As the summer garden season draws to a close, it’s a good time to take stock and evaluate. Considering that I grew 197 varieties, not counting all the bulbs purchased, perennials and herbs that I moved from the farm, or varieties that were already growing from prior seasons in the house gardens, the number of disappointments is surprisingly small. Or, maybe I am just easily pleased? The hours spent pouring over seed catalogs, and then checking unfamiliar varieties on the internet paid off, I think.
The biggest disappointment was Zinnia “Zinderella Peach,” shown above. They were touted as a puffy ball surrounded by a single row of petals, all in a luscious soft peach, so I planted them liberally throughout the gardens as a mid-height filler. As you can see, they are just small (the size of a quarter mostly, with some 2″ across) single-flowered, mostly in an ugly pink fading to off-white. Generally before that happened, the petals got spots or were nibbled off by insects. I only left them because by the time their color showed, I really didn’t have anything left to replace them, and pulling them out would have left big holes. Besides, the butterflies loved them. Needless to say, they won’t be in my garden again.
The second disappointment was again a color issue. Celosia Amor “Salmon” turned out to be a glaring red. Visitors to the garden were impressed by the large heads and brilliant color, and the fact that they didn’t topple over with their weight. They are short, growing only about 10″. However, they set my teeth on edge, and they certainly won’t be returning. I see in the new catalogs (Yes, they are already arriving for next season!) that a Armor “Orange” is listed, but can I really trust them? That will be a winter debate and research.
Another color issue was “Queeny Salmon” Hollyhock. They are tidy, growing to about 28″ and producing numerous blooms in late July through August and now into September, which is wonderful. Probably they are softly “salmon,” which is just pinker than I want. Since they were actually good performers, I’ll just switch to the yellow or white version, which will fit my color scheme better.
Fourth on the “Darn It” list is “Sweet Pickle” Pepper, which was listed as “thick-walled, delicious eaten raw and excellent pickled.” Admittedly, they do have thick walls and an “okay” flavor…..if you can chew the amazingly tough skin! I’ve tried pickling a few, but it doesn’t soften the skin. I should try roasting some or charring the skin off. They have been beautiful in the garden since planting, supplying a colorful accent of yellow, orange, and maturing red, and they were certainly bountiful and tidy. Next season, I’d like to find an ornamental pepper that matures orange and is actually edible!
Fifth is “Homemade” Pickle, a small cucumber that was planted to grow on the trellises, and to hopefully produce enough finger-sized cukes to make my grandmother’s famous crock of sweet pickles. Six vines did not come close to producing even a dozen small cukes at a picking. I’ll be looking for a replacement. There’s no photo, because the vines quit blooming so long ago, that I pulled them out. “Parisian” produced much better, and over an extensive period, so I’ll grow those again, but I’d still like a second variety as well.
Swiss Chard “Orange Fantasia” was beautiful for the beginning of the season, although the stalks were more yellow than orange to this date. And, a few weeks ago, brown spots began appearing all over the stems, making them ugly and unusable. I keep removing them, but the new stalks soon develop them. I’m not sure if it is a disease or caused by insects, but it is very disappointing. I’m leaving them to see what happens when the weather finally turns cooler, since they can take light frosts. “Bright Lights” never showed this problem, so I may just have to return to “Bright Lights” and only plant the orange ones in the potager.
No photo of the blue potatoes I planted, because I didn’t get any. The “Norland Red” and the white ones did well, but I won’t waste space for the blue ones again.
This is tomato “Mint Julep,” which I was eager to try. I’m not a big raw tomato fan, finding most of the red ones too acidic for my sensitivity. However, “Mint Julep” will not be returning to the potager because it had no flavor, nearly always developed these splits, and were just generally unappealing.
Tomato “Polbig” was planted because it was supposed to be one of the earliest, most reliable, full-sized tomatoes, tolerating cooler weather, etc. It is a nice size, and fairly productive, but it did not ripen until after we were already harvesting “Cherokee Carbon” and “Park’s Whopper” tomatoes. They are still producing a few nice tomatoes and the flavor (according to others) is good, but I’ll be searching for a different “Early” tomato for next season.
So that’s it….only 9 losers out of 197 trials won’t be returning to the potager next year! Still, I’ll spend lots of time this winter scouring the catalogs for interesting, new varieties to try. Isn’t that a great part of the fun of gardening?