THE ORIGINAL HARRIS SEEDS COMPANY
Harris Seeds was founded in 1879 and has experienced a long and diverse history. You will find a complete history of our company on the Harris Seeds company blog.
On the ornamentals side of the company, Harris Seeds has been selling flower seed since its origin as a catalog company. Under the direction of Joseph Harris, grandson of the original Harris, the company successfully expanded its plant breeding program and became well-known for the exclusive vegetable and flower varieties it developed. At one time, more than thirty vegetable and flower plant breeders, plant pathologists and research technicians were on staff, whose objectives were to develop new varieties and improve existing ones. Some old, familiar flower exclusives from this time include Cinderella, Confection and Princess impatiens; Mighty Marietta, Cabaret and Gypsy marigolds; Medallion and Springtime pansies; Sails and Pearls petunias; Bonfire and St. John’s Fire salvia; and more.
The company conducted extensive flower trials on its own grounds and at many other locations throughout the country. Literally thousands of samples were grown in comparison plantings, including both experimental lines and existing varieties, to determine which offered the best performance. The annual flower trials were among the largest in the country, and in midsummer they were a spectacular sight. Thousands of visitors came to see them every year.
THE "NEW" HARRIS SEEDS COMPANY
In 1979, Joseph Harris sold the company to the Celenese Corporation, who later sold it to LaFarge Coppee, a French conglomerate. LaFarge also owned the Moran Seed Company in Modesto, California and chose to merge the two companies in the mid 1980s. The operating business then became known as the Harris Moran Seed Company.
In 1987, Harris Moran chose to divest itself of its two retail home garden businesses: the Harris Seeds Garden Stores in Rochester, NY; and the Harris Seeds Home Garden Mail Order Catalog business.
In 1987 the mail order catalog business was purchased by a private family, Mr. and Mrs. Byram Dickes of Chicago, Illinois. This family-owned business remains in Rochester, New York, incorporated as Garden Trends, Inc. and doing business as Harris Seeds. In 1991, the ‘new’ Harris Seeds signed an agreement with the Harris Moran Seed Company to provide products and services to the smaller professional grower in the Northeast and Midwest. From that point forward, Harris Seeds has expanded its reach within the professional grower marketplace. It now markets vegetable and flower seed, as well as plants and growing supplies, to gardeners and professional growers throughout the USA.
Also in 1991, Harris Moran sold the flower seed breeding and production part of their business to Clause Seeds of France. In later years, Clause sold the former Harris Seeds genetics to Floranova, Ltd. based in England.
Today Harris Seeds continues to sell flower seed to both home gardeners and professional bedding plant and cut flower growers. The company added plugs and liners to its product line for professional growers about 15 years ago. We continue to conduct flower variety trials in Rochester, although on smaller scale than in the past, and we are an official All-America Selections flower and vegetable trialing site.
Harris Seeds has close relationships with all of the key flower breeding and production companies for both seed and vegetative ornamental varieties. Each year members of the Harris Seeds staff travel to both the California Spring Trials and a selection of summer field trials throughout the country, to view and select the finest of the new varieties for sale to our customers. Two salespeople travel throughout New England, New York and Pennsylvania, calling on professional growers. A knowledgeable in-house sales staff, along with catalog and online marketing efforts, generate the rest of the company’s business. Harris Seeds is an active member of the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections, OFA, and the Mail Order Gardening Association.
Harris Seeds’ mission remains as it was in 1879: to provide gardeners and professional growers with the finest products available at a fair price, coupled with friendly and courteous service.