April 20, 2019

Catalogs help sate garden desires

The seed catalogs keep coming, each featuring new 2007 introductions, both vegetable and flower. It occurred to me to provide a snapshot of some of these new offerings as a service to readers who have escaped inclusion on one or two mailing lists – if that’s possible. Of course, the listing will reflect my biases, short on new tomatoes (how can there be such a thing!), long on plants to grow in containers on the porch steps or scattered through the perennial garden.

Renee’s Garden, a California-based seed company that sells through independent garden centers and an Internet catalog (www.reneesgarden.com), is offering four new plants for the container garden. Garden Babies Butterhead is a brand-new lettuce originally developed for the Japanese luxury market where a premium is placed on flavor and quality. The perfectly formed butterhead rosettes have softly folded leaves with a buttery texture and sweet taste. Ideal for pots, Garden Babies are slow to bolt and heat-tolerant. Heads at maturity are 5 to 6 inches wide.

Bush Slicer is a disease-resistant slicing cucumber perfect for small garden spots or containers. The fruits are described as having smooth, tender skin and sweet, crisp flesh.

Renee’s also offers a large-leaf container basil, Italian Cameo, that boasts large, closely packed, fragrant leaves on a compact plant. In addition to growing Italian Cameo in containers, you can use it for edging garden beds.

My favorite from Renee’s Garden is Junior, a container sunflower described as “the first pollen-free, dwarf branching sunflower with cheerful faces smiling atop branching stalks just 21/2 feet tall.” Pictures of all four new varieties can be found at the Web site.

Marjorie and Lynne love to grow snapdragons, and so my order to Renee’s Garden will include a packet of Chantilly, a butterfly snapdragon mix described as a “watercolor blend of creamy yellow, salmon, apricot-bronze and candy-floss pink.” A bouquet of these blooms will be a sure winner for Lynne at the Blue Hill Fair this year!

Maine’s home-grown seed company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, features several new sunflower varieties for the coming garden year. Johnny’s is big on sunflowers with more than 40 varieties, and they do the gardener a valuable service by including a full-page “Sunflower Comparison” table.

Johnny’s offers Junior (a surprise, since Renee’s listed it as an exclusive), along with Sunny Smile, “a truly miniature sunflower for container and garden use.” Also pollenless, it has golden orange petals that surround a black disc with a plant habit that varies from 6 inches high in small pots to 20 inches in large pots.

There is always a pot or two of nasturtiums on the porch in Marjorie’s garden, and this year one of those pots may contain Milkmaid. Johnny’s catalog describes the color of the edible flowers as creamy, pale lemon-yellow.

Johnny’s catalog is a treat for those who share with me a passion for garden tools. A new feature this year is the Mushroom Grip, a mushroom-shaped attachment for stirrup hoes (and push brooms) that allows you to push with the palm of your hand and retrieve with your fingers. You can view a video of this and other new tools in action at Johnny’s Web site, Johnnyseeds.com.

Let’s see what comes in this week’s mail.

Send queries to Gardening Questions, P.O. Box 418, Ellsworth 04605, or to reesermanley@shead.org. Include name, address and telephone number.

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