It's sad to see so many families struggling financially these days, trying to make ends meet as the cost of living increases. Even those in employment are facing difficulties and financial hardship.

It is therefore necessary to find ways to save an extra dollar or two each week to sustain these demands. One way to achieve this is not new, in fact the concept goes back thousands of years and is still going today.

Vegetable gardening popularity has fluctuated over time, but people have been gardening for the past 10,000 years and it is something that is easily achieved with minimal cost and experience.

While sorting through some archival material at the Whangārei Museum last week, staff chanced upon a couple of well-worn garden catalogues from the early 1900s. Highly illustrative and informative, these publications are prime examples of the help afforded to gardeners both in New Zealand and abroad more than a century ago.

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A page from Henderson's Catalogue, a prime example of the help afforded to gardeners more than a century ago. Photo / Supplied
A page from Henderson's Catalogue, a prime example of the help afforded to gardeners more than a century ago. Photo / Supplied

Even today gardeners find it difficult to choose the best type of tomatoes to plant or apples to grow and catalogues such as these were made available to assist the would-be gardener in their decision making and with their gardening woes.

Packed full of helpful categories, Peter Henderson & Co's 1901 catalogue "Everything For The Garden" is essentially a gardening directory, with the H C Gibbons & Co "Combined Catalogue of Seeds, Trees & Plants" published in 1904 is similarly organised and detailed.

These publications provide information on individual plants for the vege and flower garden to fertilisers and implements required for the job, while also showcasing the availability of seeds, fruit and vegetables all of which can be ordered from their business premises.

The Holman's tomato glasshouses in 1905. Photo / Supplied
The Holman's tomato glasshouses in 1905. Photo / Supplied

These gardening almanacs had belonged to Frank Holman, and were donated to the Museum in 1996 by friend and neighbour Shirley Smith. Among other discarded family items, these catalogues were rescued from incineration shortly after Holman's death in 1968 by the donor's son.

Frank Singleton Holman was aged over 80 when he died and was one of nine children of Robert Henry and Ann Holman, early residents of Whangārei. In 1893 when Frank was only 5, the family moved to Whau Valley where they established a nursery.

From his earliest years, Frank's love of plant life, inherited from his mother, developed rapidly. His career as a horticulturist began at the age of 11 when he accompanied Mr Cheeseman, curator of Auckland Museum, on botanical excursions.

It is little wonder then that he possessed such publications during his lifetime as he had a career with plants and gardening spanning several decades.

The inside of a Holman's tomato glasshouse, 1905. Photo / Supplied
The inside of a Holman's tomato glasshouse, 1905. Photo / Supplied

For 20 years Holman worked as parks superintendent for the Whangārei Borough Council, while also running Holman's "Ferndale Nurseries" where he produced his own catalogue of native plants. Here he nurtured seedlings in his glasshouses and supplied a variety of trees and shrubs to the wider community.

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Perhaps this avid gardener consulted these registers when contemplating his own vegetable planting calendar, ensuring the best crops would be harvested each year.

Recently vegetable plots have made a comeback and are now being promoted in schools and through community groups. Whether the reasons are economic or not, these gardening compendiums confirm some vegetable varieties have stood the test of time, just like these catalogues.