24 January 2010

What Other Gardeners Choose to Plant

There's a fun January 21, read in the New York Times by Michael Tortorello, called Packets Full of Miracles
Tortorello called gardeners (not people like us, but big deal people) and asked them about where they garden and what they plant.

Here's a taste of the article

How wrong can you go for $2.25? That's the price of a packet of 20 tomato seeds ...

Some gardeners revel in chance and the absurd abundance of botanical diversity. For the last few weeks, I've been calling them, looking for advice. Specifically, I asked these growers for thumbnail descriptions of a few favorite seeds.

the season for seed shopping is right about now. Last year, Fedco, the Maine catalog from which I placed my order, had sold out of some popular seed varieties by mid-February, as had other sellers. (Could boutique seeds be America's next speculative bubble?)

The seeds these seasoned gardeners recommended flourished in their yards. But that doesn't mean they'll do a blessed thing in yours and mine. It's hope that springs eternal, not seeds.

Michele Owens
SEEDS OF SUCCESS
Rosa Bianca eggplant While big, black eggplants sputter in Ms. Owens's northern climes, Rosa Bianca perseveres. Smallish and streaked lilac and white, the comely fruit has a "melting texture," she said. Cook it, thinly sliced, under the broiler, drenched in olive oil and covered in sea salt.
Blue Coco bean Ms. Owens loves this exceptionally beautiful pole bean for its violet-colored flowers, heart-shaped leaves and purple beans. They are absurdly productive, she added, and somehow taste like summer. They are just crisper, fresher -- green bean-ier.

SHOPPING BAG Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com); Fedco (fedcoseeds.com); High Mowing Organic Seeds (highmowingseeds.com); Seeds from Italy (growitalian.com).

Holly Shimizu
ROOTS Horticulturist and executive director of the United States Botanic Garden, on the National Mall in Washington.
HOME TURF A quarter-acre yard in Glen Echo, Md., along with a container roof garden.
SEEDS OF SUCCESS
Brussels winter chervil Dark green and ferny-looking, this cool-weather herb tastes best raw, in soups or garnishes. I snatched some seed from a friend's garden, Ms. Shimizu said, threw them in containers and I've never been as happy.
Calendula officinalis The two-inch-wide yellow flowers on this medicinal plant look good enough to eat. Go ahead, Ms. Shimizu said. Tinctures and teas made from it are thought to soothe the skin. New types of calendula carry multiple flowers; Ms. Shimizu prefers the single-flowered, herbal variety.
Holy basil Of the 20-odd basils Ms. Shimizu grows each year, she likes this fuzzy plant mostly for the fragrance. The name comes from its status as a sacred herb. "
NEVER AGAIN After battling blights and replacing her soil, I have decided to give up growing tomatoes, she said.
SHOPPING BAG Monticello (monticellocatalog.org); the Natural Gardening Company (naturalgardening.com); Renee's Garden (reneesgarden.com).

Lis Thomas
ROOTS Horticulturist, and outreach educator for GreenBridge, the community horticulture program of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

SEEDS OF SUCCESS
Bush Delicata squash In the spirit of so many city residents, this bush-shaped plant gets by in cramped quarters. Ms. Thomas builds a 4-by-4-foot cage for it out of scavenged wood. It's also resistant to powdery mildew, a common squash scourge.

Black Krim tomato Unlike a lot of heftier heirlooms, this red-and-purple tomato couldn't be used as a medicine ball. Its relatively svelte profile means the fruit has more time to ripen on the vine,"Ms. Thomas said, developing a full flavor before plunging to earth.

Red Russian kale Start it in a cold frame, or sow it directly in March, and you can be eating baby greens by late April. Ms. Thomas likes to raise three successive crops of this loose-leafed kale. Even then, pests like the white fly don't seem to find it. Their loss.

Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) A late bloomer, goldenrod has deep yellow flower clusters that attract monarch butterflies on their long commute to Mexico. When they descend in late September, you see hundreds of monarchs, Ms. Thomas said. Which is a neat sight, especially here in the city.

SHOPPING BAG Fedco (fedcoseeds.com); High Mowing Organic Seeds (highmowingseeds.com); Hudson Valley Seed Library (seedlibrary.org); Seeds of Change (seedsofchange.com); Territorial Seed Company (territorialseed.com).

Josh Kirschenbaum
ROOTS Product development director for Territorial Seed Company and Abundant Life Seeds.

SEEDS OF SUCCESS

Sun Gold tomato - I have tasted probably thousands and thousands of different varieties of tomatoes,"Mr. Kirschenbaum said. Sun gold -- an orange-yellow cherry tomato -- is his favorite. It's resistant to a few common wilts, Fusarium and Verticillium. For a full flavor wallop, he said, eat it right off the vine, at the hottest hour.

Violet Podded Stringless pole bean With purple vines and stems, and purple-veined leaves, this climbing bean has the visual drama of a good church hat. They are purple, too, Mr. Kirschenbaum said, until you steam them. Then, in a flash of magic, they turn green.

Pam Peirce
ROOTS Author of Golden Gate Gardening and a horticulture teacher at the City College of San Francisco.

SEEDS OF SUCCESS
Costata Romanesco summer squash Ms. Peirce praises this ridged and striped squash for the speed of its growth. At pollination, the zucchinis can be 6 to 8 inches long -- perhaps twice the typical early squash size. Yet they remain tender at a foot's length. Shred, add egg and flour, and fry for a genuine veggie burger.

THE NEW GUY Ms. Peirce actually planted Millionaire eggplant last summer -- and then abandoned it in a gallon pot until early July. And yet, those darn things were setting fruits on my back porch, she said. This year, the eggplant will get a millionaire's berth.

NEVER AGAIN Slow to germinate and slower to grow, blood-veined dock -- a kind of sorrel -- fully earned Ms. Peirce's contempt. More bitter than a banker without a bonus.

SHOPPING BAG Bountiful Gardens (bountifulgardens.org); Kitazawa Seed Company (kitazawaseed.com); Native Seeds/Search (nativeseeds.org); Nichols Garden Nursery (nicholsgardennursery.com); Pinetree Garden Seeds (superseeds.com); Territorial Seed Company (territorialseed.com); Thompson & Morgan (thompson-morgan.com).

Lora May Hall
ROOTS Owner, Full Circle Gardening, a specialty gardening and consulting company in Los Angeles, and blogger for the urban homesteader site Homegrown Evolution (homegrownevolution.com).

HOME TURF A dry, sloped lot in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.

SEEDS OF SUCCESS
New Zealand spinach - It's not related to any edible plant that I know of, Ms. Hall said -- including spinach. That's a good thing, because few other greens thrive in Los Angeles dry heat like this low-growing ground cover, she said. Also unusual are the triangular seeds, which Ms. Hall compared with shark eggs.

Nero de Toscana kale Ms. Hall planted these seeds last October for the kale's dark, sweet greens. More than a year later, the indomitable plant stands four feet tall, she said, with a trunk a couple of inches around. Though kale is commonly cooked, Ms. Hall prefers it raw, with chopped apples.

Verbena bonariensis Heat tolerant and a thrifty sipper, this three-foot-high shrub has slender stems and purple flower clusters. An annual most places, it's a perennial in her yard.

SHOPPING BAG Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com); Botanical Interests (botanicalinterests.com); Johnny's Selected Seeds (johnnyseeds.com); Renee's Garden (reneesgarden.com); Seed Savers Exchange (seedsavers.org); Seeds from Italy (growitalian.com).

Go read the whole piece at the NYT site http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/garden/21seeds.html?pagewanted=1

2 comments:

Garden Mad said...

For me it has to be potatoes - the sheer joy of digging up a meal that you planted with your own hands is hard to beat. I go for traditional varieties like sarpo mira but I tried others last year like
Lady Christl (First early)
Orla (First early)
Kestrel (Second early)
Sante (Early maincrop)
Cara (Late maincrop)
Lady Balfour (Early maincrop)

Anonymous said...

There is a lovely lady who sells heirloom seeds on the craft site Etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/myvictorygarden

She started her shop last year just before the interest in Victories Gardens took off.

I'm sorry if this sounds like a "plug" but she is such a dear and has been so patient explaining to me how to plant my seeds.

Thanks for a nice article, I hope your garden does well this year.