Helen Chesnut: Seed catalogues plant ideas for spring

Early in November the first seed catalogue arrived, from Plant World Seeds in England. It’s a good source for rare and unusual plants. From mid-November through early December more packages of anticipatory delight followed, from W.H. Perron (Dominion Seed House), Stokes Seeds, Mapple Farm, T&T Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds, all companies that I have used regularly for many years.

 

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Dominion Seed House. Most seed companies these days focus more attention on small-space, container and indoor gardening. This 2014 catalogue begins with three pages of sprouting seeds. A full page, as well as almost all of the cover, is devoted to a new stringless bush bean called Mascotte, a compact plant suited well for small garden spaces, patio containers and window boxes. Following a display of white flowers, the plants yield an abundance of “small, fine, crunchy, good-tasting beans.”

Another page features various sizes of washable, foldable, grow-anywhere containers and an attractive “Herbs et scissors duo pot,” a lime green, two-pocketed pot, 31.25 centimetres long and 14.5 cm high, complete with a pair of multi-blade, stainless-steel, herb-mincing scissors.

Early pages of the catalogue feature new listings of herbs, vegetables and flowers. They include a page of leafy green vegetables such as Celebration, a Rainbow chard improvement with a high percentage of red, yellow, orange and pink stalks.

Among the new flowers are an African marigold called Garland Orange that can grow up to 120 cm high and Sahara, a 50-cm gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) with semi-double to double flowers in caramel, soft pink and red blooms on the same plant.

In recent years, Alicante has been my best French bush bean, and this year I’ll be growing to compare with it another variety called Banga, “our best quality of French Gourmet type green bean. Fine and crispy, this bush bean offers an exceptional yield over a long period.”

 

Stokes Seeds. A time-honoured catalogue in Canada, Stokes Seeds has been in business since 1881. I always glance through the initial pages of Vegetables of Merit and Flowers of Merit. They are useful guides to seed choices.

Among the highlighted vegetables is Aspabroc, a baby broccoli that produces tiny broccoli heads on asparagus-like stems in 50 days from transplanting, with more shoots following after 10 days for a four-week period of production.

Flowers of Merit for 2014 include Candy Showers, “the world’s first dwarf trailing snapdragon series from seed.” The plants’ 20-cm, strong, trailing stems make them suitable for hanging baskets and mixed containers.

A new Double Click colour mixture is recommended as a tall cosmos at 120 cm with summer-long, double and semi-double blooms. The popular WonderFall trailing pansy series has four additional colours and its companion trailing pansy Cool Wave has added three.

Gardeners with a special fondness for pansies and violas, petunias, impatiens or marigold flowers will find the most extensive selection in this catalogue.

In the Accessories section, there is a German-made vegetable brush with natural bristles, ideal to replace my well used, worn-out one.

 

T&T Seeds is a family-owned company in Winnipeg, now in its 69th year. Always a lively, colourful catalogue, the 2014 edition has a “Fun for Kids and Grown-ups” page with rainbow colour mixtures of beets, carrots, baby lettuces and snap beans as well as freaky-beautiful “Gremlins” gourds, giant sunflowers, “Little Indian” baby corn and barnacled “Knuckle Head” and “Goose Bumps” pumpkins.

An all-new page of ethnic vegetables includes Alpine Daikon radish, a shorter form of daikon good especially in hard and rocky soils. There is bitter melon, and an early, Asian sweet melon with elongated fruits called Sun Jewel, and Orient Wonder, a crisp and tender Chinese Long bean.

T&T prices are very reasonable. All three catalogues feature a new, 50-cm Gaura called Sparkle White, a 2014 All-America Selections (AAS) and Fleuroselect winner for its cold, heat and drought tolerance and long flowering season of slender stems bearing dainty white flowers flushed in pink. The best price is here.

This catalogue has a broad selection of “Geo-Textile” fabric containers in various sizes for different purposes, ideal for patio gardening. Among all the new Echinacea varieties, top performers are Cheyenne Spirit, a Fleuroselect Gold Medal and AAS winner in a bright array of colours, and Pow Wow Wildberry, an AAS winner in vibrant neon purplish rose.

hchesnut@bcsupernet.com

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