30 January 2011

for the love of leeks

We grow leeks in our veggie garden, partly because I cook with them and partly because they are beautiful.

All winter, no matter how many freezing nights and ice storms, there they are: tall, blue leaves and a lovely white, sweet onion under the ground. In the spring the flower heads begin to form and by the summer, a huge blue globe tops the leaves. That flower goes to seed.

Garden goddess, Barbara Damrosch, wrote a piece about leeks for the Washington Post that was published Jan 26th. Here's a link to it. Some highlights -

* Until the 1990s all leeks were open-pollinated (OP) varieties, not proprietary F1 hybrids with corporate ownership. New methods have made hybridizing them possible, so now many seed catalogues offer both. Their descriptions make interesting reading. The new hybrids are promoted as vigorous, high-yielding, disease-resistant, upright, straight and - above all - uniform, since uniformity is what commercial growers, packers and marketers demand. OP varieties are described as adaptable, hardy, tender and mild, with good flavor - all qualities that appeal to small or home growers. {Who knew? That Barbara is smart.}

* we did grow a hybrid called Upton (now replaced with Megaton) that showed admirable vigor at our farm and home garden. But we're glad that we have a choice. With OP crops you can select and save seed to adapt a variety to your own soil.  {I grow each year's crop from the previous year's seeds.}

Pop over and read the entire column if you share my interest in leeks.

29 January 2011

Dream Gardens

Better Homes and Gardens published this new dream book through Wiley  last month.
I'm calling it a dream book because the gardens illustrated in this 288-page paper back are ones we mere gardeners can only dream of.

These are gorgeous homes, fabulous decks and patios, in woodland and city settings.

The  chapters include color, country and cottage gardens, shady areas, formally pruned looks, tropical settings, front and back yards, and Asian-themed.

Some plants are identified, features are defined so you can understand what you are looking at and there are plenty of tips on how to recreate the looks on your property.

You will be impressed by the variety of gardens presented. This is a book filled with inspiration.

Wiley lists "Better Homes & Gardens Dream Gardens Across America" at $19.95  and it is $12 at online booksellers.

27 January 2011

Bryan Reynolds' Butterfly Love plus a gorgeous new book "Butterflies: Decoding their Signs and Symbols"

If you go


Friends of Honor Heights Park Association
Annual meeting Feb 5, 10 a.m. Honor Heights Park Garden Education Room
Free and open to the public
Guest speaker: Bryan Reynolds, Butterfly photographer
Information honorheightsfriends@gmail.com, www.friends ofHHP.com or Matthew Weatherbee 682-9276


Bryan Reynolds developed a passion for nature while on his family’s farm in northwestern Wisconsin. When he retired from the Air Force, he pursued a career in nature and wildlife photography.

Many of his 20,000 images have been published in books, post cards, calendars and magazines such as Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer, Mother Earth News, Discover, Highlights for Children, and with the National Geographic Society. View his photographs at www.bryanreynoldsphoto.com.

Reynolds is also the Founder, President and Executive Director of a non-profit, The Butterflies of the World Foundation (www.botwf.org), whose mission is to improve public awareness of the conservation of butterflies and butterfly habitat and enhance public enjoyment of butterflies through educational programs and photography presentations.

The presentation that Reynolds will deliver at the annual meeting of Friends of Honor Heights Park Association on Feb 5 is titled “Butterflies … Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?”

For an in depth study of butterflies there is a new book by Philip Howse, called “Butterflies: Decoding their Signs and Symbols”. Howse also became interested in butterflies in childhood when his mother pointed them out to him. He grew up observing insects, then as an adult became a professor and author in the field.


Without being professorial or writing over our non-scientific heads, Howse weaves a captivating story of symbolism in ancient and modern history, nature, and art and how they are all tied to the patterning and coloration of butterflies and other insects.

There are dozens of beautiful photographs in the book. Some are two-page displays of a single butterfly and others illustrate iconic symbols such as skulls, snakes and birds. It is the kind of book you want to read slowly for understanding.

With that said, here are some of the fascinating butterfly and moth facts Howse included:

The artist Laurence Whistler included a peacock butterfly in an etched window in Dorset where Lawrence of Arabia is buried.

For thousands of years, bees and butterflies have been symbols of transformation between life and death and rebirth as the agents of pollination and seed formation as well as the creation of honey.

In the Middle Ages, the red admiral butterfly was associated with death because of the blood-red bands on its black wings.

Two years before his death, in 1670, the Roman architect, Gisleni, constructed his own marble epitaph which included a moth caterpillar spinning a chrysalis.

The yellow and black stripes of the common swallowtail butterfly mimic the spines of dangerous plants, helping keep predators at a distance.

Many butterflies look like leaves, tree bark, bird droppings, and grass stems. The banded peacock swallowtail has green stripes on a black background, providing camouflage when it is resting on green leaves.

The spots on the wings of fritillary butterflies look like the breast feather markings on some predator birds.

The folded tails of black swallowtail wings falsely look like a head and when the butterfly is upside down, it looks like a rodent, discouraging predators.

Eye spots on butterfly wings are designed to fool. The Precis opens and closes its wings repeatedly while eating so it appears to be opening and closing its eyes.

“Butterflies: Decoding their Signs & Symbols” by Philip Howse is much more than a book of butterfly facts. It is an engaging read for anyone fascinated by anthropology and the study of insects. With hundreds of color photographs, in a 9-by-12-inch, 190-page, hardback, it also qualifies as a coffee table book. $40 from Firefly Books; $22 online.

Hop to see you at 10 a.m., Feb 5th at Honor Heights Park.

23 January 2011

Transplanting tiny seedlings

The one-inch cells of Moon Carrot seedlings are ready to move into larger quarters.

 First step, for me, is filling pots with potting soil and getting it watered so the roots go into moistened soil.
 Then, I use 2 plastic knives to lift the entire cell of seedlings out the their first home.




 Next, I carefully tease out the tiny, fragile plants, handling them by the plant stem.




These had long, tangled roots that had to be gently separated by removing the original soil.




 A hole is made in the new soil, the seedling is held by a leaf and placed into the prepared pot.




The roots on some of the seedlings require a taller pot in order to not be wadded up at planting time.




Another method you can use, is simply to cut the heads off all but one seedling in each cell and transplant the entire cell into a new pot.




I put a few drops of fish emulsion or Daniels plant food into each gallon of room temperature water.




Each transplant is watered in and then drained.


 
 
 
Then, the pots of damp babies are put out of direct sunlight for several days to let them settle in.
After that week, they are put under lights or under the skylight to continue to grow.


Questions? Comments?

22 January 2011

Rock gardens of interest to you?

The Scottish Rock Garden Society has enhanced their online presence  - take a look at it here.

Ian Young's Bulb Log is online in printable pdf form now - click 
His photos and plant talk will help cure your wintertime blues.

The International Rock Gardener, April 2010 issue is ready to read is here.

And, the North American Rock Garden Society's page is here.

Rich winter reading. Enjoy.

20 January 2011

Teucriums - there is one for your garden

One thing that can be said about the world of plants: We will never learn or grow them all. Teucrium is an example of a genus that is rarely seen, yet deserves to be in more gardens.

There are hundreds of Teucriums that originate from the poor, rocky soils of Spain and the Mediterranean. They are long lived, broadleaf evergreen perennials that tolerate extreme heat in zones 5 to 9. Members of the mint family, Lamiaceae, they are related to lavender and salvia. All are rabbit and deer resistant.

Most varieties range in height from 4-inches to 14-inches, making them ideal for a flowerbed border. At one time they were called a poor man’s boxwood because they resemble boxwood and grow more quickly to full height.

Teucrium remains short and easy to control with pruning so it is used to for the edges of knot and herb gardens.

Teucriums like sun and unfertilized, well-drained soil. In USDA zone 5 and north, they need winter protection in order to prevent die back.

One of the best known varieties, Wall germander, T. chamaedrys, is shrubby and woody, with shiny, oval leaves less than an inch across. It gets its Latin name from the oak leaf shape and stems that spread to 2-feet wide. Loose flower spikes of two-lipped, white, pink or purple, flowers.
Teucrium chamaedrys
Wall germander, also called Wood sage, can easily be started from seeds or cuttings. Since it blooms spring and summer, it is usually planted in the spring or fall. Growers report few insect or disease problems. When the flowers fade, it has to be pruned to keep a tidy appearance.

T. fruiticans, bush Germander, Blue or Fruity germander, grows 6-feet tall with aromatic, silver/white leaves and pink to purple flowers. Azureum has blue flowers. T. Cossonii or majoricum grows into a 5-inch mound with small heads of rose flowers.

Cat Thyme or Teucrium Marum, causes cats to roll around in ecstasy. The Plant Delights catalog calls it Kitty Crack (www.plantdelights.com/Teucrium/products/362).

Teucrium marum is compact and shrubby, growing, 2-feet tall and wide with white stems and pink summer flowers. It is recommended that you grow it in pots out of your cat’s reach until the plant is strong enough to take the activity. From the Mediterranean, T. marum prefers sun, little water and gritty soil, so when planting, add sand or calcium grit used for chickens.

Gray Creeping Germander, Teucrium aroanium, is an aromatic, blooming groundcover, similar to Mother of Thyme that grows only 3-inches tall. It would be wonderful under and around lavender. Available from www.mountainvalleygrowers.com.

Silver Germander, Teucrium lucidrys, is offered by Forest Farm (www.forestfarm.com) for zone 7 to 10 gardens. It grows to a foot tall, with silvery leaves and pink-lavender flower spikes.
American Germander, Teucrium canadense, is a perennial that grows 3-feet tall, with mint family square stems and 5-inch leaves. It spreads by rhizomes underground and forms colonies. American Germander likes part sun and moist ground. It can suffer from powdery mildew. The flowers are popular with bees.

Mary Ann King at Pine Ridge Gardens (www.pineridgegardens.com) will have Germander plants available. King said the native variety spreads to seek sun if it is planted in shade.

Teucrium canadense
Canary Island Teucrium heterophyllum ssp. Brevipilosum, has silver leaves and flowers that start out red-orange and mature to blood red. Seeds available from www.rareplants.de.

Wood sage, or Teucrium Scorodonia, has scented leaves and a spike of yellow-cream flowers in the summer.

Teucrium hircanicum, Purple Tails, has summertime spikes of red-purple flowers on 2-foot tall, red-purple stems. My Purple Tails seeds just arrived today!
 The great west coast grower Forest Farm offers Purple Tails plants at the link!
Teucriums are easy care, heat tolerant, summer blooming, perennials. Give them well-drained, gritty soil and do not fertilize.

18 January 2011

Asclepias seed pods - worth it for the monarch butterflies

Is there anything prettier than a milkweed seed pod? They are a mess to work with but worth it for the Monarch butterflies they bring into the garden every fall.

Jerry Gustafson, retired physician, is a plant friend with whom I have spent about an hour over the course of a 3 year friendship. We mostly send emails and he occasionally sends things in the mail such as seeds he collected or garden-related information he ran across that he thought I would like.

Last summer, he sent me three swamp milkweed seed pods that he had collected while on vacation in WI.
Today, I cleaned and planted them. What a mess.
But! Now they are planted, watered and safely stored in the cold frames to stratify/scarify/etceterafy.

16 January 2011

JAN 29th Free gardening workshop in Muskogee

City Wide Gardening Seminar organized by Ray Stanley
January 29, 2011 – 9:00 am to 11:00 am
Location: Muskogee First Assembly, 3100 Gulick, Muskogee
918-682-9000

The Seminar Objective will be to inform young people of the benefits of raising their own vegetables and older gardeners with some new ideas on topics of seed varieties, composting, patio and small space and raised bed gardening, insect and weed control. OSU Extension has provided fact sheets. This is a non-profit seminar and is being sponsored by Muskogee First Assembly, local businesses, and garden seed companies. First Assembly will provide the meeting room.

In Oklahoma, according to USDA Reports, only fifteen percent of adults eat the daily-recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables and twenty-five percent of the children in our state, go to bed hungry at some time during each month. We will have additional seminars throughout the spring.

Our goal is to get families in our city to grow their own vegetables.

CITY-WIDE GARDENING SEMINAR
Please call 918-682-9000 for reservations
This seminar is free – everyone is welcome!
Come early for doughnuts and coffee and register for door prizes!

MEETING AGENDA
Registration/Sign-in – 8:30 to 9:00 am
9:00 Welcome Lisa Raasch – Muskogee Wellness Initiative
Wayne Herriman – Sunburst Seed Company New varieties of garden seed and open pollinated seed
10-Minute Break
Martha Stoodley – Master Gardener - Starting seed and transplanting tips
Andy Qualls – raised bed and container gardening; compost and soil

Free seed catalogs and literature, Door prizes, Free seed packets, Fact sheets

13 January 2011

Winter bird care

There are about 50 birds that nest in cavities and will use a birdhouse. Almost any size birdhouse will attract starlings and sparrows but if you want bluebirds, wrens and chickadees, you have to provide a birdhouse that they can utilize.
Muskogee artist Joshua Blundell designed an Oklahoma-Indian Territory bird house


For example, a chickadee house has a 4-by-4-inch floor, is 8-to-10-inches high, and, has an entrance hole one and one-eighth inch wide. The entrance hole should be 6-to-8-inches above the floor. Hang a chickadee house 4-to-15-feet above the ground.

For bluebirds, the house floor is 5-by-5-inches, the height is 8-to-12-inches, and the entrance hole is one and one-half inches. Bluebird houses are hung 4-to-6-feet above the ground. See www.wild-bird-watching.com for more birdhouse size tips.

Russell Studebaker, former Tulsa Audubon Society president and long time bird feeder, said, “Bluebirds nest in open field areas, near pastures or large patches of grass.”

“The key to successful small bird occupancy of bird house is the hole diameter. If the hole is not the correct size it allows English sparrows and Starlings to force out and/or kill native nesting song birds.”

Cute birdhouses with thin walls are not very good for birds that need protection from cold and hot weather. Birdhouses that insulate well are made of 1-inch thick wood, heavy walled clay, or concrete.

Also, look for birdhouses with a removable side, top, bottom or panel so they can be cleaned. Drainage holes and ventilation holes help keep the house cool in the summer and cleaner all year.

Feeding birds is a great way to help them make it through the winter. Birds that eat insects in the summer will eat berries and seeds in the winter.

Goldfinches, purple and house finches will eat thistle/black nyger seed from a hanging tube made specifically for feeding goldfinches. Goldfinches are tame so the feeders can be hung under the eaves of the house where you can watch them.

Safflower seeds are eaten by chickadees, titmice, and downy woodpeckers but not squirrels, grackles, blue jays or starlings. So even if it seems more expensive, it will all go to the birds you want to feed.

White millet is scattered on the ground for Native American sparrows, mourning doves, thrashers and juncos.

Mice also enjoy eating bird seed so it’s a good idea to store seed in metal containers that seal well.

Solid beef and venison fat, or suet, is important for winter-time wild bird health. The fat helps Woodpeckers, Mockingbirds, Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, Wrens, and Ruby Crowned Kinglets survive freezing nights.

Studebaker said, “Your solid beef fat can sometimes be obtained from butchers and should be stored in the freezer until you use it, otherwise it becomes smelly. Butcher suet holds up longer and better and will not melt like suet blocks. Also the blocks contain seeds and grains that attract the Starlings.”

Birds need fresh, thawed water sources. Thermal, heated dog bowls are more available and less expensive than heated bird baths. But, you can also just take a pot of hot water out to freshen and thaw the water in your birdbath.

In place of a birdbath, you can use a garbage can lid placed on a section of drainage pipe, a large plant saucer on a tree stump, or a large bowl on top of a flower pot. Use something no more than 3-inches deep. If your available container is deeper, put stones or gravel on the bottom.

Two plastic saucers, 18-inches wide and 3-inches deep, can be alternated: One is brought in at night, thawed, refilled, and taken outside each day. A slow dripping hose also prevents a water source from freezing.

Studebaker recommended “National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America”.

12 January 2011

An idea whose time has come

Sling Couture has created a comfortable face mask that is bound to be popular among gardeners. They have other products and I'll talk about them a little below.
The masks come in a wide range of colors for men and women. In the photo above I'm holding the women's mask so you can see how nicely designed the inside of it is. At the top, a metal band is sewn in between the layers of fabric to shape to your face. It feels soft and protective enough to use outside.

Notice on the right side that the two straps are sewn in right next to each other. The straps created a problem for me. They were too short and one of them snapped and broke the first time I put it on.

Here is the men's mask. Note that the two straps are over an inch apart, making it easier to put over and under your ears. It also has the same great fabric, with a metal band that easily bends to fit the nose. In addition, it has that grey foam nose protection piece. The straps are longer than the women's version.

So my advice is to get the men's mask for women and men. But definitely I love the fact that it feels secure on my face, isn't rough and it's large enough that I can breathe in it.
Here you can see how cute it is - and the broken strap. Yes those are rhinestone letters on my nose - SC for Sling Couture.

Now to their other clever products which I assume are well made. SC sells pretty fashion slings and cast covers - just in time for ski season, too. Plus, car headrest and console covers, eyeglasses and eyeglass sheaths/bags.

If I had my druthers, the products would be packaged in environmentally sustainable containers. The plastic boxes are made to hang for display but I wish they were the kind of plastic that goes into the recycling bin instead of the land fill.

When mowing season arrives, I'll wear a face mask now that I can get something more useful than the ones that have been available in the past. It takes a few hours on the riding mower to do our place and I know I should wear one.

10 January 2011

Mignonette

I can't speak for anyone else, but my preference is for the expression of truth based on the experience of the speaker. So, today while researching Mignonette, I came across a blog called Rob's Plants.

Rob's Plants is a page that I've stumbled on in the past and have always enjoyed his perspective. Here's what Rob said about Mignonette, "Grown for its scent more than its flowers. And I'm not a fragrance gardener - my nose doesn't have the heightened sensitivity required to really appreciate the garden perfumes. The flowers aren't worth the trouble, so I doubt I'll be growing it again. But heck, you gotta try all plants at least once (I have a ways to go!)"
Mignonette from Rob'sPlants.com
My interest in Mignonette stems from reading a 1927 book, "Garden Flowers" by Robert McCurdy. My mother-in-law loaned it to me from her bookshelf of historic books. The way flower descriptions were written in the romantic era captivates my imagination.

McCurdy said, "Sweet Mignonette is undoubtedly the most popular flower cultivated solely for fragrance. ... Shorn of fragrance the Mignonette would indeed be a very minor plant. ... Mignonette is a favorite for bouquets and in the garden is often put to use to break up undesirable color combinations."

My Internet search led me to Dave's Garden and there gardeners complained that they grew it for its famous scent and that theirs were unscented. I have a similar complaint about Nicotiana but that's another story.

CompanionPlants.com says that Mignonette was used as a sedative by the Romans and now the oil is used in perfume manufacture. That tells me that some growers have been able to detect a scent.

In the 1906  "The Florist's Manual" by William Scott, the first line is "It is doubtful if there is any plant so universally known or better liked than the mignonette." Then, "As a cut flower in winter it is a staple article and for that purpose is grown, good, bad and indifferent."


Mignonette - Reseda odorata from McCurdy, 1927 - other photos from the book are here
"You ought to select the finest spikes and save your own seed. The strain we grow was obtained from Mr. John N. May some years ago, and by selection it is better than when first obtained. But mignonette is very like asparagus; it is the growing and rich, heavy soil that make the giant or colossal qualities; any of the strains are good when well grown. Besides new advertised strains, some standard ones are: Bird's Mammoth, Miles' Hybrid Spiral, Machet, Golden Queen and Machet's Perfection."

Today, there are only 2 varieties that I could find seeds for but maybe they are the best or most popular.  I'm still undecided about buying the seeds. Have you grown it? Any thoughts?

09 January 2011

Sunday night snow


The snow on the skylight in the shed doesn't seem to bother the lettuce seedlings.
The view out the shed window

Bird tracks.

I poured hot water into the bird bath to make sure our feathered friends have defrosted water.
About a half inch of snow here in Muskogee
but the roads are icy so all schools are closed tomorrow.

Provide fresh water for our feathered friends out there in the freezing cold.

Links to garden information - hundreds of them

My Garden: A Garden Through the Seasons is a site maintained by a gardener in Wales. It looks like the site has not been updated since 2007.

however

One of the services on the site is a gigantic page full of useful links that you must see
http://mygarden.uphero.com/links.htm

The links I clicked through to are still alive. Take a look.

06 January 2011

How to read a seed packet



Seed catalogs are pouring into mailboxes and seed racks are showing up in garden centers. We are already mentally growing next spring’s garden – dreaming, planning, considering, and then finally selecting.


Many seed companies do a terrific job of providing useful tips, but sometimes seeds arrive with nothing but the name of the plant on the package.


Rose Marie Nichols McGee, owner of Nichols Garden Nursery (http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com)/
grows the seeds, cooks with the vegetables grown from them, selects the best varieties, and writes the catalog and seed packets based on her first hand knowledge.


McGee said that in addition to the description of the plant, look for a variety of information that you need to have in order to grow the best plants.


Planting depth: Seeds are covered to their own depth. Tiny, dust-like seeds are not covered; they are just pressed into pre-moistened seed starting soil. Thin, flat seeds such as lettuce and peppers are planted on the surface of ruffled up soil, then the soil is just brushed and the seeds are watered.


Germination temperature: McGee said this is an important factor for home gardeners since commercial growers can control soil temperatures with thermostats and home gardeners tend to start seeds on windowsills. For example, pepper seeds sprout best when the soil is 77 to 80 degrees and kale seeds will sprout at temperatures between 45 and 85. Put some heat under your windowsill pots.

Number of days to germinate: Most seeds produce little green shoots within 5 to 12 days if the heat and light conditions provided are optimal. Take them off the heat source as soon as they emerge.

McGee said, Peppers and gourds can be slow because they have to have 77 to 80 degree soil. Then you have to get them out into the ground before the roots get too big.

Growing soil temperature: Plant roots either need cool, warm or hot temperatures to grow well. Kale, broccoli and other cool season vegetables need 60-65 degree soil. A $10 battery operated, instant read thermometer comes in handy for checking when the soil is warm enough to put transplants in.

Tomato seeds can be planted in pre-warmed soil, said McGee. Make a little depression in the dirt, plant the seed and cover it with a plastic milk carton with the bottom cut out. As the seedling grows, surround the stem with soil.

Days to maturity: McGee said that this is the number of days from when the transplants are put into pots or into the ground and when you can use the produce. Many gardeners assume it is the number of days between seed planting and harvest.

When and how to transplant: Some transplants can tolerate a frost and others cannot. McGee gardens in zone 7 Oregon where the last frost date is April 15 so her advice is accurate for Muskogee gardens.

Spacing: How far apart you put the plant seedlings when putting them into the ground is one key to their future health. Plant them too close together and they can fall prey to insects and diseases. Plant them too far apart and you waste space where weed seeds can flourish.

Location: For healthy plants, situate them where they receive optimal light. Some need full sun (a minimum of 6-hours a day) and others need less (part-shade).

I offer a lot of disease resistant varieties, including heirlooms, hybrids, fusarium resistant, open pollinated, early, late, and new varieties, McGee said. I look for performance, disease resistance and flavor when growing trial seeds. I don’t want any plants that die in the middle of the season.

Contact Nichols: 800-422-3985 and the catalog is at http://tiny.cc/b2typ

05 January 2011

New hybrid Salvia Wendy's Wish contributes to Make a Wish Foundation

I rarely post the many new plant introductions
that come into my email but
I'm a total sucker for this new annual Salvia with hot pink flowers.

And this one is unique for another reason.
The SMGrowers site explains how special it is.

The plant appeared as spontaneous garden hybrid beneath a plant of Salvia mexicana Lolly in the Victoria, Australia garden of Salvia enthusiast Wendy Smith. It is Ms. Smith's wish that part of the proceeds from this plant go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation so the name Wendy's Wish is particularly fitting.

Proven Winners says Wendy's Wish
Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, is deer resistant, heat tolerant and low maintenance.

Its cold hardiness is to zone 9 (we're zone 7). Planthaven says its mature size is 40-inches by 40-inches but Proven Winners says 24-36 by 24-36. I'll be looking for it this spring.

For fellow plant geeks, it is a Salvia buchananii, from Mexico. Wikipedia says
"Seed from a garden plant in Mexico City was taken to England around 1960, where it was grown by Sir Charles Buchanan. It is sometimes called Buchanan's fuchsia sage."

04 January 2011

Quotes

Messing around on a winter day, I discovered a couple of quote resources with which you can amuse yourself for a while.

Try Wikiquote here

and

The Quote Garden here

...written by someone clever who uses a pen name, Terri Guillemet - though guillemets are quote marks so the name is a spoof. The related blog is here.

There are dozens of quotes about gardening and gardeners and the love of the natural world to re-invigorate your spirit.

02 January 2011

Seed catalogs and packets redux - tips from garden writers

After running my Dec 30th column on helpful, useful, informative seed catalogs and seed packets, I posted the query to the garden writers' forum, asking garden writers for their recommendations.
Here are responses from the pros to help guide your selection, dear readers - with links to the writers' information and seed companies.

Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings said

The Botanical Interests catalog is free. They aren't sending out any more 2010 ones, but here's a link to their virtual catalog. I also thought of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I love their catalog too. Of course, Renee's is wonderful.
Nan Sterman, garden designer, blogger at  Plant Soup and author of Water Wise Plants for the Southwest said
Renee's Garden has the best seed packets, hands-down. Each packet is like a little book of information that answers every question before you know to ask it. How to plant, how to care, how to eat. And the illustrations are beautiful! 
Linda Schaffner said

I ditto that, plus the seeds are very reliable for great results.
Elizabeth Peterson, writer for Log House Plants said

For the Pacific Northwest, both Territorial Seed Company and Nichols Garden Nursery provide loads of info for how to grow from seed.
Jane Shellenberger, Publisher, Colorado Gardener, said
Seeds of Change is a great company.

Peter Garnham, master gardener, Hamptons.com said

My vote goes to Renee's Garden seedpackets, which are beautiful and filled with useful information, and to the Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog, which has detailed cultural information in the entry for each species. Botanical Interests seedpackets also bear useful instructions, with really nice illustrations.
Jeff Lowenfels author of Teaming with Microbes, said

Territorial and Nichols really should be on the list, too!

Donna Williamson of Donna Williamson Fine Gardening, author of The Virginia Gardener's Companion said

The BEST seeds I use come from Italy - I can't really read the package as my Italian is poor but for volume, germination, and taste - it's Seeds from Italy.
Nancy Szerlag garden columnist for Detroit News and author of Perennials for Michigan said

Johnny's Selected Seeds ( johnnyseeds.com) is a favorite that give lots of growing information for gardeners in Zone 5. Johnnys tests the seeds it sell in their garden in Maine.
Rose Marie McGee, Nichols Garden Nursery, said
If any of you don't yet have a Nichols Garden Nursery catalog either go to catalog request url below or contact me at rmnicholsmcgee@comcast.net.
Kate Copsey, host: of America's Home Grown Veggies Show on www.americaswebradio.com said

I like the information on Renee's Seeds. She gives the planting depth, germination days, days to maturity etc all on a little pull off strip that can be planted if you want to. There is also a USDA map for when to plant regarding frost etc. All on the back of a little seed packet.
After reading the previous emails, Jane Shellenbarger posted
Besides those already mentioned three excellent seed catalogs that are both print & online are Fedco Co-Op Garden Supplies (great company & plenty of helpful info in the catalog though might be a little tricky for beginners to find a few things things due to arrangement of info),
Pinetree Garden Seed (superseed.com) and Seeds Trust (smallish but especially for high altitude climates including Denver at a mile high).
Enjoy browsing through the catalogs and checking the author's publications. You are sure to find something new and interesting.