Saturday, December 26, 2020


Many gardeners had an experience last spring that we hope not to be repeated this year.  We placed our seed orders in March but had to wait until May, and in some cases mid June for delivery.  That was probably, for most of us, the introduction into living a life in which we had no prior experience. Who would have thought garden seeds, especially vegetable seeds could become such hot sellers?  Maybe it was the shortage of certain necessary daily used paper products that was the real eye-opener.

The seed catalogs have been arriving since the week before Thanksgiving.  All with seductive verbiage and photo-shopped pictorials to put us to the test.  Should I order this variety or that one?

All gardeners have their preference for a particular catalog.  I gravitate to the catalogs that offer the most information for that variety.  I want to know the how's and wherefores of the growth and yield, not just the price point.

Last spring I took advantage of a free packet of experimental hybrid tomato seeds.  The catalog description had all the key words, "most disease-resistant tomato ever offered, high yields, perfectly round, 74 days, old-timey flavor".  All were true except for the flavor statement.  In addition to the skin being  tough the flavor was very weak.  It's great to experiment with vegetable varieties but always have your tried and true varieties growing close at hand.

It is legend that varieties of flowers or vegetables that claim to be new and improved lose a trait in order to develop one that the public is looking for.

Good examples are flowers and why the scent has been bred out of them.  Mainly it is because the consumer indicated their preference of cut flower longevity over fragrance.

Old-fashioned petunias are fragrant but don't last as a cut flower.  Many of the new varieties aren't fragrant and in some cases smell downright bad but have a longer cut-flower longevity.  However, the new petunia will have a shorter life span in the garden bed.  In the case of the carnation everyone wants a cut stem to last weeks in a vase.  (Yes,  I understand that non-fragrant flowers are coveted for those with allergies!)

It turns our that for most flowers aroma production and length of flower life are tightly linked by a plant hormone called ethylene.  More ethylene makes a flower fade faster but produce more scent while less ethylene causes the opposite effect.  Plant breeders with the best intentions have made showier longer-lasting flowers with little or no aroma.  

I have always been curious about the freely given tags of "NEW" on listings of varieties in the first few pages of a catalog.  I wonder if the variety actually is a new development or simply a product that has not previously appeared in the catalog--which would make it "NEW"  I need to think about these things during the day instead of midnight.

It has been a tradition at my house on New Years Day to spend the day with the stack of catalogs, a black marking pen and a supply of yellow stickies to mark pages for possibilities for 2021.  This year the orders are going to be finished and at the computer by days end--no more disappointments over sold out varieties.  Remember, many seed providers offer discounts within a specific time period.

Stay healthy and continue to wear your mask--you know the old saying "It ain't over till it's over".

Be sure to listen to the Gardening:  Get Good at It "Winter Birds" segment on Tues. December 29 on KPOV 88.9FM between 9-9:30 am

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