, Star Wars merchandise or whatever else. Me, I get mine from ordering seeds.

Brexit, of course, put a giant spanner in the works in that regard, by abruptly shutting down the opportunity to easily order from the handful of go-to British specialist suppliers I had depended on for decades, for those hard-to-get varieties not readily available in Ireland. Then along came the pandemic, resulting in violent disruption to traditional global supply chains and putting both seed producers and suppliers under huge strain.

As the dust finally begins to settle and a new post-pandemic, post-Brexit world emerges from the ashes, my go-to shortlist of online suppliers has changed accordingly. Along with the many excellent small Irish firms that were always on it, a growing number of exciting European suppliers now make the list, proof that as one door closes, another opens. With this in mind, here is my updated little black book of suppliers, a handy reference for the busy seed-sowing months ahead.

Mr Middleton

One of Ireland’s longest established and most trusted garden suppliers, this family-run business is known for its top-notch customer service and wide range of high-quality seeds, tubers and bulbs. It sources from only the very best growers and producers both here and in Europe, with a focus on suppliers who have signed up to a range of independent sustainability certification schemes such as On the Way to PlanetProof, Global GAP and NPS.


Green Vegetable Seeds

This small family-run Irish business was established by the organic gardener and author Klaus Laitenberger, best known for his excellent series of practical guides to kitchen gardening in an Irish climate. The boutique seed range of vegetables, salad crops and herbs has been specifically selected to suit Ireland’s cool, damp growing conditions with the focus firmly on productivity and disease resistance.

Fruithill Farm

This Cork-based firm, the go-to supplier for many professional organic growers, stocks everything from scythes to grow lights. But it’s also known for its excellent range of organic, blight-resistant seed potatoes, garlic and onion sets and wide range of green manure seed. FHF also carries a small range of organic, open-pollinated seed of flowering annuals, perennials and flowering meadows as well as a small selection of organically produced flower bulbs and tubers.


Quickcrop, founded by Andrew Davidson and Niall Mc Allister in the depths of the 2008 recession and amid a resurgence of interest in home food growing, has become one of the country’s best-known online suppliers for all things gardening-related with an excellent website packed with useful hands-on growing guides. Along with a wide range of seed of vegetables, herbs and salad crops plus seed potatoes, onion and garlic sets, it offers Irish-grown seed of a range of native wildflowers.

The Organic Centre

The Leitrim-based centre was one of the very first Irish suppliers to offer an extensive range of organic seed. Its 2024 catalogue lists a great selection of seed of vegetables, herbs, green manures and flower meadow mixes as well as a small selection of potager-style flowering annuals and perennials.

GIY Ireland

This well-known non-profit social initiative based in Waterford wants to empower people to lead healthier and more sustainable lives by growing some of their own food. Along with a wide range of vegetable, salad and herb varieties, it offers a great selection of seed boxes ideal for beginner gardeners that include seed sowing essentials such as pots, labels, compost and handy step-by-step guides.

Irish Seed Savers Association

This Clare-based supplier, one of Ireland’s most respected garden-related associations, focuses on preserving valuable heritage varieties of fruit, vegetables and grains as well as those that have proven themselves ideally suited to the Irish climate. Its range of Irish-grown, organic, open-pollinated seeds includes many unusual varieties while it also hosts an annual series of excellent home seed-saving workshops for gardeners.

Brown Envelope Seeds

Founder Madeline McKeever is something of a legend in gardening circles, a trailblazer who single-handedly established her small organic seed farm in 2004 in the wilds of west Cork. Brown Envelope Seed is one of a tiny handful of Irish organic seed producers, and its annual catalogue is a treasure trove of unusual and heritage kitchen garden varieties that includes a selection sourced from innovative plant breeders in the US and Europe.

Design By Nature

Owner Sandro Cafolla provides an extensive range of native wildflower and meadow seed mixes designed for a variety of soils and growing conditions, all of which are Irish-grown.


This excellent Galway-based supplier stocks a huge and affordable range of seed of flowers, vegetables, herbs and grains, each of which variety comes with its own printed guide to ensure optimum germination as well as advice on its preferred growing conditions. A great one-stop shop for the gardener who likes to grow lots of different things from seed.

Fam Flower Farm

This Dutch flower farm – a new favourite supplier of mine – offers a fantastic range of hard-to-get varieties of dahlias and other flowering bulbous species, as well as a great selection of seed of cut-flower varieties.

Vreeken’s Seeds

This well-known, long-established family-owned Dutch firm supplies a huge range of seed of varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowering species as well as flower bulbs and tubers. Its fascinating online catalogues is full of tempting curiosities, from true potato seed (as opposed to seed tubers) to unusual dye plants. Tip: to read the site in English, click ‘Zaden on the sidebar.

Peter Nyssen

This well-known firm, one of a handful of British suppliers that still offer delivery to Ireland (courtesy of its European-based warehouse), has an extensive range of reliably high-quality flower bulbs and tubers, including a great range of dahlias.


Another Dutch supplier specialising in a wide range of good-quality, affordable flower bulbs that I’ve sourced from in recent years with good results.


My go-to supplier for seed of flowering perennials, this highly respected German firm is known for its very extensive range, as well as its brilliant online propagating tips on ways to optimise germination rates.

Bingenheimer Saatgut

This German range of organic seeds of open-pollinated varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs is produced by a collective of more than 90 organic and biodynamic seed growers.


This Belgian firm, a great little European seed supplier that I’ve used for unusual varieties of annual and biennials varieties of flowering plants, puts the focus firmly on pollinator-friendly species.

This week in the garden

Late January is a great time to sow seed of chillies and peppers under cover. These heat-loving, slow-growing subtropical crops need a constant bottom heat (25-30 degrees) to germinate (use an electric propagator or place the seed tray in the hot press), and should then be grown in a warm, bright, sheltered environment (17-21 degrees).

The large decorative climber wisteria needs its first pruning of the year in late January (the second pruning is done in late summer), to keep this ornamental climber in shape and ensure a good display of its beautiful, pendulous flowers. Use a sharp, clean secateurs to do this, cutting back shoots along lateral stems to about 8-10cm to leave two to three buds.

Dates for your diary

Saturday, January 27th: Ballykealey House, Ballon, Co Carlow: Snowdrop Gala 2024, with guest speakers Steve Edney of No Name Nursery in the UK and Michael Dreisvogt of Bonn’s Park Harle Arboretum in Germany, plus plant stalls from a hand-chosen selection of specialist nurseries. Tickets from €110. or email

Saturday, February 3rd: Snowdrop Open Day at Coosheen Gardens, Glounthane, Co Cork T45CC42. See @hesterforde on Instagram for further details.

Thursday-Sunday, February 8th-11th (11am-4pm): Snowdrop weekend at RHSI Bellefield Gardens, Shinrone, Co Offaly, R42NW82, including garden tours by its head gardener Paul Smyth at noon and 2pm.

Sunday, February 11th: Killruddery House & Gardens, Bray, Co Wicklow, How to Design, Plant & Nurture Your Own Cut-Flower Garden, a one-day hands-on workshop with flower-farmer-florist and garden writer Fionnuala Fallon. for booking details

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