My free seeds from Renee’s Garden arrived in the mail recently. As a Garden Writer of America member, trialing seeds is one of the many perks of membership. If you have not visited her website (www.reneesgarden.com) please do. Not only will you find an extensive list of terrific seeds, but lots of growing information and recipes as well. There are always lots of new, hard-to-find or exclusive varieties as well as the tried and true. The “mixture” packets, those containing 5 varieties of radishes or carrots, or three colors of beans, or three types of summer squash, or a generous variety of hot peppers are especially economical for small gardens. And, I love supporting small, family-owned businesses. Last year, her “Gangbuster” spinach was the top performer in my potager. Here’s what I picked for my free trials for this year:
Notice a color theme here? Yes, I selected flowers in shades of my favorite colors: apricot & orange. This year, I am also adding some green flowers, and a bit more blue to contrast with the oranges. Blue is not reflected in the selection, however. Top left are “Pixie” Zinnias, little dwarf cuties in orange, yellow, and white that I’ll mainly use in containers, but maybe also in the Front Garden. They remain short and compact and will bloom all summer in any hot, sunny location. Below those are “Creamsicle ” nasturtiums, for the potager, of course since they are edible. I love nasturtiums in almost any color and grow lots, mixed with my squashes, brassicas, and in containers. The color of these nasturtiums is a delicious as it sounds. Bottom left, a packet of “Decor” zinnias containing “Envy” green and bright orange zinnias. Renee couldn’t have made a better combination for my garden this year. She must have been looking over my shoulder as I made plans. These will go here and there, but some in the new cutting garden for sure, because they will look terrific with my decor. Next to them are “Mighty Lion” zinnias. I grew them last year, and they were such a hit that I had to grow them again in the potager front border and the Front Garden as well, and one can never have too many zinnias for the garden, or for the butterflies.
I haven’t grown Bells of Ireland for years, but they are a terrific soft green spike of bells that are great for cutting, and they’ll add more lime green to the garden. They hate to be transplanted, so I’ll have to start them in peat pots so the roots won’t be disturbed. White flowers make the other colors in a garden “pop” so I’m adding white Jasmine-Scented nicotiana. I’ve grown it in the past, but not lately, and I miss it. The fragrance is lovely, so it must go in the deck garden where we can enjoy it, and where its height will replace the May Queen Shastas when they’ve finished blooming. Below it are “Scented Peach Sunset” four o’clocks. The color looks luscious, and they are also fragrant. Hummingbirds enjoy their trumpet flowers. And, they form a bulb, like dahlias, that can be lifted in the fall right after the first frost, stored, and replanted again next late spring after danger of frost. I grew some four o’clocks last year, but they were too rose-colored for my garden. I’m hoping these are more appealing.
The “Snow Sonata” cosmos is lovely, and a butterfly favorite. (Top row, third from left) It will provide cut flowers and knee-high white flowers in the middle of some borders, and its airy foliage is always pretty. Below that is the peach alyssum that I use to edge the main path in the potager, along with orange violas, miniature pale orange species tulips, and after the tulips, very dwarf orange marigolds. The alyssum is fragrant, delicate, and trails gracefully over the edges of the raised beds. It is a great attractor of hoverflies, those wonderful beneficial insects that devour aphids and almost all other harmful-to-veggies bugs, including their eggs. The more hoverflies, the better.
The fourth row, top to bottom, are all veggies. Top are “Robin Hood” fava beans, which are supposed to be earlier than the variety I tried last year (from another seed company.) Last year the weather turned hot so quickly that the favas went into decline after only producing a few pods. Partly my fault, I think, because it was my first time growing them and I failed to pinch out the tops once they were blooming well. They are also more dwarf, so hopefully they won’t blow over in our strong winds as badly. Middle packet is a red “Italian Scallion.” I’m adding them, as well as a new bunching onion, because despite growing three types of onion sets and 10 lb. of shallot bulbs, we barely have enough storage onions to last until the new crops is ready, and we didn’t have enough early onions last spring.
Last packet is a new carrot, “Chantenay Short Stuff” that Renee sent me to trial. I probably wouldn’t have ordered another carrot, because I have lots of seed leftover from 8 other varieties grown last year, but I’ll plant it and see how it compares. It’s a shorter variety, and hopefully will have the same great flavor other Chantenay varieties carry. I’m eager to get all these varieties growing, but it’s snowing again today, so I must be patient. Forecast is looking pretty good, and March did come in like a lion, so I’m hopeful!