Suttons pioneered many advertising techniques including the production of catalogues, even when there was a national paper shortage as during WW1.
Back in 1840 we were distributing free broadsheets and by 1856 these had developed into illustrated seed catalogues detailing the full range of flower and veg seed available. Copies of these early catalogues (see our Pinterest Board for examples)are held in our archives and some of the illustrations are quite lovely.
Paper shortages during the First World War meant that the number of pages allowed for flowers was limited and a separate catalogue was produced – Food Production from the Garden. Special permission was received for this catalogue from the Royal Commission on Paper, one of the main reasons being that so many gardeners were at the front that people with no previous gardening knowledge were being forced to grow food and needed help. With this in mind the catalogue included gardening advice and cultural information in addition to listing “food product” seeds. The 1917 catalogue stated “With the progress of the war and the increasing dearth of trained gardeners, so many of whom loyally offered for the Services, a situation unparalleled in British Horticulture has arisen and a vast number of gardens are dependent upon the cultural skill which the owners themselves, and their depleted staffs, are able to apply. For this reason our customers will doubtless appreciate the cultural notes now added.”
The separate flower catalogue was restricted in weight due to the paper shortages but still included a wide range of hardy annuals to “make a garden gay throughout the summer months.” The catalogue declared that “…descriptions will be found of flowers that should find a place in all gardens, even in times of stress and strain of war, and when hostilities have ceased flowers will be needed more than ever to welcome the returning Forces to their homes.”