I'm looking forward already to my local Seedy Saturday event early in the new year. At this year's event in February I found a new lettuce that has given me wonderful harvests of big, succulent heads.
As I browsed through the seeds at the Two Wings Farm table, I came across a lettuce labelled "Grandpa's." The packet described it as "an absolutely beautiful heirloom. Wavy red-green outer leaves surround a silky textured butterhead centre. Delicious!"
How could I resist? I've been cutting and using the sumptuous heads since late summer, and as watermelons came into season, I made several salads with Grandpa's lettuce, watermelon and feta cheese - a combination inspired by a watermelon-feta salad brought to a summer potluck at my home. Since then, I've been combining Grandpa's with crisp lettuces like Red Grenoble and deliciously tart endive.
Something new on the lettuce scene, and of particular interest to small-space and container gardeners, are multi-pellet salad mixtures in which clay-based pellets each contain three or more seeds of different varieties. I'm not certain yet whether this will be available to home gardeners as seed pellets. I suspect the blends may be available only at garden centres as started plants, sold as SimplySalad.
There are three different blends. One, Alfresco Mix, has red and green leaf lettuces with arugula, endive and radicchio.
SimplySalad is well suited for growing in pots and bowls as an ornamental edible that can be cut for use several times, at three-week intervals.
Fuseables. In the world of flowers and other ornamentals, these "multi-pellet" combos are termed "fuseables." This year Johnny's Selected Seeds listed three of these multi-seeded flower pellets. Under the Sun (also in the Stokes Seeds catalogue) combines a lime-green with a gold-edged crimson coleus. Blueberry Lime Jam contains a dark purple and a lime-green petunia. Key Lime Parfait is a red, white and lime petunia combination.
I grew both petunia blends and, though they were lovely, the lime component was mostly absent. That's odd, because in most flower colour mixtures I've grown the flowers with, yellow tones tend to be the strongest-growing ones.
The patio tub with dark purple Dreams Midnight petunia was very nice, but only a few odd lime flowers appeared through the season. In the Key Lime Parfait tub, the red and white blooms created a fresh, bright display, but with almost no lime element in it all summer.
I haven't yet grown the Stokes multi-seeded flower pellets but will this year. They have two petunia-bacopa combinations in contrasting colours. Blue Dawn combines a rose petunia with blue bacopa; Silk N' Satin has Shock Wave Pink petunia and Snowtopia bacopa seeds in the same pellet.
It's going to be interesting to see, as the 2013 catalogues arrive, what new and innovative multi-pelleted blends will be featured.
They are clearly an indication of the industry adapting to the new realities of home gardening as fewer people have spacious lots and longtime gardeners are downsizing. More and more people are gardening, even for food, in containers. These handy blends make it easier to create lively displays and to produce a nutritious variety of edibles.
Anyone seeking the convenience of easily accessible plants at moderate prices might ponder the value of supporting our handy local garden centres. Consider buying a colourful house plant to brighten the dark days and long evenings. Check out potential gift items for Christmas giving. I'll be offering ideas on that subject soon.
The Victoria Rock and Alpine Garden Society will meet Tuesday at 7: 30 p.m. at Gordon Head United Church, 4201 Tyndall Ave. Philip MacDougall's topic is Roadside Anatolia, an account of a two-week botanizing trip in eastern Turkey. Philip is the proprietor of a small nursery, Chlorophyllia, where he grows plants from his own seed collections. Visitors are welcome. virags.ca.
The Victoria Orchid Society will meet Tuesday at 7: 30 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave.
Jonathan Littau will speak about the cultivation of Vanda orchids. Jonathan is a biologist who has hybridized and grown orchids for many years. Last year he won two American Orchid Society awards for his blooms. Visitors are welcome.
© Copyright 2013