Gardeners are a modest and sober breed, not much given to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. We are generally free of covetousness (save towards our neighbor’s early tomato), rage (unless a rabbit gets into our lettuce patch), or sloth (unless it’s raining outside and the bean patch needs to be weeded). We all have our weaknesses, however, and for most gardeners the moral Waterloo must be fought during seed catalog season.

Seed catalogs arrive in the darkest part of winter, when the heart cries out for a sight of fresh vegetation. Into this parched landscape of the soul they introduce scintillating photography and descriptions of fruits and vegetables that may as well have been plucked from the vineyards of Canaan. Every heirloom tomato has better flavor than the last; each winter squash has the potential to grow to record size. Seed catalogs, in short, are inveterate tempters. No gardener, however ascetic, manages to resist their blandishments forever.

My essay on seed catalogs