Garden in a packet drops through the letter box

The postman made it through all ice and snow to deliver next year's garden. The sound of the letter-box opening and closing heralded the seeds of 2011.

Thanks, Mr Postie, and thanks Thompson & Morgan.

Despite the growing trend for plant plugs and ready-geminated seedlings, thousands of gardeners still grow their plants from seed bought after browsing through catalogues whose pictures hint at the exotic, the beautiful, the radiant, the magnificent and the down-to-earth.

Seed merchants know the appeal of their catalogues. Scanning page after page of fantastic flowers and wonderful vegetables, all thoughts of winter are banished; spring is in the air. Planning for better times insulates us from the Arctic blasts of December, January and February, which is perhaps the hardest month to face. A catalogue offers tomorrow's garden today.

So, the seedsmen vie with one another to produce the biggest, brightest, most-packed and tempting, stuffed with plants from around the world.

World exclusive is not normally a term you would use to describe a flower, but don't tell T & M – number one in the seedsmen's catalogue is a sweet pea, Lathyrus oderata Ballerina Blue, which was bred by one of the company's own customers.

The flower is described as an outstanding variety, a vigorous climber producing highly-scented blooms. A packet of 25 seeds will set you back 1.99.

Then there's a nasturtium, Double Delight Apricot – big, bold and beautiful with mottled apricot flowers. Same price as the sweet pea.

Or how about a new foxglove, Scrophulariaceae digitalis Mountains Mixed? I love foxgloves, particularly the more subtle shades, and Mountains Mixed offers just that.

If you want to see for yourself what Thompson & Morgan have to offer, visit www.thompson-morgan.com or phone 0844 5731818 to order a catalogue.

YP MAG 1/1/11