Monday, January 3, 2011

Seed and Plant Wish List for 2011

There's not a lot I can do as far as gardening, although the snow is all gone, but for the few places where I piled it up, along the driveway. It's certainly been a January thaw here in these parts, great way to usher in the new year, but I hate to see bare ground, knowing the thermometer will probably plummet in the next few days. 

The last of the seed catalogues arrived over the holidays. I haven't had a great deal of time to peruse them all, so I sat down on New Years Day and had a good look-see. Of course on first glance I want everything. As I check my seed box I note it is probably time to replenish a lot of my old seed for the veggie bed. I have seed packages old enough to vote, and yes some still germinate – tomato are exceptionally long lived.

The seed companies are working harder than ever to catch my eye and strip my wallet. Remember when seeds were generally under the dollar per package? 

Each year I like to try a few new things. I have included some of the following as my wish list.

Black and White Minstrels Dianthus
I like the unusual. This is a black and white dianthus, which is a carnation or an annual sweet william. Black flowers are always dramatic against a contrasting pastel. I've had a few sweet william in the garden for years. You never have to replant; they self seed quite nicely. I have some blue biannual dianthus in the garden, which should bloom next spring for the first time for me. These might be a good companion.

Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia
Good old brown-eyed Susan would turn over in her prairie grave to see what her grandchildren have done to themselves. I've grown a lot of shades of rudbekia in the past, but this is a new one. If they have any of the growth habit of their grandparent they will be a pleasant addition to the garden. I'm wondering what their longevity will be. Usually hybrids of biannuals are not long lived (although mules are known to outlive horses, for whatever that tidbit of knowledge is worth). . It will also be intriguing to see what will happen if seed sets.

Superbissima Petunia
I like to try a few new petunia varieties each year. Last year it was the Blue Morn. They looked wonderful in the greenhouse, but were decidedly disappointing in the garden. I tried the Frillytunia a few years ago. This looks like it may be an improvement and the colour selection looks impressive.

Chalon Mix Pansy
I haven't grown pansies from seed much. I think I have also missed the planting window, as they should already be up and growing. I think this looks like a beautiful colour selection and form. I would have to assume they probably would not be very hardy in our zone 4b climate. We do get some pansies living over winter, but usually just the standard purple or yellow plain janes. We bought blooming pansy plants last year. The local hardware store had an amazing sale and selection. We really loved their bright cheery faces, but found that the heat of the summer fairly quickly ended their sojourn on earth. So while I will undoubtedly try some again this year, I will make sure there are other plants in the same ground ready to take up arms as their companions fall to the grim reaper.

This one just caught my eye and I'll probably give it a try. It is called Duchesnea or Indian Strawberry. The catalogue states “ this variety produces bright yellow flowers, followed by edible red fruit, similar to Alpine.” I assume by Alpines they are referring to Alpine strawberries, or as we unceremoniously called them, where I grew up, 'Sow Tits'. Now just the fact that the catalogue only refers to them as 'edible', probably means they are kind of tasteless. Anyway, can't hurt to try a few plants.

This apparently is the city cousin of our plain old yellow Dog-Tooth Violet that gives us such a cheery display as the snow melts in the woods. The mottled foliage certainly bears some resemblance to its kin. Unfortunately the hardiness zone 5-9, is probably a tad too dainty for our climate. It is a trifle pricey too at $5 for 10 seeds. I also note there is a germination time of 180-360 days. This probably means that you have to either scarify in the fridge/freezer or toss into the woods and let nature take her course. 

Blue Star Petunia
We have grown wave petunias for sale for many years and are always trying the newest varieties to see what their growth habits are. Last year we planted the newly introduced burgundy star, easy waves. These were definitely a disappointment, and unfortunately we sold quite a few before we knew how poor their habits were in the basket, very stringy and skimpy on their yield of flowers. 

Sweet Pea Mix
Okay, I had pretty much given up on sweet peas. I never seem to get much bloom on my long luxuriant vines, but seeing this pleasant colour combo, I may give it one more try. I've never seen a yellow sweet pea before. They very closely resemble a trefoil blossom. Just as an aside, I was able to pick up a couple of perennial sweet pea plants at a year end sale last year. They looked pretty much dead and didn't exhibit much life until after the cover crop of petunias died off. Now they look well established. Yes, I am aware you should not plant them anywhere you don't want an invasion. I put them in along with a red and white clematis around our well. I have a metal tripod (actually it is a quadpod) with a distillation flask on the top (a relic from a former life!). My hope is that the four vines will take this over and that the clematis will be able to hold their own against the peas.
Victoria F1 Hybrid Fennel
I've looked at fennel in the grocery store for a while now, and finally decided to try it as a vegetable. It is quite delicious and I regret we have not added it to our repertoire of vegetables much sooner. It is great raw or oven roasted (with olive oil, seasoning, parnsips, yams and onions). The missus thinks this would be a great addition to the veggie garden. Cultural practices will have to be researched. It looks so much like celery, thus I am assuming it may have to be blanched (shielded from light) to produce those tender white stems. Mind you, a stronger, unblanched version might be more pungent in the roasting pan. The wonderful anise flavour of the raw plant, does tend to dissipate during the cooking process.

Amethyst Radish
I'm not a big radish fan, either growing or eating. However my better half loves them, and we had some accidental reseeds in the garden last year which were quite to her liking. This new purple variety caught my attention. Unusual colours in both vegetables and flowers do catch my eye. I may try these early in the spring and then another batch in late August, once the cooler nights arrive again.

Candy Cane Zinnia
I haven't grown zinnias for a few years, but these perky little pin cushions caught my fancy. 

Haskaps are the new wonder fruit for our climate. Well at least that is what the seed catalogues, internet and gardening magazines are all trying to tell us. Apparently the stock ran out quickly last year. Everyone is saying to order early for this year. Apparently they grow like a highbush blueberry, but taste like a raspberry. They also allegedly are very hardy and are the earliest berry to fruit in Ontario, even prior to strawberries – that would be a nice feature. I gather you have to have several varieties for cross pollination. At forty plus dollars for three plants that will probably be my big expenditure for the fruit garden. Their antioxidant qualities, hardiness and precociousness seem almost too good to be true. I'll let you know!

Sabine Baur
 I guess the one other plant on my wish list is a true purple day lily or hemerocallis. Now I wish I knew whether I'm about to be swindled by a snake-oil salesman. Are these photos accurate in colour, or are they the result of a blue filter? I have several beautiful day lilies at present, that are supposed to be purple, but a pretty much wine or maroon in colour (not much hint of the bluish tones present in these photos). I also note that most of the sites who offer these tones are not really shy about reaching into my pocket book. None of the above are available unless you can peel off the best part of a hundred bucks – seems a lot to risk, if I'm only going to end up with another shade of wine. Probably they'll just stay on my wish list until I can personally attest to the colours I see in these photos.

And that is about all I have to say for today.
Musings and Meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

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