Seed catalogues are still trickling in and will continue to arrive through March. I've even received a few late ones in April, after I've done all my ordering. Usually.

If you're a new or relatively inexperienced gardener, you may not receive many catalogues yet. Most are free, and seed dealers are delighted to send them to you. Once you get on a mailing list for three or four different catalogues, they multiply like weeds -- nurseries trade mailing lists. I receive perhaps 30 catalogues a year; some I sent for, but most just started coming. There are some things that even God doesn't know, and one of them has to be how many seed catalogues there are out there.

Following is a list of catalogues that I've seen and fellow gardeners have mentioned. It's fairly representative, but certainly not all-inclusive. Some are gems from which I order year after year; others are interesting to look at or occasionally order from. Still others are very specialized -- exotic vegetables, special herbs, untreated seeds and so on. ALL-PURPOSE -- I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- these are the two musts: PARKS, Box 31, Greenwood, South Carolina 29646; and BURPEE'S, 5982 Burpee Building, Warminster, Pennsylvania 18974. These are the all-purpose catalogues for gardeners of all levels of experience. They feature seeds and plants for every garden -- vegetable, flower, orchard, landscape -- and include sections on gardening aids, such as cloches, cold frames, tools and peat pots. HERBST, 1000 North Main Street, Brewster, New York 10509, puts out a very useful book, especially for the gardener who's had a year or two of experience. HASTINGS, Box 4274, Atlanta, Georgia 30302, has one of the best catalogues for the Washington climate, featuring many vegetable and flower varieties that are most likely to thrive around here. PERENNIALS -- WHITE FLOWER FARMS, Lichfield, Connecticut 06759, is the reigning queen/king of perennial catalogues. You have to shell out $5 (only once, though) for what they call their "garden book," but it's worth every penny and you get a new one every spring. Even if you never order anything from its sumptuous pages, the information you get from reading it is invaluable. But be warned, if you do order, plants are not cheap. MILLER NURSERIES, Canadaigua, New York 14424; KELLY BROS., Dansville, New York 14437; SPRING HILL, Tipp City, Ohio 45371, are all fairly representative of nurseries that specialize in fruit trees, berries, grapes, asparagus and other perennial food-bearing plants. They also feature roses and a selection of perennial flowers. ODDITIES -- GURNEY'S, Yankton, South Dakota 57079. About the most off-the-wall catalogue but a lot of fun to browse through, it features such exotic foods as blue potatoes, foot-long beans and white tomatoes. This might be a fun catalogue for children to choose from. SPECIALTY -- There are so many in this category that it's impossible to do it justice. THOMPSON & MORGAN, Box 100, Farmingdale, New Jersey 07727. British seed dealers, many good foreign varieties and Chinese vegetables. VERMONT BEAN SEED COMPANY, Bomoseen, Vermont 05732. Despite its name, this book includes all manner of vegetables, in a no-nonsense presentation. NICHOLS GARDEN NURSERY, 1190 West Pacific Highway, Albany, Oregon 97321, offers a big selection of Chinese and Mexican vegetable seeds. PINETREE SEED CO., Box 1399, Portland, Maine, 04104. Absolutely invaluable to the small gardener, this catalogue offers mini-packages of seeds for mini prices. LE JARDIN DU GOURMET, West Danville, Vermont 05873. European seeds; catalogue costs 25 cents.