With great joy, I am able to declare it once again is time for the Great Catalog Scavenger Hunt. It is time for reading, scanning, marking, turning down page corners, liberally applying sticky notes, dreaming, hoping and making wise decisions.
I have gone through the gardening catalogs I have received so far, and without considering purchases, I have noted some of the new offerings for the year. There are many new flowers, vegetables, shrubs and vines on the market, some rather silly, but many of them interesting and worth a trial.
They are not cheap, alas, but an investment in plants and seeds brings so much pleasure, it is worth the cost.
Every year, there is some new introduction that is going to be a talking point whenever gardeners get together, and this year without a doubt, it is the grafted tomato. They are costly, and I will need a lot of convincing before I hail them a success, but I am going to try it.
I plan to order just one plant, probably a Brandywine, and grow it alongside one I raise from seed, and monitor the difference. You can find them in Henry Fields, Jung and Gurney's catalogs, and I'm sure they are available online from others.
Prices range from $6.99 to $12.95 per plant. They are supposed to offer higher yields, improved disease resistance, stronger growth, a longer harvest season and larger fruits.
Gurney's does not mark many new introductions, and so I am more inclined to take notice of those I do find. This year, I see a new tomato that sounds interesting.
Gurney's Ruby Monster is supposed to have fruits more than a pound each, intensely red and meaty, and disease resistant. At 15 seeds for $6.99, it is expensive.
Black Magic is a new kale, winter hardy as all kale is supposed to be, and sporting dark green leaves whose flavor improves with frost. Probably worth a try.
And then there's Sugar Heart, a sugar pea that does not need staking and is heat-resistant. This is an important trait in peas, which need cool conditions for best growth.
Henry Fields is tooting its horn about three new popcorns and two persimmons. These are not seeds I am likely to purchase. I would be more likely to try Dinosaur Eggs summer squash, partly because of their original name, but also because they have gray, green and gold fruits with interesting markings.
Jung Seeds has a new sunflower on the cover, and this one appeals to me because it has a longer-than-usual blooming period, and it is the longer the better for me when sunflowers are concerned. This is the Waooh! Sunflower, exclamation point included, and it is a bushy 3-foot plant.
Jung's new bush bean, Nikki, is the closest I have come to finding a bush bean with some of the traits of a runner bean. It is said to be the French type with shoestring-like thin pods and has unusually small seeds for a bean, 250 to the ounce. It may be worth a try.
Finally, Park Seeds is my favorite this year. It has all the varieties of vegetable seeds I want to order and a few flower seeds I need, as well.
There's a new cucumber, Sir Crunch-A-Lot
Hybrid, which has 8- to 10-inch cukes that have a long growing season on compact open-habit plants, but I have no success with cucumbers and thus will pass this year.
I am looking for attractive impatiens for my usual trouble spot out front and will be trying a new one from Park named Stars Aligned. (They must have someone working fulltime on thinking up cutesy names.) This is a pink and white swirled variety, and I am going to give it a try.
There is always something new for the gardener to try out, and catalogs are my favorite reading material at this time.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener
program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.