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Park Seeds, history

Is there a real difference between seed companies ...or is it simply creative advertising? Here is an interesting and brief history of Park Seeds which appeared originally in the gardening newsletter, Avant Gardener.

Park Seeds was founded in 1866 by a 15-year old schoolboy, George W. Park, living in Livonia, Pennsylvania, selling seeds of flowers his mother grew in their backyard to friends and through classified advertisements. He published his first seed catalog in 1866; it contained 8 pages, and soon followed this with a magazine, 'Park’s Floral Magazine' that eventually generated a circulation of 800,000.


George married Carol Mary Barrall and they had two sons, George and William. The family moved its business to Dunedin, Florida, then to Mary’s home town of Greenwood, South Carolina after they discovered that stored seed lost germination quickly in Florida’s humid climate, before the days of air conditioning.


The business thrived in Greenwood and the family acquired 500 acres for a beautiful modern administration office, climate controlled warehouse facilities, and one of the most extensive test gardens in North America. George died in 1937 and the company branched out into selling vegetable seeds as well as flowers. It established ties to California plant breeders for the introduction of Park exclusives, such as Park’s ‘Whopper’ tomato, becoming a main competitor to Burpee Seeds. For years Park Seed hosted a press conference at the Tavern on the Green restaurant, in New York’s Central Park, hosted by George W. Park Jr., followed in summer by open days so that the gardening press and customers could tour their colorful trial gardens in Greenwood.


In 1975 Park Seeds acquired Wayside Gardens, a New York nursery famous for selling perennials and woody plants by mail. The Park family ran the business until 2005 when it was sold to Donald Hachenberger, a Florida real estate developer. Unfortunately, he took on more than he could manage and filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Although the highest bid was from Gardens Alive, which owns Spring Hill Nurseries, Henry Field, Gurney Seed and Nursery, Brecks Bulbs and other horticultural enterprises, the judge accepted a lower bid from Blackstreet Capital, a Maryland company, because Blackstreet promised to keep the company headquartered in Greenwood, where many people there depended on the business for their livelihood. Park Seeds continues to publish a handsome full color catalog of flowers and vegetables and a website at www.parkseed.com


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