How to grow Greetings Cards from Seed…

Ok, so I lied a little bit in the title, the seeds are in fact runner bean seeds, but there are seeds in there and they are indeed planted inside greetings cards:

Greetings Cards by Nancy Farmer!
Greetings Cards by Nancy Farmer!

And here is how I come to be planting runner beans inside my greetings cards:

It can be hard to sell original artwork because the cost of the final item can be prohibitive to some who’d like to be customers. I find this especially so because my pictures are very detailed and I am so very slow and fussy… And it is so very easy to get artwork printed onto things at a low cost if you are getting lots done at once. And people are very keen on saying “oh you should have greetings cards… a book… calendars… mugs… tea towels…” and so on and so fourth.

On the whole, nowadays, I smile politely and say that sounds very interesting, I will think about it, thank you. But occasionally I tell people about the twenty thousand greetings cards I have in the wardrobe. Strictly speaking there are not twenty thousand anymore, but there were…

Way back some years ago when I hadn’t been painting long, I used to run off a few cards on my printer at home, They were nice little things, printed on a mould-made deckle-edged paper like watercolour paper, and I sold them locally to a few shops. They were spotted by a fellow who phoned me up and wanted to be my rep and sell them all over Cornwall and Devon. He was very enthusiastic. But I couldn’t get the price down low enough to pay the commission of a rep selling them and so I looked into the costs of getting cards printed up using offset-litho (what I still think of as ‘proper grown-up commercial printing’, though digital printing has got a lot cheaper since then).

Well yes, if you get 1000 of each design the unit cost is really small, and like I say this fellow was really keen to go round all the shops and sell them, so I picked 20 designs, and wrote out a rather big cheque.

Soooo… nowadays I’m a little more suspicious and circumspect. The rep whined about the size of the cards, wanted coloured envelopes suddenly, and free card racks to give to shops, cost me a lot of time and effort in trying to meet his expectations and in the end got bored after about 5 shops, turned out to have less free time than he expected, and finally it was a relief to tell him that if he was going to be this useful I’d rather do without his efforts!

I made some attempt to sell the cards myself, but of course being a rep is a whole other job and there’s only one of me to go round. And maybe I could have looked for another rep, but I began to suspect it’s a trap, because they would want more designs and new stuff on a regular basis and sooner or later I would become more administrator than artist.

I sell the cards now bundled into packs of 20 at exhibitions, and I give them away, and at the rate I am going I will probably shift the lot in another 25 years or so. I have long ago learned not to waste further time worrying about the problem. And lately some of the surplus and less popular designs fell into the compost bin, too.

But the important thing is I am getting better at not getting seduced into paying people to make me more stuff that I have to then go and sell. I still have lots of little stuff for people to buy – I recycle my failed etching prints into handmade cards, I have handmade baubles and coasters will little original drawings in them, and I even get calendars printed up now, just not very many at once. But it is worth noting that other people can be very enthusiastic about telling you you could get this and that made up and that such things would definitely sell (while generally not in fact buying anything themselves). I just remember to be polite, thank them kindly, and recall that I still have enough cards to paper the village with…

So, these thoughts occurred to me as I planted up my runner beans this morning, and so I though I would share this story on the blog, because occasionally I do get artists asking me if I think it’s worth their going down a similar road.

And if you’re wondering how on earth I though it would be a good idea to plant beans this way in the first place, well, my sister-in-law has planted hers in toilet rolls (beans have roots that tend to grow straight down, not out, and they do not like their roots disturbed when planted out in the ground, so this way you plant the whole thing, rather than taking them out of a pot) and, well I just didn’t have enough toilet rolls, but if this works I have plenty more cards even for next year’s beans πŸ˜‰

I shall of course post a photo when the beans come up!


  1. Great idea. I planted in little origami pots made from newspaper Sorry you didn’t have better luck with selling the cards

    1. Thanks! I think they look a lot more jolly than toilet roll tubes πŸ™‚ Origami pots? that sounds so cool – do you have a diagram for folding them?
      …and I did sell quite a lot of the cards, enough to more than make my money back, if not enough to pay for the stress… It is still an endless supply though!

      1. That’s good to hear about the cards πŸ™‚ For the pots, you fold a page of newspaper into a long strip and then wrap it around a glass or simular depending on the size you want. Fold over the end on the bottom of the glass and use a small piece of tape to secure. There are some videos on utube that may explain it better

        1. Ok, will have a look, thanks… something to use once i have used all the cards πŸ˜€

          1. Your welcome πŸ™‚

  2. […] start of this curious use of unwanted greetings cards was documented in a previous post:… And I have to admit that these may very well be the borlotti beans and not the runner beans […]

  3. […] not 600, but 20,000 and for the abridged story of that episode in my learning curve, see my post: how to grow greetings cards from seed, (the title, I admit, is a lie, the rest is true). We live and […]

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