Thursday, February 28, 2008

Drooling over seed catalogs

You know it is late winter when your mailbox gets filled with seed catalogs. Funny, I don't remember this ever happening in Sweden. I think I had to go to a store to get my seeds, but I probably remember wrong. This year I have gotten at least 20 different catalogs for seeds, garden equipment, shrubs and trees. I have some favorites, but somehow there are always some new and unknown companies that get my address and send out their marketing blasts in this direction.

When I read these catalogs I am always amazed at the innovative cultivar names. How about the tomato called "Mortgage Lifter". Yep, it exists, and might be a good thing for many home owners this year. It was developed by a radiator repairman from West Virginia (true, at least if you trust the internet). There is a zucchini (green squash) called "Cashflow Hybrid', probably related to 'Jackpot Hybrid'. There are pumpkins called 'Baby boo" and of course the 'Burpless hybrid' cucumber (which only got one star from customers).

Then you sit there with a pile of 20 catalogs filled with beautiful plants, most of which will not grow in your garden or will grow but get eaten by attacking deers, cutworms, or bugs of all kinds. So the question is not only what is pretty, but more what can survive. My gardening philosophy is much less about design, and much more about sheer persistence towards droughts, floods, diseases and pests. This goes both for the flowers in the borders, trees and shrubs, and the vegetable and herb garden. Whatever survives is a good thing.

So primarily the question of trying new things comes more down to an assessment of the risk of death (and wasted money). After soon four years on this New Jersey acre I know this is not a paradise for plants. But some plants make it, and make it well, such as the lavender border my sister EH planted, the pine trees along the fence (thanks O.K.), and the Rustica arugula in the raised beds that self-seeds by the thousands.

But still, you can't help but dream about growing lush fields of sunflowers and corn. Giant thorn-free rose-bushes that are not invasive pests in a few years. Honeysuckle that attract hawk moths at night and hummingbirds in daylight. Giant Roma tomatoes for marinara sauce, and enormous heavy-fruited New Mexico chilies. I think we have given up on certain things, like rhubarb (tried 2 times, failed), but others we are still trying despite setbacks. The corn last year got corn smut disease, so if we try again we have to grow it somewhere else.

So I am drooling and dreaming over the seed catalogs and will order things that I know won't survive, but the perpetual optimist in me tells me I still have to try, because maybe, maybe it will work this year. I also wish the seed companies put Latin names in their listings so I know what some things are. For us Swedish-Latin bilingualists that would be very helpful, since the English names make no sense at all to me for some plants.

So, here is my midsummer wish list to Garden Santa:

  • lots of luscious ferns that cover up brown dry ground
  • rosemary that is hardy
  • an arbor with grapes, wisteria, and climbing roses
  • lots of asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries that don't get any moldy diseases
  • red and yellow gooseberries ('krusbär' a la Sweden!)
  • chanterelles and morels in the backyard all year long
  • nesting owls that eat all our moles that eat our lawn
  • and rain and sunshine as needed
  • a fully grown cherry tree, an apple orchard, and peaches and blueberry plants
  • birds that eat all nasty insects, including eagles to get the ground hogs
Do you think I am asking for too much?


AnS said...

I think that you is too optimistic, but you can try and never give up. In the middle of Sweden we have springtime with snödroppar and vintergäck and the birds are singing. It is extremly early this year. The seedscatalog we have to buy they are not free. I saw in my shop today they had seeds for sale. But I didn´t bought any.

LS said...

First snowdrops were seen today here too! It is spring!

LS said...

Weather update: It is not spring. Yet. We have had two snowstorms in the last couple of hours with big flakes and strong winds, and then the sun comes out in between. The weather gods are playing with us!